Split, a Croatian City That Seduced a Roman Emperor
May 15, 2012 - Croatia
An amazing feeling creeps up when you visit the coastal city of Split in Croatia for the first time. You see an entire city that grew out of the ruins of an ancient Roman palace, much as a walnut tree might grow out of a walnut shell. The modern main streets are the same streets built by Emperor Diocletian; the 1700-year-old stonewalls, columns, and sphinxes jump out at every turn. Because of its ideal climate, with 2,700 hours of sunlight each year, local people have a few nicknames for Split: "The most beautiful city in the world" and "Mediterranean flower". Sportsmen are traditionally held in high regard in Split, and the city is famous for producing many champions. As reported by the Financial Times in March 2012, Split is No 1 among the 10 most alluring world heritage sites to live in.
Split: The City Soaked In History
Split in Croatia is one of southern Europe's liveliest and most alluring spots, the sort of place that manages to seduce into staying visitors planning on just passing through. The wide bay was awash with small local ferries jockeying for position with the larger ships that ply the coast and service the 1,185 islands that dot the country's waters
Split is the largest city on the Croatian coast, however, its city center is relaxed, with very little car traffic. Home to quietly humming cafes, outdoor markets, and artisan shops, the cobblestone streets seem to hold a million secrets. Riva, the main seaside promenade, provides views of the Adriatic Sea and the sailboats coming and going from the islands. Swimming and tanning are popular activities, and there are beaches within walking distance of the town center.
You can spend the day lounging on the beaches or soak in history; Split is home to one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world - the Diocletian Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since it was built, the palace complex has housed many; at first these were the palatial staff quarters, today they house local citizens. This intriguing combination of history and everyday routine adds to the mystery of the complex. The palace was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian as a retirement home. He wanted to spend his remaining days closer to his birthplace, Salona, the then capital of Roman Dalmatia. Split being just four miles away proved to be an ideal location; the topography ensured he'd always enjoy a strategic advantage in case of any hostile approach, and he had more than enough room to build a luxurious palace that reflected his position and housed his staff. Split's development as a prominent city was a result of this move.
At the heart of the palace is the monumental courtyard known as the Perystile. The Emperor used to entertain visitors in this lavish courtyard. And though the Emperor is long gone, the flow of visitors to his court has only increased: you'll find tourists gathered around the massive columns and arches with guidebooks and cameras all year round. The Perystile leads to two fascinating parts of the complex. Stairs take you to an elaborate network of underground vaults; these were used as prisons and torture chambers where Christian saints were persecuted on the Emperor's command. Today you can buy a selection of local crafts here.
The Perystile also leads up to the Cathedral of St. Dominus. Call it irony or call it karma, the cathedral stands over what was originally built as Diocletian's tomb. Inside, the cathedral offers a rich collection of art and sculptures from the 14th century.
Along with centuries of history, the palace complex and walls are dotted with several local and cultural landmarks. Right outside the palace gate stands a towering statue of 10th century Croatian leader, Gregory of Nin. They say if you rub his big toe and make a wish, it comes true. I'm waiting for the results on that one.
The Split Old Town is full of charming nooks. Tiny lanes take you past make-shift stalls full of local crafts and cheap souvenirs. They weave in and out of meeting spots like the People's Square with the Clock Tower and City Hall, Veli Varos (a quiet medieval fishing settlement), and the busy fish market. Along the way you'll also bump into several impressive museums, like the City Museum of Split, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum (founded in 1820, this is one of the oldest museums in Split, Croatia), and the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery, all within walking distance of the palace.
Along the outer side of the palace walls, you can find a number of cosy cafes and restaurants. These are packed during the summer months, as is every place on the Split promenade. If you find yourself a free seat, be sure to grab it and not let go. There's nothing more relaxing than unwinding at one of these cafes after a day of sightseeing. Watch the ferries float in and out of the harbour, the seagulls swoop in and fly off, and the crowds surge around you, while enjoying a cup of coffee and the blazing sunset.
"The Sportiest City In The World"
Sportsmen are traditionally held in high regard in Split, and the city is famous for producing many champions, so locals often nicknamed their city as "The sportiest city in the world". The most popular sports in Split are football (soccer), tennis, basketball, swimming, rowing, sailing, waterpolo, athletics, and handball. The most popular sport institution is the football club Hajduk. The whole city is painted with the club's colors and logo. This is done by Torcida, the oldest supporters group in Europe, established in 1950.
Perhaps the most impressive homecoming was that of Goran Ivanisevic, Wimbledon Champion in 2001. The whole country, it seemed, came to a standstill and 150,000 were on the streets to greet him and to party with him and celebrate his win at Wimbledon.
Picigin is a traditional local sport (originating in 1908), played on the famous sandy beach Bacvice. It is played in very shallow water (just ankle deep) with a small ball. Picigin is played by five players. The ball is the peeled tennis ball. There is a tradition of playing picigin in Split on New Year's Day, regardless of the weather conditions, in spite of the sea temperature rarely exceeding 10 °C.
Marjan, a hill situated on the west of Split is an oasis for many people who look for a natural stress relief, a great place for long walks, jogging, and bike rides. Marjan's peak, Telegrin is 174 m high and gives a wonderful panoramic view of Split. South cliffs are popular within alpine climbers.
Split Riviera: Great Diversity In Accommodation
Split Riviera offers a great variety of accommodation but traditional Dalmatian stone houses give a special experience. All the accommodation in the Orvas Hotels range must have that special something which best reflects the place it is in. We aim to give all our guests an authentic experience of their chosen destination. The useful information we provide will make it simpler to plan your trip, help you be better informed about your chosen destination and give you plenty of suggestions for how to spend your time there.
We choose our accommodation with great care, because we want it to stand out in a crowd of alternatives. Orvas Hotels is special because most of the buildings in our range are our own property.
Today, Orvas Hotels has a whole spectrum of different property types in its range, from luxury villas with pools, authentic old stone houses, outstanding homes, light and spacious apartments in carefully selected locations of Split Riviera and the nearby islands, Brac and Hvar.
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