Suitcase and World: Split. The home of Diocletian.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Split. The home of Diocletian.

ur first full day in Croatia was spent in Split - home to the palace of the former Roman Emperor, Diocletian.

The day started with breakfast at the hotel followed by a short walk to the bus station. There we waited for Bus 37 which we knew would take us to Split.  

We settled into our seats and enjoyed the local ride - we stopped to pick up passengers all along the way. Soon enough, city landscape of Split came into view. The bus pulled into the bus station and we got off. Now came the challenge was to try and figure out which way to go. We started walking, following the crowd and at the same making a mental note of places and streets we passed along the way - those memories would serve as "breadcrumbs" so we would know how to get back to the bus station later in the day!

Between the crowd and our own instincts, we eventually arrived at a green park. There stood a monumental statue that I immediately recognized from all the pictures I had seen of Split. The sculpture depicts Grgur, the bishop of Nin. The sculpture was made by Ivan Mestrovic in 1929 and originally stood in the center of Peristyle untill 1954. Grgur Ninski (St. Gregory of Nin) was 10th century bishop who strongly opposed the Pope and official circles of the Church. His greatest contribution to Croatia was the introduction of the Croatian language to religious services which were all conducted only in Latin and were therefore, not understood by the majority of the population. Allowing for sermons to be conducted in Croatian served to strengthen the acceptance of Christianity in Croatia. Over the years, Grgur’s big toe has been worn down because of the local legend that says that you have to touch his toe each time you pass by if you want good luck and if you want your wishes to come true.

The sculpture of Grgur stands facing the northern wall of Diocletian's palace.

Once inside the palace walls, we found ourselves in the same narrow alleyways as in Split. Commercial establishments and private residences lined the alleyways and were tucked into nooks and crannies. Even though the skies were cloudy, casting a gloomy gray light on the stone buildings, everything was just sooo charming.

We window shopped our way until we reached the southern wall of the palace. There, were greeted by a lovely promenade and the beauty of the Adriatic Sea beyond. The wind was gently blowing. There's something about the breeze coming off the sea that just relaxes every bone in my body.


The flower beds were planted with lavendar, a very popular flower in Croatia. We saw sachet after sachet of the dried flowers being sold in stores everywhere we went. It also happens to be one of my favorite flowers. When the breeze blew just right, I was lucky to catch a faint scent.

Split's promenade is not very long - you can easily stroll from one end to the next is less than 10 minutes. After we soaked in the sea breeze, the gentle scent of lavendar and enjoyed the views, we head back inside the palace walls. We found ourselves inside wandering through a square. By now, we needed our mid-morning break. We found an outdoor cafe with views of the square - perfect for people watching. A couple of cups of coffee later and we were back in search of the Peristyle.

Wandering this way and that way, we meandered our way and eventually stumbled into the Peristyle.

Along with all the other tourists, Lei and I twisted and turned our bodies, crouching down to try and capture pictures of this most famous of Croatian historic landmarks - especially the cathedral tower. The area surrounding the Peristyle is filled with cafes and shops. Street vendors selling their artwares are scattered about here and there. Lei and I wandered through the area around the Peristyle and then headed into the cathedral. There was not much to see inside the cathedral which is teeny compared to most cathedrals.

Back outside, Lei opted to climb to the top of the cathedral tower for a view of Split from high above while I strolled the area around the Peristyle. Stone carvings adorn every surface. There was even an Egyptian sphynx flanking the steps leading up to the entrance of the cathedral.

Lei and eventually back up and we wandered more streets. There is just a quaintness to old Crotian streets that's hard to describe. It's not that they're lively because, with the exception of the commercial establishments, we never rarely saw people outside their homes. Perhaps it's the windows - all of which are unique in style and design though green seems to be the favorite color. Or perhaps it's that people here love to decorate the exteriors of their homes with flowers - flower boxes are a common sight. No matter the reasons, we just enjoyed strolling the streets and looking at the sights!

On our walk, we came across another one of Split's famous historic buildings. Built in the 15th-century, this Gothic town house is the Papalic Palace. Split's City Museum is on the town house's first floor. We were in no mood to see the museum so we just admired the exterior of the building.

After lunch, we walked a bit more and then decided to return to Trogir. Finding our way back to the bus station was a bit of a challenge but thanks to the kindness of strangers and our ability to remember the obscure "breadcrumbs" we had identified earlier in the day, we managed to find our way back.

Diocletian's home. Wow, the guy knew how to build a home. Walking through Old town Split, I could only imagine how grand and expansive Diocletian's palace must have been like. Today's residents of Split are so lucky to be living their daily lives in such a historic place.