Meet Jelena (interview)
What inspired you to become a tour guide?
“My infatuation with Split amplified a passion in me to share the spirit of the city with guests from around the world. From Split’s magnificent history to ancient architecture, cultural heritage, and Mediterranean lifestyle, which permeates through its colours, aromas, and charisma.
I would often find myself in situations where tourists required information, whether they needed directions or wanted to find something to eat. I was so happy to share my local knowledge out of the honest joy I received in helping others – and having the chance to reveal the charms that make Split a truly authentic destination is gratifying in and of itself.
I aspire to show people how beautiful Croatia is and give them insight into the local life with insider tips, from knowing how much to pay for a taxi or where newlyweds should spend a romantic dinner.
I often ask myself: “How would I feel if I was travelling and didn’t know the ins and outs of the city? What would I want to know?” Perhaps that comes from my upbringing, where we always looked out for one another.
I have this inherent hospitality gene in me, and I am honoured that I get to do this for a living.”
“It’s important that my guests feel how we live. Apart from the history, I want to show them the nooks and crannies of the city, from where I have coffee and shop for groceries to where they should eat dried figs. I endeavour to show what it means to be a Split local. I want them to feel our leisurely Mediterranean lifestyle and how blessed we are to live here.
I also tell my guests about the personality of Split people, how they think their city is the most beautiful, and the various characters they may encounter. They may not remember how many centuries old something is, but they will remember the feelings the city gave them. The same rule was true with my students when I was a teacher – they may forget grammar, but they remember that you protected them and cared for them. Travellers like to know that someone is genuinely looking after them, and I want my guests to feel that I did my best to show them the heart and soul of Split.”
“Split abounds in history, which is found in the city’s historic core and within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. Not every day can you visit a city where the preserved walls of a Roman emperor’s palace still stand, let alone experience a mix of antiquity and modern life as locals light up its facades and roam its cobblestone alleyways. Decorated with bustling markets, boutique shops, and Dalmatian restaurants today, this 1700-year-old Palace has remained the heart of Split ever since.”
“Everyone should experience the spirit of Croatians. We are a small country of 4 million people who achieve incredible things, and sometimes we are not even fully aware of that. We have World Champion rowers, 2018 World Cup finalists in football, and many Olympic medalists. I’ll often run into some of Croatia’s most prominent athletes at my gym in Split. They’ll say hello to you and don’t expect special treatment wherever they go. They are like every regular citizen. Split doesn’t have ‘celebrities’ – I love that.”
“Cooking classes anywhere in Croatia! There are many great things to do and see in Croatia, but cooking classes are the best way to understand Croatian culture completely.
Croatians adore cooking, as it is our way of showing love – and no matter how hectic our lives have become, we still make time to sit together at the dinner table. You get a unique look into this beautiful tradition and insight into how Croatian families still live. Better yet, you get to experience the best of Croatian hospitality through home cooking.”