The center of Split is built in and around a Roman palace. Not just any Roman palace though, it’s Diocletian’s palace. He built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. The ONLY Roman emperor to leave office by retirement (rather than death). Today it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace. You can learn more about it here: Diocletian’s Palace – Wikipedia
Patrick and I spent some time wandering in the basement halls, which are relatively unchanged throughout the past centuries. It was pretty amazing, but what was most interesting to me was the way people live their daily lives in and around and among this palace.
Oh, and did I mention he brought two sphinx over from Egypt? When we first saw them, a 4 year old was riding one like a horse.
The ‘old city’ of Varos within Split (within Diocletian’s palace walls) was fantastic. We spent most of our time in Split exploring these alleyways and alcoves and when we thought we’d seen each street at least three times, we’d round a corner and be in a new place. All this within only a few blocks. Some streets were so narrow that the sides of our packs touched the walls on either side, then it’d open up into a handful of tables and we’d sit for another pint of Ojzusko or Karlovacko (Croatian beers).
After our week vacation on Hvar, we made our way back to Split, Croatia. It is definitely one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been. The history, the culture, even the layout of the town, everything had a story. Diocletian’s roman palace, the ancient Illyrian settlements, the Balkan conflicts of the last century… all of these things have influenced and impacted this city and you can feel this history palpably as you wander through these winding, convoluted streets. Two days was definitely not enough time in this city, but it was just enough time to know that we’ve fallen deeply in love with so many different places in Croatia and it’s cats.
**oh yes, and Patrick found a pool hall. It was smoky and had people playing darts at the top of a staircase…staircase. darts. bad choices.**
So we rented a scooter to explore the island of Hvar a little. A 50cc scooter, with a seat no more than 12 inches long. It was…interesting. Carrying both of us, going up hill, it maxed out at 40km/hr. We took it on roads that haven’t quite been built yet and we cruised down slopes that we’re pretty sure were just sheep trails.
Now after all that, I’m pretty sure we’re ready to go on the Kerby bike tour this summer…because some experience on a 50cc scooter is all you need for that right??
**Take special note of how hardcore Patrick looks with that helmet on.**
The water in Hvar is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s all kinds of translucent green/blue beautiful and you can see clearly to the bottom in dozens of feet of water. It’s almost impossible to avoid tide pools when you walk along the shore because the water is so clear, it looks like glass over the rocks and you can hardly even see that it’s there. Life in Hvar is completely wrapped up in and around the harbour and it was fascinating to watch a culture revolving around the sea.
Each morning the town square, right at the mouth of the harbour, was full of people having coffee, pushing strollers, meeting friends, showing off their catch or just on their way out to fish. On their way home from school every day, kids play soccer and fix bikes along the water. Later in the evening, the restaurants lining the harbour display their fish menu for the night on ice at their entries. One evening we watched a fisherman standing on his boat, moored in the harbour. He was looking deep into the water, just leaning over the rail of his boat, then ever so slowly, he picked up this 12 ft trident and eased it into the water. We didn’t see him catch anything with it while we watched, but he looked like he knew what he was doing.
On our last night in Hvar, it was prom. Yup, that’s right, full out prom night. All the local teenagers were dressed up fancy, drinking in the caffe/bars in the square and lighting roman candles off over the harbour. Apparently they traditionally jump into the water in their suits and dresses, but this year the weather has been cooler than normal and so instead, they just partied all night in one of the many empty hotels on the water waiting for high season.
Here in Croatia, they are serious about their bocce ball. Everyday, there were crowds of middle aged men playing on the bocce ball court in Hvar and they were always all decked out in matching track pants, team shirts, team jackets and each had their own team bag for their bocce balls. Amazing.
This weekend seemed to be a tournament of sorts. While we were waiting for our catamaran to head back to the mainland, the winning team (also heading back to the mainland) was hanging out beside us. We know they were the winning team because they were carrying an oversized cup trophy with bunches of lavender coming out of it. As we waited, another team – one from the island – approached, serenading the winning team as they came. Also amazing. The winning team then met them half way, singing as they went.
I tried to surreptitiously video all of this so the video is kind of crap, but the sound is what is really golden here.
Above Hvar looms a huge fortress. Part of it’s walls date back to the first century BC. It’s pretty awesome and a decently long way up from the town. Here are some photos of Patrick & I’s adventure up there.
More crazy plants everywhere
Crazy plants everywhere
Parkour! off the fortress
Going out for a better look
with a crowd of 8 yr olds
Evening in Hvar is beautiful, quiet and usually warm. It makes for an enjoyable walk home along the water.
To be honest, we don’t know much about this church. It was built sometime in the 1460′s and it must not be open for visitors yet this season because we only made it into the front hall area. Apparently there is a 500 yr old cypress tree in the inner courtyard and the monastery is full of valuable artwork…maybe we’ll try to get in again tomorrow. As it is, what we saw was pretty awesome. I think my favourite part was the stone at the door, which has been worn into a slope from centuries of parishioners footsteps. Beautiful.