Just a short flight away, leaving behind the cold Alps and smoothly descending into the alluring, golden; and the quiet literally dotted, Dalmatian coast, is no less exhilarating; especially when, what you call home is still a dreary grey, cold, wet landscape. Split, one of the oldest and the largest cities in the country, shaping the Adriatic on its east, is pleasantly welcoming right at the outset; and holds true to the image all the way. What strikes you instantly in this part of the world is the hues of red and blue the city throws at you; the seemingly timeless but tasteful architecture; and the friendly warm people. How much more does it take to make an impression about a settlement after all ! So there we were, myself and my partner in crime, right in the heart of this old coastal trading city, on a beaming Saturday morning. And don’t be surprised with the sheer number of cats you will find licking themselves clean – a scene so stereotypical of most seafarers towns. In that crisp May air, navigating the labyrinth of the cobbled gentle old alleys, brushing past some really interesting way side shops, mesmerized by the shapes and colors; we were knocked back to our senses only by the delectable smell emanating from the Italian restaurants dotting the streets. And how can I not mention food! Split with its location, is surprisingly a haven for vegetarians. As lovely as the old town charm is, the Marjan Hills, at the end of a very pleasant leisure hike from the town center, offers a fantastic backdrop to this town with unending views of the horizon; and very aptly called the Lungs of , for the views it lets you soak in is but a breath of fresh new air.
Just a short drive away from Split brought us to the UNESCO Heritage town of Grad Trogir, where time really stands still. It instantly transports one to an era bygone, a picture straight out of the fables – a coast dotted with palms, tiny stone bridges criss-crossing the many waterways, a swarm of boats constantly passing by, the very eastern influence on the architecture. I am not entirely sure if God had just granted a generous wish (the one I don’t recollect asking!) to be transported into the Arabian nights.
Escaping from the city scapes one of those days, we set out to explore the iconic Klis fortress, a picturesque silhouette dominating the skyline; this medieval, Ottoman era fortification undoubtedly offers the best views of Split looking out at the Adriatic. And surrounding Split on all sides are a multitude of gorgeous, unrelenting gorges, silently speaking volumes of the times when the land met the sea. Once again just a short drive away, out along the coast towards Omis, we were in the Cetina gorge. The gently undulating mountains squeeze the Cetina into a narrow rivulet at some places, while the river conquers the rocks in some other places – a constant sight to behold. With endless vantages as we travel upstream, navigating the narrow hairpin bends; the gorge offers some of the best restaurants in that region, some almost mystical in their setting with the dense deciduous foliage and the melodiously trickling Cetina in the background.
A visit to Croatia is not complete if you haven’t visited one of its breathtaking Lakes National Parks. Torn between the Plitvice and the Krka, we succumbed to the weather goddess’; and so Krka it was. The Krka river and its seven waterfalls is a miracle and majesty that only nature is truly capable of. It takes a bit of intense planning and some fuel, and adrenaline however, to go find all the seven waterfalls, especially when the sun is at the right angle. Words cannot do justice to the splendor that Krka is. Its pristine waters, the sheer volume and expanse of it, the ecosystem it nurtures, and that shade of green is simply mesmerizing; makes one wonder how small and insignificant we humans are compared to the grandiose that life around us is. That image of Krka we carried back with us is undoubtedly worth every mega bite of conscience it occupies. Continuing our journey more westwards from Split this time, a short cruise to the Brac island, a decent drive away, is one of the most interesting beach we have ever visited. One of the narrowest beaches in the world, Bol is probably the most private one too, offering just enough space for two people to get sunny side up. And that is not all! Bol, in all its uniqueness; projecting into the sea like a little lizard’s tail, constantly changes its bend through the day getting shaped by the gentle sea currents. And there cannot be a better place for a bird’s eye view of this wonder, than the towering rocky outcrop of the Vidova Gora peak, one of the highest in the Adriatic; with its most unique but equally eerie black pine forest. Sitting high up on those rocks, with that vast expanse stretching endlessly far below our feet, putting ones existence into perspective, what more could we ask for from life !
Being done with all the soul searching, hopping places where we found ourselves before we were lost again; it was time to butch it up with the glitz. What else, but Dubrovnik! I am still confused what we enjoyed more – the cheap thrill of crossing through the narrow stretch of Bosnia-Herzegovina en-route Dubrovnik, or the sheer epitome of human wonder that the walled city of Dubrovnik is within the Fort Bokar. While I am still swayed about it, Dubrovnik definitely is something to behold. That fortification, clearly visible from the Srdj hill top; like a building plan on the drawing board; with walls on which you can walk the entire periphery, is a fine example of what human passion and skill can do. It is like an almost 2 kms long three dimensional jigsaw puzzle; a maze of gates, arches, turrets and watch towers; so complex, yet built to look so seemingly simple. Just three words- go try it! Even the beloved SRK for many, was in hot pursuit of his “FAN” amidst those towering walls, after all. Not to miss the beautiful churches, the town hall, the cobble-stoned alleys, and everything screaming Game of Thrones – this town is one beat you should not miss. The fun really is to get lost in that maze.
My Croatia ramblings could go on, that is how enchanting it was. Before our holiday, I said to a friend that we are going to “split”, and the shock on her face is now as memorable as my trip itself. Because split we definitely are; now, only between the Plitvice, the Brijuni, the Mljet, the Kornati, the Paklenica and the Risnjak – for the next time we think Split !