Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trogir, Ciovo and Slatine

Apologies for delay in posting but Madam and myself are fresh in from the Balkans. The Split environs to be exact, albeit a different Isle from last year.

Flying out on a dawn plane that we nearly missed after experiencing nocturnal conniptions induced by the midnight machinations of the South East Motorway network, we took in the best Hook, Fleet, Camberley, Frimley and Farnborough had to offer in the early hours as we followed yellow signs in our efforts to catch our flight.

If the South East of England's major road network were subject to an Ofsted type report, much of it would be classed as "failing".

Anyway, we caught the plane, and arrived at Split airport where we were assigned a turquoise car in which we set out for our digs an island hop away up the coast.

No ferries this year, just a couple of bridges and a wiggly road through Trogir a UNESCO heritage site through which every vehicle must pass to access the island of Ciovo where we were due to stay in an apartment just back from the beach in a small village looking back at Split.

A bridge is currently under construction to bypass Trogir. Part funded by the EU the project began in 2007 and was due to be completed in 2013, but it remains some way from being signed off. It's no white elephant, like some EU funded projects, (some developments in a Spanish city beginning with the letter V spring immediately to mind) it will prove to be a real game changer for the island, but with only a handful of blokes seemingly employed on the project it has the depressing whiff of money having been siphoned off to chuck up Vila in the hills and a bridge completion date some years away yet.

The lady who met us at our billet was desperate for the thing to be finished.

Embedded deep cover on the second floor, the top one as it happens (is this phrase OK post Saville?) as there are restrictions on the height of new development within so many metres of the shore, we began to take stock of the situation we had placed ourselves in for the next nine nights. There was a pool below, a few minutes stumbling down the road and we were in the sea, we had a beautiful view across the bay to Split and a big fridge full of beer and unfortunately some pretty ropey rose, oh well, it would have to do for the next nine nights.

Dinner was taken by the harbour ten minutes walk away and consisted mostly of meat with a green leaf for garnish. They like their meat in Croatia and the quality of the steak surprises many, my mixed grill was a festival of meat and met my protein requirements for the following forty eight hours. The food isn't fancy, mostly done on the grill with none of your delicious greek island mutton that's been cooking for days, but it's OK. We failed to strike lucky with the local vino, and when we were reduced to adding lemonade to our pre meal Rose gave up and stuck to Italian grog, although the bar had been set particularly high by some pre holiday English pink fizz that my parents had snaffled during disembarking from their last SAGA cruise. This part of the Adriatic is popular with Italian set and consequently the Italian food and wine is pretty good and a welcome change from the grilled meat and fish. One establishment dished up Pizza as good as anything we have eaten in Italy in the past couple of years.

Last year, for bedtime TV, we enjoyed the Croatian take on Pointless. This year it was Space 1999, or possibly The Clangers. The plot was a little tricky to follow, and I'm sure our hero should have had SMEG writ large on the top of his space helmet,

But the whole thing fell apart when after going boldly where no man had been before our heroes reached for their maps and compasses.

A pattern was soon established of activity in the morning, a long lunch followed by time on the beach, reading, snorkelling or watching the rich variety of air transport that operates to serve the region. A sea plane service to the outer islands of Vis and Hvaar, those magnificent men in their yellow fire fighting machines who swooped low over the waves to scoop up water to dump on fires raging on the hills, the passenger helicopters who criss crossed the islands, always with their doors open, and the three flights an hour into Split airport, five miles away across the bay.

A white pebble beach with some super snorkelling, it was rarely busy and each afternoon the local saga set massed to chew the fat in the shade,

and in a scene redolent of Osbourne House in the latter half of the 19th century, twin bathing costumes with mourning hats.

Morning activities include a long walk on a precipitous path in high heat to the Sanctuary of our Lady of somewhere or other, which was shut (Apparently the church are notorious for this kind of thing)

The interior of the island is relatively uninhabited and full of wildlife among the Olive grove and scrub, whether this will remain the case when the bridge is built is up for debate.

Returning home for lunch we took a wrong turn in our turquoise car and ended up parked on the local helicopter Landing Pad, which was a first in our captain's log.

Church on the right day (Sunday apparently) was quite the draw with the crowd spilling out among the tombstones to sample the sermon via a PA system.

The following morning we visited Trogir, a small town on an island between our island and the mainland and a couple of miles up the coast, it is very old and a favourite of the super rich and cruising set.

Here's one of me having just taken tea with Simon Cowell

The tiny stone streets soon fill up as the day progresses. There was a market one day and each day we visited we sought respite from the heat in tiny shaded squares sipping superb coffee and licking away at Pistachio Ice Cream.

The 14th Century castle that guards the gate to the quay provided a fine view of the town and the surrounding hills

and also of the local football pitch where I can confirm that the remainder of Europe buff up their penalty shoot out technique from an early age.

That evening our postprandial entertainment comprised a local five a side football league match in the outdoor cage by the harbour. The visitors were a team from the mainland and drew quite a crowd.

Technique was reasonable, and the score was logged by a chap with a digital display on the roof of the local bakers, which too, seemed reasonable.

The next morning we were up with the lark, or the Pheasant at the very least as the Olive grove behind our billet was full of the things, to catch the 8.00am passenger ferry from Slatine to Split.

Two sovereigns there and two sovereigns back, the journey takes half an hour and the craaft was full. (note to self, for audiobook version read in the manner of Steven Toast)

On our outward journey we were treated to the site of a pod of four dolphins whacking into sardines in the oily water of early morning.

We'd visited Split last year along with several million other people.

Arriving early was a different experience altogether and for the first hour we had much of the Diocletian Palace that serves as the town centre to ourselves. It's a fascinating place, coffee was taken on the roof of the Department store, not quite Pollux in Lisbon, but a terrific view of the old town and the harbour all the same, before we perused the sprawling market that peddles the inevitable tourist tat,

but also a superb fruit and veg market and the fish market replete with tame gulls who pluck the sardines tossed in the air by the fish vendors a few feet above the shoppers' heads. Split was full by midday so we headed home for lunch and the beach on the 1.00am ferry.

A boat was hired towards the end of the week, a small craft and possibly the slowest in the Adriatic,

we jousted with the super yachts and ferries in Trogir before creeping round the back of town to the busy shipyard where a multimillion pound super yacht was being tentatively hoisted out of the water

and an even bigger cruise ship was being attended to in a floating dry dock. Heading back up the coast a Haar descended and thunder began to roll around the hills behind Split so we ran for home guided home by our turquoise hire car conspicuously parked on the sea front.

A ridiculously relaxing break ended all too soon and it was time to return home.

It's a beautiful part of the world and most of it is well done. Front of House in many establishments could be a little more friendly, but brusque may be the accepted way although our hosts were charming and we developed a good relationship with staff in the shops and restaurant that we used most regularly.

There is a recycling cult born out of money back on plastic, glass and tin, and hey everybody remember Corona. It certainly works as you can feel the eyes upon you as you swig the last dregs of your water on the beach.

The plane home aborted its landing on approaching Gatwick which was a little hairy but we were soon down on the ground and heading for home enjoying the delights of the M25 and M3 and a three hour journey that we have done previously in seventy minutes and the inevitable discussion on how the road system in this corner of the country does not function as intended that concluded with the desire for another holiday.

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