Sunday, December 15, 2013

SPLIT, CROATIA: A CIRCUITOUS JOURNEY AND AN AMAZING FARMERS MARKET

From Mostar we head back to the coast of Croatia to the city of Split, the largest city on the Dalmatian coast (the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea) and the second largest city in Croatia. Between our map and our now working GPS, we felt pretty confident about this leg of the journey.

We began on what appeared to be a brand new freeway, but the GPS unit didn't recognize it. There is a difference of opinion about what happened next. Bob thinks the new road ended and we went the way we were supposed to and only felt lost (he subscribes to Tolkien's theory that "Not all those who wander are lost"), but I think the GPS unit, confused by the new freeway and not up-to-date on its maps, led us completely astray. Where we ended up on our printed map was far from any main road. It took several stops to ask directions of non-English-speaking Croats who gesticulated, spoke loudly, and repeated the same unintelligible words multiple times, but somehow got us back to where we needed to be. Note: If you are planning a driving trip in Southern Croatia, make sure your GPS has the latest maps uploaded, or that you are using navigation on an updated cell phone. Talk to your hotel people before you leave about how much of the new freeway is done, and carrying an old-fashioned map is always a good idea.

When we got to Split, we headed straight for our hotel, the Guesthouse Vrlic.
It is just a block from Diocletian's Palace, an absolutely fabulous location. It is nothing fancy, but it is very clean and charming in its simplicity. Our room had a fridge, which came in handy as I will show later. My only complaint is that the "wi-fi in every room" was really "wi-fi in the hallways."  It was a minor inconvenience compared to the awesomeness of the location.
The smallest tub I have ever bathed in.



The owner/manager has a very green thumb; the yard is filled with potted flowers.

Betweenthe  Guesthouse Vrlic and the walls of Diocletian's Palace, there are only two things of note, this building, its lower levels covered with interesting graffiti:

. . . and a farmers market, which is located in a large open pedestrian courtyard in front of a grocery store. I don't know why anyone would want to go in that grocery store with the abundance of fresh, cheap, beautiful food in the market in front of it.
This isn't just any old farmers market. It is spectacular, perhaps the best farmers market I've been to. First of all, the food, in most cases, is sold by the farmers themselves, and the customers seem to be mostly locals. Tourists typically wander around a market like this and take photos, but they don't have much interest in buying the food. This is when having fridge in our room came in very handy. Most of our meals and snacks while we were in Split came from this market.


On the day we were there, there was wonderful variety and a riot of color and texture:

There were occasional tropical fruits that were obvious imports, but for the most part, the food for sale was the food in season from Croatian farms:
Some of it still carried the soil in which it had been grown:









Honey production is a very important cottage industry all over the Balkans, and there were numerous honey stands at this market. Bottles were often reused containers with handwritten labels.

There were other home-production items, such as olives and infused oils. These olives were somewhat bitter and weren't nearly as good as olives we've had in Italy or Greece.
Around the perimeter of the market are permanent and semi-permanent stalls that contain meat shops. Bob was like a kid in a candy store. No, wait--that would be a description more appropriate for me. He was in "hog heaven." Yes, that's more like it.
"Spit-roasted pig? Why yes, I'd like one, please."


Bob purchased some of the pig (somehow it doesn't seem like "pork" when you are looking at the whole animal) for our lunch. It was just as good as it looks--crispy skin enveloping tender, juicy meat.
At another stall, a man was slicing prosciutto, or prsut, as they call in in Croatia. This particular chunk had been aging three years.
It was spectacular, by far the best prosciutto I've ever eaten. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender but amazingly rich in flavor. I'd go to Split again just to have a few more slices.
Bob was drawn to the butcher shops like a moth to a flame. It's a good thing we didn't have a stove or oven, or he would have been in a meat coma before the end of the day.

Bob and Diocletian's Butcher.  It sounds like a great title for a horror movie, don't you think?
After all that testosterone, I needed a break, and I didn't have to look far. Just around the corner from the meat market is the flower market.



There are also plenty of the ubiquitous tourist shopping stalls:

Split's farmers market is a must-see (and a must-taste), and the great thing about it is that it is located just outside the Silver Gate (also known as the Eastern Gate) to Diocletian's Palace, the city's main attraction.


3 comments:

  1. I love all of the color you captured in your photos. It makes me want to go back again (actually, it is the roast pig and prsut that makes me want to go back again). One of my favorite memories from the Balkans.

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  2. I kept expecting to see a gelato stand. What a disappointment.

    Are you sure that tub was just a foot soaker???

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  3. Yep--I'm one of those tourists snapping away in a market--it all just looks so different and so fresh from our grocery stores (although I've taken photos in grocery stores before, too). I love seeing the variety of food for sale, and loved the way you captured a morning market.

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