Six years ago, Robyn Vulinovich Sisarich, 73, traded brilliant sunrises on the Gold Coast for scintillating sunsets on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, settling in the seaside town on Split, the country’s second-largest city.
“I bonded with Croatia many years ago,” says Robyn. “Here in Split I feel comfortable, at ease and safe. Plus the food is seasonal and the wine excellent. Also the close proximity to all other European cities, only a couple hours’ flight to the most distant countries of the U.K. and Scandinavia or a five-hour drive to Italy from Split, is wonderful.”
Split’s clean air, pristine water, abundant sunshine, stunning coastline and friendly people also contribute to the appeal of Dalmatia.
Since Robyn’s late husband, Branko, had originally come from Dalmatia, Robyn was already familiar with the area before she moved there. “We spent most of our holidays revisiting his homeland,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Split has long been a popular destination for people craving a Mediterranean lifestyle. The Roman Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace built there more than 1,700 years ago. Much of the palace shell remains today, creating an atmospheric old town that’s filled with boutiques, wine bars and restaurants.
“Croatia has always felt like home to me. It has a certain charm that is difficult to explain to those who have not yet visited these shores,” Robyn says. “The whole country moves at a slower pace than most other financially successful countries, including Australia.”
In Croatia, Robyn has more time for socialising and for catching up with friends over coffee. “Coffee is a ritual for many Croatians,” Robyn says.
Robyn’s seaside apartment is located in an area called Meje. Nearby, there are beaches, a forested park called Marjan and an art gallery housing the works of Ivan Mestrovic, Croatia’s most famous sculptor. Robyn’s rent is just $625 per month.
“I can comfortably walk to the centre of town in 15 minutes. The area is very quiet, with a lot of trees and gardens and a walkway by the beaches. It is also a very safe city. I feel extremely safe walking alone at night,” Robyn says.
With an airport, train station and extensive bus and ferry connections, Split is a regional transportation hub. The idyllic islands of Brac, Hvar and Solta make wonderful day trips and there are even overnight ferry crossings to Italy. Robyn has taken advantage of these travel opportunities and has explored much of Croatia. She has also visited Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, England and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Robyn makes yearly trips to Australia to visit her family, too.
“Since arriving in Croatia. I have travelled the entire coastline from the Italian border and the Istrian region in the north, all the way down to Dubrovnik and Montenegro in the south and most of the towns and cities in between. The Dalmatian islands are so very special, each one has its own highlight,” Robyn says.
“These islands were once part of the Venetian Empire and so the architecture is heavily Venetian, with clusters of stone houses, churches, monasteries, archways and cobbled laneways, terracotta roofs and green shuttered windows, overlooking a shimmering azure blue Adriatic Sea that takes the breath away.”
In her free time, Robyn enjoys walks by the sea, photography, reading and entertaining. And with Split’s large expat community, she has expanded her social circle.
“Many foreigners from the U.S., England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand make up a very active expat group in this city,” Robyn says. She adds that there are movie meet-ups, a Sunday walking group and other well-attended gatherings. An Australia and New Zealand group also organises Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup and Australia Day events.
Not only is Split a lively and idyllic destination, Robyn says that the city’s reasonable cost of living allows her to lead “a very comfortable life”.
“My Australian pension covers my expenses admirably,” she says. “For example, my hairdresser, (one of the better salons in Split) charges $35 for a cut, my compulsory private health insurance costs $90 per month and my car registration costs $630 yearly. Food and wine costs me approximately $100 per week. Long-term rental apartments are available from between $450 to $650 per month.”