2018 Day 78 – Split

You know it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to find a squirrel, right? With a whole headland devoted to the Park Suma Marjan, surely I’ve got a better than average chance? I’ve been Googling, and I can see others have had success…and I do have those walnuts from Tivoli Park, Ljubljana burning a hole in my pocket.

We slow the pace to start, with a much more leisurely approach. I can’t resist a bit of exploring though, through the morning markets on the edge of the Palace. No commercial ventures here: this is produce is from home gardens, tiny stalls offering a few, perfectly grown, utterly fresh options.

Having cooked last night, lunch is second order of the day. For once we steer clear of classic traditional fare, seeking instead a modern twist on traditional ingredients. Guided ably by our knowledgeable waiters, we wine and dine on the Dalmatian coast’s best. Chris has smoked risotto with oysters, mussels and prawns, topped with a parmesan gelato.

We share an almond crusted, prosciutto stuffed nibble to start.

I have the seabass, crispy skinned on a cauliflower puree, grilled zucchini and a tomato tapenade.

Two superb local wines, a Mimica Pribidrag and a J. Krajancic Nerica Posip ease us gently into the afternoon.

Just as well Chris is in a mellow mood. We meander our way to the headland,

a surprising distance away, to find it up a steep hill. Ah well, upwards and onwards then.

Park Marjan is largely devoted to wild plantings, pine trees aplenty, with only a few limited access points. It’s popular with joggers, but even they are occasional.

I’m the only nutter with my eye firmly on the treetops, hopefully carrying a bag of nuts.

It’s a beautiful, if steep climb. We’ve chosen the less traveled path made of rocky steps in the hope of improved spotting chances. Laden with good food and wine, there’s a bit of background muttering about “the things I do for you”, which I happily ignore. Too excited at the thought of squirrels to take it seriously. I asked our waiter if there really were squirrels here. He said yes!

The headland is huge, there’s no way we can lap it in the mid afternoon, but around a third of the way in, I hear it – the unmistakable sound of sharp little teeth hard at work on a pine cone. Success!!! A gorgeous, tufted, wee red beastie, there at last.

He who thought I had no chance, is most impressed.

Now what I’ve found, is a proper, wild red squirrel. He knows not about ladies offering walnuts, despite all entreaties. It’s still an utter thrill, and to thank him for obliging, I leave a pile of walnuts nearby and scatter a few more into the bushes. The hill is long forgotten – I skip happily to the peak. Almost equally rewarding is the view from here – Split’s glorious harbour lies below.

We’ve been walking for well over an hour when Himself starts making noises about turning around, taking the other path down. I eventually oblige, dragging my heels. I’m not silly. It’s 4 pm, and as those who love squirrels know, 4 pm is also known as squirrel o’clock. It’s when they wake from their midday slumber, ready for the end of day forage. Knowing this, I’m in no hurry whatsoever.

This strategy pays off handsomely. On the way down success is not only immediate, but frequent. We also see our first squirrel again!

We see an equal number of red and brown squirrels, each with their gorgeous creamy white bibs, eight in total. Eight! Eight wild squirrels!!

Like the first one, they have no knowledge of free treats, nor ladies who offer them. Like the first, each one will hopefully come upon a surprise stash of walnuts later. My heart sings all the way down. Our last sighting was of two reds, chasing each other through the tree canopy. Hopefully with a litter of spring babies in mind. What a perfect, safe, wild location for them to grow up in. This makes me very happy.

Our path steps down all the way to the harbour.

There’s a steady stream of tourists huffing and puffing their way up the stairs to the viewing platform at the base of the park. Little do they know what treasures they’re missing out on, above.

I’m far too excited to go home. We walk the harbour instead, find burek for dinner and inquire about the ferry service to the island of Hvar, for tomorrow.

There’s kittens to play with and the beautiful square to sit in.

First Slovenian squirrels, now Croatian. I’m declaring this trip a squirrelly success. Our gorgeous beach waits for us at home. Loving it here more each day.