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One Month in Split, Croatia

02.05.18

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The short of it: I saw Split at its worst… and it wasn’t bad. While I wasn’t wowed by the town, there also wasn’t much to complain about.

The Pros: Picturesque neighborhoods of ascending, interconnected stone homes, high availability of goods, pervasive cafe culture, reasonable pricing, purportedly low crime, seaside with immediately accessible beaches

The Cons: Major tourism destination creates chaos in the warmer months, somewhat more expensive than other towns in the region, stone home permeates cold in the otherwise tolerable winter

Distortions: We visited for 29 nights in December of 2017 and stayed in a small studio that was deeply discounted compared to high season. Our budget limited our entertainment options.

Overall: Split failed to wow me, but it was clearly having an off month. While the city enthusiastically embraces Christmas by setting up a Christmas ‘Village’ along the main promenade in order to sling hot wine and donuts at cruise ship tourists and locals alike, winter is the off season for a reason. While it provided us with excellent value, the grey skies, light crowds and prevailing chill exerted a downward influence on my impression of the town.

The city has roughly 175,000 residents and the average monthly high temperatures range from 52F (11C) in January to 86F (30C) in July. This makes it the smallest city we’ve taken up residence in on this trip and keeps with out overall plan of highs in the 50s during the coldest months of our itinerary.

Food and entertainment: While food is not particularly expensive in Split, it’s not exactly cheap either. You’ll probably be shocked by how affordable medium and higher end dining experiences are and chagrined by how much it costs to buy simple street food. Cevapi, a simple sausage sandwich and regional staple, will cost you US$4.50 for the least amount of meat. Meanwhile seafood, veal and fresh pastas abound and will land in the US$9-US$15 range. As always, bakeries have your budget conscious back. The prices are a little higher than Krakow or Budapest, but still low enough that you might not even notice. Spinach or kale play heavily, as does flaky filo-like pastry dough. We’d usually spend less than US$2/pp and leave with a filling bag full of items as cheesy and oily as they were bready. I mean that in a good way.

The prices also pushed us to cook a little more than usual. Luckily the ‘Green Market’, a  large public square filled with locals selling produce, meats, cheeses, legumes and what have you, was just 3 minutes away by foot. We ended up making a lot of gnocchi with Brussels sprouts and big chunks of local white cheese, all dressed in olive oil, garlic and salt.

Cafe culture is fully ensconced, both along the main boulevards and tucked into about every other corner of the city that you can imagine, in and outside of the palace. Espresso will run you ~US$1.12, cappuccino ~US$1.75 and 12 ounces of bottled local beer ~US$2.50. You can linger as long as you like. In fact, if 3rd wave coffee shops try to take over in Europe I think the local populace will riot. They are not ready for the ‘sip it, applaud us and get the fuck out of here’ ethos of the typical American Coffee Lab or what have you.

We particularly enjoyed Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar, run by a displaced Argentine or two. It’s a warm melding of influences and we first found it during an event they called “We Listen To: Tom Waits”, during which they simply played about 2 hours of Tom Waits at a previously agreed upon time. It gave us the change to hear Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis as we built toward the holiday and for that we’re forever grateful.

Our place: Our place was a 1 room efficiency that lives up to the moniker. We had two twin beds, a small table with two chairs, a night stand, a dresser (or something) and a standing bar for hanging clothing. The kitchen sink was about 4 feet from my bed, but it all worked surprisingly well. The location was excellent, the rent was US$553.17 (about 1/3 of what it would have been during the high season) and overall it worked.

Infrastructure: We never experienced outages of water or power. Our internet situation was too tenuous to draw conclusions. There was a near bizarre saturation of grocery stores; I think I counted 9 within 10 minutes walk, many sizes were in evidence, from beefed up cornershops to a large Lidl further away and an equally large Spar. Streets and sidewalks were well maintained

The Numbers: We brought the month in at US$1,450.38 for two, covering everything except a few medical costs for The Girlfriend. The full breakdown is available here. As mentioned above, rent was US$553.17 including Airbnb fees, utilities and a weekly cleaning. We spent US$290.23 on meals out, loosely averaging US$6.60/person/meal. Our budget felt tighter here than in most places we visit, mostly because there were no dirt-cheap sources for simple, prepared meals. We happily cook the overwhelming majority of our meals when we’re living in The US, so this isn’t a hindrance in theory, but during a single month stay when your unfamiliar with the local cuisine and may not have the best equipped kitchen, the effect is amplified. I”m generally a ‘cook everything one day a week, pull from the freezer the rest of the time’ kind of guy, but the impracticality of this approach while traveling amplifies the utility of having sub US$2 meals at your ready disposal.

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