Country: Croatia City: Split & Brac Island Month: July/August
A Travel journal of my solo summer travel to split, Croatia. Always on my ‘places to go‘ list and this summer I had a persistent and unwavering desire to visit, even as my travel buddies strung me along, taking their time to make decision, I booked it last minute and decided to venture solo. I experienced country calm with city vibes and costal dreams all in one trip that I know I will be returning again.
Reading Time: 10-12 minutes
Did I get on the wrong flight?
I never start with my initial journey to the airport but this will put into perspective to those who know me, my anxiousness on my arrival.
The time is 6: 25 am and I am seated in my aisle side chair trying to avoid the eyes glaring at me by analysing the folded table on the back of the chair in front of me. I’ve already had a middle aged man push me with his suitcase, a women ask me if I’m boarding the plane to split and then act bewildered when I confirmed. So now, on the plane, I am convinced that I must be on the wrong flight, because the way the majority of the passengers on this plane are looking at me, they are only confirming that I do not belong here. Yes the micro aggressions are real and as the air hostess is informing the passengers of the nearest exit, I am tempted to put my hand up and tell her it is all a mistake and I have no business going to Croatia. Why so much doubt? Well when your Uber driver believes he is doing you a favour by telling you that Croatians are not welcoming of people of colour fear starts to creep in and then by the time your seated on the plane you realise it is forming into anxiety that is gradually manifesting into panic as I start sweating. Anyways by the end of the solo trip I forget this feeling and know it will not keep me back from returning.
Land, go through customs, exit the airport and turn left, I had revised those directions upon finding that there was a 40 minute coach I could take to the city of Split. I nervously asked the driver who was busy arranging luggage in hold if this was the correct bus and how to get a ticket to board. ‘Take a seat and my colleague will come to you, so that you can purchase a ticket’. ‘How much is the ticket?’ (I already knew but I needed the confirmation), he replies ‘too much!’ laughing, an unexpected joke that helps crack my nervousness, finally I smile back and he confirms that it is 30 kuna (£3.70).
After an easy journey to the centre of split I let my feet follow the crowd towards the Riva and finally found my airbnb towards the top of the Senjska ulica.
Walking down the little steps decorated with orange-blossomed flowers, I was greeted by Ines my airbnb host, a lovely Croatian woman with a big smile. Since the apartment was still being cleaned, Ines took me to Vildica a simple café, with outdoor seats overlooking the views of the old town. After sitting there sipping on full sugared coke I understood why there were so many people walking up the hill with the heat of the sun sitting on their heads to capture a glimpse of this beautiful view of the city.
The next few days was spent getting familiar with my new surroundings, intentionally getting lost to find hidden gems that might not be registered on Google maps or noted in Trip adviser. I stumbled upon Spar, a late night supermarket and Bio-Bio an organic store to help me add to my pre packed porridge, plantain chips and mint tea. Which allowed me to test out new breakfast recipes and enjoy them under the sounds of chirpy crickets on the apartment terrace.
My favourite discovery within the labyrinth of the old town, was discovering Mikita OS store on Zadarska. I was welcomed into a little store filled with home made produce by the store owner, Mirjana . The honey is produced by her husband who is also a bee keeper and the wax is used by her to produce beautiful beeswax candles, whilst the wines and oils are produced by other family relatives. After 2 hours I left with a small bottle of pumpkin oil, acacia honey and Mirjana as a new friend.
After a few days of wondering around Diocletian’s Palace, I decided I needed to venture out and embark on a tour. Tours to Kirka was one on my bucket list, but after searching Instagram to find authentic accounts in real time, it was evident that would be a crowded place and would probably not be as an enjoyable as taking a boat ride to another island. There were so many tours promising visits to 5 Islands or more, but when you consider the time and the type of boat, you would be looking at the Islands and not visiting them. Then there was Golden horn beach on the Island of Brac. Available for booking on Viator tours, I wanted to travel on a catamaran boat but it was fully booked, so I decided to find the booking agent walking to every booth and store along the port before I eventually found them. The catamaran was fully booked with the next availability on the Wednesday, which was the same day of my arranged spa day. So I opted for the tour with Polaris that was leaving the following morning.
Day Trip to Brac/Solta Island
The cost was €68 for a return trip to Brac Island including breakfast, lunch and unlimited soft drinks.
I became aware of seats in front of the captain’s cabin after reading previous tour reviews and became my point of escape when I walked up to the second step to find I would be point of curiosity. Siting at the front with my warm baked croissant and fresh orange juice I was soon joined by Laura an Italian woman and her child who in the end we became friends. As soon as we set sail I realised that I had one of the best seats, here I got the best views, sea breeze and the right amount of sun.
With fours hours to spare at the beach, I relaxed on a sun lounger, reading after catching up on Love Island (not very adventurous, but chill out time was necessary). On my way back to the port, I saw a woman weaving bags that reminded me of the sapor bath sponge we use in Ghana and couldn’t leave without purchasing one. I appreciated it was hand made as living in London you become accustomed to machine made products. She was so happy with my appreciation she was happy for me to take pictures of her in midst of her craft.
Back on board lunch was served, I opted for the fish dish, a large tuna steak served with crushed potatoes and a side salad, a generous portion but the vegetarian option also looked good. I returned to my favourite spot to doze off before the rough waves awakened me with an icy cold wave slapping face. It turned out I wasn’t the only one as another lady sitting next to me accompanied my shock by gasping. It was literally our ice breaker and we began speaking. She young woman from Germany and was travelling with her friend. Once she discovered I was travelling solo, her first response was ‘wow’, this was frequent reaction I had received from women I had spoken too and maybe that was why I was getting the stares. Solo travelling women was not the norm here, especially here but also among other middle aged travellers who were not accustomed to the sight of a care free woman enjoying herself. It was usually confirmed by middle aged women older than me, who thought it was brave and commended me. I laughed because I knew it was something that came after a few years of travelling solo and I had recently became confident and just embraced it.
Adventure to West side: Ivan Meštrović Gallery
Do you ever curiously look at Google Maps, tapping on the icons? Well that is how I located the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. Google reviews and pictures really come in handy and I though this would be a great place to stop along the way to a new beach. Situated 15 minute walk away, when I finally found the place I was disappointed for not bringing my tablet to start writing on this blog as I sat outside the large steps and gazed between the tall pine trees, a gateway to the view of sailing ships going to the port. It was so calm and peaceful, I completely identified why as an artist this would be a perfect place to create beautiful and inspiring work. I was grateful for Ivan Meštrović’s donation of his home to the city of split, that I like many others could experience this for a moment. His sculptures are placed around the courtyard and curated at certain entry points within the house, working with wood, stones were classical Roman and contemporary themes intwine.
Entry is 40 Khuna (£4.85) for adults and students receive a 50% reduction with a valid student card and includes entry to the chapel a few meters away from the gallery.
Luxury Treat Day at the Marvin Hotel & Spa
Dragging my suitcase up a hill 20 minutes into my 34 minute walk from the airbnb with the views of the sea and distant mountains, I’m wondering if walking and exploring the views rather than taking a £6 Uber was worth it. Honestly it really was not, but if I did not take that journey I would have been under the false pretences that I could easily walk to the centre from Marvie Hotel
So here is my TOP TIP: if you are conscious of a budget but really want to experience a little bit of luxury, find your luxury hotel and check in for 1 night but arrive early to experience all the facilities. The spa facilities and roof top pool which I was eager to jump into at this point is the only reason why I am here. (If you want to try it, get £15 off your stay with booking.com)
Although my arrival at 11am was too late for a vacant sun lounger (it took an hour into reading a book and being assertive to notice a couple packing their belongings to leave) but good things come to those who wait, including a sun lounger directly in front of the pool with views.The innovative construction of the pool allows you to position your body letting you float whilst to looking over the port.
After leaving for a few minutes I returned to a lady sitting beside me, who was quick to tell me she thought that I left and thought she had taken my sun bed, but mistakenly took someone else’s. It turned out she too was travelling solo and ended up becoming my partner in discovery, when tasting cocktails, exploring the spa facilities and helping capture my moments on camera. Later we both visited Movi, a local pizza restaurant for dinner.
An extensive continental breakfast buffet, served from 6:30am within the hotel bar area that also had an outdoor patio where you can gaze beyond the palm trees was my last moment of bliss before embarking on return journey home. I also had to endure a little panic when I discovered that Uber in Split it was cash only! My Monzo card had given me a false sense of security by traveling most of travels cashless.
Split airport was very chaotic that buying a bottle of water endured 15 minutes waiting time in a queue. The layout of seats, 1 noticeable cafe and multitude of people standing in frustration meant I was eager to remain in a corner until I could board the plane and therefore avoided visiting the stores for last minute souvenir shopping. However, reflecting on the trip I was so happy that I had came and experienced a little bit of Croatian hospitality that I am looking forward to exploring more of the country in future.
If you would like to encounter more follow me and be sure to check out my visual diary