Saturday, October 10, 2009

Long Island iced teas, filo pastry and women

When I got off the bus from Zadar to Split, I was mobbed by women wanting to take me home. I must have said no a dozen times. They only wanted me for my money.  In any case, I had already booked ahead for accommodation.

There must be many empty private rooms outside of peak season; wearing my backpack, I continued to be approached walking into town. “Excuse me, do you need a room? In the palace, very cheap.” They are civil, and a polite “no” resolves the matter; they are certainly nothing like Lisbon’s hash peddlers.

Lonely Planet says that Diocletian’s Palace is “one of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence.” It’s no overstatement. Built by the Roman emperor as a retirement villa, the intact, three-storey walls, roughly 200 metres on each side, encapsulate Romanesque and Gothic mansions built into tall Roman arches and Corinthian capped pillars by wealthy merchants in the Middle Ages, and today is a labyrinth of narrow stone lanes filled with jewellery stores, market stalls, museums, windows adorned with laundry, restaurants, and weed-strewn dead ends.

Split may be even more relaxed than Zadar. After a rather busy three weeks of driving through Portugal after scrambling to get to Andalucía on time, followed by a three-day Italian blitz, I decided to take advantage of the coastal Dalmatian atmosphere and spent three days in Split doing nothing much at all. The harbour is fronted by a long promenade knows as Riva, populated with open air cafes. It’s a beaut spot for people watching against the background of the Adriatic sipping a Long Island iced tea.

The weather in Croatia has been sunny and pleasant in the low to mid twenties. Despite having spent many hours in the sun without sunblock over many weeks, I haven’t yet been sunburnt, which is a bit of a mystery to me. My Irish skin is like filo pastry. I only once lathered up, when I sat in the baking Andalusian sun to watch the bullfight in Ronda, which I’m pretty sure would have otherwise done me in.

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