Split Contradictions

Split is a place filled with quirky contradictions. For example, it has a huge church in the middle of palace built by a guy that hated Christianity (actually maybe that’s just ironic. TAKE THAT DIOCLETIAN!!). In winter I’m usually colder in Split than I am in Zagreb (lack of central heating). There is even a world championship tournament for a game that is, and can only be played on the beach Bačvice. And the biggest contradiction? The discrepancy between the pride people have in Split’s beauty and the negligence of its upkeep.

If I had a kuna for every time I heard: Split je najlipši grad na svitu (Split is the most beautiful city in the world), well... I would have a lot of kune.  Yes. Split is a beautiful city.  It’s got an ancient palace, it’s got powerful mountains rising right behind it, it’s got the sea with ideal islands dotting the horizon. Watching the sun set from Marjan or dallying in the early morning waters at Kašuni are some of life’s most gratifying moments. From a distance Split looks ideal, but once you step into the details, that ideal quickly morphs into a fog of frustration.

I’m talking about trash, litter, garbage, refuse. It’s not uncommon to arrive at the sea early in the morning only to have the beach and water spoiled by the detritus of last night’s fun. Cigarette butts and bottle caps spread out in in the rising sun, while a few plastic bags bob like dead bodies in the lapping waves.

In some places you expect to see trash. It is a given on a dead-end road in the middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. The kind of place which local Okies will invariably turn into an impromptu dump. Old mattresses, smashed TV’s, spent shotgun shells and piles of tires sprout up like mushrooms on a forest floor. On the other hand, you don’t expect to see trash in one of the world cultural heritage sites right next to one of the world’s most beautiful bits of sea. Alas, it’s there and it’s frustrating because it is completely unnecessary, like an excess of makeup on an otherwise gorgeous woman.

Part of the problem maybe structural. The beach Žnjan probably gets thousands of visitors everyday in the high season and yet, there is hardly a trash can in sight. I eventually found one. A small square box a few meters from the actual beach. Of course in the course of the day it is overflowing and when you try to cram your own trash into it, it all spills out on the ground so then you say to yourself: Jebi ga. This can explain part of the problem. When I set my towel down I did so over a billion cigarette butts, a few bottle caps and even some used q-tips. Classy!

Sure, you might say this is the result of ignorant tourists coming and throwing their crap everywhere. But there is another piece to the puzzle. In the bit of grass outside of my punica’s apartment (what she calls the levada) I find a wide range of human derbis. Piles of cigarette butts gather in the dirty dead-zones under and around the benches. Rusty and shinny Karlovačko bottles caps poke their edges out of the scraggly grass. Lighters, batteries, shards of glass, clothespins, plastic atoms, and even a god damn spark plug plot along the well worn path. There are no tourists in this part of the town. This refuse is the result of late night loiters drinking and chain smoking while sitting on a bench. Or passerby who, for some reason, feel it is OK to toss their automotive parts into a park.

What the hell Split? Sure, every morning or every other morning someone from the city comes and picks up the big pieces of trash, but there is really only so much one person can gather in the course of a few minutes. Are the litterers waiting for their baka, mama or punica to come along and pick up their mess like they do at home? Well guess what? Mother nature isn’t your grandma!

For a guy from inland America, I have to drive 18 hours to get to a swimmable bit of ocean, its infuriating to see people treat a land as beautiful as Dalmatia like it’s some kind of trash dump. I would think that the people that live and breath by the sea, who pride themselves on the beauty of the coast and Split could do a bit better in keeping it clean. When someone tells me that Split is the most beautiful place in the world, I think: Yeah, it could be....

Some trash quickly collected around my towel on Žnjan, Split.