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Cunard Queen Victoria 2018
Mediterranean Cruise part 12 - Split
Map Venice and the return to the UK Civitavecchia2 (for Rome), Italy Corfu, Greece Split, Croatia Piran, Slovenia

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Split, Croatia - Wednesday 10 October

Split was our second port on this cruise in Croatia and we were not far from the other port, Korcula. As we looked out of our cabin there was a steady procession of ferries, many taking vehicles to Korcula or Dubrovnik. Split is Croatia's second city and we expected to find it much more busy than Korcula and hoped that the tourist shops would accept our Euros and our credit cards. A shuttle bus was provided to the bus station but it was only a short walk along the harbour, passing the railway station and a row of small shops.

There is evidence of a Roman settlement but Split was really established when the Emperor Diocletian (244-312) built his Palace here. The Palace was begun around 298AD and took 10 years to complete. It is large and heavily fortified, rectangular in shape, measuring 705 feet by 590 feet. The two main streets run east-west and north-south thus dividing the Palace into four pieces. There were three main gates: the Iron Gate is in the west, the Golden Gate in the north and the Silver Gate in the east. The Golden Gate was intended to be the main entrance to the Palace and originally had been elaborately decorated with states and sculptures. The Silver Gate was dedicated to St Apollinaire who protected this entrance to the city. The southern side was along the oceanfront with protected access by water only through a small Brass Gate. Diocletian lived here permanently after his resignation as emperor in 305 until his death.

Many parts of the Palace have been demolished since it was tranformed into a medieval town in the 7th century and there are now about 250 houses built inside the Palace or into the walls. From the port the Palace is approached along the Riva, a broad road which runs along the southern facade and where many cafes, shops and flats have been built. There is a model of the Palace on display before entering through the narrow Brass or Bronze Gate into the basement of Diocletians Hall. The Emperor lived on this side of the Palace. The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic coast. As the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean, European and world heritage. There is a lot to see although many of the original areas are empty and there is reconstruction work being carried out.

The emperor's apartments formed a block along the sea front and were situated above a substructure required by the sloping terrain. Until recently this substructure was largely filled with refuse. Most of this huge vaulted basement area is well preserved, and indicates the original shape and disposition of the rooms above. Visits to the 'Palace Cellars', which are accessed from the left and then from the right of the Bronze entrance, cost 42 Kuna each by cash or credit card. Most tours do not have time to explore this area so it is quiet and a pleasant hour can be spent exploring and one can gain a good appreciation of the layout of what were the emperor's apartments and major religious buildings sited above and identical in layout. A plan of the Diocletian Palace basement is essential, to show the west side layout, which has been mostly excavated, and the eastern side where more work is being carried out.

Leaving the basement and returning to the main area there are views of the cathedral from the remains of the Emperor's Suite on the South Wall before going through another courtyard which led to the Peristyle. This is the central square of the Palace. On its east side is the most important building, Diocletian's Mausoleum which later became St Duje's Cathedral. Entry to visit was payable in Kuna or Euros, and the more expensive red ticket also included the Treasury, the Crypt, the Belltower and the Baptistery. The massive Mausoleum is octagonal and built from stone blocks surrounded by 28 granite and marble columns. The dome is preserved in its original state. There is a Romanesque pulpit which dates from the 13th century. There are three altars: the old altar of St Domnius who is the patron saint of Split, the altar of St Anastasius, and the new altar of St Domnius. The richly decorated choir stalls are also 13th century. At the exit there are a pair of wooden doors which were carved out of walnut by Andrija Buvina of Split in 1214. The doors were originally coloured and gold-plated.

The queues to climb the Belltower were short and we waited patiently for the previous group to emerge through the exit door. The steps are narrow and quite steep and the first stage is a one-way system but towards the top it was necessary to pass others who were coming down. The views were excellent and it was worth the climb.

Our visit had started in the wrong place because we should have been to the Treasury first which is on the floor above the Mausoleum so we re-traced our steps. It is prohibited to take photos there. On the steps leading to the Peristyle there is a black granite sphinx from Egypt. It is the best preserved of the sphinx which are on display - we saw 3 others inside the Palace walls. Next the crypt was accessed between the entry and exit door of the Mausoleum, watched over by a sphinx. Another sphinx was waiting for us outside the Baptistry of St John, the square former Temple of Jupiter. It has the original barrel roof which we had seen from the top of the Belltower.

The streets were becoming very crowded with tour groups but none were going to our next place, the Papalic Palace and Split City Museum, where again they accepted our credit card for entry. Emerging from the Silver Gate we walked around the walls to the park with the statue of Grgur Ninski, looking down on the Golden Gate. There were too many people waiting to go through the gate back into the Palace so we decided the explore more of the UNESCO Historic area beyond the walls. The pedestrianised Bosanska leads through cafes and shops to the Narodni trg and the statue of Marko Marulic in Vocni trg. Continuing to the wide waterfront there were lots of cafes and the Marmontova which marks the edge of the medieval town. The striking buildings of the Trg Republike 'Prokurative' with cafes and the Youth Theatre at the end were the final point of our walk, although we looked inside the Church of Sv. Frane before turning back. The last building we admired was the British Consulate.

Having unsuccessfully tried to purchase icecreams, because only cash in kuna were accepted, we walked back for a very late lunch.

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Content revised: 30th October, 2018