Croatia: Split

With the aid of a cell phone GPS and Google Maps, we arrived on time at the Split airport to return our rental car. Suzanne had arranged for our apartment host to pick us up at the airport and transport us to the apartment in old town Split. Unfortunately as we aproached the airport I remembered that we had not filled the car with gas – and we had not passed a filling station for  25 miles. There must be a gas station near the air port – right? We pulled into the small airport and found our host. When I asked him where the filling station is located, he said “Just down the road – 2 kilometers”, followed by a gesture indicating (at least to me) to go out the gate and turn left. I confirmed by holding up 2 fingers and said “2 kilometers?”.  He shook his head and replied “yes”. Then I imitated his arm gesture, waving my left arm toward the left and said “That way? Just down the road?”  He said, “Yes, no problem”. For some unknown reason, I was in a hurry, I can’t explain it, I just was. And there was only one little two lane road in front of the airport. Now that I had a firm picture in my mind to exit the airport, turn left and go forward for 2 kilometers, I jumped in the car and took off. This set in motion a series of events that consumed the next 3 hours of our life in Split and introduced me to what I call the “Croatian Arm Wave”. After driving down the road, past some olive trees, by a school, through a little village, I figured I had gone about 5 kilometers without seeing a place to buy gas. I stopped and asked someone walking along the street. They said I should keep going down the road, the gas station was about 2 kilometers further. Hmmm, I must have passed the first one when I was admiring the olive trees; and I would certainly see the next one, right? After driving another 5 kilometers I stopped to ask a police officer. He was not a friendly type of police officer, and I considered that I might have made a mistake and that I might be arrested for being lost. Anyway, he didn’t arrest me. However, he did wave his hand impatiently in the direction I had been travelling and said the gas station is only 300 meters up the road. What a relief, I was surely going to get a straight answer from a cop – right? I pulled back out to the street as my cell phone rang. It was Suzanne who asked “Where are you?”.

I replied, “Trying to find gas, and now I think I’m about 10 kilometers away from the airport”  I heard some conversation in the background and Suzanne said, “You should not be that far away, the station is only 2 kilometers from the airport”. Trying not to vent my frustration into the phone, I explained that everyone I asked kept sending me two more kilometers the same direction – and that is how I ended up over 10 kilometers down the road. It isn’t my fault! As we talked I completed the 300 meters that the cop and indicated and I found myself in front of a concrete plant, no gas station in site.

I mumbled to Suzanne over the phone, “I give up, I’m coming back to the airport, see you in 20 minutes”.  About this time the various schools I had passed finished for the day and cars, bikes, and kids flooded the streets – slowing everything down. I finally made it back to the airport and followed our host to the gas station. It was only 2 kilometers from the airport. Of course there were a couple important turns that I didn’t pick up from his initial arm wave.

Several times in Split and Dubrovnik I encountered the “Croatian arm wave” when I asked for directions. I came to associate the “wave” to roughly translate to: “the place you want to find is out there somewhere, you should wander around awhile and see if you can find it”.

The main sight we explored during our brief stay in Split is Diocletian’s Palace. Diocletian was the only Roman Emperor to “retire”. All the other Roman emperors served until they died, usually of unnatural causes. Diocletian stepped down when his health failed and moved home to his native Dalmatia. His retirement bungalow was pretty impressive. Many of the marble walls around the original palace are still standing and is incorporated into current buildings.

If you have been following our travels so far, you won’t be surprised to hear that it started raining the day after we arrived. It rained, and it rained. We broke out our rain jackets and explored the palace during a break in the weather.

The weather kept us in the apartment for a couple of days. We caught up on our sleep and made progress on school work. The apartment Suzanne arranged is very cool. To find the front door we wound our way up a couple narrow paths, between old stone buildings, up a few flights of stairs, a few rights and lefts – and there you are. Now I understand why it is easier to wave an arm and say “it is 150 meters in that direction”.

The kids trying out the grilled sea bass

The pizza in Croatia is excellent! The pizzas come with a whole olive in the center of the pie. We quickly came to expect excellent pizza in Split and Dubrovnik, and had to force ourselves to occasionally try other items on the menu.

The weather improved just as it was time for us to board a bus for Dubrovnik. The bus wound its way down the coast and the scenery was great. The limestone hills drop directly into the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea. Ancient rock walls, built by farmers over the millenia, twist and wind all over the hills that are scattered with olive trees and rough brush. The road between Split and Dubrovnik crosses briefly into Bosnia, then 20 miles further crosses back into Croatia. While we were in Bosnia the bus stopped for a 15 minute toilette break. The passengers emptied out of the bus and headed over to stand in the long line for the WC. Our family was back on board in 10 minutes waiting to resume our journey. The bus drivers counted one less person on the bus than when we stopped. Getting somewhat annoyed, the drivers walked around the facility looking for anyone who looked familiar, shouted out of the bus door, and honked the horn. After 5 minutes, they asked if anyone on board knew the missing passenger – no one answered. So we continued on our way – leaving someone (we don’t know who) in Bosnia and taking their luggage to Dubrovnik. All I can say is, bummer for them, and glad it wasn’t us.

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