Split was a pleasant surprise, especially after spending two months in Italy.

We caught the bus from Plitvice to Split at 1:30 p.m. It was quite a long bus ride. We arrived at 8:00 p.m. at the Split bus station, just outside the city walls. We would have arrived earlier, but the bus driver insisted on taking four, twenty-minute breaks along the way. Better than dying, I suppose.

As we hopped off the bus we were confronted by at least ten people begging us to choose their apartment. We hadn’t had a chance to book one in advance, due to a lack of internet connection in our previous little nature-cottage in Plitvice, so we were forced to go with one of the ladies offering a room. Especially at that late stage of the day.

Here’s another free lesson for you… It pays to spend an hour on the internet, booking your accommodation in advance, rather than crossing your fingers at the other end. Although, sometimes it does work out okay. But on this particular occasion, it did not.

The lady showed us to a dog-box and charged us $60 AU for it. We immediately dropped our bags, locked the door behind us, grabbed a bite to eat and then went door-knocking at various other apartments in the area.

On the third attempt, we found an awesome apartment for only ten dollars a night more. Even though the owner gave us the option of also staying that night also, and we hadn’t given the other lady any documents, we didn’t screw the lady over and decided to spend one night in hell. If for no other reason than not to piss-off the karma gods. At least it was only for one night.

The next morning we left the dungeon and made our way over to our new awesome apartment, called Mainz Apartments, where we stayed for three days and thoroughly explored Split. The place had been renovated at the beginning of the year, in an old stone building, so it was a great place to stay.

Split is around 1700 years old and is located on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. The city was built around Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient building thought to have been built by a Roman emperor around the 4th century B.C. You can check out the palace while you’re in town, or visit the many modern shops, restaurants and bars.

I personally found Split to be up-to-date with fashion and technology, while keeping it’s unique Croatian charm in tact. As for the food, there’s plenty of pizza and pasta to be had, but the Croatians seem to be big on meat, fish and chicken dishes too, which is a welcome change if you’ve just come from Italy. The price is awesome as well. My friend Evan suggested we check out a place called Buffet Fife near the jetty and he was dead-right. It’s where the locals eat and drink and for around $6 AU you can get a huge plate of grilled chicken and chips and a pint of Karlovacko, Croatia’s home-brew, which I grew to really like.

Split is definitely worth checking out and was our highlight of Croatia.

On two of the days it was nice to actually find a decent gym. Bacvice Beach is one of the best swimming beaches in Split, and there’s also one of the greatest gyms in the world, that I’ve ever been too. And, believe me, I’ve seen a few gyms in my time across many different countries.

Bacvice Gym is right on the beach. As you work-out you can watch the locals swim around, go about their normal Croatian-day and even play their unique form of sport called picigin. Basically picigin is a local-version of volleyball, where five guys stand around in shallow water without a net and hit a small ball around to each other while not letting it touch the ground.

Lorna and I were a little weirded out on our last night in Split, however. The local police put on a display of their guns and vehicles in the main port-area of Split. There was a live police-band playing local Croatian music. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. The policemen, although extremely friendly and helpful, presented all kinds of fire-arms on a bunch of tables for the public to hold and point and shoot. Of course, none of the guns were loaded, but kids as young as ten were picking them up and aiming them and firing pretend bullets at each other. There’s no way you would see this being done in England, America or Australia. We thought it was a bit weird, but I still picked up a sniper-rifle and figured out how to use it.

I thought it would be good to know how to use one, especially since Nudge, my main character in Silverbirch, has used one in the past and will do so in future novels.

We stayed for four nights in Split, but I seriously could have spent two weeks there.

Rob Kaay is an Australian author & musician.

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