Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sept 18 2012 - Ready to Split from Split?

friendly Split busker and his pet pigeon
The town of Split in Croatia dates back to the Roman Empire when Emperor Diocletian built a palace to rule from and retire to. When the empire crumbled, the palace fell into disarray and was overtaken by the Slavs when they moved into this region. The historical center of Split dates back to the year 305 AD when Diocletian's palace was built. Of course we would choose to stay in this area, what's the point in coming all this way and not spending the night where Diocletian himself ruled the eastern region of the empire?! Of course, the historical city predates cars by about 1500 years, so there is no place to drive, park, or service them within the confines of the city.

I feel the exact same ways
We parked our rental car**  just outside the city walls in a spot with a sign that looked like pedestrians walking and labelled something like 0530-0930. It seemed a safe bet as we would be back way before 5am. We found our way to the apartment we rented for the night, met with the landlord and picked up the keys. Most of our group was hungry, so we got dinner, which stretched into gelato, then hanging out sipping coffee at waterfront cafe. By the time we got back to the car, it was around 10pm or so. Except it wasn't there. The entire street, which was full of parked cars when we arrived, had been completely cleared. A police officer I would describe as "not unkind" told us to hail a taxi and tell him "the spider" took our car. Apparently this is what the spider looks like.

Last moment in Split

We then had a ride with a very nice and helpful cabbie who gave us exact step-by-step instructions on how to retrieve the car, find our way to the street back to town (yes they tow the cars to the furthest edge of the suburbs), and where to safely park. Everyone was being so nice about it, I wondered if they were even going to charge us for the tow. Oh how naive I was. He also explained that not only did we misintepret the Pedestrian sign, but as tourists without local driving permits, we weren't even allowed to drive into the city limits - apparently there was a little red and white circle sign we drove past at some point which should've alerted us to that fact.

Bus travelers' healthy lunch

When we got to the tow lot, I then had to negotiate with the guy running the center, who apparently had carte blanche - he was clearly the parking emperor. We started from a total fine of 1000 Croatia Kuna ($175 USD), the guy chummed up to me all buddy-buddy and we chiseled the fine down to 500 Kuna. We probably could've gotten it a little lower, but this was already taking all night and we were exhausted from the drive from Trieste. We still had to find our way back to town, find a parking garage, move the bags to the apartment, blog, etc. Needless to say it wasn't an awesome way to be greeted by Split.

Beautiful and relaxing bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik

This morning we tried to return the rental car and ran into even more craziness. The address given by the rental company doesn't exist. The rental company's website has a map but no addresses. Based on some clues we had picked up, and the approximate intersection on the online map, we drove around and eventually pulled off into an alley out of desperation while we regrouped our thoughts. After sitting there for a few moments, I noticed we were literally parked right in front of the rental car office. That's the last time I'll be renting a car in Europe.

Can you spot the red-white circle sign? This means pay up!

It was such a relief when we finally got on the bus to Dubrovnik. The scenery was exceedingly beautiful, and we even got to notch another country under our belts as the route goes through a tiny sliver of Bosnia-Herzegovina and we even had a chance to pop out, buy something, and get change back in Bosnian KMs.  Knowing we don't have to worry about driving, parking, navigating, or sobriety makes the trip so much more relaxing. 

**the only reason we still had the rental car at all is because the rental car center changed its hours recently, now closing several hours earlier than we could possibly arrive.

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