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Split, Wednesday 8 June

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The weather did break. There was rain last night, thunder and a bit of rain today. We did go out looking for breakfast earlyish, and took refuge in a café for a few minutes when it suddenly bucketed.

We went hardcore, the cafe in the market used by the locals rather than the fancy cafes further on for tourists.

In Split we’re better off speaking English rather than trying Croatian. They are so used to tourists they don’t care about the language stuff, and our rudimentary Croatian just slows down the transaction.

Everyone smokes in cafés, and everywhere else; grandmas, couples, pregnant women, teenagers on the bus, babies….us too, we are always surrounded by smokers, always downwind. The ashtrays on the non-smoking trains are full, the non-smoking accommodation reeks of the smell of stale smoke. The smoking, more than anything, is probably the single most thing that reminds me how far we are from home.

A walk in the park, Split

Cherries are in season, at a peak price of $3 a kilo. We bought stuff for dinner…beans, garlic, onions, a bag of mixed mushrooms, and two bright yellow corn fed chicken breasts. The old lady selling the beans marked up the purchase, but the rest were scrupulous in adding it up and showing us the total. It’s a bit of a show…the weighing process is so much like a street magician’s trick it could be anything from 200gms to a kilo. They do use measured weights to show the scale at balance, but its all done so fast the scales never equilibrate. I don’t really care. Dinner ingredients cost a bit over $10.

Today’s expedition was a walk through the park next to Split old town. I packed the raincoats, and of course the clouds evaporated and we hiked in the sun.

The park is big, some 4-5 Km long and up to 2-3 Km wide. Amazingly the locals had the foresight 200-300 years ago to put an embargo on using the land for anything, (foresty and pasture were banned) so they now have this mature park. (The rest of Split is a concrete nightmare, so it was certainly out of character.) There’s evidently a zoo of some sort at the top, but there a few different trails through it and we didn’t get to that part. The 4-5 km from one end to the other is up steep, long hills.

For most of the walk we saw no one, but it got busier on the second half, where the park is at sea-level and residential areas are closer. A school was using the flat roads for some sort of sports day.

The park has a high elevation, maybe 200 metres. There’s a fire-spotter’s tower at the top. When I was here in winter I climbed it, but in summer it’s in use and no visitor’s are allowed. You can still stare at the Adriatic, the islands and horizon and the heat haze from the lookout in front of the tower.

Hard cell

On the way down is a small church, and near that some little monastic cells carved into the cliffs. Send naughty Tobias up there to ponder his behavior, take away the ladder and come back in, say, 7 years.

We sat at the end point where there is a substantial summer playground…tennis, jumpy things, mini-soccer field and so on. The jagged rocks on the beach have been concreted and tiled in, turning them into a stylish swimming area landing. It was almost deserted, three or four boofy teenage boys mucking around and some old idiot fishing in the fenced off swimming area. Really, how many fish will you catch there?  In a few more weeks the place will be teeming with families and I suspect his fishing expeditions in the toddler’s area will see him bundled off-scene quickly.

It’s clearly pre-season, the café had almost none of the food that was listed on the menu. Sylvia had a bland risotto and I had a lasagna that could have been to my mother’s recipe…that is, horrible. Being a waiter in a tourist town must not be the same as a waiter elsewhere. Elsewhere they take a pride in their work, and I enjoy the process. Here they are bored, morose, sometimes sullen. The waiter in the café where we had coffee and an icecream was a bit of all three, the waiter at the beach café just morose. Mate, even if there are no customers, take a look at the scenery!

The final long leg home was re-invigorated by a mad old duffer joining us. I know I get accused of exaggerating, so when I say “mad” you judge. Do you think his father REALLY was moved to Croatia by Empress Marie-Theresa? He listed an endless array of events that his family was involved in during the War, and I couldn’t keep track of the conversation. Wasn’t that the dead brother? How could he be doing that if he was dead? Is that the same 20,000 people who died or a different set? He kept running off and uprooting whole plants, building a clump of wild flowers complete with roots, shredding his hand when he tried thorns and blackberries. Eventually he got a little off to one side on a separate track, and he started shouting at someone else so we picked up the pace and left him behind. I was tempted to slow down and wait for him at the gate, where a security guard sat. Picking flowers in a national park is of course not permitted, but Sylvia hustled me along.

Speaking of ear-bashing, I am nursing a cabbaged ear after flattening the side of my head against a blind-spot hidden low ceiling. Mika the landlord was amused. “Australians are too big,” he chortled. I bean myself regularly on low-hanging lintels, and peculiar ceilings that randomly dip in the corner to fit in a staircase or extra storey. I corrected him. “No, everything in Europe is too small.”

Not sure about tomorrow. It’s likely to be an expedition out to nearby Solina, which is the name of the town that neighbours/joins Split, but is also the location of the extensive ruins of the Roman town also called Solina/Salina. Otherwise we can get lost in Diocletian’s Palace again.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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