Our newly acquired car for a day is collected and delivered to our beachside retreat by Tom in the morning. One positive of the unexpected road trip to Split is something of a lie in and an 8 a.m. start rather than a 6.30 one. We drive the ever impressive coastal roads along Croatia and briefly back through Bosnia before stopping at Ston- a small town renowned for its Oysters and the second biggest defensive city wall after the Great Wall of China. A bizarre combination of accolades, to say the least.
It’s a small local town and there’s not much around so we opt for an 11am Oyster snack…because when in Ston. “How many do you think we should get?” Asks Tom. “Two.” Say I. “Six.” He orders.
The oysters are huge and don’t come with much in the way of dressing. I don’t expect it to be as good as the Boston variety but I am far from prepared for the sea water sensation that enters my mouth upon shucking the thing and then takes up permanent residency. It’s vile. Tom gets five.
We finally make it to Split around 4 p.m. and after going via the airport and back again to drop off the car we are more than ready to check into our villa accommodation just outside the Old Town. We confirmed our arrival with them as requested the day before so all should be good, right? Wrong. Despite booking in January and receiving all the confirmations something has failed and they have double booked. We have no room. Do you ever get the feeling you just weren’t destined to be somewhere? Between this and bus ticket gate that sense is definitely creeping in. Luckily for all involved (especially the man who had to break this news to us) he knows the right people and an alternative studio is found just around the corner.
A quick change later and it’s out into the town which immediately feels so much more cosmopolitan than anywhere else we’ve been so far. An abundance of designer labels, wine shops and restaurants without pictoral menus are on offer to choose from. Refusing to fall victim to the curse of Croatian cuisine again, we head to the pre decided option of Bokeria where we take seats upstairs and enjoy the great food, drinks and service that they have to offer. The baked scallops are particularly memorable- expertly cooked and beautifully presented. The desserts too are wonderful and make for a perfect “treat meal” to mark half(ish) way through our journey. Bokeria seem to have adopted an Abercrombie-esque criteria for employment based solely on male physique but to our delight our waiter is as charming as he is toned and provides excellent service throughout the evening. I’d definitely recommend booking a table here and stopping by. It’s not the cheapest option, but definitely a place you won’t regret investing in.
After breakfast we’re out for the day and immediately realise how poorly we have timed our visit. Ultra Music Festival is taking place the same weekend and vest tops, snapbacks and neon shorts are everywhere. There is a Bro, often found nestled within a group of Bros, on every corner; most looking hungover and/or still drunk. 60% of the people around us make us feel like we’ve made a terrible mistake and somehow ended up in downtown Magaluf but once you get past this the beauty of Split really does shine through.
We take a trip up the bell tower to revel in the sights below and walk the streets around Dicoletian’s Palace, each turn providing different visual wonders to the one before. The Green Market is in full swing by the time we pass through to find some nectarine snacks and the entire place feels alive and buzzing on the sunny Saturday morning.
As well as the picturesque Old Town, Split also boasts an impressive harbour and seafront promenade to stroll along. Boat trips are plentiful out to the islands such as Hvar and had we more time this is certainly something I would have jumped (literally) on board with.
We’re due to catch a sleeper train in the evening to Budapest so after a morning of walking the cobbled streets we head in the direction of Bacvice Beach where we figure we can chill out for a few hours before a night of no sleep inevitably unfolds. En route we walk back through more markets selling your traditional magnets alongside the Ultra Bro starter kits and we manage to stumble across tiny Vegan fast food eatery Vege which fills my vegetable loving heart with joy. We grab a table under their board of adoring post it notes and order a grilled vegetable and quinoa bowl and the falafel. Something gets lost in translation and the falafel ends up being a vegetable burrito but it’s all fine by us. The restaurant is a great, cheap discovery and the people around us all seem to agree.
From here we make short walk to the beach where we are met by seemingly all the festival attendees recovering from the night before. We’ve forgotten Ultra is an evening event. After finding a place to change we pitch up behind what turns out to be the most infuriating group of British lads who happily regale all around then with tales of their sexual conquests and pill popping. I come to the conclusion after “Beard Man”‘s debrief to his his lad counterparts he needs seriously educating in both the afore mentioned areas but decide against it. Lads aside, the beach is comprised of the softest sand and the water is as warm as a bath. You can walk for 50 metres and still be waist deep. Ordinarily it would be incredibly relaxing but something about the array of boomboxes and try hard Europeans detracted from it slightly.
Upon leaving it soon becomes very evident very quickly that my experiment with tanning oil at the studio apartment has gone badly wrong and I can already tell that between this frankly amateur error and the contents of the beach I’m now housing in my skin, I’m not going to be in for a comfortable night. We stop for iced coffee on the steps of super cute Figa and I yearn to spend longer embracing the Croatian life. We discover a popular counter service restaurant outside Diocletian’s Palace where we order amazing pizza wraps to take with us for the evening’s journey. Pizza fillings wrapped in pizza dough. It’s fast food heaven.
As we collect our bags and make the short walk back along the harbour to train station I’m already planning a return trip. Alas our one way ride to Budapest is awaiting us and it’s all aboard to Hungary- our sixth country in fourteen days.