BY MADDY THOM
One of the most fascinating things the traveler will find while trolling through Europe is the cultural approach to preservation of historical buildings and unearthed archeological sites. While the U.S. is quick to throw up yellow caution tape and prevent access, in Europe there are few boundaries between history and curiously wandering crowds. While many European cities are well known for a clumsy synthesis of old and new, along the Middle Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, the fusion is seamless. The old and the new co-inhabit the city, visually illuminating the history while simultaneously playing an active role in day-to-day life. From palaces to churches and cathedrals, visitors can explore endless historical attractions integrated into city life, while soaking up the Croatian sunshine and enjoying a taste of island life in the Mediterranean’s Adriatic Sea.
Plan a trip to Middle Dalmatia during the months of June or September. High season runs from June 1st to September 30th, and while organizing a trip outside of these months is possible, cities are generally quieter and fewer options for accommodation, activities, and transportation are available. The majority of crowds and cruise boats arrive in July and August, so be prepared for long lines and lots of tourists if traveling during these months.
Fly into Split, Croatia—an easy access point to travel along the coastline or out to Croatia’s many islands—and book a stay at the Tchaikovsky Hostel. Spend your morning hiking in Marjan Park for exceptional views of the city and harbor. On your way back down stop at Café Vidilica; overlooking the city, enjoy a coffee on the patio while admiring Split below. Be sure you don’t get lost daydreaming about a lifetime spent sailing, however, as you won’t want to miss the free walking tours of Diocleatian’s Palace that leave each morning from the city center. The palace, which finds residence in modern society as a historical attraction, is also occupied by shops and restaurants, and serves as a home to hundreds of the city’s inhabitants. During the high season multiple groups run donation-based Old Town tours—ask at the hostel for details—or, if you prefer learning independently, grab a map and walk the monument yourself following the city-sponsored display boards providing all the information you need to learn about the palace’s history.
For lunch, have a quick bite at MakroVega, a vegetarian restaurant tucked outside of the old city. With loads of options from tofu scrambles to sautéed mushroom burritos, food is cheap and healthy; though catered to vegetarians, even tofu-fearing meat-eaters will find things like pizzas and spring rolls to their liking. For something more traditional, treat yourself at dinnertime to Fife—located near the waterfront promenade, you’ll likely be dining with most of the other tourists in town, but you’ll have the opportunity to try plenty of Croatian specialties at an unbelievably reasonable price. The pašticada with a side of gnocchi is what all the locals recommend. Finish the day with a beer or coffee at Dante or Teak Café, both local gathering spots.
After Split, ferry over to one (or more) of Croatia’s stunning islands, each of which effuses a slightly different vibe. While some islands are close enough for a day trip, most are impressive enough to warrant a slightly more extended stay. Adventure aficionados flock to Brač, whose southern side is known for its windy conditions making wind and kite surfing particularly popular, while those seeking a more secluded escape often prefer Mljet or Vis, and nature-lovers to Cres.
Sun-seekers desiring a taste of everything on a limited time frame, however, will probably opt for Hvar—the island known for it’s luxury, nightlife, and as the sunniest spot in the country. Book a stay at Helvetia Hostel for a comfortable, fun accommodation experience in Hvar Town. Spend the mornings hiking up to the fortress or along the coastline and the afternoons basking in the sun and snorkeling at any one of Hvar Town’s multiple beaches. If your budget allows, rent a scooter and set out to explore the hilly roads at your own leisure; it’s a relatively inexpensive way to cover a lot of the island. A jewel for outdoor enthusiasts, at Hvar Adventure you can find information regarding sailing and kayaking trips, both exciting ways to visit the nearby Pakleni Islands. The group also offers hiking tours to explore the inner island’s lavender fields by foot.
For a meal with a view, enjoy Italian fare at Mama Leona’s on the waterfront promenade or take a short walk outside of town to Lungo Mare, a traditional restaurant with filling servings that still remain easy on the wallet. Lungo Mare boasts a family-oriented venture, expect good food, a warm atmosphere, and an extraordinarily friendly staff.