I woke on Tuesday to another day of rain and decided my time would be best spent taking a bus from Dubrovnik to Split.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was because I’d been housebound for a day, but I became increasingly mopey as I became increasingly car sick on the four-hour journey. As the bus wound through the mountains, other people pressed their cameras against the windows and took panoramic shots of Dubrovnik, but I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm.
The grey sky had bled the colour from the landscape – the sea, which had been a rich turquoise two days earlier, was brown. The mountains seemed dull and lifeless, and the formerly terracotta roofs were now a faded orange.
I was worried that I’d lost it – that unquenchable thirst to see everything. When I thought back to my first trip, now nearly four years ago, I couldn’t believe how young I was, and how wide-eyed and eager. I have so many memories of me gasping at the sheer beauty of something on that trip, and now it felt like it had been a lifetime since I was that captivated.
I found myself tiring easier. When I previously could have walked from 10-6 and then had a shower before going to a hostel bar/common room, this trip found me tired by mid-afternoon and ready to retire for a movie or a good book.
Having had a rather quiet holiday with a lot of time to myself, I thought a lot about the future. I’ve realised that I have no idea what I’m going to do after Paris, and I’m not even sure what I want to do – I find myself torn between going back to the comfort and security of home, or travelling and teaching, changing destinations every month or so (I’m sure there will be future entries on this as I get closer to the end of my stay in Paris).
I reached the hostel in Split (which I had to myself – it’s really quiet outside the peak summer period) and had a shower. I was tempted to stay in watching films on my laptop, but at 18:00 it looked as though the rain had stopped.
I walked into the Old Town and through the remains of the palace, which has now been turned into a residential and shopping area. As I walked through the buildings, illuminated with white and yellow lights in the darkness of a bitingly cold night, I felt a familiar thrill curl in my stomach.
I entered the square of the Cathedral/Roman Mausoleum. The white Cathedral towered over the rest of the city and was surrounded by the crumbling remains of columns and walls, with modern shop windows framing the square. I gasped without even meaning to.
I don’t know why I’d been so worried. :p
The next day I explored the city. On a grey day outside of the tourist season, Split was incredibly quiet. I climbed up Marjan Hill and although I could still see Split from the summit, I only passed three people on my walk and felt like I was hours away from civilisation.
When I returned to the centre, I descended to the basements of Diocletian’s Palace. Apparently the people of Split lived in the palace from the seventh century, following several centuries of abandonment by the Romans, and they used the basements for their waste. This actually helped preserve the tunnel vaulted basements, and excavation works over the past decades have allowed this to be opened as a tourist museum.
The basements were completely shielded from the outside noise, so were very quiet and a little spooky. The pillars were lit with yellow lights and small signs explained some of the artefacts, including the oldest olive-oil press in the world. My favourite signs were the ones that had (!?) and (?) written next to the information – generally for pieces of stone where the former usage was unclear. I find it comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has no idea what I’m talking about. :p
I then returned to the sunlight (cloud-light?) and to the Cathedral that I’d visited the night before, which is just as impressive during the day. I wound my way through the former Palace, visiting all of the large squares and many of the small stone streets, window shopping for shoes that I couldn’t afford and just generally admiring how clean and well preserved all of the buildings were.
After visiting the slightly intimidating black statue of Grgur Ninski and the bustling green market between the Palace and the main bus station, I walked back to my hostel along the white marble promenade on the water. For the first time in three days, the sun started to break through the clouds, making the beautiful stone glisten like the neighbouring sea. People ate at restaurants, sitting outdoors under large, white sails, and shopped at the boutiques in the Palace walls.
I turned down Marmontova Street (the main shopping street in Split), which was also made in white stones, and thought about how I preferred this to Dubrovnik. Both cities were beautiful, but Split almost seemed more elegant to me, and the seamless integration of modern shop-fronts into the old architecture make the city an effortless blend between the old and the new. I would love to return closer to summer.
When I got back to the hostel, I wasn’t feeling so good. I’d had a sore throat for a few days at this point, and that morning I’d started coughing. By Wednesday evening my head was aching with my clogged sinuses, and I gratefully embraced being alone in my hostel so I could curl up with some instant soup. I decided to take it easy that night, and hope that I’d be feeling better in the morning.
Unfortunately, I woke on Thursday unable to breathe very well. My head was pounding, I felt shaky and weak, and I kept having sneezing fits. I was scheduled to go from Split to Zadar that day, and had also planned to go to Trogir for a few hours (Trogir is a town 37 km outside Split and it is known as the Dubrovnik of that area). I groaned and buried my head in my pillow, unable to face the thought of rustling up the enthusiasm to explore somewhere new.
I gave in. I cleaned out my bank to buy a new flight and Eurostar ticket back home. Then I realised that the weather had finally improved – the sun was shining and the sky was unbelievably blue. I grabbed my camera and rushed back out to the Palace to re-take my photos, kicking myself for surrendering so easily.