Eurotrip 2011, Part 9: Palace Living (Roman Style) in Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

This installment covers Days 21–22 of my 2011 trip to Europe…

November, 2011 – We woke up very early in Zagreb to catch the train down to Split.  It was a unique journey.  We rode one train for a while, it stopped in the middle of nowhere and everybody on the train transferred to a bus. The bus then took us to a remote train station where we waited for another train to pick us up—this was all part of the one ticket we bought (apparently there was some issue getting a nonstop train, though we were able to on the way back).

In all, it was about a 4- or 5-hour ride, and there was some pretty scenery along the way. The following photos were all taken with my cell phone from a moving train, so they are of lower quality, but still a good representation of the Croatian countryside:

We arrived in Split that afternoon.  The moment we stepped off the train we were accosted by people aggressively trying to rent us rooms. We had already reserved a room, so we left the gang of prospective landlords behind and made our way into the city—and an amazing city it is.

Our first view of Split after exiting the train station.
Later we would be climbing that hill to the left all the way to the barely visible flag at the top.

Our primary reason for visiting Croatia had been to see Dubrovnik.  We knew we would visit other places along the way but did not have anything specific in mind. A friend of my uncle’s recommended Split and when I looked at it on the map, it looked like a good halfway point between Zagreb and Dubrovnik, so I booked us three nights. I’m so glad we decided to stay there because it is truly one of the most remarkable cities I’ve ever visited.

Split is built in and around the palace of the ancient Roman Emperor, Diocletian. The old palace structure houses everything from apartments to shops and restaurants. The city is completely integrated with the usable parts of the palace; I’ve never seen anything like it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After exiting the train station we headed down to the waterfront and I called the landlord with whom we had arranged a room to let her know we had arrived. She told us to meet her at a church near the waterfront. So we strolled along the water, eventually coming to the main waterfront and getting our first look at the magnificent, palm tree-lined Riva promenade.

The Riva

We met the landlord and she showed us to our apartment, a tiny upstairs room a little outside of the main city, but still within easy walking distance. After settling in and changing into shorts (the weather was unseasonably gorgeous for early November; it was even warm enough for shorts at night), we headed into the city.

As you walk around the core of Split, inside the ancient Roman palace walls, you are often strolling on the very same roads used by the Romans, still intact and lined with ancient temples and other structures. It was great to take all of this in at our leisure, but part of me wishes we had taken a walking tour with a guide who could have filled us in on the history. I did have a city map with points of interest marked, so that helped.

Palace Ruins
The square beyond the columns is one of the main squares of the city core.
The Bell Tower
An ancient Roman road and some more ruins.

For our dinner that night we decided to eat in one of the outdoor cafes along the waterfront as the sun set. I don’t recall much about the meal but the view of the Adriatic alone was worth the price of admission.

The view from our table.
Split at sunset.

Later that night we toured the sublevel of the palace. There isn’t a great deal to see down there, and they were prepping for an exhibit so there were a lot of anachronisms such as flat screen televisions, but because the architecture is identical to what the main floor of the palace would have looked like, walking through the sublevel gives you a good idea of what it would have been like to meander through a Roman palace in its prime.

One of the sublevel rooms.
We stepped into this cool courtyard during our sublevel tour.
Could almost be the set of a movie about Ancient Rome.

The next day we climbed the Marjan, a hill overlooking the entire city. The hike took a couple of hours with stops for photos of the countryside and some interesting vegetation that reminded me of something out of an Elder Scrolls game. The views along the way and at the top were breathtaking.

A zoomed-in view of the waterfront from halfway up the hill.
We made it!
At the top with the Croatian flag.
The Harbor
Zooming in on the other side of the city.

After returning from the climb we had some pizza for lunch and then walked around the city some more. Later that night we headed a bit off the beaten path for a nice dinner in a cute restaurant. We also booked an excursion for the following day to nearby Krka National Park to view the beautiful waterfalls, which will be covered in the next segment. In the meantime, here are a few more photos taken at night:

Some of the ruins with shops visible underneath.
An example of stores integrated with the palace interior.
The Riva

View more photos from Split

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