Split Day/Night 3 – A Croatian History Lesson

While I had been enjoying my time exploring Split, my Airbnb host had insisted I make the short trip to the medieval town of Trogir.  It looked to be another sunny day so I walked down to the port to catch one of the buses out of town.  As I left Split, I could now get a better sense of the surrounding areas, which were much more in line of a typical mid-sized city, including some large apartment buildings on the edge of the city.  Not everyone can live in the ruins of a Roman palace apparently.

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After about 40 minutes and a quick walk across a small bridge, I arrived at the entrance of the old part of Trogir.  Established in the 14th century by the Venetians, Trogir served as a main entryway to the Croatian islands.  The entire old part of the city is UNESCO protected and as such was stunningly preserved.

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First though, I was in dire need of food and winded by way to a restaurant that had been recommended for great seafood. Nestled in the middle of one of the stone alleys, Tragos looked to be the perfect spot for lunch.

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I asked my server which of the many inviting dishes was her favorite, and she eagerly said the grilled squid.  While that can certainly be a tricky item, I trusted her judgement and was soon awarded with this plate of goodness.

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First slow boiled to make them tender, then quickly thrown on a wood fired grill, the squids were probably the best I’ve ever had – tender, perfectly seasoned and bursting with flavor. That plus a local red wine cost me $15, not too shabby.

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I made my way through the winding alleyways to the main part of the port, which was full arriving ships that were there for a quick sojourn.  I heard at least 10 different languages being spoken as I strolled down the promenade making it clear this was definitely a popular tourist spot.

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What caught my eye though was an imposing looking fortress at the end of the walkway.  This had been built in the 15th century to protect the Croatian islands from intruders and had been largely destroyed by the Ottomans once they came into power in the region.  However, the outer shell had survived and was able to be explored for a mere $5.

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The turret was also intact, which I assume probably had some pretty amazing panoramic views so I braved the very steep and narrow steps to make my way to the top.

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The climb soon proved to be well worth it.

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So much so, I even broke my usual rule and let someone take a picture of me.  When in Trogir…

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I very carefully climbed down the stairs and soon was back on the promenade.  Since I still had about an hour to kill before the bus home, I thought I’d join the fellow travelers enjoying the weather on the inviting couches spread around and have a cold glass of Croatian beer.

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I walked back toward the bus station, taking a different along a small waterway, which featured slightly more modest boats than the mega yachts parked in the main harbor.

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It was a good thing that decided to get to the bus station a bit early as the quick coach got there about 5 minutes ahead of schedule and since it was coming from Zagreb, I almost missed it as the driver apparently thought no one was there to pick up.  Another quick trip back to the harbor at Split and an hour later I was back in my room – very easy.

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A couple of hours later, I walked down the main alleyway to a restaurant I had tried to go to the previous night but had been booked, Zinfandel.  This time I had made a reservation so I was all set.  There was a nice acoustic guitar/singer duo in mid-set when I sat down, which added to the convivial atmosphere.  I started with a glass of the same superb Stina Mali Plavic barrique I had at Bokeria.  Interestingly enough, I noticed that my pour was the equivalent of about 4.5 fl oz versus the traditional 6 fl oz but at $7 USD, it was still quite a bargain.

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Continuing my seafood jag, I ordered the local sea bass en papillote with vegetables.  In a welcome wrinkle to the classic preparation, they had used Posip as the cooking wine.  The fish was as tender as it gets and the Posip added a nice depth of flavor to the vegetables underneath.  Simple but delicious. With this, it only made sense to pair with a glass of Stina Posip.

After a nice chat with the owner, I headed down the street in search of the Dosud drinking area.  Google Maps seemed to have no idea where this was but after about 20 minutes of stumbling around, I found it.

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The alley featured a series of small bars with accompanying tables and seating along the steps.  It was now midnight so steps were full of people enjoying a nice Saturday night.  I walked up to the top to the most famous of the bars – Ghetto Bar, which was bursting at the seams.

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Not wanting to deal with the hassle, I walked back down the alley and was lured in by the familiar sounds of deep house booming from one of the smaller establishments.  This turned out to be Fluid Bar.

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As I was debating what to order, a large man who looked like something out of central casting for a Croatian hitman, slapped me on the back and said “drink!”  In front of me, he presented me with a shot of the Croatian liquor of choice – rajika – a grappa based liquor that is usually infused with other flavors.  In this case, it was herbs, which gave it a very nice aftertaste.

I started to say thank you when he directed me to his friend who he said spoke much better English.  This guy turned out to be my main guide for the evening.  First welcoming me with another shot of the rajika.  I asked him what proof it was and he said “Ohh, you don’t want to know that.  Let’s just say as long as you have less than 4, you’ll be fine.”  So noted.

He was a recently retired seaman and the large guy was his godfather.  They had been celebrating all day a recent victory for their soccer team, including the bartender.  He gave me a fascinating overview of the history of Split – his family dated back to the Venetians and told me how during the Yugoslav War the navy had been stationed off of Split to shell the Serbians hiding in the hill above the city.  I asked him if anyone considered themselves to be “Yugoslavian” during Tito’s regime and he said that everyone still maintained their regional heritage, which of course was part of the reason the war started in the first place.

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As a way of thanks for the entertainment, I bought the group a round.  It was now about 1AM so I meant that to be my exit but then my new friend insisted that he buy me a drink too.  I decided to go easy with some vodka soda and after waving off another drink from the group, I escaped down the stone stairs and headed home.  Tomorrow would be my final day in Split and with a lot of planned walking ahead, I knew it was time for bed.

 

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