Thursday, November 12, 2015

Split: A Tourist in Croatia, Part 3



The mountains followed our view from the window of our tour bus. As we neared our destination, I saw an intriguing view below. It was Split, the second largest city in Croatia. Its setting was dramatic: an enclave of a modern city, bounded by the mountains and the Adriatic Sea. We checked into a very modern hotel by the beach and I had hoped to spend some time enjoying the natural landscape, but we did not have time for relaxation on this trip.

We spent the next day exploring the old city. With cruise ships docked in the bay and the medieval façade in front of the harbor, Split looks like a city tailor-made for tourism. Behind the medieval façade was truly another city where the residents literally live in a Roman emperor palace – The Diocletian Palace.

 We toured the palace with a local guide who explained the history and then some entertaining story behind the excavation of the ‘waste materials’ that helped preserve the medieval structure.
We first toured the basement, where we stop to see a picture of the original palace as a point of reference. The palace was huge, 200 x 200 meters, and it was just the basement. The palace dates back to the 4th century and was abandoned during the Fall of Rome. Once literally hallways, make up the core of the old city. We walked through the arches while our guide talked about bricks and concrete walls, the Diocletian vestibule and pointed to where some scenes from the “Game of Thrones” were filmed. While the historical authenticity of the palace made it a UNESCO World Heritage protected site, the filming of the popular TV series there helped boost tourism.  From the basement underground hallways now used as shopping arcade, we continued on to the second level now used as residential homes and hotels.

We turned a corner to find Diocletian mausoleum, which was converted into a Cathedral. A few steps away we saw a temple dedicated to Jupiter and full of historical story from the Middle Ages to the 13th century to the modern world like the statue of St. John the Baptist.  

We passed through the alleyways with souvenir shops. We emerged from the gate to see more modern statues like the statue of Grgur Ninski (Gandalf).

It was truly an old city, restored medieval, and original Roman and Venetian style buildings, minus the shops selling souvenirs, and modern stuff like Prada sunglasses. We walked back to the narrow alleyways and came back to the same square with the statue of the poet Virgil (the drunken poet). 

One day there was plenty. I spent the rest of the day simply hanging out by the harbor, enjoying the view and the birds, and people watching along the pedestrian promenade on Riva Street. 

to be continued...

NOTE:  All photos by the author



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