A Bit on the Culture + People
Our local city team in Croatia and all our tour guides echoed the sentiment: “Do as the Croatians do and sit at a café for hours drinking coffee.”
Normally when you think of Europeans drinking coffee, you picture Italians, not Croatians, so this stuck me as a bit odd. But then I heard it again and again and you see if everywhere. The streets are lined with coffee shop, all full of men and women regardless of the time of the day and the day of the week.
It is a bit jarring to see so many people – local, not tourists – out and about, but the unemployment rate in Croatia is high. Many cannot find a job after graduating college, and if they can, wages are low and much more lucrative in other European countries, so there’s a high exodus of young talent in coveted positions like doctors or lawyers. Working as a doctor or a physicist – as our tour guide calls it, “solving the world’s problems” will garner you a lower or same wage as someone working as an administrator in the government.
The major industry in Croatia is tourism, which the country has a lot of success in. For example, Yacht Week sails in Croatia roughly 12 weeks each summer, bringing thousands of tourists through Split each year. Then, Game of Thrones also made Croatia, particularly Dubrovnik, a popular destination for fans of the HBO series.
The locals talk about tourist season – the summer months starting in June – with a bit of apprehension. It’s clear that tourists completely overrun the cities, making everything more crowded, especially their beloved coffee shops.
As we spent May in Split, we saw the incredible increase in people between the beginning of the month and the end first hand. The weekend we were leaving, there was a massive uptick of tourists cutting through old town, crowding the Riva, excited to take part in the beautiful summer and dive into the crystal blue waters.
I found Croatia to be an amazing place to spend our first month of our year-long digital nomad trip. It was idyllic –we lived right by the beach, and we were able to take over the city before the tourists did, making it feel small and like ours.* Grateful to be able to call Split home for one month, below are my top 5 moments from our time in Split. And yes, coffee is involved!
*I am currently working and traveling abroad for a year with 52 other people as part of Remote Year. None of us knew each other before we began the program, and Split couldn’t have been a better place to meet one another and get to know each other relatively quickly as we jump into our shared year abroad.
My Top 5
Plitvice National Lakes
This storybook national park had never ending flowing water – every turn we took led itself to a new view of beautiful waterfalls. Never have I seen so many waterfalls in one place before. You literally walk over the water on wooden planks making you feel closer to the nature and your surroundings overall. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I encountered sirens or fairies in this national park as it honestly seemed magically unreal.
Last 24 Hours
Cliff jumping from a height of 25 feet, dinner at an amazing restaurant with great company, followed by stargazing on the beach and sailing to a nearby island our departure day rounded out an amazing 24 hours in Split. The mixture of facing fears, fostering deeper connections with our group mates and fun in the sun equated to positivity and happiness all around.
This is definitely untraditional, but one of my fellow remotes works for an adult entertainment website, and she wanted to go to a strip club for research. A group of 8 of us ended up going, and I had some of the most fun of the month there! The strip club was not big, and there was only one stage for the ladies to dance at, but a combination of the music and good company made for a hilarious night with a lot of laughter.
Half of our group went to every Game of Thrones fan’s dream: Dubrovnik, the setting for Black Water Bay, King’s Landing, the Steps of Shame and more. I have to confess that I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but the city is gorgeous and it was our first time really all bonding together. Mixture of great laughs and personalities and the origin of “stair beers” – a group tradition where we take over church stairs to talk over a few beers together.
Finding A Quiet Spot
Being in the midst of so many people can get overwhelming – one drizzly Wednesday I went on my own to find a quiet coffee shop to read and write. I stumbled upon Mistral, which is part of the Radisson resort. While usually packed, due to the weather I was the only patron of the café, where I was able to enjoy a cappuccino, settle in with my thoughts and daydream over the stormy waves and dreamy weather.