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It was the stairs that did it . . . . .

During the planning stages it doesn’t occur to us that Don’s hernia will become problematic so we don’t think to check accessibility when booking accommodation, including for the two one-night-stands in Split.

The stairwell is spacious, as if it belongs to an earlier era; almost certainly it does. Maybe this building was once a fine mansion. No longer. The stairs may be marble, but the whole area is grimy and dim. And we have three flights to climb. I’m sure I didn’t even look at accessibility when I made the booking, just at the rooms, and indeed they are as advertised. Renovated. Bright. Clean. But first the staircase.

Don can’t carry anything so I make three trips up three long flights to get our luggage to our room. S and L make their own slow painful way up.

It’s about now that S takes charge. She sees we are still within the cancellation window for our second stay at the same place four nights ahead. She searches Airbnb for a place with no stairs. It’s pretty much her only criteria apart from the mandatory four beds. She finds one, and books it. It’s only for one night. How bad can it be?

Split’s Old Town is sandwiched between the two oldest neighbourhoods of the city – Varoš and Lučac. Old meaning Medieval, or close to it. The apartment with no stairs is on Radunica, the main street through Lučac. When I say street I mean narrow and stone-paved, but it’s nothing like as narrow as the cobblestoned streets the taxi driver takes to get us to our destination. The streets may be ancient but fortunately the taxi has some very modern technology. As our driver goes up and down one narrow street after another, often with a stone wall on one side and parked cars on the other, or parked cars both sides, the taxi beeps. Beep beep. Beep beep. Inch by careful inch, beep by beep, we move forward. The beeping tells the driver if he’s getting too close to anything. He is. Frequently. Though he never actually hits anything. And then we’re free, and the driver turns, and starts again down another narrow street.

It’s not that he doesn’t know where he’s going. He knows exactly where. It’s that he’s trying to get us right to the front door without having to climb any stairs. It never happens. It’s an old medieval area. The roads were never designed for anything other than people and animals. The driver does, however, get us to a short stone staircase that leads up to Radunica, a brief distance from the front door of our Airbnb. A little trundle down the stone-paved street and we have arrived.

The front door, right on the street, is not locked. We enter a tiny vestibule. Tiny. Barely room for two people. To the left is a narrow staircase. In the middle is a locked door, to the right, at an angle, is another locked door. Our instructions tell us that the keys are in the hole above the door. What?

We look up. Way up. Sure enough there is a hole in the wall. We see the keys dangling out. They are about eight feet up. It’s our first real indication that we’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole. Even by stretching, Don can’t reach that high. How are we supposed to get them?

I stand on S’s knee, and quickly reaching up I can just manage to grab them. We discover that the door in the middle leads to the apartment. The door on the right leads to the bathroom; the bathroom is not actually in the apartment. Perhaps if we search hard enough we’ll find the golden key that Alice found for the tiny door behind a curtain that leads to a garden.

But no, what we find instead is a museum of 1940’s domestic decorating splendour. It’s priceless. It’s wonderful. We wander up and down figuring out where we will all sleep, at the same time aghast and somehow thrilled by this elderly domestic marvel. Look at this one of us cries, come see this another says. I can’t figure out how to flush the toilet,

until Don reaches up and finds the button on top of the tank.

We all have some concerns about which outlets are safe for recharging our electronics. Some of the outlets look very very old.

We don’t stay in fancy places. Our criteria are clean, functional, reasonably comfortable, good location, all of which become more important of course the longer the stay. This is Don’s and my room in the beautiful place where we stayed in Vis, the apartment with the balcony looking over the harbour. The room is not fancy at all, but entirely functional except for the odd placement of the wardrobe making it unusable.

But this place in Split is on a whole other level. This is the hallway from the kitchen looking towards the front door (the bathroom door is at the end on the left).

This the room where L sleeps, with a truly vintage wardrobe.

Don and I have the far end room beyond the kitchen,

where the “decor” includes a basket of pegs, an iron from a bygone era, and this truly strange elephant.

S sleeps with the fridge at her feet,

on the daybed

in the kitchen.

Perhaps it’s not that we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole so much as we’ve stepped back in time. It is, in its own small way, a fascinating experience – strange, unexpected, amusing, and in the end quite good enough. Once we figure out how to reach the keys, and how to flush the toilet, it’s perfectly adequate for our needs for one night. We eat out, and next morning meet our taxi driver back in the same place that he’d left us the afternoon before, and catch an early ferry to Dubrovnik. Another overnight there before L heads back to Barcelona, S to Canada, and Don and I to Greece.

Thus ends The Croatia Chronicles.

Next post: Athens!

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2022.