Today’s port of call from our Adriatic cruise is Split, Croatia.
If you aren’t familiar with Split, it is the 2nd largest city in Croatia. Many people enjoy Split for its beaches, but we were much more interested in the fact that Split was built on the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, a Unesco World Heritage site dating back to A.D. 295.
Diocletian was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305. He was the first Roman emperor to ever voluntarily give up the position and retire. In fact, only 20 of the 70 Roman emperors died of natural causes, the rest were assassinated, died on the battlefield, were executed or forced to commit suicide (check out this link to read more about the demise of various Roman emperors). Anyway, Diocletian built his palace in Split to serve as his retirement home.
It took 10 years to build and Diocletian spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and 12 sphinxes from Egypt.
They call it a palace, but in reality it was more of a military fortress with an imperial residence and a fortified town within its walls. There are 220 buildings within the walls. One thing that Mr. Q really wanted to find when we were there was a small model of the walled complex that he could buy, and lo and behold, he did find one.
That gives you some idea of what it would have looked like in Diocletian’s day. Back then the waterline would have been at the front door (it no longer is).
Our ship docked just a short walk away from the Silver Gate, or the eastern entrance into the walled city.
The walk from the port to the Silver Gate takes you past a bus station and a strange gauntlet of luggage storage kiosks. I’ve never seen so many people who want to store your luggage for the day. Apparently travelers come to Split by ferry or bus just for the day and need to store their luggage somewhere while they hit the beach or explore the town.
But, more importantly, our walk also took us past an ATM machine. Croatia has its own currency called the Kuna. We withdrew a small amount of cash just in case we needed some, and lucky thing because the public bathrooms in Split are not free of charge.
We spent a bit of time just wandering around Split and admiring the unique look of ruins within a thriving city starting with the peristyle. A peristyle is an open colonnade surrounding a court.
Here is my handsome husband with the peristyle behind him.
As you can see, this particular location was a tourist magnet. How many tourists with cameras can you spot in this next photo?
We had sort of entered the peristyle through the back door. The front door would have led into the Imperial Audience Hall with its oculus, which is just beyond that arched opening directly opposite in the above photo. I’m sure the hall was designed to impress visitors as they arrived at Diocletian’s palace.
The building to the left (which is not at all visible in my photo of the peristyle) is the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. The structure itself was built in AD 305 as the Mausoleum of Diocletian. According to Wikipedia, it was later consecrated as the Cathedral of Saint Domnius at the turn of the 7th century AD and is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure, without near-complete renovation at a later date (though the bell tower dates from the 12th century, and was totally reconstructed in 1908 after it collapsed). By the way, Saint Domnius was martyred by Diocletian. Hmmmm. Such irony.
That bell tower is stunning, don’t you think?
Finally, off to the right when looking at my photo of the peristyle is the Temple of Jupiter. However, this dude on display inside the temple is not Jupiter …
Instead this is a modern day bronze statue of St. John the Baptist, and I have no idea what he is trying to convey with that hand gesture.
But you have to look up to see the real treasure inside the temple. It’s this vaulted ceiling which is original to the 300 A.D. structure.
Each of those 64 panels has a face in the middle representing a particular human emotion. Let me get you a close up so you can see them …
Slightly freaky, am I right?
After visiting all of these spots we just wandered the town for a bit. I simply had to snap a quick photo of this impossibly chic woman as she walked by …
I felt like I had literally stepped into the pages of a fashion magazine. European cities simply have the best people watching opportunities!
After exploring for a bit, we came upon a coffee shop and the smell of rich, dark coffee brewing drew us inside for a coffee break.
Comically enough, shortly after we sat down with our coffee the skies opened up and it poured rain. Honestly, we hadn’t even seen it coming. It had been a lovely sunny day up until that moment. Seriously, check out all of my photos above, the sky is blue!
So, what was only going to be a quick break for one cup ended up turning into a 2nd cup (and the use of a complimentary toilet) while we waited for the rain to subside. In the meantime a lovely young couple ducked inside with a small baby sleeping in a baby carriage. They sat at the table next to us and we struck up a conversation. I have to tell you guys, this is Mr. Q’s favorite part of traveling. He loves to meet people and just talk to them, he is a true extrovert. The young man was from California, but his wife was from Split. They lived in California, but had brought their young baby to meet the family in Split. They told us that they actually got married in the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. I bet that was a beautiful wedding.
The rain eventually passed and Mr. Q and I said goodbye to our new friends and headed out to stroll around some streets that were a bit more wet now before eventually making our way back to our ship.
We stopped off at a little kiosk along the way to spend the rest of our Kuna on some pop (FYI, that’s Minnesotan for soda for those of you not from around here) and a bag of chips (or as the British say, crisps).
By the time we got back to the ship the sun had come back out.
So we were able to sit on our balcony with our feet up, relax and enjoy the view before our ship once again set sail. Next we are headed back to Italy, this time to Ravenna. Be sure to check back next Wednesday to learn more about Ravenna and its beautiful mosaics.