Read this if you’re about to make a stopover in Split, Croatia, and you want to watch your budget. Where can you go? When I landed there, I wasn’t sure how long I would be in this city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea before I headed to my main destination in Bosnia. I thought maybe a couple of nights, so I hoped to be able to swim and relax by the seaside during that time. But I wasn’t prepared for what I found in Split. Guesthouses and airbnb were overbooked because of the Ultra Music Festival, and I hadn’t been able to find a room for under 50 euros/night. That’s more than double what I’d normally be ok to pay for a budget accomodation in my travels!
As soon as I got off the bus that took me from the airport to the center of town, I was overwhelmed by a swarm of sounds from the tourists and the traffic that really made me feel I would never be able to relax in Split. I walked the 1.5 km that separated me from the room I´d rented, looking for signs that Croatia was a very cheap summer holiday destination in Europe, like I´d heard. At first glance, I did not find them.
All I saw was tourists everywhere, yachts, high-priced restaurant menus. I also felt out of place: the whole town was throbbing due to the imminent start of the electronic music festival, which was one of the biggest in Croatia, and I didn´t even know it existed! Spontaneously, I decided I would only spend one night in Split. I booked a bus ticket to Bosnia as soon as I got to the room.
A NICE PLACE TO EAT IN SPLIT, CROATIA, IF YOU ARE ON A BUDGET: THE TRATTORIA TINEL
The following day, I had to check out early. I was looking for the best way to kill the remaining 8 hours before my bus left for Sarajevo. My stomach started aching. I decided to get a bite to eat and stopped by a restaurant that had a big hall with nice warm light in it. I looked at the menu, and the dishes were affordable. The staff turned out to be very friendly and the portions abundant. I’ve found that, for me, the most delicious vegetarian dishes in the Balkans are the grilled vegetables (especially mushrooms) and the Shopska salad (cucumber, tomatoes, vinegar, brined Balkan cheese), and that’s what I ate at the Trattoria Tinel in Split.
After the meal, I still had a few hours of waiting ahead of me and wanted to spend them somewhere else. The restaurant was a good spot, no doubt about it, but I needed to keep moving. I started walking under the midday sun with two backpacks and it didn’t feel good at all. It took me a while to find a place where I could print my bus ticket (it’s obligatory when you book through the GetByBus website). When you’re in Split and need to print anything, go to Charlot.
ANTIQUE BOOKSTORE IN SPLIT CROATIA
I knew I was about to find my next great place in Split. However, after I had walked for more than an hour I had seen only restaurants. I was actually almost about to give up and head for the bus station when I saw it. The sign for the Antiquity Book Store. I followed the siren’s song up a small alley and entered a used book shop, a paradise of soft aircon and silence in Split. The three rooms of the bookshop were furnished with vintage tables and armchairs, and there were almost no customers around. The shop owner was immersed in reading right next to the cashier and emanated tranquility.
I was in heaven. I laid my two backpacks and purse down as if I had just arrived home after a hard day and started exploring book shelves and stacks: hundreds of books in front of me. The majority were in the Croatian language, but many were in English. I even saw books in my native language, Italian, very old books from the beginning of the 20th century. Each book in that magical shop in Split looked like a unique piece. I delved into the multilingual shelf and spotted something that gave me goosebumps:
A biography of the actor Keanu Reeves from 1996… I’ve always been a fan of his, and my room was covered in posters portraying him when I was in middle school. That was fun! He was only 30 something back in the 90s, but with a biography already! I had found a reading to go with me on the hours long ride bus to Visoko! That brought the smile back to my face.
YES! I SAID TO MYSELF
In that instant, I remembered why I keep traveling. Because of the positive feedback I get inside. Even an annoying morning in a city I’d never have chosen to visit will surprise me if I remain open-minded, if I’m curious enough to recognize the signs that life has hidden in each of the places I pass through. It is simpler for me to pay attention to the the little things when I travel. I had convinced myself that Split was not my cup of tea… but I had also gained another sweet travel memory at the same time.