16.07.2012 - 17.07.2012 32 °C
The next leg of our Croatian journey would take us to the mainland and into the central Dalmatian interior. We left the islands for Split, Croatia’s second largest city, where we would spend the day touring the old town and the beautiful feats of architecture.
Split is a large port city that is mainly used as a hub to get tourists to one of the many Dalmatian islands. Along with a long seafront walkway around the harbour and excursion boats ready to whisk you away to unspoiled islets, Split’s main draw remains Diocletian’s palace in the heart of the city (a UNESCO world heritage site).
Diocletian was a Roman Emperor (AD 245-313), who had the palace constructed as a place to retire, sparing little expense in its ten year building period. Marble was brought from Italy, sculptures from Egypt, and the white stones from Brač were used to build the palace (the same stones that were used to build the White House in Washington D.C.).
The term “palace” is misleading as it refers to all that lies within what remains of the four imposing walls. Along with a military fortress and towers that fortified a town within the walls, the imperial residence, temples and a grand cathedral, the palace covers an area of 31 000 square meters. Twisting streets of marble wind around in a confusing maze of alleyways, full both of tourists and modern little shops found in within the original edifices. Restaurants and coffee shops abound, and courtyards can be found around any bend. We toured these walls all day and only found one of the central courtyards later in the evening, exemplifying the confusion of the labyrinth.
The four walls each have one gate named after a metal: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. Outside the Bronze Gate the famed statue of 10th century Croatian bishop Grgur Ninski (built by Ivan Meštrović, an important Croatian sculptor), towers before the entrance with tourists lined up to rub the polished big toe of the statue for its apparent luck-giving properties.
The streets meet in a central square from where Cathedral of St. Dominus is found, and after paying a small toll we were allowed to enter the Cathedral that was built as Diocletian’s mausoleum and remains largely preserved. The highlight was the long climb up the bell-tower for the panoramic view of Split. We ended our day with a hike up to the hill above the city (with yet again a seemingly endless set of stairs), and took in the beautiful view while watching the sunset in Split.
Early the next morning we set out on our road trip to see two of Croatia’s eight national parks. Driving up the coast we stopped off in the tiny town of Trogir, a world heritage site. Another walled city full of twisting cobble streets, it draws in many tourists and large yachts. Surrounded by moat and fortresses, along with intact Romanesque architecture and a beautiful cathedral, the sleepy Trogir offers many photographic opportunities. We walked the town and took pictures in less than an hour (you can imagine its scale), and then set off again on our road trip. Along the drive we saw beautiful shocks of colour of the Adriatic and at one point had to pull over to take photographs of the picturesque coastal town of Primošten.
We headed to Krka National Park and parked in the town of Skradin, from where we caught a small ferry boat that took us up the Krka River to the first set of falls. As the green, slow waters of the river wind towards the falls, few would guess what awaits them. The torrents of waters rush down any rock crevice available, drowning trees in its wake and plummeting to a large pool full of swimmers basking in the fresh clear waters. Climbing further up river another large waterfall can be heard before seen. Seven times the Krka river surprises with the sheer volume of water flowing over its famed waterfalls. We spent the day hiking to view each one, stopping in the shade to enjoy a picnic. We finished our day in the bottom pool, with Andrew jumping from trees and sitting under small offshoots of the larger falls. Having washed the sweat and dust from the hike away, we spent another couple hours driving to the next large park on our radar. Finding a cute place to lay our heads down, we settled in 9kms outside the gates of Plitvice Lakes National Park.
More from the parks in the next blog. Love to all,