Friday, 25 October 2013

Croatia: Split

My reaction to Split was a bit ambiguous.  When I saw Diocletian's castle wrapped around the base with street stalls, I sighed - yet another historical landmark turned into commercial crap - and this is supposed to be the jewel in the crown!  One couldn't see the castle walls because of the shops around it - I was so mad I forgot to take a picture of the ugly mess!  The entire arcade above the old stone foundations were filled with shops selling everything from fridge magnets to diamonds.

What you see in the photos below are the vaulted basement halls of Diocletian's Palace, reputedly the best preserved and most complete palace from Roman times.  The underground halls were identical in layout to the emperor's residence above and walking through them gave us an idea of what it would have been like "upstairs".  What impressed me most was the "dressed" stone blocks - perfectly cut and aligned.

This domed ceiling made the chamber a great place for oratory - acoustics are amazing.

These perfectly cut , mortarless, stones and door jams reminded me of very similar structures created by Inca stonecutters that we saw in Peru last year.  The Incas lived at least a thousand years after the Romans.  Take a look at the similarity between the two and the clearly superior workmanship of the Incas.

Diocletian's Palace basement (Roman)
Cusco's Temple of the Sun (Incan) 
Note the rough-cut stones above the mortarless stone blocks and the residential houses built on top of this historic structure

The innards of the castle were impressive but when one came out to the restored courtyard, it felt like a film set.  For a moment, it almost seemed surreal.  One could almost see Romans lounging around the courtyard and I wasn't seeing things when a couple of Roman soldiers actually came out in full dress complete with spears and armour.

Peristyle - the monumental court with its own Roman soldiers and 3500 year old Egyptian sphynx

Dramatic domed entrance to the emperor's quarters with great acoustics for the Dalmatian klapa - a cappella singers of soulful Dalmatian songs 

Beside the courtyard is the Cathedral of St. Domnius.  This was originally Diocletian's mausoleum, which explains its odd ugly structure - it is a one-room cathedral!   But what irony - Diocletian was notorious for the persecution of Christians and now his memorial commemorates Christians!  More attractive beside it is the awesome bell tower with its 183 steep steps - the view at the top was definitely worth the sore knees.   You get to see this gorgeous seaside town with its red roofs against the clear blue sky and the sparkling waters of the Adriatic - far from the madding crowd.  All the commercialism was 200 feet down - somehow it didn't seem so bad.  And what's wrong with shops anyway - I found a hat for myself in one of the alley shops.  Ignore the fact that it was made in Thailand - it looked good on me!

All the way to the top of the bell tower

Worth the climb! 

What's not to love about it?!

Looking down onto the courtyard from the tower

Split looked great away from the street market

Stumbling upon the lovely cloisters of the Franciscan monastery 

Roasting corn at the street corner

Believe it or not, this is a shopping street!
The historic town hall is now an Art Museum

Quaint clock and bell towers everywhere

The well-preserved east gate
And amazing seafood (for the story please visit Foodsparks)

I may be back!

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