New month, new country! We’ve moved on from Barcelona to the smaller, more relaxed Split, Croatia. Rather than being in the center of the crowded Old Town, we rented an apartment with a luxurious view in the suburb of Podstrana.
Split is an ancient town, and Roman ruins of an even older city are nearby. The oldest portions of Split are inside the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, the Roman Emperor’s retirement villa. Street-level lanes are narrow and puzzling; many buildings are constructed out of the palace ruins. But underground, the original foundations are largely intact. Entering into the Old Town from the waterfront, we passed through a subterranean gallery of small shops. On either side are entrances to the rest of the basement levels.
For hundreds of years, many of the rooms were full of rubble, but excavations started in the 1950s. Now dozens of rooms and halls are open. Many blocks are from the original construction around the year 300. Even some of the ceilings remain, with circular or angled patterns of stone. Some areas are still inaccessible – the foundations of street-level buildings rest completely on the rubble. Like a lot of other basements, the rooms are cold and damp. An assortment of green mosses seems to be colonizing the brighter areas.
Coming out the other side of the underground passage, the bell tower and Cathedral of St. Domnius sit on a small square. To the right is one of the old palace gates, the Iron Gate. The ruins merge seamlessly with the current structures; in some places there are even apartments inside the palace’s walls.
Claustrophobic streets open up to small squares or courtyards crowded with restaurants. We are here during the off-season, but outdoor tables, especially along the Riva waterfront promenade are still packed. It is clearly an area made for tourists, shopping, and eating.
Split was under Venetian control for portions of its history, and it feels very Venetian to us. The architecture, culture, and abundance of gelato stands remind us of northern Italy.
We really like the slower pace here – an afternoon of beach walking or watching a sunset is a perfectly acceptable way to spend time. Smaller towns, islands, and national parks also are beckoning us, but it is also nice to have a quiet place to relax after Barcelona.