We left a rainy Amsterdam behind on an EasyJet flight that landed in Split sometime mid-afternoon. I was immediately aware of the drastic change in temperature when we stepped out of the plane to get onto the connecting shuttle that took us to the arrival terminal. While it wasn't as formidable as the humidity of Singapore, which instantly smothers you the second you step out of the plane and onto the tubey connector thing (i.e. you're not even outdoors yet), it was definitely palpable enough...and I would be lying if I didn't wonder what I was getting myself into.
Still, the sight of the Adriatic Sea from the plane got me really excited and in the mood. The rich royal blue of the sea was as arresting as I'd remembered, and there is simply something about the small islands scattered about that intrigues me, as though they are host to something unknown and mysterious, even if Reality is the exact opposite. Yeah, sometimes I do think that I watch too many TV shows, like Lost...
We got into a cab outside the airport to get to the apartment that we rented for the night. It was a 30-minute drive and cost a bit too much, and the imposing Croatian mountain range followed us as far as it could until it had to give way to the city life. The apartment was not difficult to find, and like most holiday accommodation in Croatia outside of the major hotel chains, it was rented out by a local family. The man spoke enough English for us to understand each other but not much beyond the standard touristic information that he had to depart. In retrospect, the apartment was decent enough, especially considering the price we paid (I think it was 65 euros for the night): the room was of a decent size, the separate kitchen was big enough to fully lay out the clothes hanger, and although the separate shower was small, it was at least not located in the same space as the toilet. Obviously, I am saying this in light of subsequent accommdation that turned out worse. At that time, though, the apartment seemed a bit basic, but since we were only there for the night, we didn't care all that much.
We set off to the main boulevard/bus station/port area to buy ferry tickets to the island of Vis, where we were to head to the next day. The tourist centre of Split is basically that boulevard and the Old City/Diocletian's Palace, which is just behind the boulevard - which is just along the main port of Split. Needless to say, the boulevard was extremely touristy: it was flanked by restaurants all offering the same food on one side and litle stalls selling typical touristy souvenirs on the other. Its saving grace was the sheer beauty of the sea, but even the seabreeze was not enough to counter the near-smothering heat that I found myself walking in as we made our way to the ferry ticket office.
It was probably a 20-minute walk in all. It was really hot and we hadn't had lunch save for some crappy food in the plane. After getting our tickets, we sat down at a completely random restaurant on the boulevard where I had a salad for the sole reason that it was hot and I therefore couldn't handle eating any real food. Wouter had a salad too. We both didn't enjoy it that much. I already don't remember what I ate.
The boulevard and us clowning around with the camera
When we were done with lunch, it was about 5.30pm. Wouter realised that we were quite close to the main beach, Bacvice Beach, also one of the rare sandy beaches in Croatia - and he warned me that it got pretty crowded in the summer.
What an understatement. I think a person has no appreciation of just how crowded a beach can get until he's seen something like Bacvice Beach in the summer; I certainly had never seen a beach filled with that many people until that moment I set my eyes on Bacvice Beach. It got worse when we walked down to the beach to look for a spot for our things; it was a random patch of unoccupied grass some metres away from the water. It got even worse when we went to the water; i dispelled previously-held notions I had of Croatian beaches from the trip last year. Thanks to the crowd, there was actual trash like plastic bags and plastic straw wrappers floating in the water and there were people everywhere. Not only were there people everywhere, there were kids everywhere, splashing about, screaming, and taking up too much space with their bulky arm floats. The only way to get away from the crowd was to swim further into the sea, which we did; but even then, there was little means to avoid being too close to another person without swimming even further.
Despite all that, I definitely welcomed swimming in the sea again. I'd been dying to go to the beach ever since arriving in The Hague in April, and Wouter wanted to make it happen in Valencia in July, but I didn't want to take time off from the internship, so I waited four months to swim in the sea once more. As I would subsequently confirm over the next two weeks, there is very little in this world that relaxes me and gives me a rare sense of peace as swimming in the sea does, even if the beach was full of people.
We left before the sun set; after showering back at the apartment, we headed to the Old City/Palace for dinner. Not knowing where to eat, we sat down at a random fast food fish place where I had a surprisingly good grilled seabass on bread. Wouter had a fish burger thing which he didn't like too much. More interestingly, we went to a cool bar in a narrow street where we had a Croatian drink: red wine with Coke on ice. While it tasted good at first, it definitely made me sick (though not in the puking sense) and I went back all breathless and sickly. That was the first and last time we had that drink during the trip.
That's it for Day One!