October 16 – November 13, 2020 (Fall)
Continuing our theme of revisiting old haunts, we decided to check in on Split, our first encounter with Croatia. Better-than-average Covid numbers and a more welcoming policy toward American passport holders made it an enticing option for us. This first four weeks was fairly average, as far as nomad stays go. But we had no idea it would mark the beginning of an epic 14 months in Croatia, our longest single-country stay in 6 years of travel.
This post is about our 2020 stay in Split. Read about our 2016 visit here↗.
Disengaging from Tallinn wasn’t too difficult, even with Covid cases increasing across the continent. We had our first brush with brain-tickling PCR testing, paying nearly $100 apiece to prove to Croatia we didn’t have the virus.
Our Air Baltic flight laid over in Riga. It was one of the emptiest, quietest flights of our lives. Both Latvia and Croatia required a Covid declaration form, but only one of the two actually collected it.
We dressed warmly for the flights since the weather was already creeping toward wintery in Tallinn, but stepping off the plane in Split was stepping into another world. Temperatures were only around 70°F but to us it felt Hawaiian. Our host graciously picked us up from the airport and gave us a driving tour of downtown despite our protests that we were quite familiar with the city already.
Last time we stayed in the scenic suburb of Podstrana. It’s a lovely and livable area, but the long bus ride to the city center meant we spent relatively little time in Split proper. This time we opted for a place right in the middle of the action. Our location, just outside Diocletian’s Palace and near the foot of Marjan Park, was objectively perfect.
The apartment itself, less so. Right off the bat our host tried to sell us on adding another month to our stay (other buyers are interested!). We deflected and almost immediately discovered the catch – our old nemesis, construction noise. A huge section of the building was undergoing renovation during our stay. We have become more and more explicit about our desire to avoid such inconveniences when evaluating a potential Airbnb, but that doesn’t stop less scrupulous hosts from saying pretty much anything to make a sale. Our patience has dwindled over time though. These days we feel more than justified calling out such antics in our review.
Still, there were peace and solitude to be found. Croatia in the off season is a magical place for connoisseurs of calm. Peaceful sunsets and scenic views abound.
Our stay coincided with the 70th anniversary of Torcida, the infamous supporter’s club for the local football team Hajduk. The club has a history of hooliganism, but this celebration was all positive, with smoke bombs and a massive fireworks display lighting up the night sky.
The best part of staying in central Split is how easy it is to get somewhere else, and nowhere close feels further away than Marjan Park. This densely forested hilltop offers stunning views of Split and its empire of islands. It’s a great place to get a little exercise and reconnect with a place that can feel overwhelmingly transitory at times.
We loved having the trails all to ourselves (once you get a little bit of elevation under you), meeting the wild flora and fauna (and funga), and savoring the last of those late summer sunsets.
Another easy favorite was Harissa spice store. Croatia punches a bit under its culinary weight in terms of spices. (There’s more to life than Vegeta, guys. Variety is the spice of life!) Which must imply the incredible variety of spices at Harissa are like, doubly spicy? We stopped in often to stock up on… stock… ingredients, producing epic culinary gems like duck risotto and paella. Most of our day-to-day shopping happened at chains like Tommy or Konzum (special thanks to Lidl for frequently carrying duck to enable our risotto!). Fish we preferred to get at the market.
Stunner sunsets notwithstanding, the weather was generally rough during early autumn. It wasn’t all bad – it made for some striking scenery. But watch your step! Those marble sidewalks on the Riva are slippery when wet.
On the upside, the rain scrubbed the air crystal clean. On rare clear days we could trace the towering cliffs well down the coast, and literal schools of sailboats set out on the water to practice their craft (or practice with their craft).
Ultimately the most memorable part of our stay wasn’t Split itself, but the epic year-plus stay it triggered by pushing us into another’s arms. Once our four weeks were up, we decided to split ourselves and set sail for Hvar↗, kicking off what would become the most incredible time we’ve ever had in Croatia and one of the most cherished times of our entire journey.