Split is a city that grew up as a
palace. In his retirement years, the Roman Emperor Diocletian had an enormous
retreat built for himself on the Dalmatian coast, complete with housing,
temples, entertainment, and everything else the ex-ruler of the world could
need. Over the years various groups have claimed Split as their own, and
the city spilled out of the ancient walls onto the surrounding hillsides.
Today the heart of the city is still defined by the Roman center, but instead
of armed centurions, the outer walls are now patrolled by coffee drinkers
and scooter riders.
Entering the old city, we passed the
giant statue of the Bishop Grgur on Nin - whose shiny big toe attests to
the long-standing tradition that rubbing it brings good luck. Split's streets,
while Roman in origin, are very medieval in feeling. They are narrow and
tall, with many arches and overhangings throughout. Fantastic carvings
and statues can be seen on many buildings from a variety of epochs, and
periodic archeological digs reminded us that this city was still being
We had a lot of fun exploring the
statuary - Alea really liked the Madonna and child in the city museum,
and both kids were surprised at how small this life-sized gentleman from
years past was.
And what formal palace would be complete
without at least a few representations of the owner?
of the main squares was known as the peristyle, and Christians of
the middle ages recognized the symbolic importance of this area to the
city. Today, two churches face each other across the opening, with the
all-important Spilt cathedral dominating the skyline of the old town. Containing
a mix of artifacts from pre-Roman times (such as a 5th century BC black
sphinx) through the modern era, it is the natural focal point of activities
within the palace walls. We found ourselves wandering back to it many times
during the day - all roads literally led to it!
The underground vaults, now used as tourist
souvenir stands, were a cool respite from the warmth topside.
As we headed back to the car (again with
ice cream!!), we were all tired but pleased with our glimpse into Split's