After our leisurely morning exploring Krka National Park, we made the hour drive back down to the coast to spend the rest of the day enjoying the ancient city of Split. Just from the short boat ride into the port, we knew we were in for a treat wandering Diocletian's old stomping grounds (a popular UNESCO World Heritage site today). The town is riddled with fluffy palm trees and winding alleyways that open up to marbled squares with quaint outdoor dining. Every ounce of this town holds some piece of history within its walls. The grand columns, missing bricks, and worn walkways tell a story of war, power, and royalty.
The ruins of Diocletian's Palace can be found in great number throughout the city. The Roman Emperor spent the last years of his life living here after giving up his throne in May of 305. His intent in building this palace? To retire by the sea in peace. To me, the palace is better described as a fortress of sorts, with half the "palace" intended to house Diocletian and the other section used as a protective military garrison (and a place for his military to live). Once Diocletian had passed and the Romans had left, the palace remained empty for many years until it was taken over by local residents seeking the refuge of its walls from invading Slavs. As the world's most complete and well-preseved palace, I'd say Diocletian's placement of his retirement "home" couldn't be more divine. Today, locals (around 3000 of them live here) and tourists alike find wonder and peace within its walls. Hard to beat living among incredible Roman architecture, that's for sure!
We spent our time in Split how I imagine most everyone does. We shopped in the palace markets, we wandered the limestone & marble paved streets, and we snapped dozens of photos of palace ruins (and the adorable weathered shutters!). But my most favorite memory was when we sat at a cafe right alongside the cathedral belfry and enjoyed a glass of local wine. It was so surreal to be sitting beside such history…people watching and trying to imagine what life there would have been like so many years ago. It's in moments like that that I feel so full of love for travel and the places we've been able to see during our time abroad. History books only teach you so much. Experiencing the history firsthand is worth its weight in gold, my friends. Split totally captured my heart and has me itching to see more of Croatia someday!
While there is more from beautiful Croatia to come (hello, Dubrovnik!)…our next port of call was in a country I never thought I'd ever visit. Stay tuned for tales from MONTENEGRO!