Monday, January 23, 2017

Cro-a-tia (that's "Croatia" Split up into its syllables)

Jackets. Hats. Shivering. Cold!

These are the words that the average (and sightly below average) person thinks of when they imagine the beaches of Croatia. The problem is that I'm no average person (I hover around 1/6 average most of the time).

See, I thought it would be a tropical paradise with the most beautiful beaches in the world, but, instead, I was stuck wearing my jacket. 

So cold! Hey, thats my dad. Who invited him into the picture?

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. Split, Croatia (yes, its called Split....and its quite easy to fit into puns) in October was a mixed bag (actually, now that I'm writing my thoughts out here, I've had an idea and I'm going to weave the Split pun into random places in this post). October is really just one month too late for consistent warm weather in Croatia (you will recognize these puns because the word 'Split' will be in them). Would it have been too much to ask to go here earlier in the trip? It was really the only place on our itinerary that was so weather dependent because of the.......BEACHES (actually now I'm going back to change the title and include this pun in it. It probably won't make sense until you read this sentence)!

Luckily, there were still a couple nice days in Split (see that wasn't a pun, I was just using the name of the city in a sentence)...

My office for the month

That's more like the weather I expected.

And I suppose there was the occasional beautiful sunset...

What I thought Croatia would be like (and obviously was...since that's a picture I took)

And it ended up being a pretty awesome place to run. On warm days, we would run by the beach and then jump directly into the ocean.

Running one mile calls for a jump in the ocean

The main attraction in Split is Diocletian's Palace, built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century AD as his vacation home. I personally would have gone with a slightly more sturdy material for my vacation home as the palace is already showing its age after just 1600 years. Pfft (thats the sound of me scoffing). 

Parts of the "palace" in clear disarray and Split-ting apart (I have no idea why I took this picture)
What's actually really cool about this palace is that half of the city of Split is built into it. You might say the city is Split between Diocletians palace and the surrounding area (no one would say this). I should probably back up and explain that this palace isn't just one lavish giant structure (like you have in your mind), but a huge area of many building enclosed by outer walls. More of what you would think of as a fortress. 

Looking out from the bell tower. All of the buildings in the immediate foreground are inside the palace walls (longest caption ever)

How did the city come to exist inside the palace? I'm glad you asked. In the 7th century, the nearby residents fled to the walled palace in an effort to escape the invading Croats (see previous post about confusing conflicts in the area). They setup homes and shops inside the walls and to this day, the area remains the main functioning part of the city. Apartments are for rent inside towers and fortified walls and banks sit upon stone streets built over a thousand years ago.

Shops are built into the thousand year old fortress walls

The other cool thing about this fortress is that Game of Thrones filmed a number of scenes here. OMG FREAK OUT. GAME OF THRONES. Split was the setting for many of the shots of Meereen and I spoke to a number of locals who were extras in various scenes.

A scene from Game of Thrones was shot here

It was apparently this scene ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is the entrance to the dungeon where Khaleesi keeps her dragons

And here's some other random pics of the "palace"

The local palace bell tower

A courtyard in the palace that my dad really enjoyed....its too bad that guy is blocking the shot

Statue of Gregory of Nin...its good luck to touch the foot. Also, why is that guy following me around and standing in all my pictures? (ok, now this is the longest caption)

They call Croatia, "the land of of dudes walking into your pictures", well actually I just call it that. Most people call it "the land of 1000 islands" because they have over 1000 islands. I feel like they should probably do an exact count so they can call it "the land of 1106 islands" (1106 may be an incorrect number of islands, so once the count is complete, you can substitute the real number. You can say "the land of x islands for now"). In any event, you might say Croatia is Split into many pieces....I wouldn't say that, but you might. I had the opportunity to visit exactly one of these islands, Brač (pronounced Brač). It was nice. I took a picture.

A picture on Brač of x Croatian islands

The last "big" trip I took within Croatia was to Plitviče Lake National Park. It was pretty. Not really sure what else to say about. It was a cold day. Enjoy the pictures.

Matt Levin in front of a water fall at Plitviče Lake National Park

The leaves are changing colors...reminds me of back home in the Boston suburbs

They have caves in Plitviče

Here's the money shot! Looking down on the boardwalk from above. Boom! It was all worth it!

On the way back from Plitviče, we stopped at the famed sea organ in Zadar. It's an architected musical instrument with a series of pipes built into the steps on the water that make different sounds as the water fills the pipes (which doesn't sound anything like an organ). But its still pretty interesting.

The sea organ. You can see the slits where the steps are Split and the water flows through

Below, there's a video of me listening to the sounds of the sea organ. If you listen too many times, pretty sure you'll get a Split-ting headache. Annnnnnnnnnd scene.

Total countries visited on my trip: 15 (Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, England, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Germany, Croatia).