We finally decided we had to leave Zadar, reluctantly, and continue down the coast to the famous city of Split. It’s famous because Roman Emperor Diocletian built his retirement palace there. In fact, the old city within the walls is basically the palace. Around it on one side is the medieval city and the other side is more modern.
It wasn’t a long trip down to Split, but by the time we arrived, we were very hungry. We parked on the street where other cars were parked and went inside the walls. We asked at the Tourist Office for a restaurant and a room. Well, they didn’t do rooms, so they told us to go to an agency. But the agency was closed. So we went back and the tourist agency person said, “Of course they’re closed–everyone knows it’s St. Sylvester’s Day.” Who knew. But when we asked for a restaurant, we were given a name and directions. As
we were looking for it, we saw a lot of Diocletian’s palace. More than we wanted to, actually.
Because the palace has its own logic and some of its walls still exist and it is on several levels, it is impossible to walk in a straight line. In a small park we saw this magnificent statue of Bishop Gregor of Nin who fought the Church hierarchy (mostly Italian) to
allow the Bible to be translated into Croatian. He’s a great hero in the area, and rubbing his toe (the bright brass one) is said to bring good luck. Not to us. We climbed stairs both up and down but weren’t finding the restaurant. We got ourselves into the palace basement, which is now a shopping mall with a single entrance. We turned around and went back to the square where we started.
Finally, we saw a boutique hotel in a corner of a small courtyard and asked directions. The man there said dubiously that where we were going was actually less than a restaurant, but we wanted to see it. So we walked some more and found he was right: it was a small bar absolutely full of smoke. Back to the hotel to ask for a better suggestion. The man gave us the name of a restaurant on the seaside just outside the walls
that sounded great. Then he gave us directions that led to a blocked gate. David, with his excellent sense of direction, figured out how to get around that portal, and hoouuurrrrs after we arrived, we finally had an excellent lunch.
It was getting dark, and we still had no place to sleep. The ever-helpful tourist agent had said we just had to look for signs on houses that advertised rooms and then ask. Didn’t see any. Finally, I just asked a man who was going into his house if he knew of any rooms. He called to someone else across the street and soon we were following that man through the
gate and into the medieval city outside the walls. Through narrow streets, then through alleys with lines of washing over our heads, then finally to a little door at the end of one of the alleys. Well, it was a room. Actually, it was an apartment, sort of. The door opened on a kitchen with a table, next was a bedroom and after that another bedroom. Each had a single bed and no room for anything else. The bathroom(s) were outside the kitchen in a sort of alley that was sort of roofed. The shower to the right and the toilet to the left–
unheated. 30Euros/night for both bedrooms. David and our landlord went to get the car and move it closer to where we were staying.
I stayed in the freezing house waiting for the single portable electric radiator to make a difference. And waited. And waited.
David’s story: We got back to where I had parked the car, and the car was gone. We checked at nearby stalls (The same ones where we had asked if it was OK to park there) and finally found someone who thought the car had not been stolen, but towed by the police. Apparently, everyone knows that the sign that shows a woman holding a child’s hand means that beyond the sign is a walking area only. And everyone knows that there is no parking within 200 meters of a walking area. So off we went (I & the landlord) to find a taxi who knew where the impound yard was. It is well outside the city, and the landlord was amazed that I paid as much for the taxi as for the room. We found the yard, and the car was there. The bored guard listed fees – 60 Euro towing fee, 30 Euro illegal parking fee, 30 Euro parking in a restricted area fee, and something else. I talked, he talked, he called his boss, more talking, and I finally got it reduced to the towing fee alone, and they released the car to me.
Then I found out that the landlord, who didn’t own a car, had never been outside the city and didn’t know where we were. We went back and got directions in English and in Croatian -but they were different. I finally decided to trust my sense of direction and highway signs and headed back. You should have seen the look on the landlord’s face when he finally recognized something. He then took me up one alley and down another searching for a safe free parking space. I finally ignored him and put the car into a paid lot, after assuring him I would move the car after 9:00pm when there would be available free parking. (I finally realized that he defined safe free parking as any street/alley too narrow for the police tow truck to get into.) Then we walked and walked again until we reached the house, where Elizabeth had not quite resigned herself to abandonment.
I was so fired up from tension that we went for a walk, saw a classical concert but found it was sold out, saw some more bits of old buildings, then returned and surrendered to sleep. Split could have been an interesting city to visit, but auto impound lots in the suburbs are not on my favorites list. So you will understand when I say that Split didn’t make it for us.
Still, before we left the city, we walked around a bit in the bright (warm) sun the next day and got something of a feeling of what it might be like in a better season. As we said many times on this trip, “It would be better in summer.”