Tuesday Oct 30 – Thursday Nov 8, 2018
After a relaxing week with Nan & Grandad in Cavtat, we drove north, through Bosnia!, to Split, on the Dalmatian coast. We never got a solid answer on what actually comprises “Dalmatia” within Croatia – whether Dubrovnik is included in this region or not is up for debate – but we did confirm that Dalmatian dogs originated here, and yes we did see a few.
During the scenic drive we also saw the Croatian equivalent of a New England roadside pumpkin stand – mandarin stands! There were so many, one after another after another, beautifully arranged with bags of madarins, bottles of colorful liquors and boxes of pomegrantes.
We arrived on Oct. 30 and the girls were set on buying supplies for their Halloween costumes. There isn’t any Halloween celebrated in Croatia that we could find, so we decided to make our own. We found the perfect bric-a-brac store with plastic flowers, sponges, socks and sewing kits. We costumed up and the girls trick-or-treated at the door to our apartment, which meant they repeatedly knocked on our door while Wayne and I switched out pretending to be unsuspecting residents each time. Then we watched Hotel Transylvania with the girls’ candy and some microwave popcorn. Not exactly the typical week-long celebration in our neighborhood back home, but we did what we could to abate the Halloween homesickness. Can you guess our costumes?
(A Pig in a Blanket, a Flower, a Smarty Pants and a News Flash!)
Our apartment was huge – and cheap at less than $50/night! Offseason! – which was, by intention, needed to spread out all of our stuff and do a big re-org/pack for the next phase of our journey. We were saying goodbye to Europe and heading to Bangkok in just 2 weeks! While Wayne and I had had some time in Cavtat to roughly sketch out a route with all of the great advice we’d collected from friends (thank you friends!), we needed to set some more detailed plans and make reservations, as we’d be in SE Asia during its high travel season (and major U.S. holidays). So we spent a lot of the week+ emptying out our packs, assessing our belongings, making lists, and doing some shopping in prep for a whole new part of the world.
It was also a week of creativity – making (more) sock monkeys, fixing up tears on clothes, making new clothes out of old clothes that had holes in them (Annabelle’s new crop top made from old hole-y leggings), and eating in. We were getting bakeried-out, if you can believe it, and everyone was sensing the need for some vegetables. It was getting cooler outside, feeling like fall for the first time since we left home, so we made lots of easy-cook soup with frozen veggies and good bread (not completely anti-bakery!), and Annabelle was obsessed with making French Toast with that delicious day-or-2-old bakery bread. One thing we learned the hard way with our French Toast is how to tell the difference between “salt” and “sugar” in Croatian. Note how happy everyone is before diving into a sweet breakfast covered in SOL (replaced later by the SECER container)!
We also spent lots of time exploring two cool places Split is known for: Diocletian’s Palace and Park Suma Marjan.
We did a walking tour of the Palace – big enough to be more like an Old Town than just a Palace. It was built for the retiring Roman emporer and Christian persecutor Diocletian by thousands of slave workers around 300 A.D., and still showcases shiny blocks of limestone, tiny alleys, and open areas for gathering. There are also, surprisingly, sphinxes and columns brought back to Split by the ruler from Egypt – he was apparently a big fan of Egyptian culture and practices. We were treated by a local traditional singing group in the acoustic-friendly vestibule, and got to pass through the dungeon where Queen Daenerys trains her dragons in Game of Thrones.
When there’s a cathedral tower to climb, we’re all over it, so we paid the 30 kuna each (kids were half) to climb St. Dominus’s Bell Tower and got cool views of the Palace from above. While slightly nervewracking with its metal scaffolding construction, compared to Ulm Cathedral’s tower (162 meters), or our hike up to Buchkopfturm Oppenau-Maisach in the Black Forest (335 meters total elevation gain with hike + tower climb), this was cake at a measly 60 meters. The concrete stairs at the bottom however, required some pretty high stepping action.
Park Suma Marjan is a big hill/park with long stair climbs to the best views of the city and Dalmatian coast. We spent lots of time there running, hiking, strolling, taking a wonderful morning yoga class (just me :)) and visiting the old chapel of St. Nicholas the Traveler (built in 1219), a favorite saint of fishermen.
We ran a bunch – all 4 of us – and the girls turned a corner in learning how to grit out tough hill climbs on two feet. Wayne and I also turned a corner in learning to have patience with their initial pissy-ness at us for jogging up hill and giving them the choice of walking it alone and catching up, or keeping up. Once they got to the top and were rewarded with the beautiful view and pride in their achevement, it was tough for them to stay mad at us for long.
My last run on the Adriatic coast treated me to a gorgeous sunrise over Split. Thank you Croatia, I’ve so enjoyed your beautiful coastline.
One more stop inland in Zagreb before we’re on to Thailand!