Diocletian does Split

Day 23
Split, Croatia

Our high speed Krilo ferry docked here from Hvar early this morning. After spending over a week in the quiet outlying islands, we felt a marked change after arriving in Split, the second largest city in Croatia. There are bus-filled streets, skyscrapers overlooking the port and a general buzz that we’ve not yet encountered in this country. We’re renting 13 Stones, a centrally located 200-year old two-bedroom apartment in a residential neighborhood, situated steps from the palm tree-lined harbor promenade in a private courtyard.

We spent most of the afternoon exploring Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman emperor of the same name between the years of 295 – 305. What makes these ruins all the more fascinating is that, unlike many others, they have not been relegated to a museum status seen only behind barricades. Instead, this site has become home to about 3,000 residents within the palace walls, as well as countless shops and restaurants.

The entire palace is huge — it measures 215 meters from one end to the other — and was constructed with no expenses spared. At its heart is the Cathedral of St. Dominus, which Diocletian originally built as his mausoleum. The doors were carved in the 13th century, depicting scenes from the life of Christ in 28 intricate squares. And, a climb to the top of the 60-meter bell tower offered views of Split, the Adriatic and beyond.

Afterwards, we walked through an open-air market, where vendors sold every item imaginable, from fruits and vegetables to soccer jerseys and pellet guns — and made sure to rub the left big toe of the statue of Gregorius of Nin, as doing so is supposed to bring good luck.

Tomorrow, we head to Brac, the largest island in central Dalmatia.

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