Yes, FOUR UNESCO World Heritage sites in one day - we are becoming quite the culture vultures! First a natural wonder, Plitvice, which we left behind, reluctantly, as we headed back to the coast! Then two historical sites on the coast en route to our destination, Split, which is yet another historical site recognized as of outstanding importance by UNESCO. Here they are on the map.
Our drive back to the Adriatic was exciting as the Dinaric mountain range runs down the coast, which we had to get through.........and I do mean through! We drove through a 5 km tunnel, downhill all the way! The outside temperature was 15C when we went in, and when we emerged it was 21C and we were in a different world - the Dalmation Coast, with the Adriatic Sea and countless islands spread out below us!
First we headed to Sibenik, home of the Cathedral of St James, which was built between 1431 and 1536 entirely of stone, including the roof and dome which have unique construction methods. The dome has been reconstructed as it took a direct hit during the homeland war. It is quite a sight, and has a very ancient feel to it.
The baptistery is a short flight of stairs beneath the southern apse and take a look at this intricate stone work!
We were very glad of our UNESCO app which led us to this historic spot!
Driving south along the coast road, looking left at the mountains and right at the gorgeous colour of the Adriatic, we made our way to Trogir. Inscribed by UNESCO as "a remarkable example of urban continuity" this tiny island, wedged between the mainland and another island, has its original street layout from the time of Ancient Greece. Here's an aerial view from google images to give you an idea.
We battled the crowds hunting down parking spots on the mainland, walked with the throngs across the bridge and enjoyed poking around the twisty little streets and strolling the avenue along the waterfront.
My favourite sight in Trogir was a faded Juliet waiting for her oblivious downstairs Romeo to notice her!
Trogir also provided my most colourful laundry photo yet, I think I can retire from clothesline photography after this one!
Here's John buying walnuts in the market - nuts are plentiful in the markets here, as is olive oil!
Our next job was to say farewell to our rental car at Split airport and take the shuttle - thinking that it would be easier than driving into the city. Well, perhaps so, but it certainly was a hassle to navigate that airport! However, by late afternoon we were immersed in our final UNESCO site of the day, the historic city of Split and Emperor Diocletian's Palace! Yes, I really do mean immersed, our digs were INSIDE a Roman palace! Here's the Roman wall taken from our kitchen window!
And here's the view from the corner where our street emerged onto the central square!
The old town core of Split was originally built in the 4th century AD as a retirement pad for Diocletian in his native Dalmatia. Being a 'very important man' he had big ideas and spared no expense on this mammoth project. After all, he was the living embodiment of Jupiter himself!
Eventually the palace was abandoned and in Medieval times the locals moved in, made themselves at home, and a medieval town developed inside the ruins of the palace! These days over 2000 people live or work within the original walls! The result is a hodge-podge of architectural styles jammed up against each other and bits and pieces of original Roman palace around every corner and below ground, even in the supermarket!
Many of the streets are so narrow you can touch both sides without even stretching! Here's the view from our bedroom window.
And the street where we had dinner the first night. Don't look too hard at what's on my plate! I decided it was time to try traditional cevapcici (skinless sausages) not realizing how many I'd be expected to eat! I gave up after three..... or four!
But I was able to work off the effects by climbing 183 steps up this beautiful bell tower! Buiding it took 300 years to complete, resulting in the variety of styles as you look upwards. We were rewarded with this stunning view.
We also paid a small fee to go into the Temple of Jupiter, which was transformed into a baptistery in medieval times. The half-barrel vaulted ceiling is considered the best-preserved anywhere in the Roman world. The sculpture of St John the Baptist was done by Yuglslavia's most famous artist, Ivan Mestrovich - you'll hear more about him later! It's ironic that Diocletian, whose greatest claim to fame was exterminating Christians, should have had his temple turned into a baptistery and his mausoleum turned into a cathedral!
The main square was the original "peristyle" of the palace and is now the hub of activities, including bored-looking centurions waiting for tips from tourists wanting to pose with them, imagine doing a job like that all summer...... The sphinx is one of Diocletian's souvenirs from the time he spent in Egypt.
Then there were the Klapa singers - a Croatian version of a barbershop quartet, but singing rather more serious music very beautifully. I wish I could upload videos so you could hear them, but it just doesn't seem to work.
Along the waterfront outside the palace is the Riva. This is where Croats go to see and be seen! I even know someone who named her daughter Riva after this beautiful place! Here's a bride and groom loving all the attention!
And a nun......... apparently texting is the new way to get in touch with the Almighty!
The market is another great spot for people watching - we noticed that many elderly Croatian women wear black. Markets here take place every day - such a lot of work to set up and take down!
We walked a couple of kilometres away from all this, past the fishing-boat harbour, along a lovely coastal path.......
to find the mansion of Croatia's favourite son, and Yugoslavia's most celebrated artist, Ivan Mestrovic.
A contemporary and friend of Rodin, his work includes sculpture in bronze, marble, wood and plaster, paintings, drawings and architecture - he designed this lovely little home! He was a devout Catholic and after WWII fled Yugoslavia for the US, where he died in 1962. His trademark sculptures are of curvaceous women and muscular men with extremely long fingers and toes (as seen on John the Baptist in the ancient temple) We really enjoyed taking in the works on display at the mansion and nearby chapel.
One last sculpture definitely NOT done by Mestrovic, this one of Franjo Tudjman, independent Croatia's first president. We noticed this statue on Independence Day, with very few flowers and no fanfare or holiday. This man would have stood trial at The Hague alongside Milosevic had he not died of cancer in 1999. It seems most Croats prefer not to celebrate their independence which came along with such a terrible cost.
We had a wonderful two days in Split, and there's plenty to come back and see another time. But for now we are heading for the little island of Korcula for a well-deserved rest, a 4-day vacation from our rather hectic vacation! However, we still have Dubrovnik, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Athens in our sights, so stay tuned and don't give up on us yet!