Sorry to smush these two cities together, as I am sure some will be offended. We were in a split for about 18 hours (sleep included) and Dubrovnik for 3 days. Though we did enjoy ourselves, we much preferred Sibenik and Zadar over these two.
Our first adventure in Split began not so pleasantly. After a very uncomfortable bus ride, we hiked our way with backpacks under the sweltering sun to a street a few blocks away from old city. After inquiring with a local, we took a turn down a narrow, dark (in daylight) alley. To our dismay, our booking.com reservation was not a hostel but bunk beds pushed inside a tiny living, dining, kitchen room where the lock to the front door was half broken. Thankfully, my father came to the rescue and found us a safer and more comfortable accomodation.
The highlight of our Split visit was the view from a lookout where you could see mountain, forest, city, and ocean all in one. The singing in the courtyard of the Diocletian’s Palace was pleasant as well.
Though our accomodations in Dubrovnik were much more comfortable than our original reservations in Split, we found the town to be overly geared towards tourists. Every block there was someone advertising a tour, sea kayaking, or boat rides. And they were agressive. I knew tourism was a key industry to Croatia’s coastal towns but I didn’t realize it could govern a city’s interworkings so much, particularly of a city that was so important during the Croatian war of Independence.
Dubrovnik’s old city has been an UNESCO site since 1979, and the damage inflicted by Montenegrin and Serbian forces in the nineties amounted to several million dollars. Inside the old city and around its perimeter, there was no memorial or plaque of any kind. We found three mentions of the war: one was a piece of paper in the Franciscan monestary describing the damage inflicted and another in front of an artist’s house – a dramatic “Never Forget” bulletin. The third mention was fascinating but was in a private gallery that was not advertised by the tourist’s office. On the second floor of War Photo Limited, there was an exhibit showcasing several war photographers and their works during the wars. The photographs were of Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian civilians and militaries, taking place onlyin Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was insightful, though as the woman behind the ticket counter said, the gallery is not a history museum and does not address the intricacies of the war, like what tensions were exacerbated, when, and by whom.
We were told of an exhibit at Fort Imperial that was only accessible by cable car, which costs a few hundred kunas – essentially a dinner – so we decided to pass. We made a day trip to Lokrum instead, where we swam in aquamarine water and sun bathed on jagged stones. The scenery of the old city walls and the sea were indeed beautiful and we enjoyed the natural elements of the town.
We had the best food in Dubrovnik over our entire trip in Croatia. We decided that if we were going to have to spend more, might as well make it count. We highly recommend Taj Mahal (Bosnian Cuisine) and Azur (Asian-Croatian fusion). Mea culpa is standard and good for pizza. We tried the two best ice cream/gelaterias, dolce vita and gossip. Below we are trying the latter but we prefer dolce vita, as they have big waffle cones that “allow you to enjoy cone and ice cream at the same time” – T.
Verdict: if you can afford private transportation stay in towns outside these big ones, like Trogir for Split or Cavtat for Dubrovnik. You can commute in for the niceties like restaurants if you so choose, but you will enjoy the coastline with significantly less fanfare around “game of thrones.”