This morning we were renting a car and driving to Split! We steeled ourselves to lug the luggage up steps and down steps to our ride to pick-up the rental. Because it was so heavy, our luggage had to be dragged on their wheels. At one point a resident came out of his home in his skivvies and with bed head and grumbled something at me about having to repair the streets. The streets here are ancient and here we are rolling our heavy Samsonites all over them. A very valid grumble, actually, so I thanked him for the reminder and he tossed his hands in the air like “stupid American!” and went back into his home.
It was literally the only time someone was curt with me this entire trip.
The sun was shining and we lamented the fact that we didn’t get more time in Dubrovnik while it was sunny, but we were grateful to be getting any sun at all!
Once we figured out the rental car company-provided GPS (and by “figured out” I mean we realized it wasn’t very easy to program and it failed to charge in the car and we had to ditch it and use our phones), we were on our way. The car was a stick-shift so I was the driver having learned how to drive on a stick and only converting to an automatic a few years ago. I was surprised that I kept stalling until I realized that these stick shifts shut off the car if you are stopped, and turn back on automatically when you push down on the clutch again.
We stopped in a little village called Mari Ston to have a look at around, and continued on to Ston where we did some sight-seeing and also got some lunch (healthy but with all the fish bones, I didn’t finish. It’s actually really distracting trying to pull those out!)
In Split, I was disappointed to not have access to the salt factory. Ston is known for harvesting salt made just from the sun, wind and the Adriatic Sea, and I would have loved to see how it’s harvested (if that’s even the right term for it). Alas, we were really running short on time, and still had a three-hour ride to Split to complete. We also knew we’d likely stop periodically during the drive.
Once in Split, a larger and more “modern” looking city than Dubrovnik, I turned town a narrow street where our Air BnB was located. With cars parked on either side, getting the small SUV through was tricky, and furthermore, it was not clear where we should put the car anyway because there were no spaces. In fact, it looked like a few people decided that the middle of the street was a perfectly good parking space.
We texted our host, Petar and he came quickly with a smile and firm hand shake. He helped us bring our bags up and we had a long, interesting conversation with him. His place was full of items from around the world. He travels a lot for work, he told us.
Petar told us a bit about his family. He has this place, and another nearby. His parents own a farm and his sister has a place in town too. He told us that no one is hungry in Croatia because everyone owns land. I’m sure there’s a bit more to it than that, but we didn’t get into it. Libby and I did agree that we really wanted to see his family’s farm though (we didn’t ask of course).
Petar told us; outsiders don’t know that Croatia isn’t really eastern European. They don’t know much about it; there’s very little crime (or as Petar said “Croatia is very safety!” This was a word error we heard more than once), you can leave a cellphone somewhere and it will still be there in an hour. And no poverty. Why? Because parents take care of their kids so no one goes hungry. Also, the government doesn’t provide any assistance to outsiders, so outsiders don’t often move in (read; refuges not welcome). Also an interesting fact which we heard more than once – tourism is one of Croatia’s only money-making “exports” and the country has only invested in tourism in the past few years. He told us all about the good places to eat, and laughed with us about the weather and our other travel adventures.
We heard a horn outside; this was our cue to go move the SUV, which was basically sitting in the middle of the street. Petar and Libby stood outside the car while I maneuvered it backwards with cars on either side, and then into a space slightly off to the left. When I wiggled my way out of the car (a tight squeeze with the other vehicles on either side), Petar said “That was really good. I never seen (Air BnB guests) do that. Not even the men!” I was very proud, and he seemed very impressed. And adorable. The guy was adorable. And married. ; )
Beaming from my adept vehicular accomplishment, Libby and I went into Split and explored a bit in the dark. The buildings were a combination of spectacular and ancient, with local shops and eateries in them, and a few main drags were bright and white with shops like ZARA (we took note to go back), United Colors of Benneton (how charming and very 1990s!).
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