Thursday, September 11, 2014

Split Day Two: The Palace

Is that a Roman arch? Why yes. Yes, it is.
The big thing to see and do in Split is tour Diocletian's Palace. Our group, now a fivesome as we were joined by a married couple friends of the Sister, hired a tour guide and toured, guided, the Palace.

Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 AD until 305 AD. He was not a Roman; he was an Illyrian, the indigenous people of the Balkans during Roman times (and whose presence in Dalmatia pre-dated the Slavs). Diocletian is notable for splitting the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern halves. (That is NOT why the name of this city is Split, incidentally.) He is also noted for abdicating the Roman throne, which is highly unusual as Roman emperor's reign typically ended with death (often induced).

The narrow streets of the Palace section of Split
Diocletian's Palace is not some castle set off by itself, impenetrable unless the proper admission fee is paid. It is a working, living, breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping and shopping hive of activity that dominates Old Town Split.

And some streets are narrower than others
Within the palace walls are restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, apartments, a cathedral and the core of the old palace built in the late 200's A.D. There's a lot to see, so we got us a guide to show it all to us.
Lucy the tour guide
Meet Lucy. Our tour guide.

Lucy teaching us a lesson on Diocletian and his palace
So let's tour the palace.

The courtyard area in front of what is now a cathedral  
Roman arches
The buildings were made of the local limestone. No mortar was used. The Roman buildings are doing quite well 1800-ish years later, despite the fact that this is earthquake country.

The scaffolding is to stop one building from leaning into the other
Our tour group
Behind the cathedral
Faux Roman guards from the Diocletian Era. They're actually modern day Croats in costume.
The main rooms of the palace have been converted into ... guess. Shockingly, given that this is a very Catholic country, it was transmogrified into a cathedral. This is the Bell Tower. It's a new addition. It dates only to 1100 A.D.

Cathedral bell tower
You can walk up to the top of the Bell Tower for a 15 kuna ticket, which is about 90 cents. A lot of the stairwell is exterior. And the parts that are not are very tight and low (designed better for 12th Century bodies than a 21st Century Spretnak). So the question would be were I to walk it: which would get me first: the altophobia or the claustrophobia? I will never know.

Yes, narrow streets in the palace complex
Bell Tower and Diocletian's Mausoleum

Inside the Mausoleum.
By the way, Diocletian is gone. And not just in the obvious way. His sarcophagus was looted and his body taken out, likely thrown into the Adriatic as a big "thank you" -- well, some two-word phrase ending in "you" -- for being such a murderous thug to the Christians of Rome. Lucy said about half of the Christian martyrs got their martrydom on order of Diocletian. So, yeah, no "rest in peace" for you. 

Viewing the Bell Tower through the hole in the top of Diocletian's Dining Room
(which, incidentally, would make a GREAT name for a bar-restaurant within the Palace complex)
Living space within the Palace complex (from the modern era, not Diocletian's)
Bell Tower and Mausoleum plus another cool Roman ruin-building in the foreground
The narrowest street in the Palace complex
(NOTE: I am quite nervous about the prospect of getting stuck between the narrow walls)
Not only is the Palace complex full of history, it is full of faux history:

This photograph is legally not allowed to exist
For example, here's a photo I took before being told I couldn't photograph this. What is this? It's part of the palace that is being used in the filming of the TV series "Game of Thrones." Which I've never seen. So I don't know, for example, why the plot includes draping black fabric on ancient stone.

The southern wall was along the sea. Literally. It was right up against the Adriatic. See.

See the sea, And a big ol' date palm.
The rusted iron bars are not Roman. They're from the modern era. If they were Roman they would not have rusted.

There is a reason for that last comment. As told to us by Lucy:

Here's Lucy
The Romans invented cement. And they invented a high grade of cement that cannot be replicated in modern times. We lost the secret formula. Damn Visigoths.

The tour ended just in time to view the noon-hour ceremonial "changing of the guard." Basically, its shift change for the young men who dress up in faux Roman costumes to be the faux palace guard. But us tourists lap it up like ice water on a 115-degree Las Vegas afternoon.

Packed in elbow to elbow
Tourists can't get enough of anything labelled "changing of the guard." A faux Diocletian then comes out.

Faux Diocletian surrounded by his faux guards (but at the real palace)
He then orders the beheading of a couple of faux Christians!

No. Actually, he just says some words in Latin and it's all over in a few minutes. Then the the tourists can put down those iPads that they're holding up in the air to video the faux-ness.

But you want to know what wasn't faux? Lunch!

Salmon (lox), herring and an artistic balsamic drizzle for an appetizer
(And, yes, I did eat the tomato)
Sea bass over a bed of vegetables for main course
(I did not photograph the tiramisu dessert, seeing as it was too delicious. Best. Tiramisu. EVER.)
And then after a big lunch washed down with copious amount of wines, I was all like this:

Taking a cat nap in Diocletian's Palace
(Yes. I went there.)

No comments:

Post a Comment