Thursday, October 1, 2009


All along, we've wondered whether this was pronounced Split or Shplit. As I came to understand the Croatian alphabet, I imagined Split; it would need that little v mark over the top of the S to be Shplit. And that's what it is, in case you ever need to know: Split.

The main reason I wanted to go to Split was to see Diocletian's Palace, which isn't just some dusty old ruin. Instead, it's a structure that encloses ruins and stores and homes and cafes and a Temple to Jupiter and a headless sphinx from Egypt and all sorts of things. Plus lots of Split residents. We spent a lot of time walking through the palace, a good bit of time sitting at cafes, and a bit of time eating. First, the palace.

The first time we went to the palace, we entered through the cellar. The ceiling and just the space itself was awesome, but it's used by vendors who sell mostly souvenir-ish junk. So I just kept my eyes up.

Here is a bird's eye view of the way the Palace looked originally:
It used to be right on the water, though it isn't, now. Now there's a big promenade along the water. On another visit, we entered through the opposite side - look at this dramatic statue of Gregorius of Nin. If you rub his big toe, you'll come back to Split. It was very shiny, lots of rubbing.
I meant this photo to show the back of the palace, but when I saw it, I thought "Old Gregory likes the ladies." I am so silly.
I was eager to see the Temple of Jupiter, so I took a lot of photos. First, look up
at the ceiling - a barrel vault with a lot of carvings:
Here's a close-up of one of those squares - pretty creepy:
And here's the guy himself - Jupiter. What a strange hand he had!
In the center of the relatively small temple was a cross-shaped baptismal
font, with these carvings on the side:
And here it is, the now-headless Egyptian sphinx that was
brought over from Egypt to guard the Temple.
Here are some shots of the ruins in the interior of the palace. Amazing.
But you know, people live there too, and work in all the boutique shops, run the hotels, etc. A couple of places people live:

There was one experience I had that was haunting and so beautiful it made me cry, and I had to stop a few minutes after it was over to get a little more crying out. There is a style of traditional Croatian singing called klapa, which uses religious harmonies to sing sentimental songs about romance, patriotism, etc. Only men perform klapa, and there are 6 or 7 men in a group. In the one we saw, the men wore white shirts, black pants, and red cummerbunds. They sing a capella and sure, I'm a sucker for religious harmonies, a capella, and sentimental melodies, but that music was being sung in a huge round space in the palace, with a dome on top and an opening in the dome. The acoustics were wonderful, and even writing about it is choking me up.

the space
the group
I stood next to an old man who was clearly moved by the singing; he moved his hands as if directing the group, he sang along softly, and his eyes were closed. I think I'll always remember that moment.

Split isn't just Diocletian's Palace, although we didn't see much more than that. The huge esplanade that fronts the water is paved with white marble and a long row of cafes with a hideous, controversial, out of place modern white structure holding umbrellas over the tables. Here's a flattering photo of it at sunrise:

See? Modern and hideous and no connection to its context.
We walked around to see houses in the hood:
And we also saw this, a monument erected for the one thousandth anniversary of the first mention in writing of fishing in Split:
We decided to leave a day early because we'd seen all we wanted to see. We took the car ferry to an island off Split called Brac, about an hour away. There is a town called Bol on the opposite side of the island, and we headed there to try our luck with finding a place to spend the night.

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