Wednesday, July 11, 2007




Our flight from Berlin went non-stop into the Croation port city of Split. From there we were to take a ferry to the Island of Vis, where our friends – a “mixed” couple, a Serb married to a Croat – were waiting for us.

It seems as though the strange weather in Berlin followed us, as a huge thunderstorm broke just as our airport bus set off on the half-hour ride to the harbor in Split. The roads were narrow and I wondered about safety, particularly when the driver turned fully around in his seat to tell one of the passengers to close the trap door in the roof, which was now letting in rain. Normally, I wouldn’t have thought much of it, except that the passenger didn’t speak Croation and the driver needed about 15 seconds worth of hand gesturing to make his point. Luckily, the driver had a crucifix hanging from his rear-view mirror, which protected us.


Split is a large industrial city – the second largest in Croatia I believe – but the harbor, on the edge of Split’s old town, comes straight out of one’s imagination of the small Mediterranean port. Stone buildings bleached white by the Mediterranean sun, set off with painted shutters. A long waterside promenade. Boats of every description.

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In the Split harbor, one finds a Babel of international tourists. In addition to local Croats and other Balkan peoples, there are Austrians, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, French, Brits, East Asians, and a fair number of Americans. Some of this you get from the languages and accents you hear, some from the look of the people, some from the car license plates you see around.

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Split is the embarkation point for several Adriatic Islands, the most popular and trendy being Hvar, and you can even ferry to the eastern coast of Italy. It is also the source of numerous small steamship cruises and saiboat charters.

The steamships look charming at first glance, but lose some of their luster when you think ahead to what the trip would actually be like – cooped up in a confined space with a couple of dozen strangers. Fun for a day or two, but for more than that?

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The sailboats, I believe, can be rented for sailing on your own, with larger skippered boats available for charter.(I can’t use the word “skipper” in this context without thinking of Gilligan’s Island.)

And then of course you see the occasional outrageous yacht. One, parked along the quay in split, was about 120 feet long and its Cayman Island registry bespoke massive amounts of money moved “offshore.”

“Your tax dollars not at work,” quipped B.

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The outsized yacht club. Above, flying under the Cayman Islands flag.
Below: taking a good joke too far. Doesn’t it make you want to slap them...
with confiscatory taxation?


I was particularly enthralled by the contrast between our relatively quiet Tuesday afternoon departure, and our Saturday morning return. Saturday morning is apparently when most rentals and charters begin, and the quays were filled with boats moored three and four deep.

Below: the same part of the quay, Tuesday and Saturday:



There’s a travel tip for Mediterranean ports: if you don’t like crowds, try to avoid Saturday mornings.

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Above: Our ferry (I wasn't on it at the time) and the Split promenade (I wasn't on it at the time).

Below: arrival at Vis.

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“Your tax dollars not at work,” quipped B.

That's so great! I'm stealing that. Thank her for me.
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