Split & Hvar, Croatia

This trip to Split, Croatia was going to be my first to that country, since I’d never before been in the former Yugoslavian area.

I booked the trip in a moment when I felt my health problems getting a bit too big for my head to handle, and decided I really, really need to calm down my brain by both getting away from everything, and fulfilling my lust of travel at the same time.

The journey started September 2nd with an Air Serbia flight from Helsinki Airport to Split Airport, with a stop in Belgrade, Serbia. The check-in process was fast (did only have my cabin bag and the wheelchair), and I was quite quickly escorted to the gate. Because the first flight was to Belgrade, the gate (51) was behind the passport checkpoint, in the non-schengen area of Helsinki Airport.

Got to see some of the newer areas of Helsinki Airport’s non-schengen part, and it was looking good. Overall I like the expansion happening at different parts of Helsinki Airport — on my last trip the departure gate was in the new T1 extension block, so gradually going through these new parts :).

CRJ900 & A319

The SA guy checking if it’s already ok to board me

The SA (Special Assistance) drove me to the plane with a van, and the plane being a CRJ900 (ES-ACL, operated by Nordica), I climbed the 7-step stairs slowly up with my crutch while the SA guy carried my cabin bag. From the window seat, I had a good view to the left wing, just perfect for the avgeek in me.

Approaching Belgrade

While the flight itself was smooth and nice, it left a bit late, and because of that the SA in Belgrade did have to transfer me in a hurry to the next gate.

Some nice views while taxiing to our stand

The guys were extremely helpful, polite and nice, and after the frenzy of racing from the CRJ900 to the gate, I was soon onboard the A319 (YU-APC) which was an actual Air Serbia plane.

Farewell CRJ!

Because of the first plane was late, the second one was already almost completed boarding of other passengers, so when I got to my seatrow, I said it was OK when asked if I’d be willing to sit in the isle seat. Don’t remember how many years it’s been when I’ve been in an isle seat, but it was a refreshing change.

Hello Air Serbia A319

The interior of the plane was nicely contrasted, fitting with the darker colors of the Air Serbia color scheme. Since the flight was only about one hour, the service was quickly done.

I didn’t buy anything, but we all got free bisquits and water bottles (we got the bisquits also in the first flight). I got my bottle easily open, but the older lady next to me didn’t, so I helped her with my extremely manly and (non-)muscular arms ;).

Disembarking at Split airport

After a textbook landing and the others getting off the plane first, it was time for me to disembark from the right front door using the elevator car. Once again the staff was professional and helpful, and handled me all the way outside the terminal to the taxi stand. Ten points!

It’s green here

From there, an older Mercedes taxi to Hotel Pax took some 30 minutes, including lots and lots of traffic. Luckily the driver was fast in his moves and soon I was out of the car, rolling from the parking lot to the hotel entrance.

Hotel Pax was quite OK!

The entrance itself was not ramped, so I did need some help the first time getting in. After the first time, it was easier for me the following times to get over the doorstep by myself, but I did always need the receptionist (or sometimes a random, helpful fellow traveler) to open the other door of the double-doored entrance when moving through it.

View from my room window

Otherwise the part of hotel where I had my room was completely accessible with the wheelchair, with lift working fine and only a minimal doorstep in the hotel room. The breakfast area als had a ramp. My room was sufficiently spacious fo me to move a little bit there with the chair. To the bathroom I went with the crutch, as I do back home, too.

The rest of the first day went inside the hotel room, noticing that there was a thunderstorm building up outside. It was quite nice to just follow the intense flashing of lightning strikes, while sipping some iced coke zero the receptionist had delivered for me into the room. They don’t actually have a room service, but for me they delivered drinks on several days, thanks for that!

Day 2: In the City for the first time

After a thunderstorm-filled night I was ready to get to know the city. So headed out, and after confirming that Bolt worked in Split, I ordered the first Bolt of the trip. Within 15-20 minutes or so, I was already in the Riva area, which is full of restaurants. Rolled past a few of them and chose to enter Restaurant Hotel Adriana.

There I hit my eyes on the veal stuffed with Mozzarella, and was very pleased with the tenderness of the meat as well as the flavours, very tasty dish indeed!

This veal was yummy

From TripAdvisor I read that many people had negative experiences in the restaurant regarding both service and the food, but my experience was 90% positive. Just had to wait for a bit for a waiter to get my order, but that happens.

While signing off the terrace of Adriana, I included a little tip in the amount since it’s not automatically included in the check. Overall, my tips on this trip were somewhere between 10-20% marks, on average.

A smooth wind was with us the whole evening

Fom there I continued to roll through the Riva street, checking out the lovely sea views and snapping some nice photos.

In the end of Riva I could spot the beautiful monastery and church of St. Frane. Did not enter it however, since I was in search for a place to get some drinks and snacks for my hotel room for the night.

Discovering that the nearest grocery store (Tommy) was not accessible with it’s very high doorstep, I spotted the Little Beer Shop in the next corner. It was a kiosk-sized shop which had a helpful guy who took my order by me shouting from the door. It worked like a charm, and I rolled away from the store as a happy man with lots of coke zero, energy drinks and crisps.

It became dark very quickly

I continued my way away from the Riva area, reaching a dock area where there were some classy, high-end yachts docked. For my next trip in Split, I have to book a ride on one of those yachts!

One of them was docked in front of the inviting terrace of Gourmetbar Basta, and of course I had to park my wheelchair in there.

Mojito, mmmmmm…

The waiter was an energized gentleman who delivered me with an extremely good non-alcoholic Mojito, and later an unexpectedly tasty non-alcoholic PAN beer.

This was good, too

It was a refreshing hour or so at that terrace, and of course I awarded the waiter with an unusual 30%+ tip while leaving (the tips are actually not so much money, because the beverages are cheap). Since Basta was such a good experience, I decided to grab yet another cocktail from the next terrace, the Maduro Bar.

And this

There I ordered a non-alcoholic version of Piña Colada, and boy it was a perfect one! Just the right amount of excessive sweetness combined with fabulous flavours, the perfect way to end the second day before taking a Bolt back to the hotel.

Day 3: The Winter is Coming

The target for day 3, wednesday, was Game of Thrones shop in the old town. The Bolt driver for this trip was someone who had partly similiar background as I do, in the IT sector. It was refreshing to talk about tech, UI and else during the drive, something you really don’t do with every driver :).

The embassy of Austria

He dropped me off in the outskirts of the Old Town, where I started my rolling journey towards the narrow old town streets.

It was partly bumpy because of the not-so-flat ground, but it was tolerable and doable for me. In a couple of spots I got help from other people pushing etc, but mainly managed with my own powers.

The architecture inside these narrow streets is extremely nice, although some newer or renovated buildings were there mixed with the older ones.

A lonely trashman

In addition to the narrow streets, there were some steep stairs going up at places, but luckily I wasn’t going to their direction.

When I finally got to the Game of Thrones shop, the kind staff was very helpful in getting me in (the entrance had a little high doorstep), as well as when I had any questions about the products.

I think I spent nearly an hour in there, with the shopping session ending to them helping me up to the iron throne for a pic.

With my backpack stuffed with GoT goods and something to bring back home, I was ready to leave, happy but exhausted from the earlier rolling. I did have a peek at the Game of Thrones Museum too, but didn’t have the energy to get inside. Maybe there’s a second reason for a new trip to Split some day in the future.

I did however have energy to get myself into a grocery shop near the GoT shop, getting stuff for the hotel room. With that done, it was time to try to find my way out of the old town labyrinth with some assistance from the Maps app.

Finally I arrived at the Riva area, ordered a Bolt and waited for it around the location where the pickup area is. However, the driver didn’t see me, and didn’t understand english so well, so we had a couple of funny phone calls before he found me and picked me up.

At the hotel, it was time to practice some therapeutic creativity on the iPad, before getting sleep and preparing for the next day’s Jazz-related mission.

The mountains were visible to my room

Day 4: Jazz, baby, Jazz!

To this day I’ve been repeatedly noticing how polite, helpful and nice people are here — both the locals and fellow tourists, but especially the locals. Haven’t bumped up to any inconvinient situations or anything like that.

I’d say the hospitality is on par with the Latvian people’s one (in reference to my previous trip to Riga). That in addition to the mostly fine Bolt taxis, I’ve enjoyed my time in Split very, very much despite my own things which slow me down.

On Thursday I was a mess from the morning regarding my health and energy, but still dragged myself to the hotel’s parking lot and got a ride to the outskirts of the old town again — in seek of a little jazz bar I found by googling a little bit.

Marvlv’s Library Jazz Bar was the first place I got a bit lost finding, just because of the GPS signal breaking up a bit in the old town area. But that wasn’t so bad, because I got to see more narrow streets and squares I hadn’t yet seen, and some of that cool architecture.

Some of the accessible ramps were well marked

After wheeling around a few extra rounds and once again with a little bit of help from fellow travelers, I found the bar, and was noticed by the staff. The two guys (see the pic) were immediately ready to help me in over the high doorstep, by carrying the wheelchair and me inside.

Taking a break

The jazz which was audible already outside, was music to my ears, getting me right away to a good feeling. From the menu I got a Thomas Henry Spicy Ginger (it IS spicy!) and a non-alc beer (yum), and because I was somewhat hungry after the old town cruising, chose a dalmatian cheese & prosciutto plate to accompany the drinks.

This was my moment. The moment of the day, and perhaps one of the best moments of the whole trip. I have an emotional relationship with jazz music, and when you get to enjoy tasty beverages & food with it, it’s a nirvana moment. Also maybe a bit proud of myself being without alcohol so long, actually enjoying the taste of non-alcoholic drinks. Lovely!

Before leaving, I bought some souvenirs from the bar — a T-shirt and a copy of their well-done menu, which was in the form of a little book with quotes, lots of descriptions, stories etc. Even Al Pacino was quoted there, from the movie Scent of a Woman (a perfect movie, by the way).

Thanks guys!

So the nice guys lifted me back down to the narrow street I came in from, and I continued my rolling with a happy face :). Just a few meters away, I made an excursion to the old town’s accessible toilet, and when trying to pay for it on my way out, the lady said that no need to pay (it’s usually a paid service). Bueno.

The sun had already gone down, so I navigated the historical streets under a dark sky, which added to the good feeling. Rolling through I ended up with views of the impressive Diocletian’s Palace. That is also another point of interest, which is a good reason to come back some day later — I want to go inside there and eplore it properly.

For my ribs which I managed to damage (into my wheelchair) at the hotel, I went to buy pain relievers from a pharmacy opposite to one of the Diocletian’s Palace entries. Next thing bought was a new belt which found it’s way to my backpack from one of the booths along the road down towards Riva and the docks area.

There were lots of other stuff available from those booths, from souvenirs and handcrafted things to art, food and well, basically everything. I however was ready to head back to the hotel, but not without stopping by a cocktail at Terminal F bar, right beside the docks.

Simply Red

It was a Simply Red, and while it was sweet and all, I wouldn’t classify it as a top drink of this trip — the Mojitos, Piña Coladas, SH Spicy Ginger and all of the beers had been better in terms of tastefulness when it comes to non-alcoholic drinks.

So once again I found myself onboard a Bolt ride to the hotel, ready to sleep because of an upcoming early morning wakup.

Some resting again..

Day 5: Hvar Island

Even though the weather service predicted thunderstorm for Friday, the sky was clear on the morning, so I went forward with my planned day trip to Hvar island. I had bought the tickets a couple of days earlier to a Kapetan Luka catamaran for a 11:30 departure.

The staff helped me well but a bit roughly to the ship, and parked my wheelchair in the back end of the lower floor, right where the little snack bar was located. Convinient. There were not so good views to the sea from that location, but I was ok with it.

It took merely an hour to get to Hvar, and the ride itself went without hickups or bigger bumps. The crew was there again to help me down the ramp in the rear of the catamaran, and once on the ground, I started to explore the streets.

The Spanjola fortress (up there) could be seen from the docks

The main area of the town is quite compact, with a couple of seaside boulevards connected by a large square starting from their junction. The boulevards are stuffed with restaurants, especially on the side where the catamaran dock is, and if you would go and explore the inner streets behind the front line houses, you’d find some accommodation places & small shops.

Since my mouth was eager to get something wet again, I chose a cocktail bar named Aloha. There I got to enjoy a couple of lovely Mojitos (yes, alc-free), with good service from a very nice waitress. I do recommend!

Their terrace was a good choice because it was in the shadow, while the temps in the sun were somewhere about 30c or over. I enjoyed my stay there for over an hour, before leaving to see how to get to the Spanjola fortress which was visible already from the docks.

While rolling through the roughly stoned (pun intended) main square, a member of some of the restaurants’ staff came to ask where I was going. When I told him I was seeking for a taxi station, he insisted on helping me all the way there through the square and a bit further — and did that, indeed. So grateful, since it would’ve taken me at least half an hour to get there by myself.

He negotiated a taxi for me, with space enough to take the wheelchair in it without folding, me sitting in the back seat. The price was 150 HRK for a trip up to the Spanjola fortress, the driver helping me to the viewing point for a 10 min photoshooting, and finally taking me back down.

It worked well, and what a view from up there! I could’ve stayed there for much longer, but then again I also had a catamaran to catch up in an hour or two. I didn’t go inside the castle, since they told it probably wouldn’t be so convinient for the wheelchair with all the steps and all.

While driving the way back from the little mountain, there were some good mountaineous views through the car window, and if I’m correct, I think I saw some olive trees in the hillside. Once back at the taxi station, I rolled down the main square, passing the roman catholic Cathedral of St. Stephen with it’s impressive bell tower.

Cathedral of St. Stephen

Feeling exhausted of crossing the bumpy main square, despite having some help at the end of it, I felt having some troubles with my blood pressure. So sat down to Caffe Bar Pjaca to have something to eat in addition to the soft drinks I had consumed during and after the Spanjola trip.

While eating an extremely wonderful piece of cheesecake with berries in it, I had to lay down my head for some moments because I was nearly passing out because of the blood pressure. This was also the moment I decided to cut down my dosage of the medication in the coming days, since it was the clear culprit of my condition.

Well, after 15 minutes or so I was back, and continued towards Kapetan Luka’s dock. Still feeling a bit fuzzy, I held like 5 breaks within a 200 meter stretch. One of them happened to be in front of one of the several yachts in the docks, and a member of the staff came and offered me a water bottle — thanks for that.

Finally when I got to the port, it wasn’t long until the catamaran came, and I was once again helped onboard it through the ramp. Had the same seat again, and the 1-hour trip back went in a heartbeat.

Pills for the pain

From the docks I took a Bolt to a Tommy’s grocery shop about 1km away from the hotel, to fill up my drink & snack needs for the hotel room, once again.

On this occasion I encountered the first and only problem with Bolt, with the first driver not finding me, and the second one coming with a too small car for the wheelchair (my bad, since I selected a normal ride, not a larger one [wasn’t available]). So I initiated my backup plan and ordered an Uber, which took it’s time to get there but at least I finally got on my way to the hotel.

The rest of the evening was just relaxing at the hotel room, doing some packing already for Sunday’s departure. Decided to be at the hotel for the whole Saturday, since my ribs were in such a pain, and didn’t want to compromise my flight(s) back.

Day 7: Homecoming and Hospital

This was the day I was supplied with the most discussion-driven Bolt driver, on the drive from the hotel to the airport. He was an interesting chap to talk with, and we covered everything from Game of Thrones to war history, bureucracy and all. He even helped me all the way to the check-in desk from the parking lot, thanks Petar!

Petar was awesome

From the check-in I was right away escorted through security by the special assistance staff, and from there to the waiting area for people who need asssistance, nearby gate 6.

On my way my eyes were saluted with an apparently new terminal, with shining surfaces everywhere, a very spacious feeling and a letter L kind of blueprint which will be easy even for newbie travelers.

Only negative thing from the avgeek perspective was, that the massive windows were coated with a dot-like pattern, which made it hard to shoot pics from behind the window. However, you could get some kind of (but still not 100% clear) shots further away from the window.

Lots of SAS planes

Since I was ahead of my schedule and there was time before the boarding, I did some shopping in one of the several taxfree points. Some sweets and such. When I was done, the SA guy was actually waiting for me right after the cashier’s desk, because it was time to get out with a lift & board the wheelchair transfer truck with a couple of other chair users.

First stop was at an EasyJet plane, but it wasn’t for me, so I got off on the next stop, boarding the SAS B737 towards Oslo Gardermoen Airport in Norway. The crew was a nice one, and the 3 hour flight went quite quickly in a good weather.

At Gardermoen, one of the SAS stewardesses stayed with me for a little chat after others were disembarked, since the Gardermoen’s SA guy was a bit late (ok, we arrived ahead of scheduled time). She and her colleagues were changing planes, while the B737 we arrived in was going to get a new crew.

Waiting for the SA guy

When the SA guy finally arrived, he took me to another gate, where the guy changed to a girl who took me to the border control & security. This security was actually the most detailed in their checks, when comparing all 4 airports of this trip (Helsinki, Belgrade, Split, Oslo).

With a pit stop at a kiosk for painkillers & beverages for the plane done, the SA girl rolled me to my departure gate, where I had some 2 hours of waiting time. That went quickly with me drawing on the iPad, but as the boarding time was almost there, a third SA guy rushed in to roll me quickly to the next gate because it had changed at the last minute.

Boarded the SAS CRJ900 with taking the 5-step stairs up with my crutch, and finally I was seated on my 8A window seat. That flight was once again a short one, roughly an hour. Steps down with crutches, and the SA guy handled the rest, me exiting the terminal in a heartbeat.

Two of Norwegian’s grounded MAXes at Helsimki Airport

As a bonus, my trip continued straight to Peijas Hospital in Vantaa, Finland, since my ribs which I injured with the wheelchair a few days earlier were aching so bad that I had to get some prescription pills to cope with the pain. It took about 1,5 hours and I had my perspcription. With one complimentary Tramal aleady at the hospital, I was ready to head home and finally wrap up the trip.

Summary

Split was a happy place for me, especially because of it’s views, historical and colorful architecture, and so very, very polite and helpful people who made you feel welcome in the city. Visits to the Game of Thrones store, Marvlv’s jazz bar and the island of Hvar were absolutely fabulous!

The hotel being a couple of kilometers away from the city centre was not a problem, because transportation worked so fine with the Bolt app (and that one ride with Uber). If traveling with a wheelchair, make sure to prefer choosing a “Comfort” car in the Bolt app, since they usually have enough space for a foldable wheelchair in their back.

Even though the old town isn’t actually made for wheelchair use, I did manage there as a solo traveler with the occasional help of fellow travelers and locals who offered their assistance mainly without asking. Of course some shops etc are not accessible even with help especiallty if you can’t take any steps with crutches, since there are a lot of very high doorsteps at entrances — but that’s naturally a global problem.

I will be going back to Split some day in the future, to visit the mountains and GoT museum amongst other things. Maybe for another cruise or two, then, also…

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