Split is Croatia’s second largest city and a great starting point for your Croatia adventure. It has an international airport with low cost airlines flying in and out from the rest of Europe, and multiple organized tours will take you to the top sights, including the Plitvice national park, Krka National Park, and Dalmatian islands.
The magic of Split happens in the old town surrounding the big ferry harbour. We arrived back to Split from Brac on one of those massive ferries and had to drop our rental car on one of the long quays. When we dropped the car, we were missing a hubcap. We couldn’t for the life of us remember losing a hubcap, and we hadn’t knocked against anything. We got the car at night in the Zadar airport, but still, I assume we would have noticed a missing hubcap with our smartphone torch during the check-up. As an honest man and having played by the rules all my life, I was debating how to deal with the situation, and was basically ready to take responsibility. However, Jarelle, with his lifetime of hustling and getting out of tight situations, was arguing the opposite side: present a united front, stand our ground and blame it on wear & tear, global warming, and “the Man”.
Still undecided on the best strategy, we parked the car in the rental parking lot. In under 10 seconds, 3 young rental car employees (all male) surrounded the car like vultures. Jarelle befriended them right then and there with a holy conversation combo of “I’m from San Francisco” + “The Warriors rule” + “Where are the women”. Men being men, and young Croatian men being both basketball fans, i.e. bandwagon Warriors fans, and as puzzled by the female mystique as any 22-year old in the world, they immediately took a liking to the caramel-skinned man from America. “That’s all you need!” (said 5 times in a row for impact)… Jarelle’s words ring true. After befriending them, we mentioned in passing that a hubcap was missing and told them they had to do better maintenance on their cars (because we didn’t hit anything and were respecting the speed limits), but they had already recorded no damage on the check-out paper. Victory was here, and after a slight of relief, all we were missing now was to feast.
After checking in our apartment, we went to a restaurant and devoured pizzas, pastas and panna cottas (why do all delicious Italian food start with ‘p’ and end with ‘a’?).
Visiting the Diocletian Palace
The following morning, we had a big day planned. We started out by going to the 1700-year-old Diocletian Palace, which was constructed by Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century and is the city’s most impressive site. For you Game of Thrones fans out there, it is the location of Daenarys’ throne room and the underground tunnels and basement rooms of the palace (which served to store rubbish in centuries past) are where she keeps and trains her dragons.
The Palace is best described as a complex made of an actual palace, a big square (at night, it turns into a gathering place, with musicians playing), and a cathedral. The cathedral sports a sublime bell tower, which we decided to climb. This would turn out to be quite a perilous adventure.
Climbing the Tower of Death and knocking down walls with Mexico
At 60m, the cathedral tower literally towers over Split. We had to climb up many flights of metallic stairs, but the walls had a lot of windows which allowed us to take in the beautiful views of Split. The metallic bars of the stairs also acted as our own vertical gym, as we shot workout videos.
Once we arrived at the very top, Jarelle had the great idea of climbing out of the window and walking to the ledge. I was scared shitless and was already imagining his splattered body 60m below and me having to call his mom to announce her precious son had committed death by stupidity.
For some reason that I still don’t understand, I joined him. While I don’t have vertigo, I’m now feeling a bit sick just thinking about that precipice. We sat down on the widest slabs of stone, with a great view of the harbour. As we were engaging in deep conversation about life, we could see a girl had been standing behind us for over 5 minutes, looking dreamily at the edge. So we invited her over, and it turned out all she had wanted was to join us but she had been scared. In true Tony Robbins fashion, we deconstructed that fear and made it disappear, as she sat between us and dangled her legs over the edge. We learned she was from Mexico and was studying in Germany. She had to leave Germany for a few days because of her visa, so she decided last minute to come to Croatia by herself. We talked for 20-30 min about life and travel (video will be on our YouTube channel soon).
Then, like proper bros, we took off our shirts and started filming epic workout videos on the ledge.
Let’s Put Some Shrimps on the Barbie
After walking through the rest of Split’s historic old squares and through the city walls, we decided it was a great idea to have a barbeque. We went to a supermarket and stocked up on veggies (capsicum, onions, tomatoes…) and meat (sausages and 1kg of beef). Back in the shared courtyard of our hostel, off to work we went: we tried to start a fire, as an old geezer passed by us with a look of pity and disbelief at our failed attempts.
Now listen up bros: if you don’t know how to start a fire in a chimney barbeque, it’s OK. After 20 min of seeing the small flames die on us, we were already contemplating having to eat our meat raw, like cavemen. But we swallowed down our pride and asked the old geezer for help (…twice). The flames were up, but since the grill was sitting right on top of them without any space, it turned out to be almost impossible to cook.
Onions and bell pepper slices would fall through the grill right in the dirty fire. Meanwhile our sausages and ribeye steak were right in the flames, it was hard to get an even cook. Luckily, we also made a fresh salad of tomatoes and onions sprinkled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Piece of advice: I wouldn’t recommend cooking barbeque in one of those chimneys. Not convenient at all!
We feasted on the spoils of our effort with a bottle of good red wine. Feeling the food acid in our stomach which let us know we had overeaten, we decided to go out to add some alcohol in that very stomach.
A Croatian Party
We headed out to join a pub crawl recommended to us by promoters earlier in the day. We met up at the Diocletian Palace square, from where we walked to the harbour to take a pub crawl bus. The bus took us to some uphill park. We walked through the park and arrived in a quiet neighbourhood street which ended at a big bar. Now, let’s put this out right now: this bar was hella crappy. Reminded me of the disgusting bars we use to go out to in college. Tables were lined up with staff serving free beer and liquor, and the floor was covered in alcohol. The whole thing had a very pungent smell. Luckily, most people were gathered in the outside area, with beer pong tables set up. We joined in on the action, then a bit later all went back into the bus.
The bus took us to a great open-air nightclub near the harbour called InBox. You’d just walk into this place from a stair in an underground shop gallery. No bouncer, no entrance fee. This place was the shit! Fantastic DJ and sound system, everybody was happy and dancing in this big outdoor space.
The final stop was Tropic Club near Bacvice beach, It was very uninspired, your standard European flavorless nightclub, so I won’t dwell on it any further.
A New Sun Rises, and With it, New Challenges…
The following morning, we were to take a ferry to the great island of Hvar. First, we went to the famous Bacvice beach, where Croatians play a local water game called Picigin:
However, rather than get our ass beat at a game we didn’t understand, we went to a workout bar setup to take off our shirt and show off our narcissism to these Croatians who hadn’t asked for any of it.
Soon, it dawned on us that we were in some serious company, as an 8-year-old girl was working the bars with her mother/older sister (?). The mother/older sister challenged Jarelle to a workout, and it was soon clear that she had more flexibility than the Black Panther itself. To add insult to injury, the little girl herself now defied the (not so) mighty Mr. Parker, who shares all of Spiderman’s last name and none of his acrobatic prowess. We took this as an opportunity to shoot some premium workout content, as the little girl dabbed her way to American humiliation.
To round up this quirky cast of characters, we met Justin “Aquaman” from Toronto (jchan_11 on Snapchat), and his father, George, 58, a half-Ironman runner, who had the calm demeanour and fit body of a wise Sensei…
After a few rounds of workout videos and muscular photos, we headed out to our ferry for other adventures.