Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lost in Split

The sun is finally out.

Having no trousers is a problem, since they seem to be de rigeur here, except for old ladies. Both my pairs of jeans fell apart two days or so before I left the states, and I’m not an easy person to fit. But it is time, time to post a blog, and I am not so easily deterred.

The Saturday afternoon foot-traffic along the road from Meje is quiet, only picking up as I near the ultra-clean Riva, the plaza along the waterfront downtown. As usual, I get many stares in my long skirt and thin green sweater, either because of my intense red hair or because I am simply dressed like a weirdo, I'm never sure. The Split style seems to be a uniform, uh, uniform: a sort of italianate obsession with jeans, sportswear, and glam. My French hiking sandals are far too practical for what is considered normal here.

Plus, the tourists hadn’t arrived yet.

I cannot find an internet cafe that is open on a Saturday afternoon. There are three marked on the map, and I actually think that might be all of them. The first one contains only one person: a tired, housewifely person who has just finished mopping the floor. She shakes her head at me. The next one, somewhere near the East side of Diocletian’s Palace, is closed. The third one, near the Fish Market (dead right now, of course, as are nearly all the streets except the little back ones with the sounds of children playing) is open.

“Internet and games,” claims a sign, and points up an unprepossessing stairwell. Hmm. At the top is a closed door with a backpack-y sign on it proclaiming it open every day until 21:00 hours. I hesitate, then reach for the door, only to have it snatched open under my hands.

Two young men with Italian-style front-faded jeans leap backwards and gesture inward, but I’m there first, smiling and gesturing outwards. They move past me, and the smell of cigarrettes comes with them. I step in: a darkened room, several dark-haired guys with earphones on play CarJack 900 (or something) with earphones on and cigarettes dangling from their lips. They puff away while silently jerking at the controls.

I back out quietly.

Now I’m sitting on the limestone steps of an alley in the middle of Diocletian's Palace, typing this to the sound of neighborhood kids home playing without fear of strangers, climbing around on 2,000 year old walls and steps and one of the 4,000 year old sphinxes that Diocletian had imported to decorate the place. The air is chill but dry, pigeons fly by with that peculiar whiff, whiff sound they make, and I’m happy to be here. Despite a back injury, a sinus infection, and a month of not writing, children who won’t eat local food and the unfortunate tendency to become locally famous for my hair and eccentric dress, I’m here.

What a great place.


Heather McDougal said...

Ha! As you can see, I found an internet cafe. More on crochet, iron hands, and other important matters soon.

Ms. Robyn said...

Yay! I miss you. The 5th graders are eating me alive. Vicious things.

spacedlaw said...

Great tale. It does sound like a wonderful place in spite of the lack of internet caf├ęs.

Jean said...

So good to hear from you again! I'm envious of your exotic (?!) locale.
- vpxi Jean

Unknown said...

Either fashions have changed in twelve years, or Split is way different from Venice. In my long skirt, thin sweater, and long intense red hair, I wasn't dressed up enough. Still, not being dressed right is small payment for the surroundings.