After another mind blowing scenic bus ride from Mostar, Bosnia to the Croatian coastal city of Split, we decide to rent a car. (We’ll split in few days) For a large city, Split offers leisurely beach walks past marinas, bays, and beaches where crowds swim and sunbath in the summer.
Every city or village has an “old town.” Roman architecture dominates the old town in Split.
We finally get our first taste of the infamous Ston oysters at a sushi bar in old town, before heading back to our room at Marina Venta.
Our balcony overlooks a marina, where sailing masts glow in the sunset. Although the café/bar above us sounds like chairs and murmurs dancing on the ceiling, the restaurant below offers the first non-smoking eating area we have seen in Croatia. The farther north we travel, the more nonsmoking restaurants we encounter.
Crowds gather for coffee, drink, and carnival entertainment next to the entrance of old town at the promenade. We could certainly spend more time in Split, with plenty to do, but it’s time for a new twist to our independent adventure with the freedom of a rental car.
One advantage to travel in the off season is the lack of crowds and traffic. One disadvantage is closed restaurants in smaller towns. Like when we take an eerie, lone stroll through old town in the village of Primosten.
It’s the third small town where we have tried to find food, and we’re starving. Everything’s closed and the place is void of humans, until Marilynn spots a man carrying a bag.
“Excuse me,” she says. “Is there any place open in town where we could get something to eat?”
“No,” he shakes his head. “I’m getting ready to cook my lunch with some friends. You’re welcome to join us if you don’t mind eating fresh sardines.”
Soon, we sit in Vinko’s café “Dalmacija” (also his residence), which is closed to the public this time of year. Cold beer and a fresh salad doused with the best olive oil we have ever tasted accompanies our lightly dusted sardines and fresh cut fries. Could things get any better? Yes.
Vinko breaks out a bottle of Pelinkovac, a bitter sweet liquor based on wormwood. After a few shots on the house, he breaks out into song.
“It’s now or never, come hold me tight!
Kiss me my darling, be mine tonight!”
We love this man. Thank you, Vinko!
Let’s drive into the mountains, and hike around the waterfalls of Krka in the National Forest. Hiking after beers, shots of Pelinkovac, and sardines must be good for you, right? We stroll around waterfalls that gush from small lakes over layers of limestone formed pools. No problem.
Onward to the small town of Rovanjska, where we finally find lodging at Dora’s apartments. With no restaurants open in town, we rely upon our survival kit – salami, cheese, fruit, bread, wine, and beer.
Dora makes coffee in the morning. We feel like family having a conversation.
“I was a refugee myself once,” Dora says. “My family fled to Germany during the bombings here from 1990 to 1995, but always had intentions of coming back to Croatia someday.” She retrieved an object and set it upon our table. “This is my souvenir of one of the bombs that destroyed our house.”
Marilynn and I are yet again fortunate to be tourists. We drive to the coastal city of Zadar, in search of the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation.
After the bombings, reconstruction included a long cement/stone wall along the Adriatic coast. Architect Nikola Basic designed a set of marble stairs with pipes that create musical notes from the air generated by sea waves.
It’s a place of relaxation, listening to nature communicate to humans naturally, in tones that resemble the sound of whales. We could sit here all day. Ron Mitchell