Split, Croatia (Split, Hrvatska)
Viewed from the sea, Split looks like a perfectly normal coastal Croatian town. Yet behind the palm trees and new plaster lies a Roman behemoth: Diocletian's Palace.
No amount of online research could prepare me for what the palace turned out to be. I thought, as with many Italian cities, the palace would either be crumbling ruins or a standalone building of grandeur that had been heavily modified over the centuries to enable it to remain inhabitable. What I did not expect was a collosal Roman compound that the modern Split had been built atop. It's not the size of a typical palace - it is huge and the entire historic city centre is within the outer walls. Diocletian's Palace is the beating heart of Split, living on through ever-changing constructions.
You'd just be walking along when you'd see a café with outdoor tables arranged in what may have once been a courtyard or even the inside of Roman Emperor Diocletian's bathroom facilities. The fascinating thing is that there's hardly any information provided, unlike many historical sites. When you then realise that the palace was completed in 305AD, it becomes quite mind blowing how long it's lasted.
We had taken a brief peek on the way through to Hvar, and decided that early morning would be the best time to venture out into Split again, as once dawn fully breaks the city teems with tourist life. The morning in question brought a gentle drizzle, so we donned our hoods and umbrellas. While shielding the camera from damp, the umbrella's edge dipped into frame mimicking our drooping eyelids.
The hollow altar in the centre of the small room was brimming with coins of every size and element.
Around the outside, the altar was ringed with symbols not commonly associated with those of the Romans. The man, who was then setting up his chair and ticket desk, explained that the altar was a later addition when the temple was converted into a church in the eleventh century.
The sun was starting to break through the clouds as we wandered back to our apartment, the streets glistening under the feet of locals heading to work and sleepy-eyed tourists seeking their coffee fix. It was only later that I learned that Emperor Diocletian had built the palace at Split as it was near his home in Salona (Solin), while being fronted by the sea. This was important, as with such a tumultuous area as the Croatian coast, he needed to be able to escape by boat quickly if things turned ugly. Interestingly, he was the only Roman Emperor to voluntarily step down from his title. His health was failing him and instead of ruling til his last breath, he spent the rest of his days tending to his garden. (Side note: after checking out we overheard some local youths saying "Boom-shakalaka!", "No, boom-shakalaka to you!" in passing. No idea.)
Today's post was almost called: Ho ho ho, Merry Splitness! (or Santa's Little Caper)