I told you this series will be about little known gems in this world that provide opportunities to get away from the crowds and visit some truly worthwhile sites. The area formerly known as the Yugoslavian Republic has emerged from years of fighting as a true gem for explorers. Most areas welcome visitors, though there are areas that are still internalized and not particularly welcoming. There are too many great areas to talk about in a weekly article, so if you please, I will restrict this discussion to the Adriatic coast and 3 areas in particular.
Split is in Croatia, and aside from the strange name, it is an open and welcoming area and city. It is the second largest city, and towers over the Adriatic sea as a welcoming port for travelers. Residents have lived in split for thousands of years, and many parts of the city resound with ancient Roman temples and remnants of Dalmation lifestyle.
Diocletian’s Palace is an outstanding monument to Roman architecture and construction. Standing today in much of what must have been it’s original glory, it now houses dozens of shops and restaurants. It certainly is a keeper for your collection of photographs.
It is more a city center than a Palace. Originally built as a fortress, it has been added onto many times, always trying to keep with the Roman design. It now covers a very large portion of the city center, and is a wonder to behold as it is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Cathedral of St Domnius: Split’s octagonal cathedral is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings standing today. It was built as a mausoleum for Diocletian, the last famous persecutor of the Christians, who was interred here in 311 AD. The Christians got the last laugh, destroying the emperor’s sarcophagus and converting his tomb into a church in the 5th century, dedicated to one of his victims. In keeping with the rich folklore of this Cathedral, a general admission ticket allows you to visit the crypt behind the legend.
Temple of Jupiter: Although it’s now the cathedral’s baptistery, this wonderfully intact building was originally an ancient Roman temple, dedicated to the king of the gods. It still has its original barrel-vaulted ceiling and a decorative frieze on the walls, although a striking bronze statue of St John the Baptist by Ivan Meštrović now fills the spot where the god once stood. Of the columns that once supported a porch, only one remains. The black granite sphinx guarding the entrance was already ancient when the Romans dragged it from Egypt in the 3rd century. It was literally defaced by the Christians, who considered it a pagan icon.
Check back next week for Part 2 of Former Yugoslav Republic.