Got up at eight o’clock and made use of the power shower in the large bathroom, enjoying the feel of the powerful water spray on the skin and hair. Freshly showered, shampooed and into clean clothes, we went down to the hotel restaurant; the other five were already there and, once again, we regaled each other with tales of how we had spent the evening yesterday.
There was a good selection at breakfast, and we enjoyed just taking our time. Afterwards we returned to room 511 and sat out on our terrace for a while, basking in the morning sunshine and thinking pleasant thoughts.
Shortly before 10.30am we made our way to reception where our local guide, who introduced himself as Marin, was waiting for us. Once all seven of us were present, we all set off on foot to explore. Following our guide along the street, we soon came to an area where there was a large ’roundabout’ (but not a traffic roundabout) that had trees growing in the centre, and a handy ledge running around it that acted as a seat. Marin suggested we take the weight off our feet for a while as he explained a little about the history of the city. As we sat there, a large white cat appeared from within the trees at the sight of a lady opening a tin of cat food. Before the cat had a chance to eat any of the food, a flock of pigeons flew down in a flurry of grey feathers, and snatched morsels of the cat foot before the cat even had the chance to get a look-in! What sort of cat was that, allowing birds to steal his food?! He just sat there nonchalantly, his front paws tucked under him; judging by the size of the cat (he certainly wasn’t starving) we figured he mustn’t have been hungry, and he just sat there placidly as a number of passers-by stroked and petted him.
I’m sorry to say that we were so taken up with the antics of the pigeons and the cat that we had missed what Marin was telling us, and it was time to move on. 🙂
Soon we came to a magnificent building, the signage along the top of the proclaiming that it was the Croatian National Theatre in Split. It was a pale yellow colour with tall windows, balustrades and statuary. It was originally opened in 1893 and is one of the oldest surviving theatres in Dalmatia. In February 1970, the theatre was severely damaged by fire, and over the following decade the house ensembles had to perform at other venues in Split until the newly rebuilt theatre opened its doors once again in May 1980.
Outside the theatre was a larger-than-life statue of a man in a suit doffing his hat. A nearby plaque announced that it was Gajo Filomen Bulat, who was the mayor of Split between 1885-1893 and who had encouraged the building of the theatre.
Continuing on our way, we passed more buildings with ornate architecture, as we walked along the wide promenade of the sea front. There is so much to see and do in Split, and if you are not impressed at your first sight of the wide and sweeping, tree-lined sea front, with its shabby-chic old building façades on one side and its harbour containing many vessels, from small motor boats to giant cruise ships, then you really ought to be! 🙂
You can’t go far in Split at all without coming across Diocletian’s Palace. It was built in the 4th century AD for the Roman Emperor Dioclatian, and makes up around 50 per cent of Split’s old town. It was supposedly built as a retirement residence for Diocletian, but the word “palace” is a bit of a misnomer as it is massive and more resembles a large fortress; around half of it was meant for the Emperor’s personal use and half was to house the military garrison.
The palace was/is indeed very impressive. Grand old portals, gates, arches, pillars and courtyards and crennelated walls easily transported you back through the centuries. What I found so amazing was that so much of the palace now houses souvenir stalls and little ‘curiosity’ shops, chic restaurants and bars and smart pavement cafés. A large square with Jupiter’s Temple as the backdrop is the gathering place for people in the evening, who hope to see some live music or perhaps enjoy a cocktail or two in Luxor’s, a fashionable bar.
Most remarkably, mixing the old with the new worked perfectly; rather than mar this historic reminder of the powerful Roman Empire, the modern businesses enhanced them, and I wondered what Diocletian himself would have thought if he could see that his palace is still effectively in use today. 🙂
As we walked through each of the rooms in the palace, we didn’t know what we were going to see next. In one are there was a quartet of men singing a capella. They all sang in harmony and received an enthusiastic round of applause afterwards. Then one of the guys came round trying to flog USB sticks and CDs but realistically – was anyone ever going to listen to it again after today?
Exiting the palace’s Golden Gate, we spotted some guys who were dressed up as Roman gladiators. As I took a photo of them, they asked me to go over and join them, so I did so. They went into various poses with their swords and spears; they explained that they were students and they did this to earn some extra money in tips (hint, hint). 🙂
Continuing on our tour, we left the palace and headed for Pjaca Square in the centre of the city, where the old town met the new. The interesting and historic buildings were still very much in evidence, five of which were called ‘palaces’ and included the Karepic Palace, a 16th century building located next to the former Town Hall once the home of the Karepic family (a merchant family from Trogir). Also the impressive Palača Milesi, which was built in the Baroque style in the early 18th century by the wealthy commercial Milesi family. The grandeur of the building makes it easy to pick it out from among the Baroque palaces in Split and Dalmatia. Today it houses the Split section of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
At 12.30pm we found ourselves back where we’d started, at the ’roundabout’ where we had seen the white cat. We thanked Marin for a most interesting tour, then our time was our own. The white cat was still sitting there placidly, and we were delighted to see, in among the trees in the middle of the roundabout, about half a dozen little white cat-sized “kennels”, along with food dishes and bowls of water. A tortoiseshell cat was skulking in the trees. Those cats had the life of Riley – somewhere to shelter from the sun or the wind, plenty of food, water, petting hands and they could come and go as they wanted. For ‘stray’ moggies they didn’t do badly at all. 🙂
Trevor and I decided, along with Linda, to go and get the inevitable cold beer, and we found a nice pavement bar along the sea front. I ordered a beer which I followed with an Aperol Spritz, and when Linda saw it she thought it looked interesting and she decided to try one too, even taking photos of it to show to her grandchildren. Linda said that I was a bad influence on her! 😉
We then continued walking along the wide streets until we spotted the Irish bar where we’d been last night. Just before we got there, I saw something I definitely remembered from our visit to Split in 2018 – an interesting fountain which consisted of a water spout high up on a wall which sent a stream of water into an over-sized teacup below. As I pulled my phone out of my bumbag to take a photo, the fountain stopped! We waited to see if it would start up again, but it didn’t.
As it was after three o’clock by now, we decided we’d head back to the Hotel President for a rest. It wasn’t far away; we were starting to know our way around by now. Linda said she thought she’d like to look around the shops, so we said we’d see her later, and set off. On the way, we called in at a nearby supermarket and bought a bottle of rosé wine. 🙂
Back in the air-conditioned comfort of our room, we settled down for a power nap before sitting outside on our terrace with a glass each of the wine. Then we just spent the time reading, relaxing and just pottering around a bit before getting freshened up and going back into town. This time, as we passed the water spout, the water was running out, lighting as it exited the spout subtly changing the colour of the water before it hit the tea cup. In fact, when I looked at the ‘teacup’ more closely, I saw that it looked more like a giant funnel, and indeed a quick Google showed the the water feature is called Fuente Pirja, where pirja is the Croatian word for ‘funnel’. I had to take some video footage of it; strange that I also have video footage taken in 2018 as well. 🙂
We walked all the way along the harbour, watching the boats and ferries coming and going. The streets were thronging with people and the ice-cream parlours all had long queues. There was a real buzz about the place. We found a restaurant/bar called “Terminal F” which was styled like the departure lounge of an airport; even all the waiting staff walked around dressed as airline pilots. We took a high chair each at a table outside, and I ordered a Caprese salad along with a glass of wine; I can’t remember what Trevor had. We watched a ferry come in and the passengers poured down the gang-plank in a seemingly never-ending stream, while other passengers waited to board. People came and went, on foot, by bicycle and the ubiquitous electric scooters.
We each enjoyed another drink before taking a slow stroll back along; we fancied going to the Irish bar again. The spout-and-funnel water feature was in full flow as people paused next to it for photos.
Inside the bar, we ordered a pint of Guinness each before taking a seat. We realised we felt quite tired after all our walking around (my Samsung watch said we’d done over 19,000 steps) and in the heat, so we only had the one drink before returning to the hotel, and sitting out on our terrace for a short while before settling down to sleep. We had to be up at 6.30 tomorrow morning as we had a full day’s excursion arranged, so we didn’t want to go to bed too late.
Once again, we slept very well.