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CROATIA-VENICE-AMSTERDAM… PART FOUR: SPLIT…

The first morning in Split I was awakened early by several long peals of bells… I counted 100, then a bit later dozens more all around 6 or 7am! Those were soon followed by the brushing sound of a miniature street-cleaner…  soft humming whine of electric golf-cart-sized trucks… small enough to negotiate the narrow stone streets we walk, often brushing shoulders with other tourists. Squeals of their brakes… delivering goods or luggage or hauling trash? The ancient inner city of Diocletian’s palace begins to rouse from one more diurnal slumber out of several millennia worth. Then an annoyingly loud basso human voice [Russian?] obviously loving to hear his own theatrical importance resounding & echoing between stone walls & pavement.

Bells, & a classy chandelier from the gilded ceiling made me happy!
 
Our boutique hotel is tucked above a 19th century theater fronting a square just off the central agora, the heart of the ancient summer palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. There is delightful further wealth at these links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split,_Croatia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian%27s_Palace

The small lobby was enlarged by a mural-sized image of the street below…

My journal observed:

Yesterday we did several of the museums inside the walls of the late Roman pleasure palace of Diocletian which has subsequently been built & rebuilt into several evolution of medieval cities… outer fortifications & ramparts rising in times needing protection, then razed for more peaceful periods of expansion… always a center for trade, education & now enjoying revival as destination
for tourists like us.

Sporting palm trees & the beaches of which we probably won’t avail ourselves, being more interested in other culture, one appreciates how northern Europeans arrive for a sunny holiday with nightlife… a bit of which we did discover in a small adventure last night inside the bustle & throb of its heartbeat, walking the canyons deflecting crooning cafe singers, courtyards of jazz & disco, coming into soundscapes as corners were rounded then receding as quickly as entering another alleyway. We discovered a warren of venues, mostly under awnings sheltering outdoor tables served by small restaurants barely more than tiny kitchens hidden inside the nook of a thick wall… often down, or up! shadowy nearly invisible steps.

The bar we were seeking has the rare reputation of being gay friendly, if mixed… fine with us!

It turned out to be a long wide passageway gently-stepped &  furnished with an eclectic collection of cushions, stools, benches & small tables served by a waiter from a bar sending a fine collection of the last fifty years of music with which we have long danced. I enjoyed hearing forgotten memories from my twenties as we people-watched what was a parade rich for mostly inventive stories we share between ourselves…

The man sitting across the way from us was a bohemian author of
an intensely seamy novel on his phone which we might read in several years… 
not searching Grindr! 

The handsome Frenchmen with female companions… 
one sitting with his ass on a cushion thrust so far 
into the middle of the stone step supporting it 
that everyone passing had to try not to touch him… 
were secretly lovers…  
in spite of their female companions… 
not married couples.
The scene was quite unlike what we think of as a gay bar in the States!  As we prepared to leave we explored deeper up that passage & into a warren of spaces ever more exotic, filled with who we might have been looking for earlier in the evening, but seemingly only now getting started in their own nights’ bacchanal. Our choice was to return to our fine hotel not so far by foot… or perhaps ages away in the richness of this old district.

This city began as the late Roman emperor Diocletian’s summer palace in 300 AD or so. Centuries later it has become a museum chronicling its strategic situation along the Venetian trade routes, Further fortified walls were added, then torn down in peaceful times…  medieval houses were built into nooks & crannies of the various ruins. The emperor’s tomb became the small cathedral with its bell tower added, the town buildings rose, tumbled & were remodeled or rebuilt over the centuries until it became iconic enough to be declared a UNESCO Heritage site. 

Our hotel has been newly remodeled inside what we could observe had within the recent memory of one of the youthful staff housed a cinema, probably earlier a more proper theater, although she did not know about that. Seemingly the history which draws the tourist trade is not so important to the population who grew-up here, who now choose to stay here. Stephen regularly asked to discover that most in Split are happily native… unlike in Dubrovnik, where they come to work with the intention to go back to their villages.
We began at the formal gate into the palace on the land side…
guarded by theatrical centurions
 The city’s museum explained & displayed visions of the original palace.
 The original footprint… & it’s elevation retains,
even as many centuries’ opportunistic renovations
in-built the grand spaces inside these walls 
into delightful warrens of intimate streets.
Many treasures reward explorers.

The vestibule of the emperor’s apartment was a resonant “whispertorium”. 
Designed to audibly alert the paranoid resident of any intruders.
It has become quite a perfect venue for the acapella groups called Klapa
Climbing up, we discovered the opening of the oculus above the vestibule.
I now wonder how those voices sound up here.
  
In the deep foundations far below at water level these steps show the wear of rough traffic as provisions were off-loaded from the ships in the harbor.
 I might have wished for the support of something like this whimsical hand-rail
which was found in another museum
 Support, even in these stones standing for millennia, takes many forms…
 While some walls need bracing…
 Roman vaulting seems strong…
 The history of here is long. This embroidered fashion reminds that 
cosmopolitan currency was important in this city’s history. 
[zoom-in if you’re into fibre!]
 I was captivated by this stately sink…
Curiously high-up in the roof of the museum… 
Puzzling before i grokked that any kitchen fire 
would better happen atop the stone substructure.
Meaning thus that having any water meant a lot of trudging work.
Now, however, we lunched at one of the many restaurants along the pedestrian friendly waterfront.
Yes, more octopus, although, since telling friends who are more conscious about those animal’s high intelligence than I have been, i am rethinking my gustatory appreciation.
To know ones self is a gift… to become comfortable with that must be one’s art.
Venice & the Biennialle are just a short flight ahead in the next posting…

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