But fearing that the pain was coming any minute and that I wouldn't be able to run forever, I made my third big mistake. I turned into the Old City with its narrow, dark, twisting alleys. After 5 or 6 turns, I realized I was completely disoriented. Everything echoed inside the ancient walls and I could hear the thugs yelling in Croatian as well as their footsteps hitting the pavement. Then, I made another turn and ended up in a dead-end. It was some kind of courtyard and I could tell that the thugs were still a pretty good distance behind, so I just waited there and tried to quiet my breathing down. The noises didn't really seem to be getting any closer so I tried to hide and just waited. After about five minutes, I didn't hear anything, so I got up the nerve to try to find my way out of there and to get back to my room.
I crept down a long corridor and peeked around the first corner. Nothing. But, on the other hand, it didn't look too promising as a means of escape, so I kept going. When I came to the next corner, I took a deep breath and looked around it only to see the old guy and the Muscle just a few meters away! They saw me right away and started yelling and running my way. I ran as fast as I could, but I guess my adrenaline had calmed down, because now my hamstring was killing me! I took about ten steps and as soon as I reached the next corner, I got blindsided by the third guy who was just waiting for me.
As soon as I hit the pavement, I knew I was in trouble, so I tried to reach for my wallet to simply hand it over, but as I turned my head I saw a fist coming at me. Luckily, I ducked just enough so that the punch missed my eye, but it did catch me just above my left ear. OUCH!! That hurt. The next 30 seconds were a bit of a blur. I was on the ground trying to protect my head, but that left my back exposed and the thugs had a good time practicing their soccer moves on me.
Well, my vacation was going smoothly until the night of Monday, February 16, 2004. I ventured out to the Old Town to eat a late dinner at around 9:45pm and it didn't take long to realize that the town was practically empty. I wandered into a small bar and was told by the bartender that all of the buses leave at 10pm so the restaurants were closing too. He told me of a place where I could grab a meal though, so I headed over that way.
After walking to the restaurant, eating a good meal, having some wine and sampling some dessert, it was getting close to 11:30 by the time I left. I was really curious to find out if there was any happening nightlife at this time of year, so I walked over to the area around Bacvice Bay. Unfortunately, it was completely dead, but I was enjoying my stroll, so I kept walking and enjoying the night. By midnight or so, it was getting cold and I wasn't exactly sure where I was, so I decided to head on back in the general direction of my room.
Let's start with my first mistake: I was by myself in an unknown part of town that was completely abandoned without another person in sight. Secondly, I STUPIDLY decided to stop at an ATM and get some cash for the next day. As soon as I stepped in front of the ATM machine, three guys came out of the shadows and surrounded me. There was an older guy that appeared to be the leader and two younger guys, one of whom looked like a bouncer (you know, no neck, muscles, generally terrifying to look at).
(continued in next tip)
The tower above the Cathedral is beautiful and the views from the top are great, but getting up there isn't the safest climb I've ever made. Near the bottom the steps are really steep and the passage is very tight and when you get near the top, you'll notice that the railings aren't sufficient and it would be pretty easy to fall if you were, say, drunk or a little dizzy. Use caution when climbing these steps!
After unsuccessful attempts to yell at me in Croatian and then Italian, the older guy finally got through to me by saying a few words in broken English. He acted like he was some kind of official and asked me for my "documents." I knew this whole situation was bad, but I showed him my North Carolina driver's license. He looked at it and blurted out in a heavy Slavic accent "Mark Jones." Then, he looked at me as if doubting my identity and asked me to sign a piece of paper that had some Croatian writing on it.
I didn't want to sign the paper, so I asked him for some identification. He looked at me quizzically and then the meathead (I'll just call him "the Muscle" from now on) reached toward me and slapped me. It wasn't really hard, but it stunned me enough that I realized that these guys weren't playing around so I signed the paper. The moment they had my signature, they stopped their little game and demanded my credit card. I was a little curious (and thankful) why they didn't just grab my wallet and take it, but since they hadn't, I politely asked the old guy for my license back. He actually handed it to me and as soon as I had it I took off running like a bullet.
After a few strides, I looked over my shoulder and saw that these guys weren't going to be easy to shake. All three were giving chase, but after about 100 meters, I had a pretty good lead on them. I tried to yell to attract some attention, but no one was listening. On top of that, I didn't really know where I was! I knew that I was heading in the general direction of the water, so I kept running. Then, it happened. OUCH! I felt my hamstring rip! I played soccer for nearly twenty years and I never pulled a hammy and NOW it happens! Well, fortunately my adrenaline was on full throttle and as a result, I hardly felt any pain and was able to keep running.
When they realized I had had enough (or maybe they just tired themselves out with all that kicking) they roughly picked me up and dragged me back to the same ATM that the whole ordeal started at. That walk took 10 or 15 minutes and it was then that I realized my ribs were killing me and it was tough to breathe. The Muscle was yelling in my face upset that I had made him look like a Volkswagon Bug trying to chase down a Ferrari, but I couldn't understand a word. The old guy (obviously the "brains" of this operation) was trying to get the Muscle to shut up in order to not attract any attention (not that there was anybody out!).
Finally, we made it back to the machine and they forced me to withdraw cash and hand it over. They ended up getting 3200kn (about 550 USD) and they took my credit card and racked up $2107 USD the next day. I limped back to my room, worried that I might have a concussion and stayed up most of the night replaying the whole experience in my slightly throbbing head.
I was in some pain for the next couple days, but I was determined to not let the incident ruin my trip. A week and a half later, back home in Charlotte, my doctor told me that I broke two ribs and that I had a second degree tear in my hamstring, but I was only thankful that it wasn't a lot worse.
So, what did I learn? 1) Thugs suck. 2) I was stupid. 3) Croatia is a safe place, but crap can happen anywhere if you're not aware of your surroundings. 4) Adrenaline is a mask for pain. 5) 800 mg Ibuprofen and Cyclobenzaprine are a beautiful thing when you have busted ribs! 6) My 100 meter dash time still ain't too bad! 7) God governs every corner of the earth.
Split is an ideal starting point for visiting a variety of countries in the Balkan region.
During a trip to the region in May 2007, my friend and I flew into Split before moving on to Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia.
Having visited the northern Croatian town of Umag by taxi from Piran in Slovenia a few years ago, and not having received a stamp in my passport, I was surprised to get my passport stamped when landing at Split airport from the UK. This will stop when Croatia enters the EU shortly.
Leaving Croatia for Bosnia, I felt sure that my passport would need to be stamped. We caught a bus from Split to Mostar, and at the border crossing the bus driver collected passports from each passenger and disappeared for 10 minutes or so. When he returned and dished out the passports to their owners, I immediately flicked through mine to admire the shiny new stamp - but there wasn't one!
Would this cause problems when we came to leave Bosnia and fly to Serbia a few days later? Would the lack of a stamp in our passports lead immigration officials to believe we had entered the country illegally? We didn't know.....and neither did the British Embassy in Sarajevo when we turned up on their doorstep a few days later to ask!
The British Embassy in Sarajevo was staffed by a lone, elderly Bosnian man - and he was none the wiser than we were. He suspected that we'd be ok when we came to leave the country (we hadn't done anything wrong after all, and this must be a fairly common situation given the number of buses crossing the border each day), but he couldn't give us a definitive answer. Instead, he gave us his number in case we did have any difficulties at immigration.
In the event, we needn't have worried. Nobody checked to see our entry stamps - they just stamped us out of the country as we boarded our flight to Belgrade.
So, if you don't get stamped into Bosnia - don't worry!
Narrow streets in the old town at night may be something to think about before you simply stroll around. There is a diminished crowd and some "hidden" areas around corners and alcoves that may have a lesson waiting for you. We went through the catacombs after dark, and I felt like if someone wanted to, they could be in waiting for you in many places down there.
So I say this, because where we stayed; on Petrova St, just off Kraljka Zvonimira which is the main road to the old town area, there were 3 gunshots one night, and I was waiting to here someone moan from a wound. Do not know if it was just letting off steam, or a serious matter, but it kept me awake for a while to find out if more was to come. This is a quiet street, but one that could have people walking down there all night long.
AND one VTer got attacked/mugged by Bavice area. See acemj comment. He got hurt in an area where there is a lower end housing project. See my pics for the area on next page
Croat bus-train conductors are very proud of their vehicles ,dropping stuff on the floor or putting your manky trainer clad feet on the seats will result in a great deal of finger pointing and shouting.
The coach drivers are very punctual and will leave you at rest stops if you take too long ,they also don't speak English so you have to guess how long you have.
We had to stick legs in the folding doors to get them to wait.
There are two ways to get to the top of Marjan hill, both require a bit of excercise. You can take 300 steps from Trunbiciva Obala (the end of the Riva Blvd but need to look hard to find out where the steps are located. The graffiti may help direct you. Or you can walk up Veli VAros through old town streets for the hill suburb and end up at the entry. From there, which is about 1/2 to 3/4 mile, you climb the road to the top, and get to Lasko restaurant which is about 3/4 mile, before you turn around, or stake those steps back down for a round trip.
Either way, on a hot day, it could be grueling for the out of shape type. The alternative is to drive up there from Veli VAros, if you can find the way, which is not that easy.
The locals worshiping their town which is, according to them, the center of the world and the most beautiful town that exist.
When in precence of locals Split, bunder no circumstance, you shouldn't do this:
- talking against St. Doimus, the patron saint of the city,
- talking against "Hajduk", the local football club,
- talking about politics, that might be neverending story,
- teaching them about cooking, especially seafood,
- discussing about the sport games, according to them you are ignorant in that subject,
remember well, it is "mad" mediterranean town!
This is a place that looks like there would be drinking and drugs in the evening, and some remains were around the water area. A VT person; acemj, got attacked here. No doubt the lower end socio economic housing project contributes to the threat of trouble around there.
Otherwise Split is an extremely safe town and you can go anywhere without too much of worries of getting mugged and robbed. BUT, the traffic is absolutely horrifying! The condition of the streets is quite bad, speeding is common and some of the drivers don't use signals at all. Be especially aware of the crazy motorcyclists!
Diocletian's Palace is a rare sight. Do not miss any of it.This is an unique example of civization developing (the ingenuity of man).and at the same time accidentally preserving so many artefacts of history by just living in them. But what if you have one day (or less)? Can you avoid this mistake? Know how to get to and from your lodging. Split is a large industrial (unsafe?) city.And the time of year may bring very inclement weather. (See my other accounts). As in our case you may be disappointed because that is what your tour gives you. C'est domage!
Split felt like an extremely safe city, especially in the tourist areas in and around the old town. I stayed just outside the centre in an apartment populated mostly by locals. They were all friendly and relaxed, and so were the neighbours. I didn't feel unsafe at any time of the day or night. Even the bus and train station, often a haven for miscreants, didn't feel the slightest bit unsafe. It might be different when there are less tourists, but Croatia is generally a very safe place, so probably not a big deal at any time of the year.
The Tourist Board of the Split city warns tourists not to trust accommodation offered by people who stop you on the street, as it is always of low quality and low personal security. Of course there is a true in it, but also the tourist community wants to control all money that tourists pay for overnights.