Time to Split
I spent four nights in Split before catching a plane back to London. This gave me enough time to see the city and to organise, buy, and dispose of the things necessary to get on the plane.
After moving into the apartment, showering and sorting out food, I ceremonially unpacked my panniers for the last time, my meagre possessions being engulfed in the spacious drawers and wardrobe. It was a strange and bittersweet feeling, knowing I was at the end of my journey. And while I still technically had three days in a foreign city to enjoy in comfort, this knowledge didn't come with the expected thrill of excitement and freedom.
That night I went for a walk around the old town at midnight. The medieval streets were moodily lit, accentuating the textures of the stone and the otherwordly atmosphere. The church tower a few metres from the apartment glowed like a beacon in the night, but I wasn't able to truly capture it on film. Even at this late hour midweek in the low season there were still a few tourists strolling the streets, and a few drunk 20-somethings stumbling along the cobbles.
|Church next to the apartment.|
|Entrance to Diocletian's Palace.|
|Arches in Diocletian's Palace.|
The next day I spent some time looking at the old town in the sunlight and completing the mundane but necessary tasks of finding out how to get to the airport, where to buy a suitcase, etc. Then in the afternoon I went for a final bike ride up to the lookout point on Marjan hill to the west of the old town. It was a sunny warm day and I was not alone in seeking some exercise and beauty climbing the hill. I was glad to find that there were tracks up the hill that were sealed the whole way and it was possible to ride a bike to the top and down again. Unencumbered by 25 kilos of gear it was surprisingly easy to cycle up the moderately steep slope. The views from the top were gorgeous, as I had come to expect from this part of the world.
|Rock climbers or abseilers on Marjan Hill.|
|View over Split from Marjan Hill.|
The following day I went shopping for souvenirs and a suitcase to take all my belonging back to England. I was assured that I could find anything I wanted in the market just outside Diocletian's Palace, and I believe this may well be true. There was a fruit and vegetable market selling fresh and dried goods, and a great number of stalls selling clothing, bags, footwear, craft, and toys etc. I scouted round all the stalls with luggage and finally found the best deal on a large suitcase. Knowing I had a good quality suitcase ready to go in Chelmsford meant that anything I bought in Split would be one use only, so I was unashamedly looking for the cheapest regardless of quality. In the end I bought one for 200kn from a very thankful lady and was given a free hot pink mobile phone case as thanks (or perhaps punishment). In line with expectations the extendable handle broke in the shuttle on the way to the airport. that afternoon I went for a walk into the modern city of Split, perhaps a kilometre inland. I was hunting for another t-shirt or top to wear since I only had two cycling shirts and a t-shirt with me and it would be several days till I would be able to get to my luggage stored in England. The main street connecting the old town with the shopping mall was a normal modern western street, although a little grubby. The mall was nice and clean and, well, boring really. I took a hurried look around the shops hunting for the cheapest clothing store, bought an ill-fitting top for 3 Euro, and left.
|Streets in the old town.|
|Arches in the old town connecting to newer buildings.|
|The church in Diocletian's Palace.|
|More beautiful streets.|
The next day was wet and windy and I spent it finalising my souvenir shopping. Now having finally been released from the restrictions of what could be carried on a bicycle I was free to buy some souvenirs for my family and myself... providing they would fit the restrictions of international air travel. After some deliberation I went back to the stalls underneath Diocletian's Palace and bought myself a clock and two small candle holders made from stone from nearby Brac Island. The palace itself and The White House as well as the cathedral in Sibenik and assorted other famous building are made of this stone. Stone of course being a lightweight durable material suitable for carrying on airlines.
On my last full day in Split I met up with Anita at the bus station to sell my bike. It was raining and windy and I was 20 minutes early, so reveling in the miserableness as a reminder of the variable conditions on the trip I had just completed, I cycled up a hill in my wet weather gear. I met with Anita at the prescribed time and we dodged downpours to get to a cafe to dry out. She lit a cigarette and we talked for a while over thick hot chocolates. Eventually I gave her the keys to the lock, the spare inner tube and the chain lube, the bungy cords, and showed her how to take the lock out of the storage fitting on the bike. She laughed saying it was unlikely they would ever need to use a lock, and after having spent some time in Drage I believe her. The bike is intended for her mother to ride around Drage, and since it's a nice comfortable women's bike I hope she will like it and get as much enjoyment form it as I have. Back at the bus station the driver unceremoniously loaded the bike in the luggage compartment under the bus, and I felt a pang of sadness at seeing it treated like a bicycle, rather than as the enabler of freedom that it was. We said our goodbyes and I walked back to my apartment missing the effortless glide that the short trip would have been on my bike. While I had only had the bike for about four months, parting with it really felt like I was voluntarily selling a limb. Now everything was further away from me, there was less time in a day, and I now had to return to a stiff back and sore arms from carrying heavy bags.
The weather was no better the next morning as I made my final preparations to leave. I disposed of a lot of things, but wanted to take home my panniers, handlebar bag and bike accessories since they had cost so much to obtain in the first place. Even so, for the first time in my life I actually had to sit on my suitcase to allow me to pull the zip closed! The apartment owner came to collect his money and and helped me down the stairs with my overstuffed suitcase. Another Bora wind had reached the city and it was like the worst days in Wellington as I trudged head first into the wind towards the bus station.
I bought my ticket for the shuttle and was assured that it would leave at 10am for the airport from platform 5. But the super relaxed and informal setting didn't reassure me that I wouldn't miss it because I didn't speak Croatian. I waited with a few other people under an awning and then it began to rain. Over the next 20 minutes we all shuffled along out of the rain that was being blown in under the shelter, but couldn't escape getting wet from my knees down. When the shuttle did arrive there were only two passengers, including me. I managed to complete my soaking by crossing an ankle deep expanse of water while heavy drops of rain blew into my face, and then onto the floor of the damp bus. Fortunately I had plenty of time to wait at the airport with my shoes and socks off under the table for them and me to dry out sufficiently to make the flights back to London not uncomfortable. My first stop was Zagreb, inland from Split and therefore subject to the continental climate on the other side of the mountain range rather than the temperate Mediterranean climate.
Then on to London.