When I arrived in Split on September 8th, I was coming off a 15-hour red-eye to an arranged airport pick-up that set the tone for my trip. My driver was a talkative, 34-year old former pro polo player who has traveled much of Europe, but is happy to be back in his hometown. The warm welcome was a good sign, and he didn't want me to miss a thing. Split is the second largest city in Croatia with nearly 250,000 people, so I'd booked a week there to settle into the time zone, figure out details, and see the historic spots.
Home base was a boutique hostel in a historic building in City Center, just a five-minute walk from the Riva along the Adriatic Sea. The location was perfect to play tourist in Old Town, head to the beach, hike in the Marjan Forest Park, and watch the local men play bocanje (Croatia's version of bocce and petanque). It was also a great spot to meet other travelers from yes, the USA, Argentina, Canada, Turkey, the UK, and France. And, thanks (mostly) to the housekeeper here, I now have a 10-word Croatian vocabulary -- including "please, thank you, excuse me, towel and bakery", along with five words to describe food I'm still yearning for!
The Riva of Split (about half of Old Town) is made up of the Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian (built between 293 and 305 AD as his place of retirement). It's one of the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mausoleum of Diocletian was later converted to a Catholic cathedral (c. 7th century), and is a complex of a church with a bell tower; now the Cathedral of St. Domnius, the patron saint of Split.
My second favorite site in Split is the Mestrovic Gallery, the summer residence of Croatian sculptor and artist Ivan Meštrović and his family. Built between 1930-39, he donated the property, along with three others, and 132 of his art works to the state. His life story is captivating, but I was beyond surprised to learn that in 1946, Mestrovic accepted a professorship at Syracuse University, and in 1955, was hired to teach at the University of Notre Dame, where he worked until his death. Twenty-one of his sculptures can be found on the campus (which I plan to see one day).
There is so much more to add, but I'll leave it to the photos and captions! Without a bike, I spent time nearly every day hiking the hills in the Marjan Forest Park, and of course, at least three afternoons swimming in the salty, warm Adriatic Sea. Did I mention The People's Square? The Green Market and Fish Market? How about my day trip to the island of nearby Solta? Yes, this is just week #1.