I didn’t know what to expect from Split. When researching which towns to hit on our Croatian adventure, the reviews on this seaside village were mixed — some people loved it and others loathed it. I decided to add it into our itinerary for the sole reason that it was a good middle ground between the islands and the mainland.
Due to the mixed reviews, I arrived in Split with no expectations and (cutting ahead to the end of this story) I left with only adoration for this medieval town. Split is the second largest city in Croatia and the largest of the Dalmatian region. Due to the size of the town, there is a lot to do and see, as well as a lot of history here!
One of the first things we did upon our arrival was go on a walking tour of the old town which is primarily built around Diocletian’s Palace which was erected in 305 AD. Unlike most cities where the palace would be a protected museum, residents never stopped living in the palace and to this day, locals have homes built within the city walls which has resulted in this ancient palace still being a booming city. Due to the city still being in use, Roman roads that are 1,700 years old are still being walked on today, Roman columns are being used as armrests in banks, and Egyptian sphinxes which were imported by Diocletian (which are ~3,500 years old) are being used as photo ops that tourists can sit on. What was once the temple of Venus is even now being used as a café called the Luxor.
One of the first comments I made to Sean when walking around the old town, was that it reminiscent of Rome with touches of Venice as you can easily get lost in it’s winding, maze-like streets. On our walking tour, we learned that the town was built by the Romans and later had some Venetian influence so I feel like I was pretty spot on!
The one thing that I especially liked about Split was that the tourism there wasn’t in your face like in Dubrovnik. Sure, there was the odd souvenir shop and there were tour groups that made their way through the city but there was an energy to the city that can only be created when people lived there.
On the western side of the city there is a large park called Marjan Forest Park which is akin to Stanley Park in Vancouver. It’s a beautiful oasis right outside the city that is home to a sunset viewpoint on the top of the mountain, thousands of agave plants, beaches, and a zoo. It was nice to spend the day trekking around in the forest and getting back into nature for a bit. That evening, we treated ourselves to a meal at a Konoba which is a traditional Croatian restaurant. We ordered the local specialty which is a freshly caught whole fish alongside some local wine. It was both Sean and my first time ever preparing a fish (i.e. removing the head, deboning it, etc.) but I would say that we did a pretty good job all things considered! It was absolutely delicious and was disappointed that I hadn’t tried the fish earlier!
The last really interesting thing that we did in Split was a proper olive oil tasting where we tasted three different oils, a local oil made by a traditional method, a local oil made by new methods, and one from the Istrian region of Croatia. Olive oil is traditionally tasted in cobalt glasses so that the taster is not influenced by the colour of the oil as colour has no bearing on the quality of the oil, something that I found interesting as I always thought that the darker the oil, the better the quality.
After tasting the oils (by literally taking a swig of the oil) we each chose our favourite and then paired that oil with bread, tapenade, salt (a surprisingly great combination), Croatian vinegar (essentially red wine vinegar) and, of course, balsamic vinegar. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and one that left Sean excited to do more olive oil tasting when we get to Istria.
Sadly, we are now olive oil snobs and quickly comment when the olive oil isn’t up to par at the restaurants we go to. Luckily, most of the restaurants around here serve only the best!
If you are ever in Croatia, please do not miss out on Split. It is my FAVOURITE city that we have visited so far and it would be a shame for you to miss out on it! Split is the best combination of historical, modern, great shopping, fantastic food, nature escape, etc. etc. But all good things must come to and end, and we must move on for the next chapter of our honeymoon awaits!