I find a parking space only a 10 minute walk from our destination, Diocletian’s palace in Split. I feel lucky. For the first time we are surrounded by tourists and all the parking spots are taken. it’s Good Friday, the start of a holiday weekend in a very Catholic country.
Today we are driving to Dubrovnik, our final destination. But first we stop in Split, the second largest city in Croatia. As a city, Split is a little bit of everything: tourism, industry, transport hub. It’s unremarkable though, and many guidebooks suggest staying elsewhere (like Trogir.)
But it does have Diocletian’s palace. Diocletian was a remarkable Roman Emperor in the 4th century AD, toward the end of the Roman Empire. In fact he is credited with being smart enough to postpone the fall of the Roman Empire by a century or two by splitting up power, re-establishing borders and creating a widespread and effective bureaucracy.
He was also the last Emperor to preserve the pagan religion of ancient rome and persecute Christians. Christianity became the preferred religion after his retirement.
We expected a museum or something, but in fact the palace is the old city of split itself. There are remnants but people just live here now. Apparently it went into disrepair for a few centuries after it was abandoned in the 5th century some years after he died, and has been a city ever since.
The most exciting part was the walk up the bell tower of Saint Dominus Cathedral on the grounds of Diocletian’s palace and the supposed burial place of Diocletian. It wouldn’t have been a cathedral when he was buried there, but was converted to use for Catholicism in the 7th century, making it the oldest Catholic church on the planet.
The bell tower was added in the 12th century and rises up high over split. The narrow stairs and wide open arches and high winds make for an exhilarating walk up. At the top we can see Trogir, all of split and many of the island in the Adriatic.
There are a lot of tourists and souvenir shops. It’s a bit surprising after so many days of quiet. The basement area is crowded with hawkers and cheap jewlery stands playing YMCA, to which the girls break out in dance.
But with the tourists come more open restaurants. We find a little asian place run by Croatians.
It’s not very good, but it’s so nice to eat something other than pizza, pasta, bread and eggs.
We all enjoy it. (No, Emma you can’t have the oreo cookie crepe for lunch.)
And then we depart for Dubrovnik, which takes us a lot longer than we expected but is a pretty nice drive overall. We travel through Neum, which is Bosnia and Herzegovina. They stamp our passports, we drive a few miles, they stamp them again and we are back in Croatia.
We won’t count that as a country. Generally our rules are 1) it has to be on the UN country list. Sorry Somaliland, Scotland, Zanzibar. 2) you have to stay a night outside the airport. I was considering going to Bosnia and Herzegovina to see Mostar but we didn’t have time on a short trip.
I’m pretty sleepy when we stop and Amanda takes over the driving. She pulls into the airport about 7:15pm and we are picked up and taken to our last and probably best part of our trip, the walled city of Dubrovnik.