Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Touchdown in Split

After much dallying and delaying in getting all of our plans together, we finally were able to get all of our flights and accommodations booked by scheduling a meeting time in our calendars. Yes, I pulled a German K move and scheduled a meeting in our calendars so we could get the final arrangements done. It was less than two weeks before we were to depart and almost none of the logistics had been completed because we were all being slammed with work. Luckily this did the trick and soon all of the plans fell into place.

I also figured out, through the forwarding of all logistical emails to German K, that all of us (by booking fairly last minute flights) were transferring through Oslo, despite all taking different flights (even German K and Hong Kong P were taking different flights from Helsinki). We would all be meeting up to take the last leg from Oslo to Split together! What a coincidence!

What I didn't know (because I hadn't had time to read carefully enough and not sure I ever saw enough detail) was what time everyone was coming in. So I landed in Oslo with about 2 hours before the flight to Split took off and decided to get myself some decent lunch. What I've started to notice, since deviating severely from my platinum membership and favored OneWorld Alliance (which includes FinnAir, British Airlines, and American Airlines) is that the cheaper airlines (such as many of them on the Star Alliance, which I am flying more of because they have more partnerships through Heathrow) don't always serve free food. I, being stubborn in this way, refuse to pay for the poor quality food that is offered on planes. And so because of this, a lot of times I land starving. I will only take your free water and sometimes your free yet-caffeinated tea, thank you very much.

So when I landed in Oslo and passed through immigration (something something UK is not really part of the EU, if you think about it hard enough), the first thought on my mind was: food.

As I'd passed through this airport before and recognized with familiarity the storefronts that we'd passed in December when we'd gone on our Norway trip together, I spotted a Yo! Sushi, similar to the one Sweden and I had just eaten at a few weekends ago. Sushi sounded wonderful. For whatever reason since I've moved in with Don I've been wanting wakame seaweed salad every few weeks. And for some unfortunate reason the sushi place right outside my office does not carry it. This makes for very awkward desperate leaps for it whenever I can get it elsewhere. Like in the Oslo airport. Where it is wickedly expensive.

I threw caution and money to the wind though: I was on vacation. I deserved me some seaweed salad. And sat my butt down.

I was chomping in a content daze when a beautiful Asian girl walked up beside me and asked if the seat next to me was taken. I did a double take: it was Hong Kong P! I had just at that very moment been texting with German K asking if she and Hong Kong P were coming on the same flight. The answer (which I hadn't known at the time), was no. And here she was!

We then had a very luxurious (and extremely expensive) sushi lunch. We laughed about how we both had to go to Oslo in order to have Yo! Sushi (since I can get it in London with ease and she can get better and cheaper sushi in Helsinki). She, like me, had scowled at the for-pay food on the plane. But she, unlike me, had bitten the bullet anyway and bought a muffin. A 3euro muffin. I still cringe at the thought. She said it was very so-so.

After our lunch we wandered the airport, trying on sunglasses and catching up like only close girlfriends can. It was so wonderful being back in the presence of a close friend. Don has deprived me of these experiences, forcing me to take my time making friends instead of providing a plethora of easy ones like Finn did. Eventually we glided over to the gate (passing through immigration again) and waited for German K to arrive. She arrived right as we were boarding, out of breath and worried (as she usually does) that she would miss the plane.

Reunited at last! We all boarded the plane and...immediately fell asleep. Haha, this is what happens when you get three overworked career girls on a luxurious and relaxing vacation. Nothing happens on the flights.

After another two hours or so we landed in gorgeous Split, Croatia. The entry stamp (since Croatia wasn't part of the EU) was strange and difficult to read. An elongated rectangle with strange lettering around it. 

German K had done the research on how we were to get into town. Apparently there was a city bus we could take in that would cost us the equivalent of about 8euros. That sounded easy enough. We never found it. Instead we found a very comfy looking coach that costed the same thing. It had a bunch of travelers in it and looked safe enough - we were reassured we would be dropped off in downtown took it. Whatever, live the everyday adventure!

This is when I'll fully say that we're lucky that German K, in her anxiousness to always be overprepared, had exchanged about 400euros into Croatian kunas ahead of time. Both Hong Kong P and I just assumed we would take money out there (which is what we always did) or charge the rest. We got onto the bus too quickly for this to have been possible. I suppose in real life we would have just found an ATM in the airport if it had just been the two of us, but German K's preparation allowed us to skip ahead and just get on the bus. Wonderful having a prepared traveling companion.

And they didn't lie. The bus did take us straight downtown (took about 40 minutes) and boom, we were dropped off at the bus depot. We walked to our first hostel in about 20 minutes, all the while admiring the gorgeous town of Split. We knew we would have a little time the next day to admire it, but also that we would be back three other times before the trip was done. Once more to drop off German K on her way out and our way to Dubrovnik, and then again on our way out. It was a wonderful city to have as our base.

After we dropped off our bags and finished checking in with our host (a wonderful man named Ivan), we decided it was time to check out the town without the burden of luggage and get some dinner. We had been told that all of the restaurants within a certain square were all the best rated on TripAdvisor, so we took that with a grain of salt and sat down at the closest one with the cutest atmosphere.

I ordered the fresh grilled mackerel with tomatoes and olives. This is pretty standard preparation of fish in the coastal cities of Croatia - we saw it on basically every menu everywhere we went. The side dishes were also very standard - chard and potatoes (not sure how the potatoes were cooked, over than to describe them as relatively plain?).

I hate to admit this, but I didn't really enjoy this dish. Perhaps I am too jaded by the joy of spices and flavorings but I found this relatively bland and the fish taste of the mackerel a bit too strong. Hong Kong P informed me that mackerel always has a very strong fish taste, so this was possibly my fault in ordering (I love mackerel in sushi...always quite fatty), but I can't remember it being so fishy when cooked. I'll note it for future ordering though.

The chard and potatoes were also quite unflavorful. I didn't feel like salting anything because I'd been traveling all day, but in general, again, not a lot of flavoring. The girls also were not particularly impressed with their dishes - Hong Kong P ordered a seafood salad which ended up being iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and plain cooked seafood (some mussels out of the shell and some very small shrimp) and German K got grilled eggplant (literally just grilled, not even with olive oil it seemed) and grilled something else, equally as bland.

It was not a good start to the food-section of our trip but we were not deterred. We let it go and continued on our exploration of Split at night. It was too gorgeous a night (23degrees C, even at night, so wonderful) to care. And we were finally all on vacation.

The iconic bell tower style of Croatia. You will see this everywhere in my photos. I loved it. They were in every town, so iconic. Beautiful. I climbed this one, but that happened on my own and much later in the trip.

Eventually we found a plaza where live music was being played and stopped to have some drinks. Who doesn't love live music in a beautiful setting? It was a perfect way to end a gorgeous first night.

I will say this about Croatian cities: they definitely know how to light them up at night. The description I'll give you: like drowned palaces that have been unearthed just so we can walk amongst them once more. They are gorgeous. There really is something ethereal about them.

And that was our first night in Croatia. Wonderful way to start the trip.

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