We left the beautiful Trogir and drove just 17 miles to get to Stobrec and we booked into Camping Stobrec. We chose this site because it is an easy bus ride into Split and our Acsi book description was showing it to be a luxurious site. When we arrived the large notice board showed that this site has won the award for Croatia’s best campsite for the last 4 years running. It is quite easy to see why. This seaside site has had beaches (tiny pebbles not sand) landscaped around three sides of it and there are even a couple of diving boards. We got a large pitch with its own tap and drain. There is a shop which is very well stocked and the prices were not much different to the larger supermarkets that were within easy walking distance to the campsite. The landscaping of the site itself was excellent and there were young chaps tending to the plants and keeping everything spick and span. The toilet blocks were luxurious and the lady cleaners were constantly beavering away polishing everything that didn’t move.
We have seen many different motorhomes, camper vans, tents and caravans whilst we have been touring around. We watched streams of people stop outside the pitch of our next door neighbour. Some just stopped and stared, lots took photos and many of those got their loved one to pose beside this man’s tow vehicle whilst a photograph was taken showing them and this German man’s pride and joy. The object of all this interest certainly wasn’t the fairly ordinary looking caravan.
All stopped to look at the immaculate, bright green John Deere tractor. Apparently this man’s father worked for John Deere designing the first tractors ever made by the company and our neighbour owns three different models and he is travelling around Europe enjoying the attention he gets everywhere.
We were sitting in the sun relaxing after our strenuous drive when up popped Doug and Lois. This is the Australian pair that we made friends with the evening that we returned from visiting Plitvice lakes and spent that evening in our motorhome. They invited us to visit them in their motorhome later on and we had a lovely evening swapping stories about our travels. They had already been down to Dubrovnik so it was good to hear where they had stayed and they told us about where we had to buy the ferry ticket so we could avoid Bosnia because our vehicle insurance strictly forbids us from crossing the 16 kilometers of this country’s land. Doug and Lois were moving up Croatia the way we had come down so we gave them reports of the places we had stopped at.
The next morning the Aussie pair came and said their goodbyes and Elaine and I walked up to the bus stop to catch the number 25 to go into Split. As the old bus pulled up at the stop the brakes made a horrible grinding noise and actually ended up halted a couple of yards past the first person in the queue. Elaine and I smiled to each other and I said to the German couple, also from the campsite, that maybe it was not a wise thing to do. The journey into Split took about 25minutes and the grinding of the brakes and the shuddering continued all the way. The driver was using engine braking a lot and he would pull up to a bus stop very gingerly to give himself the best chance of stopping at the right place without too much noise. The funny thing was that all the locals showed no reactions to the un roadworthy state of this bus even when a vehicle in front pulled up to a set of traffic light and it seemed touch and go whether we would stop in time. It was only the German couple and Elaine and I that kept nervously smiling at each other at each attempt to stop the vehicle. Split stands on its own separate peninsula around a spacious bay and is the largest city on the Croatian shore of the Adriatic and is Croatia’s second largest city. Apparently there is evidence of much earlier settlements here but from 293AD to 305AD the Roman emperor Diocletian built the huge palace and a fortified castle and the walls of the city protected an area of 17,200 square meters. We got off the bus just opposite to the busy bustling market and we immediately came across the Silver Gate which took us into the remains of the Palace of Diocletion. Looking at the pictures of what this huge palace looked like back in 305 AD then what an impressive walled city this was. Lots of bits of it remain and the walls and the impressive gates, the underground vaults have all mostly survived the years. As soon as you get into this historic area you cannot stop yourself from being overwhelmed by the grandeur of the historic, Roman architecture.
Having said that, commercialism has influenced what we see now. You expect to be canvassed by the guides to entice you to take one of their tours and you would have to be surprised if the chaps dressed as Roman soldiers weren’t there ready to pose for photos at a price. It did seem to have gone a little far when descending the steps to the very impressive catacombs to find the whole area is taken up with stalls selling tourist mementos and cheap looking jewellery at high prices.
UNESCO gave the Palace and a lot of the surrounding narrow streets of the old city World Heritage status. They got this recognition in 1979. Outside the walls of the palace, wandering around the surrounding narrow streets is an absolute joy but of course, in places, modern, false stone shop frontages have been tacked onto the old historic buildings which makes photography a little difficult.
Take this picture of the west gate of the city called the Iron Gate and the Clock Tower. This photograph is just like airbrushed photos of models. I deliberately took the picture cutting out the squares that had been cut out of the beautiful building on the right where take away pizza and Coca-Cola were on sale. You can see the girl on the right ordering her lunch. The more modern cathedral is magnificent and well worth the few kuna to go inside.
We walked around the four sides of the walls of the palace to see the gates. Near the north wall were lots of stalls selling antiques and we did look for something very old to remind us of our wonderful day in Split. We saw nothing suitable but there were lots of Nazi German mementos despite the atrocities inflicted on the Croatians during the war.
Outside of the north gate which is called the Golden Gate is this giant statue of bishop Grgur from Nin that was made in 1929. You can gauge from the people by his foot the size of this statue. The odd thing about this statue is that the big toe that is extended towards the steps has been polished to a beautiful, shiny copper colour where people sit and stroke his feet. We lunched on the recently constructed promenade on the waterfront and from here we could see where the cruise liners were moored and where the many ferries lined up to take passengers to the many islands.
We had a great day and before we went back to the bus stop we went back into the market to get some things we had spotted on the way in. Lots of different numbered buses use the one stop but we didn’t even have to look up to know that the number 25 was pulling in. The sound of the juddering brakes told us our ride was here. The good thing is most of the way back was up hill so the bus stopped easier and we managed to get back to the campsite in one piece.
The next day the sun shone all day and it was the warmest day since we moved into Croatia. Elaine declared it to be a great pegging out day and our washing was totally brought up to date and hung up on the washing lines I put up between the trees on our pitch. Later on Elaine and I took the chairs to the beach area and I went snorkeling. Although the water was crystal clear there wasn’t much to see I went out quite a long way but the bottom was just sandy with only a few wispy weeds here and there. I did see a puffer fish and left that well alone. The only other thing of interest was a yellow golf ball but as I hadn’t brought my golf clubs on tour with me then I left it to sit where it was.
We hadn’t been back at the motorhome long when Brian appeared. Brian and Wendy are the other Australian couple that are touring Europe in an English motorhome. We met them at Novigrad and here they were parked almost directly behind our pitch. We spent a wonderful evening with them and Brian opened one of the large bottles of rose wine they had bought on a site they had stayed on. We have learnt an awful lot about life in Australia from Brian and Wendy and the other Aussie couple Doug and Lois. I wonder how long it will be for Elaine to start looking into a trip down under.