A Family Reunion in Split
Updated: Jun 3
After exploring the Krka waterfalls, we continued south down the Dalmatian Coast, where we would finally have the opportunity to get our folks together. Bridging Ukraine and the States, we organized a family reunion in Split.
Buffalo Meets Zaporizhzhia… In Split, Croatia!
Due to a combination of military moves, visa logistics, and geopolitical situations, our parents had yet to meet. As we reached the tail-end of our year overseas, we sought to fix that - in Croatia.
With relatively easy travel from both Ukraine and the US, a couple weeks in Croatia seemed like the perfect way to finally get the six of us under one roof. Jenna’s folks would fly from Zaporizhzhia, Chipp’s from Buffalo, and we’d hang out on the Dalmatian Coast together. In such a stunningly beautiful part of the world, even if the in-laws didn’t get along, who could complain!?
Still living in the world of COVID-related travel restrictions, we held off on giving our parents the plane-ticket greenlight until we were actually in Croatia. Yes, all of the country’s published guidance made travel appear fine, but we’d bumped into enough travel SNAFUs to not trust anything but our own experience.
Fortunately, we didn’t have any issues when we landed in Zagreb. So, our folks pulled the trigger, booking flights from their respective hometowns (and home countries!) into Split, the largest city in Dalmatia and a perfect launchpad for exploring the coast.
For the two of us, this would be a “vacation from the vacation.” To make the most of our two weeks with the folks, we both reached out to clients and let them know we’d need some time off. Could we have jammed some work into that time? Sure, but life’s too short for that nonsense, especially with such an incredible family-travel-and-bonding opportunity.
Plane tickets booked and dates confirmed, we got down to planning the details - month-ish in Croatia until our folks landed. As with the rest of our travels, we wanted to balance A) seeing cool places, with B) not feeling like you’re on the move every single day. So, we picked three different places for a few nights each - Split, Korcula, Dubrovnik, then back to Split to wrap things up. And, rather than jam a million things into the schedule, we settled on one organized-tour/excursion-type thing in each city, with the rest open to just exploring and taking in these new places.
The two of us arrived in Split the day before our folks’ scheduled arrivals - wanted to check into the AirBnB and get the lay of the land. Related, we found three-bedroom apartments for all of our destinations. In addition to making more sense financially, this is absolutely the way to travel - loved having kitchens to cook and living rooms to chat, relax, and have some (at times, many) drinks before heading out to eat!
The next night, Jenna’s parents - Sergii and Iryna - landed without a hitch. We picked them up from the Split airport, more than a few hugs were shared, and we headed home to catch up and have a snack.
Original plan was for Chipp’s parents - Jeanne and Moe - to land an hour later, so Chipp would just double back to grab them. Unsurprisingly, something had to get screwed up - everything had gone too smoothly until then. Their connecting flight from Germany was canceled, meaning they had to re-route via Zagreb, not landing in Split until after midnight.
Such is life, and we made the most of it. Jenna and her folks hit the sack, and Chipp returned to the airport a few hours later. Exhausted from the trans-Atlantic travels but happy to be there, we got back to our apartment well after midnight.
A Split Boat Tour
After chatting for a few, Jeanne tried to fight the jetlag and get a somewhat-normal night’s sleep. Chipp and Moe, lacking her maturity, got a dose of the “Night One Curse,” drinking a little more and staying up a bit later than necessary. Between this late night and their long previous day of travel, Chipp’s folks bailed on the early morning boat/snorkeling tour, opting for some decent sleep and a stroll around Split.
Back to the one-excursion-per-city plan, Jenna lined up an awesome, all-day boat tour. First thing that morning, Chipp, Jenna, Sergii, and Iryna walked out to Split’s seaside promenade and found our boat - a two-level cruiser job (probably not a technical boat term) - and hopped aboard. All-you-can-drink wine, seafood lunch included, and stops to snorkel and explore all over this part of the Dalmatian Coast - outstanding!
Big bottle of water and a couple glasses of wine, and Chipp largely fought off any lingering case of the “Irish flu.” And, by the time we pulled into the first snorkeling spot - a secluded harbor with crystal clear waters and a submerged wreck to explore - we were all too excited about diving in to worry about anything else.
For the rest of the afternoon, we cruised from spot to spot, swimming and snorkeling, laying out at secluded beaches, enjoying a delicious grilled fish lunch, and wrapping up with drinks in Maslinica harbor, a quaint town built into a natural harbor on the island just off Split’s coast.
Split Views, Cocktails, and Responsible Moms
The next day, the realization that we finally had everyone together truly sunk in - unbelievable feeling. And, the fact that our folks speak different languages really didn’t even matter. Moms are moms - they hugged and got emotional. Dads are dads - they laughed, told jokes, and drank to plenty of toasts.
Sure, Jenna - the resident linguist - had her hands full translating. But, between Chipp’s basic Russian, Google Translate, and Moe reaching back decades to his own Russian studies, we tackled the language obstacle.
We couldn’t have been happier - an experience we wouldn’t have traded for the world.
Back to Split… To get an overview of a city, you should see if from above. Split’s geography offers this opportunity. Most of the city sits on a peninsula, and a tree-covered hill rises above the surrounding area on the western tip. Climbing up through the neighborhoods at the base of this hill and into the wooded park itself, people willing to make the trek are treated to an incredible view of Split’s harbor, historic center, and sprawling palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian - well worth the exertion!
But, let’s not pretend we were just in this for the exercise. Midway up the hillside, an outdoor cafe serves as an ideal place to rest in the shade, enjoy a couple cocktails, and absorb the views over Split. Well, cocktails for some of us.
Jeanne: “I’ll have an iced tea, please.”
Iryna: “And a cappuccino for me, please.”
Great to have the responsible moms on duty as the “adults in charge!”
Family Dinners and New Fish
At each stop, we also tried to do at least one big dinner out in town. In Split, we found the perfect spot - Konoba Fetivi - an open-air seafood joint serving up delicious Dalmatian cuisine. In addition to ordering our folks obligatory servings of cuttlefish risotto, we were all introduced to a new favorite fish.
Embracing the local seafood scene, our waiter came out with a platter of freshly-caught fish, letting us pick our favorite. Lacking any real expertise (besides just loving to eat fish!), we turned the question around, asking the waiter his favorite - red dentex!
None of us had ever heard of it - apparently quite common in the Mediterranean. Well, our man didn’t steer us wrong. Grilled whole and seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, it was a phenomenal, melt-in-your-mouth sort of treat. For the rest of our time together, we made sure to order the dentex if it was on the menu!