Good, bad and ugly signs that summer has arrived in Split, Croatia

Marina in Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia

Summer is a magical time to be in Split, Croatia. The beaches, sea, sun, and old city prompt people from around the world to travel here just to see and experience it.

For those that live in Split, we are here for the full transition from winter to spring to summer. Around early to mid-June, we all have moments when we hear, see, or smell something that makes us think “Ah, summer is here.”

Sometimes “Ah, summer is here” translates to “Oh! Yes! Awesome! Summer is here! Hooray!! I’m so excited!” and sometimes it’s more like “Shit! Fuck! Dammit! Summer is HERE. UGH. Kill me now.”

Many of these signs of summer in Split overlap from person to person, but some are very personal. I’d like to share with you my signs that summer has arrived in Split – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Riva promenade in Split, Croatia
Split’s Riva promenade

#1 Dalmatians wearing shorts and flip flops

Croatians, especially Dalmatians, dress according to the calendar, not the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s 24C (75F) in March, which has been known to happen. In the sun, it feels even hotter.

On a particularly warm March day, I was on the beach in a bikini roasting peacefully, while Dalmatians in puffy coats and scarves looked on from caffe bars like I was insane. I hope they know that the feeling was mutual.

You WILL get looks if you dress for summer when society still considers it winter. Dalmatians switching to summer garb gives the rest of us unspoken permission to do the same, sans their judgmental looks and concern for our kidneys.

Same goes for when they transition to winter. Dalmatians make the conversion and never look back after October 1, climate change be damned.

Hey man, to each his own, but I’d rather be comfortable than too hot or too cold simply because of what day it is. I think Mother Earth has proven that she doesn’t give any shits about seasons anymore.

#2 Klima with open windows

In Croatia, air conditioning is called “klima”. It’s important to know up front that in Croatia, klima is “supposed” to be used sparingly because it can cause all kinds of ailments like colds, flus, headaches and probably broken bones.

The quandary is that it’s too damn hot to go without klima during summer in southern Croatia, if you’re the kind of person who prefers not to die of exposure.

To balance the desire not to perish from heat stroke with the fear of dying from a klima-related illness, it is common practice to run the air conditioning with the windows open. This way you get a little bit of a cold, without it killing you.

When I see that first klima turned on next to an open window, I know summer has arrived.

I personally don’t buy into this habit. As my father said at a high decibel repeatedly throughout my childhood, “I’m not trying to air-condition the whole damn neighborhood!”

#3 Konoba Marjan reopens

Konoba Marjan restaurant in Split, Croatia
Konoba Marjan in Split, Croatia

One of my favorite restaurants in Split is Konoba Marjan, a special spot in the neighborhood of Varoš. While over the years many places I’ve enjoyed have shuttered and new ones have appeared, I’ve eaten at Marjan all of my 10 years.

They are not usually open in winter and with the pandemic, were closed for two extra looooong back-to-back winters. Whenever I walk by and see their tables lining the cobble-stoned street of Senjska for the first time, I get giddy.

Eating at Marjan is a full experience, not just a menu of delicious dishes. When you’re sitting outside, you have a view no matter which way you look.

In one direction, you have great people watching as foreigners and locals alike tumble down the white stone corridor of Varoš.

In the other direction, you gaze down Šperun, with Sveti Frane church on the right, the fountain on the left, and the palm tree-lined Riva and the Adriatic sea in the distance. All of it reddens in the late sun, and glows at night under subtle streetlamps.

It’s positioned in the midst of Split life, while still retaining its intimacy.

There is always super fresh fish, which they prove with a show-and-tell beforehand. The black risotto is absolutely divine. The octopus salad is one of my favorites of all time. I discovered my favorite Croatian wine here. It’s a white from Skradin called Ante Sladić Debit. And Josip, the owner, always has a new rakija for me to try.

Whenever I have someone visiting, I take them for our last night out before their departure, which has made for some very memorable experiences. And, I always go to kick off summer. ALWAYS.

#4 Overhearing the odd things tourists say

Tourism brings a pretty wide cross-section of personalities and cultures to Split. Some are experienced travelers, some are traveling abroad for the very first time. It can make for entertaining eavesdropping.

There are lots of wild mispronunciations of Croatian words and places. People ask if they can buy cigarettes at restaurants.

During this year’s summer kick off at Konoba Marjan, a group of twenty-somethings with beer cans in hand passed by. One of them asked his friends sincerely, “It’s Tuesday, right?” To which, I craned my neck to reply, “No, dude. It’s Friday”.

#5 Exposed dida bellies

In Dalmatia, grandpas are called “dida”. During Split’s blistering summer days, many older dida have a peculiar, yet amusing habit for keeping cool.

All around town, they can be spotted with their shirts pulled up over their bellies.

It bothers some that aren’t used to it and come from countries with more personal discretion. In my experience, Split is a place with tremendous body positivity, so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I find it hilarious and charming.

#6 Bourbon street

Just inside the city walls on the north side of Split’s old city is a narrow street called Petra Kružića. It has a string of bars, whose main demographic predominantly consists of backpackers, Yacht Week, pub crawlers and now, digital nomads.

Given the limited indoor space of each bar, patrons inevitably spill out into the street, clogging it like an artery after too many cheeseburgers.

At the beginning of summer, it’s a joy to see the city come to life in this alley. But just a few weeks in, it becomes an impassible choke point that cannot be maneuvered without climbing over people.

#7 Terrible tourists

Many tourists visiting Split are wonderful. They enjoy the city without disrespecting everyone and everything around them. However, that is not the case for all of our temporary visitors.

Many drink far too much, get into fights, pee and vomit everywhere, litter, ride their bikes in Diocletian’s Palace and act obnoxiously like Split is their toilet. It’s not even July yet, and two ladies crawled into a private yard and used someone’s planters as toilets.

Once the city center develops a faint smell of urine, I think, “Yep, here we go again…”

[Read: How to be a bad tourist in Croatia]

#8 Summer Blues catamaran in the harbor

Summer Blues catamaran in Split, Croatia
Summer Blues catamaran in Split, Croatia

Summer Blues offers round-trip catamaran excursions between Split and the Dalmatian islands, with stops in little bays along the way to swim. They feed you. Usually the crowd is pretty chill, so it ends up being a really nice day on the water.

They used to have a 5-hour trip to islands Brač and Šolta, which was perfect for those of us that live here. We don’t need to go to Vidova Gora on Brač for the tenth time, or overpay for pizza in Hvar. We just want to be on a boat.

Sadly, they stopped doing the short trips the last few years and instead focused on 12-hour trips, so tourists can maximize what they can see and experience in one day. If you’re doing a kamikaze vacation to Croatia, then it’s perfect for you. But for me and those that live here, it’s too long.

In winter, they house the catamaran in ports outside Split. This year, I saw it hibernating in Maslinica on island Šolta. Whenever I see Summer Blues catamaran docked in Split’s port, I think, yep, summer is here and it gives me a smile, whether I plan to take a trip with them or not.

I just wish they would bring back the half-day trips. One can dream…

#9 Construction starts

Construction in Split, Croatia
Construction at the port of Split

Whenever summer arrives, the city of Split decides it is time to start a major construction project that impacts high-trafficked areas.

In June 2019, Split changed the two-way road to the port and main bus station into a one-way road. In addition, they re-routed many local bus routes down this new one-way, even though it was a huge detour from their usual path. Now local buses, national buses, taxis and all ferry traffic floods through the same bottleneck. The brilliance of this decision has yet to reveal itself.

In May 2021, the city kicked off some more well-timed construction at the port, which has blocked off the pedestrian area along the sea. Smooth move.

I get that many locals prefer to rest in winter due to the intense non-stop work of tourism in the summer. However, given the dependence on tourism, maybe we shouldn’t start disruptive, stone-cracking projects right when the tourists arrive.

#10 The mosquitos descend

Mosquitoes are loathsome creatures with no purpose despite what all those educated, credentialed scientists say. And they love the SHIT out of me and I’m quite allergic.

All the mosquitoes want a taste of Sara. My friend said she doesn’t have to wear repellent around me because I serve as bait. When I’m on the islands, they dive bomb me in a coordinated swarm I cannot escape.

So, to be clear, what I’m saying is mosquitoes think I have tasty blood.

I try to leave my windows open as long as I can in spring. Once the very first mosquito arrives, I hermetically seal up the house for the rest of summer. The lack of fresh air stinks, but it has to be done.

I once hid under a blanket while sleeping to avoid a mosquito onslaught, but still got stung 6 times across my brow and face. I woke up looking like Quasimodo.

Closed windows are all about self-preservation. Sadly, I just closed up my house this past week after the first pest made a feast of my face.

In the battle against mosquitoes in Croatia, I lose. So I just keep my windows shut and dunk myself in poison when I leave the house. That’s how I survive summer in Croatia.

Other posts about Split

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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