Split is a buzzing Mediterranean-style city that vibrates with tourists, chic dining and partying along its marble promenade. It looks just like you think the Riviera should…. white, grand open spaces, sun shining… backpackers sprawled out EVERYWHERE! Ships, both grand and tiny, from all over the world dock in its harbor, the 3rd busiest in Europe.
A city rimmed with beaches, our closest beach is a 10 minute walk from the ancient fisherman’s cottage we’re currently calling home. Located within the oldest part of Split, our apartment is extremely charming and well appointed, but like every other place we’ve been so far, by being located right in the heart of the action it’s of course hidden down a narrow, winding street built for horses and wagons not Opal Corsas! It took us several wrong turns and a number of vague directions from locals to get us here. But what a delightful surprise once we (finally!) found it.
Facing the sparkling harbor is Diocletian’s Palace, one of the most imposing Roman ruins that exist, and a UNESCO world heritage site. . It’s neither a palace (any more) nor a ruin, but a living, vibrant city within the city of Split. The labyrinthine streets are filled with people, bars, cafés, shops and restaurants. The narrow streets include homes of actual palace residents, their washing hanging out above the heads of tourists and revelers. It’s enchanting and almost surreal. Like you’re really on a movie set and someone will yell “cut, it’s a wrap” at any point!
The Palace is built of luminous white stone and was the summer palace of the Emperor Diocletian. Built over the course of 10 years starting in 295AD. The guy clearly spared no expense on his summer extravaganza as columns, statues and magnificent decorative touches abound. Entered through 4 gates — Bronze, Gold, Iron or Silver, there are 220 buildings within the palace that house the 3,000 residents. Not sure what the real estate prices are — an agent’s office is the one thing we didn’t find within the walls — I’d love the opportunity to see what the inside of a home there looks like.
Above our fisherman’s cottage is the Marjan Forest nature reserve and a 10 minute climb up a set of old stone steps reveals a look out that spans the entire city. If we followed the marked trails through the forest, we’d come to Bene beach, a much quiter, family style beach than the see and be seen beach (no sand) of Bacvice beach (the in town beach we visited yesterday), ringed with bars and restaurants and where concerts are held throughout the summer.
Before once again hitting the beach, today we dive deep into the palace, both for the walking tour and then just Erika and I, for the shopping. They say if you can’t buy it in Split it doesn’t exist in Croatia, and I think they are right.
I have to be careful though. One of the downfalls of travelling just with a backpack is the lack of space for purchases and souvenirs. If I’m not careful, Erika’s husband Ed with be saddled with carrying my Italian purse, and whatever other treasures I can fit into it, through customs. I wonder if they’ll believe that he packed it himself?….
On Monday we’ll tear ourselves away from Split and head 3 hours down the coast to our last stop, Dubrovnik. Absolutely everyone, including people in Split, rave about how beautiful Dubrovnik is. I can’t imagine how much more wonderful it will be than here… I’m enchanted with Split and am truly sorry to leave!