Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slowing down in Split, Croatia

Upon landing in Split, Croatia, Yuriy and I couldn’t help smiling… sunshine! We had been waiting for this. Half of my suitcase consists of dresses, shorts, and sandals, and I was unable to wear them in Paris and London due to real Autumn weather. We rented an apartment for a week in advance, and the owner, Zdravko picked us up from the airport and stopped at a mart to get us a bottle of merlot, as promised in the online ad. It was great to start the stay in Split chatting with a local about the area. I asked Zdravko to translate several basic phrases into Croatian as I scribbled them into my notepad to study later. When I asked him how to say “sorry/excuse me”, he said “that’s beautiful”. According to him, all the Italians that come to visit speak strictly Italian. They don’t even bother learning a single word in Croatian. This goes to show how much it’s appreciated to pick up a few words in the local language (we later found that many of the tourists were from Italy, which is just a ferry ride across the Adriatic Sea).

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that many of the Croatian phrases sounded very similar to Ukrainian, our native language! For those that speak Ukrainian/Russian and might be mildly interested, "good afternoon" is "dobar dan" and "good evening" is "dobra vecer" (with the "c" pronounced like "ch").

The first thing to strike us in Split was how old everything looked. The buildings seemed to be crumbling. The style was outdated. The apartment buildings were attached by a wild series of strings that held laundry drying in the sun. Our apartment was simply built and didn’t have an oven or microwave, just 2 tiny burners. Hot water in the shower lasted hardly over 5 minutes. The small city had too many old churches for its size, and the occasional nun walking the streets. Church bells rung on the hour. We desperately needed an adapter for the euro outlets to charge up our electronics (laptops, cameras, phones), but they were no where to be found, despite our mad hunt about town. We felt so disconnected and misplaced, but oddly at peace. Since our phones were dead, we didn’t have alarms to wake us. This was our first chance since the wedding to relax.

In Split, there was no running around, no list of tourist sites to check off day by day. The old town center is small enough to walk across and around without the need for public transportation. In fact, cars can’t even drive through many of the streets in the city. The white stone streets are traveled by foot, some side streets the width of a hallway. Concealed in the maze is what locals like to call the smallest street in the world, which has been named “let me pass”. I finally got to dig out my books and spend time reading. We ate local mandarins and pomegranates daily, until my mouth hurt from all the sourness. We enjoyed cooking late breakfasts in our little kitchen. I chopped, Yuriy fried. On our first full day, a Sunday, we enjoyed a simple picnic on a blanket next to the sea, which consisted of spicy sausage, cheese, tomatoes, bread, fruit, and wine—all purchased from the outdoor market that morning. We must have looked way too cute, because quite a few people pointed or stared and an older man discretely took our photo. 

- Julia