Split: City With a Funny Name

Road trip

Travel is enlightening, to be sure, but driving from Split to Dubrovnik was a learning experience of an unexpected sort.

At one point on Croatia’s coast between Split and Dubrovnik, neighboring Bosnia has a tiny piece of land, called Neum for the town located there, that serves as Bosnia’s outlet to the sea and splits Croatia in two.

View of boats docked at Split on the south side of Diocletian’s Palace.

View of boats docked at Split on the south side of Diocletian’s Palace.

It takes about 10 minutes to drive across, but this involved going through passport control to depart Croatia, enter Bosnia, depart Bosnia and enter Croatia. And this was what was described as a “soft border” where visa requirements were not paramount.

However, Croatia joined the European Union as of July 1, 2013, and the EU won’t allow for soft borders because borders within the EU are essentially soft — or at times effectively nonexistent.

Therefore, visitors who need Bosnia visas (not Americans) will have to get those visas to drive across this area or they will have to opt for the more costly travel by ferry, or they could plan itineraries with flying in mind.

In addition, Croatians now need passports to cross this slice of land, not just the ID cards they used previously. This is one reason a percentage of Croatians were not thrilled about joining the EU.

The historical reason that Bosnia has a narrow band of land splitting Croatia is this: When Dubrovnik was an independent republic, it sold that bit of territory to the Ottoman Turks in order to separate itself from the Venetian-controlled lands, which happened to include Split.

Croatian history is convoluted, to say the least.

This article and its photos are by Nadine Godwin, the author of Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, which was published by The Intrepid Traveler.

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