I am amazed by the beauty of Croatia’s second largest city. It surely deserves to be on the UNESCO-list. The inner city with Diocletian’s Palace is absolutely remarkable.
But still I feel sad about being here. Some might have to do with the fact that most of the inner city is being renovated. You can’t even see the golden gate, while the palace is covered with wood and plastic.
Zimmer, camre, sobe, rooms
But my sadness relates more to all the poor people you meet. Only few are begging for money and for the blind eye it therefore seems as a rich city. But if you take an extra look you will discover the dozens of women at the bus station screaming zimmer, camre, sobe, rooms and you will see how tired they are. Some of them are smelling badly, some of them are sitting down looking like they could sleep for a week.
As I exited the bus several women where already showing me there signs and pictures. It felt like I was getting run down. I decided after several considerations about my agreement with a youth hostel in the area to stay with one woman who was a little younger than the rest and nicer dressed and more clean in her appearance. After now living in her place for two nights I feel lucky that it is not me who has to stand almost begging people to follow me. She arrives at the bus station to catch the first bus. She stands there all day in 35 °C until the last bus, unless she is lucky and can attract some of the many tourists. On her lucky days she gets a chance to enjoy the beach for a little while and have a normal life while the rooms are occupied.
And she is lucky. Because she is younger and better at English she has better chances of catching peoples interest, whereas some of the others stand there for days hoping for a bit of luck.
It feels so sad, the hopelessness you see in their eyes after a long day. These women are just a part of the picture I would like to draw of Split.
When you come to the centre you find that you cannot see the place for tourists and shops. So many fancy shops are to be found in the centre area that even London would feel ashamed. Everything from Coco and Dior to Mango, Benetton and Topshop. And it feels wrong. First to meet these women at the bus station and then afterwards being drawn in by all the famous brands like Diesel, Lewis … etc.
Then you walk a little outside the centre in direction of the bus station. Here a big market fills up all the space. The centre of the market square and what also seem to be the old part is selling fruits and vegetables, meet, local products and whatever a your heart desires. This is Split, this is what Split can offer, and this is where you will find the locals shopping.
But around it, you find something looking like Le Grand Bazar. Streets full of tourist stands, where any teenage daughter can drive her mother mad over one fake Gucci bag after another. Sunglasses that break after two days, not-so-Luis Vuitton bags in hideous designs and Croatian football scarves are shown everywhere.
In between these stands you will often hear an elderly woman yelling: cigarettes, cigarettes, Marlboroooo light. These are the women who do not own a place big enough to accommodate people. They have found another way of surviving, another way to gain a few of the money that tourists throw at Split.
It is difficult to come with a conclusion as to what tourism has had of an effect on Post-War Split. The city was not heavily destroyed during the civil war, but the economy was hit hard and Split is still trying to come back on its feet. Thus, unemployment and an unstable economy weighs on the city.
Tourism has been a lifeline. Split is now surviving on the great tourist industry and isn’t that just peachy? Such a beautiful city with such friendly people. Off course it is.
But it is also sad, because the tourist industry has made an otherwise magnificent city centre turn into an overcrowded and frustrating place to be. And the locals are depending on the whims of tourists, with the local charm and daily convenience being pushed to the background in favour of souvenir shops and Gucci bags.
You might be lucky to see the real Split in the cracks of the mass tourism. You might see the old woman trying to survive on renting out her private rooms. Rooms that should have been for her grandchildren and for her own retirement.
So do me the favour if ever you stop by Split, because it is surely worth a visit, to go to the bus station and find a private accommodation. And if you are not running on too low a budget don’t lower the price too much. You might find out that there is much more charm in living in a private place with real history, than in a beach resort with 4 star hotels! I know I did.
Enough for today! I’ll leave you with a few photos from my trip to the nearby Roman Salona