It had been nearly eight weeks since I’d seen my boyfriend, Josh and arriving in Split airport, where we’d meet again I have to admit I was a little nervous. It had been the longest time that we’d ever been apart and after so much time of him only existing in memories and online, I was starting to forget that he was a real human being and more than just pixels on my screen. I kept imagining the moment that I’d see him again over and over in my head… What should I say? Would it be awkward? I was frustrated that I felt so hesitant about seeing him again when this was the very moment I’d been anticipating for weeks. My hands shook as I passed through border control (never a good time to look suspicious!) and finally turning the corner into the arrivals lounge, backpack in tow; I saw him- a big smile on his face, looking dusty and scruffy as usual. We hugged for a long time and I tried to accustom myself to how tall he seemed after all this time, how solid and tangible.
Outside of the airport, we immediately found a coach towards Split bus station and took our seats next to each other, holding hands and giggling amongst what seemed like many long-faced and bored commuters. I remember not really knowing if we were on the right bus, not knowing where to get off but not really caring, listening to him talk about his time at Soundwave festival a few days earlier and just enjoying being in his presence in silence. Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what to say; he kept saying how happy he was to see me and I’d just smile and nod, not able to explain how the word happy was just not enough to describe my feeling in those moments. I can’t understand why people are so cautious about long distance relationships when really they can give you so much more joy than the norm… the day that you see each other again after so long is better than a hundred consecutive days taking each other’s company for granted. Being with someone that loves travelling as much as you do often means that you find yourselves apart, but when you travel together, its one of the best experiences. I had my first few glimpses of Croatia as it whizzed past the windows: red roofed houses, arid trees and a backdrop of mountains, charred brown by the Mediterranean heat.
Once arrived at Split bus station, we met up with Pedro, my boyfriend’s friend and travel companion who I was taking over from. Waiting for us in a café, he wore every colour fabric imaginable but his expression contrasted quite starkly from the brightness of his clothes. He looked fed up and stuffy, ill from his last few days at the festival and ready to go home after a few weeks on the road. I felt bad boasting my fresh-faced eagerness in front of him as we skipped to a taxi to reach our airbnb, as he trudged behind us. He was leaving in the morning though and wouldn’t have to cope with our unbearable over-the-top affection for too long!
Our airbnb apartment was beautiful. We had the whole place to ourselves, two massive double bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a balcony. All the furniture was shiny dark wood and our host told us that the owner of the place had kept the original decor and features. Josh and I’s room had pastel pink walls, a massive gold gilded mirror and white chiffon curtains framing the long, bright French windows. As soon as we unpacked and freshened up, we left the apartment behind and Pedro in his bed to explore Split just as the sun went down. I was absolutely starving so we headed straight to the restaurant that our host recommended and had a massive dinner of fish soup, sea bass, roasted vegetables, potatoes and salad. The fish was delectable… fresh with crispy skin and lemon juice. A tabby cat wound its way around our legs peering up in a request for scraps. He was clearly used to being fed by the hoards of tourists that sift through Split each day and night.
After dinner we wandered back along the port. The whole place was washed in a golden light and we weaved in and out of stalls selling souvenirs- decorated china plates, jewellery and paintings. Split old town was lively with visitors exploring its narrow streets; there were bustling little restaurants, ice cream parlours, and heaps of stray cats that had clearly had tough lives. Some had parts bitten out of their ears and there was one that was blind in one eye. We obviously had to stop to pet each one of them, much to Josh’s disdain. The sound of acoustic guitar reverberated around the town from buskers hiding in dark corners. Josh got himself an ice-cream that I ended up eating all of myself in true really-annoying-girlfriend style.
Walking far away from the crowds we sat on the edge of the port, surrounded by little colourful boats, legs hanging off the side of the concrete in a little place where the bright lights couldn’t reach us. The sound of a woman singing in the square behind us echoed against the dark water so that it sounded like she had a twin repeating every line from the depths of the sea. We looked up at the bright white crescent moon and wondered out loud whether we’d still be in Croatia by the time it became a full moon- Josh thought we would but I wasn’t so sure. Those moments of peace with nothing to think of, no camera to obsessively click away at, no pressure at all but to do but only be… they are some of the best moments I’ve had during my travels. As much as I love taking photos, it’s nice to take some time away from the camera to absorb a place without thinking how I would frame everything in a shot.
Back in our bedroom in the apartment, we got out our giant map of Europe and laid it out on the floor next to the bed. Sitting next to each other cross-legged we tried to devise a brief itinerary for the next few weeks. With no plans, no tickets and no bookings it felt like we had so many options. I traced with my finger potential routes we could make on the map, South to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and onto Kotor in Montenegro… or stick around and see more of Croatia, Dubrovnik or Zagreb… There were so many options but I really wanted to make the most of our location while we were there and see some more of the surrounding areas of Split, so I suggested Krka National Park, which I knew to only be an hour or so away by bus. Eventually after finally making our decision, we crawled into bed and I slept soundly with dreams of beautiful places and beautiful plans spinning round my head, happily back in the arms of my love.
In the morning we swiftly packed up all our things again and said goodbye to our one-night home by 11 o’clock, setting out on the road again to explore some of Split’s sights. Back in old town, some strange performance was happening, with men dressed in red and gold costumes upon a stage amongst the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. A heavy crowd was stationed around the stage and I was too short to see a thing. By the time I’d dropped my heavy bag and clambered up a stone pillar to see what was going on, the performers had gone back in and the crowd was dispersing… Ah, the life of a short ass.
We walked to the bell tower and paid the entrance fee, leaving our hefty backpacks behind the desk so we could clamber up through the narrow, stone staircase. The stairs were full of people trying to climb up and down and only wide enough to let people move in one direction at one time, hence absolute chaos ensued until we got to the top.
The view absolutely made it worth it. The picture perfect panoramic view of Split was made of three dominant colours. The orange of the rooftops, an irregular pattern of tiles that stretched its way out in front of us, every building a different height, a different shape. The deep blue of the Adriatic Sea that unravelled itself like silk to the horizon. The dark green of of the trees in the distance, climbing their way up the hills that protect the city. We climbed our way out onto the ledge and stayed there for a while. I took pictures of every angle. I wanted every inch of my sight translated into digital form and kept forever. It was the first spectacular view of the adventure, the first of many.
Once down from the bell tower and its dizzying views, we wandered into the markets and spent at least half an hour being tempted to buy different summer hats. In the end, Josh treated me with a beautiful Venetian straw hat with a navy ribbon and navy trim that I completely fell in love with. Ready in my new attire and feeling super cute, we meandered round the food stalls and bought a big collection of fruit, bread and cheese to keep us going on our journey to Krka. Sleeping on some empty stalls was an adorable grey and white cat. When I called out to him, he sat up immediately and posed for me, showing off his stunning eyes- one blue and one brown. He was such a delightful creature. I had to be dragged away from him so that we didn’t miss our bus to Sibenik from Split Bus Station.
With our backpacks, new hats and a big bag full of food, we made our way to Split Bus Station, where we bought tickets to Sibenik, the first stop on our journey to Krka National Park.
Read more: To hear from another travel blogger who enjoys the company of her travel companion, read Karin’s post about travelling alone versus travelling with a friend or lover.
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Much love <3