I woke up early the next day to catch the 8:00 AM ferry to Split and in about two hours or so I was setting foot on the port of the city under clear sunny skies. Booking my accommodation for the two nights I was spending in Split was quite ticklish. I couldn’t find any availability in female dorms during my dates except for one, one hostel in the whole city. That hostel came with a perfect location but a low score on the reviews side. Since I didn’t have much of a choice on the matter, I ended up booking myself there. The place is basically an apartment turned into a hostel and is probably run by the owners. It overlooks the old town at the Eastern Gate side making its location the best feature it can offer. My room was OK and the bed was fine I guess but the rest of the place wasn’t really inviting. The bathrooms and toilets were a mess!! Cold showers, toilet-flushers that don’t flush, and drains that get blocked!! The young lady at the reception was helpful and that’s the second, and possibly the last, useful feature though the reviews said otherwise. The thing that bothered me the most was that the room’s accordion door didn’t come with a lock and that was kind of problematic! The last night I spent in Hvar I was put in an awkward situation when the room to the female dorm I was staying in was abruptly opened by the guys next door. The guys were partying with the two ladies sharing the room with me and one guy in particular wondered why the girls left the party early so he invited himself in to check! Honestly, I never worried myself about door locks while staying in a hostel till that night!!
I’m aware that a big part of staying at hostels is to get to meet new people. Getting to know likeminded people while on a trip means going out with them and also doing stuff together. I’m totally OK with that because hey, I have been there done that myself. I’m also aware that by staying in a dorm, one needs to be at ease with the idea of sharing a room with strangers. I know friends who would never put themselves in such a situation. Personally, I don’t mind it at all despite how “conservative” my appeal might advocate to others. What I don’t appreciate though is when my own comfort gets compromised especially when I book myself at a female dorm so it wouldn’t be disrupted in certain ways!! Therefore the fact that I was going to spend two nights in a room with a door that doesn’t even close properly not to mention locked was quite unsettling.
Travel is such a great teacher and one of the most crucial lessons I got taught through my travels was to cope and be flexible. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. The most intricate travel plans are not waterproof so rest assured that either droplets of water or showers of rain can shake them to the very core. So as a traveler, it is crucial to be flexible and lenient in order to be able to handle whichever situation that comes your way. And with that mindset, I decided to let my worries take a temporary plunge!
As usual, it wasn’t time to check me in yet when I arrived at the hostel. I needed to wait for a little while and I didn’t mind doing so on a couch in the terrace that overlooked the bustling streets of the old part of town. After check in I freshened up and went out to explore the city with Minji, my former dorm-mate in Dubrovnik. Minji is from Korea and when in Dubrovnik, we agreed to meet in Split since our dates would cross paths. I met Minji along with another dorm mate of hers nearby the Saint Domnius Cathedral and we started exploring the old town of Split together.
The old town of Split is actually what’s left of the Diocletian’s Palace. The palace is considered one of the most remarkable remaining Roman monuments on the Adriatic coast. It was a massive rectangular structure that didn’t only contain Emperor Diocletian’s living quarters, but also a military camp. Nowadays, only the palace and some remains of the walls and towers still stand. The complex houses a labyrinth of narrow alleyways paved with white stones and hosts quite a collection of cafes, restaurants, shops, and apartments. The best way to enjoy this marvelous place is to simply walk and get lost while navigating the narrow streets of the palace. The perimeters of the palace are home for the Saint Domnius Cathedral and its bell tower which offers beautiful views of Split, the cellars of the palace, Old Jupiter’s Temple, and the peristyle where a black granite sphinx that was brought from Egypt can be spotted. Another popular spot within the palace complex is Fruit Square with its Venetian Tower. As you probably have guessed, the name comes from the fact that the square used to hold a fruit market back in the days. The square gives access to Split’s waterfront Riva. The promenade is the liveliest part of the town of Split, it is also a stage for a variety of cultural and entertainment events and makes for a good place for a walk, drink, meal, or even coffee. It is one of my favorite spots in town.
To escape the midday heat, Minji and I treated ourselves to some ice cream while sitting on the shady steps around the peristyle. We spent some time conversing about Islam, our love for travel, the solo trips we have been on, culture and in particular how the Egyptian and Korean cultures perceive the notion of solo female travel. I was surprised to know that the concept of females traveling single-handedly is not that common in Korea as in some parts within the Middle East. I always had the feeling that most Asian countries keep an open mind when it comes to females’ rights of travel, given the number of female Asian travelers I run into during my trips, but looks like some communities are a tad conservative about it.
We strolled around the old town for a little more then retreated for a cup of coffee at one the numerous cafes along Riva before we finally parted ways. I leisurely enjoyed my time around Riva and the port, before it was time for my last stop for day, while stuffing myself with some fritule. Croatian fritters are mini donuts or sweet fried dumplings that are served with powdered sugar and more recently melted chocolate. They can also be found in Egypt, Turkey, and Greece under different names. Those little balls of fried dough and melted chocolate are just delish. YUM!
My last stop for the day was The Marjan Forest Park. The Marjan is actually a hill that has the city of Split on one side and the Adriatic on the other. The hill is covered in a thick pine forest and offers lots of recreational activates that range from walking/hiking to rock climbing. It also has access to a few beaches, the Split Zoo, a couple of churches and a 360˚ viewing platform that is the highest point in the park standing tall at 178 meters of height. The platform offers the most beautiful views of the city from every possible angle, I was there around sunset time and it was just gorgeous. You can easily recognize the viewing platform once you see a proudly standing Croatian flag and a large white cross. I kind of regret leaving that spot till the end, I wish I had dedicated more time to discovering it during daylight. I was falling in love with Split already and the Marjan was the cherry on top for me. I took my time marveling at the sunset from the viewing platform till I had to walk myself back to the hostel and call it a day. I needed the rest that night as I was up to an early start the following morning to go on a canyoning trip with Iris Adventures.
Canyoning and whitewater rafting in the river Cetina are two popular activities in Croatia. I was hoping to go rafting, I kind of fell in love with it since Sri Lanka, but I couldn’t find a suitable trip on the day I wanted so canyoning it was for me. I sort of had a last minute decision in that regard and Iris Adventures were very prompt in booking me for a day trip.
I woke up a little earlier that day and with the bakeries I bought the previous night for breakfast, I grabbed a coffee at 4coffee soul food which was a couple of minutes’ walk from the hostel. This tiny place serves great coffee and the staff are the friendliest ever. If you are a coffee lover, make sure to pass by for a cup and some cookies.
After breakfast I walked myself to the meeting point of my trip at Trg Republike or Republic Square. The square is surrounded by beautiful neo-Renaissance buildings called Prokurative from 3 sides with the southern side opening up to the harbor. The construction of the square was made during the 19th century under the supervision of General Marmont. The design of the square was inspired by Italian architecture and it is believed that the Trg Republike resembles Venice’s famous St. Mark’s Square. On the steps leading out of the square and into the harbor, I sat there to read for some time since I was early for my appointment. While I was reading on those steps, I was approached by a guy who got intrigued by the sight of the veiled lady who was sitting in the shade reading. Abdel-Rahim, or Rahman, is from India and he was vacationing in Split but was actually leaving it to Bosnia. He hasn’t been to Egypt before but he would love to visit one day, he said. It surprised him that I was traveling solo probably because I fall out of the grid when it comes to all the stereotyping Arabs, specifically veiled women, get. It was quite an enjoyable little chat and he wished me safe travels before he took off on what he was about to do that morning.
The canyoning trip started from the company’s office which is located close to Zadvarje village. The drive from split to the village took us around an hour. That wasn’t my first canyoning trip, my first was in Oman actually, but it surely was my first one, and time EVER, in a neoprene thick wetsuit. Ironically, I have been diving for a little more than two years now and I never went through the agony of putting on a wetsuit. It was always warm whenever I went diving and my burkini, being the skinsuit that it is, was pretty much convenient for the task! This time though, the water temperature was below 20 and I HAD to put on one! Oh Boy!
It is one thing diving in a wetsuit, I guess, but totally another to walk/scramble wearing one! I walked to the starting point fully suited of course because I couldn’t afford wearing it half way and zip it all up before the action started. The guides were actually quite concerned about me doing so because it was “hot” that day. They didn’t know that what they considered hot was actually PERFECT weather for an Egyptian living in Kuwait 😀 That short walk wasn’t the issue though, my main problem was that I couldn’t move properly wearing one. I didn’t have full range of motion for some reason and the tightness of the suit on my chest made it hard for me to breathe during those moments when we needed to hike up/down a dirt path! I was so out of breath and no matter how deep the breaths I took were, they never seemed enough to fill my chest with air! I actually had to unzip a little part of the suit to take away a portion of the tightness I felt over my chest while pleading to the guide for that short hike to be our last! On top of that, I didn’t have my glasses on. I was afraid that I might lose them so I ended up taking them off before we started and that caused my vision to be a little blurry! OMG, looking back at how I functioned that day I can only assume that I was such a pain-in-the-butt to the guides! SOWY 😦 Truth be told, the guides were really patient and very friendly. The whole group was nice actually, I was always lent a hand if I needed to and never felt I was a burden on any one. Thank you lovely people 😊
There are two types of canyoning trips offered by Iris Adventures, basic and extreme. The extreme version includes two rappelling spots and some cliff jumping. With the inconvenience I felt because of the wetsuit, I decided to go for the basic version which also included cliff jumping. I cliff-jumped once before in Oman from a 6 meters in height cliff and though it doesn’t seem that high, I hesitated and took quite some time till I finally decided to jump. That time in Croatia, the cliff was around 10 meters high and I jumped! TWICE! It took me a while to decide to make the jump but I did it eventually.
I think I wouldn’t have hesitated to do it a few years ago but ever since I lost a dear friend to a hiking accident, I unintentionally developed a fear towards cliffs. I never feared heights, still don’t, but now cliffs scare me to the extent that even driving nearby one makes me tremble. I try to conquer that fear whenever I can but sometimes it holds the upper hand over me unfortunately. Thankfully I was able to control the situation that time or I would have been the only one not to jump! I’m not sure if my willful self would have been happy about that.
Putting all the sentimentalities aside, I had so much fun. The canyon which houses the river is gorgeous and the flowing greenish waters of Cetina shaped its rocks and cliff-sides into those curvy bends of stones that added to the beauty of the landscape. The water was crisp and so refreshing making the swim through the final stretch of the trip very enjoyable.
Now taking the wet wetsuit off is worse than putting it on. Especially when I needed to do that hidden between the trees along the road because we didn’t make it back to the company’s office where I used the toilet earlier that day. That was quite challenging I must admit 😀 I think I should have had my burkini underneath it instead of a regular swimsuit!!
We were back to Split a little before sunset time and I was quite beaten. I only wanted to shower, have something to eat, and go to bed early. But gone were my hopes of taking a shower once I was at the hostel. The shower drains were blocked and there was no hot water as per my two Australian roommates who weren’t able to shower properly. It was quite disgusting to be showering in such conditions, so I decided against it since I was practically swimming in fresh water all day. I thought I can survive one extra day without a shower specially when I will be at my friend’s place the following day which meant much better bathing facilities 😀
My Austrian roommates suggested an Asian fast-food restaurant that was within a walking distance from the hostel if I wanted to grab something quick to eat. That was just perfect as I was too tired to sit and dine properly somewhere else. I actually ran into them over there along with another friend of theirs. We ended up eating Chinese food straight out of the box while sitting on a bench in Riva talking and enjoying the spectacular sunset views. It was a nice closure to my time in Split, a town that I liked a lot and can call it a favorite. Next on my itinerary was the city of Sibenik where I would be spending some time with my friend Sara exploring her hometown and the surrounding areas. But due to a last-minute change of plans, I went on a little detour before I finally made it to Sibenik 😉