Monday, October 27, 2014

The Trogir Diaries: Day 1 - Sunday 14th September 2014

...or to borrow from Bill Bryson, should that be "notes from a small island"?

Croatia has been one of my unfulfilled holiday ambitions in recent years, and the opportunity arose this year to finally fulfil that dream.  Dubrovnik was the first destination I targeted, but with spiralling costs it looked as if it wasn't possible to get there without risking bankruptcy.  £700 for a week's bed and breakfast, and having to commute every day from the Lapad peninsula into a packed old town?  I think not.  Next on the agenda was Pula and its surrounding areas, but again the accommodation situation didn't really meet our needs. 

With the introduction of direct flights between Glasgow and Split, I began to check out the alternative destinations in and around that area of Croatia.  Do you ever see a picture of a place and immediately fall in love?  That's the way I felt about Trogir when I saw it for the first time.  Love at first sight.  Small, compact, historic, quaint and beautiful.  But would it be enough to hold our interest for a week? 

Then the city of Split came onto the radar, but Trogir just wouldn't go away.  And on revisiting the idea, Trogir became the ideal candidate for a holiday after 6 traumatic months in which life, work and health have all presented massive challenges.  Time to slow down the pace, relax and recharge....and the decision was made. After one of our best ever holidays I can honestly say that it was the right decision.

Our flight took just under three hours, and the descent is one of the most breathtaking and beautiful that I can remember, providing an unforgettable welcome to Croatia.  (Sadly I don't have any pictures of this).  You fly over the Dalmatian coastline and the numerous islands, and finally flying directly over tiny Trogir itself, before landing at Split Airport which is actually closer to Trogir - only a 10 minute journey, which is a very nice difference to all those holidays we've had when the transfer time is nearly as long as the flight itself.  Split Airport is like one of those very small, provincial but effective airports which you come across on European jaunts, and the process of passport control and collecting luggage is probably one of the quickest we've ever experiences. 

Croatia had a hellish summer, weather-wise.  One of my friends at work recently took a cruise calling at various Adriatic ports - with a thunder and lightning storm in every one.  But today, the sun was shining, and the weather just perfect; mid-20s temperatures.  It may be Sunday but we learn very quickly that it's anything but quiet....

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring like you mean it....

Trogir is very small but seems to have a disproportionate amount of ancient churches with big belltowers attached.  Like the 16th century belltower at St Lawrence's Cathedral (pictured above).  Bells ring out here not just on the hour, but at random intervals throughout the hour: six weeks on from arriving in Trogir I'm probably still hearing bells even if they're not ringing.  Anyway we are staying in a hotel at the rear side of the island, facing a park and the canal behind it.  I'll write more about the canal in a later post. 

I had wondered if, nearing the end of the tourist season, Trogir would have many tourists. I had never even heard of the place until a few months ago.  As it turned out, there were still a lot of tourists there - predominantly German or French-speaking, or from the Nordic area.  We hardly heard any British voices during our stay there.  I also wondered if there were many tourists in the town from other parts of Croatia or indeed the former Yugoslavia. 

Trogir is a town.  Or is it an island?  Well, it's both.  It's a town on an island, connected on one side by a bridge to another island (the much larger Ciovo) and on the other side, a bridge to the 'mainland'.  The appearance of the town is medieval and unspoilt, and the whole town is pedestrianized apart from the road which runs the full length of the back of the island, from the Ciovo bridge onwards.

Once you cross that road, you find yourself in a green space with this view. 

This was the beloved, serene Adriatic which I always imagined.  And now we are here, and it's amazing how very quickly we find the peace which we needed.  How could you ever tire of that view? 

Despite its size, Trogir is a town-planning triumph, with every inch of space packed with little shops and numerous restaurants.  I had done some pre-holiday research on Trip Advisor so was prepared for what the restaurants had to offer.  There's the traditional seafood-based Croatian cuisine, but fans of pizza and pasta will find much to enjoy here.  There is also one particular speciality named Ćevapi which is a type of kebab meat which is big in the Balkans.  So when faithful travelling companion's in the Balkans....

In other news, there is a minor cloud over the proceedings, as since arriving in Croatia, my brand new all-singing-all-dancing phone hasn't been able to connect to a network and enable me to keep in touch with home.  Technology - hmph!

This aside, it is a great feeling to finally be here, away from it all....and beginning our research into Croatian beer.  We are sitting in a little café-bar on the main square, which I would imagine is the main place to be on Fridays and Saturdays, but as befits Sunday it's a lot quieter tonight.  Still a few people around though.

Ah, a beer with a matching glass.  It's just like being in Flanders, eh??  Cheers!  Or should I say, Živjeli!

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