Split and the Tyranny of Pretty

Ferda contemplates the fall of the Roman Empire.

Ferda ruminates on the end of the Roman Empire.


Split is that bizarre animal that defies every attempt at singular categorization. The city on the coast of the Adriatic is almost hideously ugly at times, a shocking surprise coming after the uniformly lovely Dubrovnik, and almost every view that didn’t include the sea during the bus ride in was ruined with some factory or Soviet-era architectural relic that was continuing to fight the good fight against the tyranny of pretty.

It’s also the home of some truly beautiful sections and some spectacular ruins, the most prominent of which is Diocletian’s Palace, an astonishingly well-preserved piece of Roman history.
Emperor Diocletian's Mausoleum

Emperor Diocletian’s Mausoleum


Maybe the best part about the remnants of the palace is the fully intact basement. When the Romans designed the palace, this is what it looked like.
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Here’s a view of the same area today, the trees lining the waterfront the spot where the Palace wall used to extend.
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What’s left is pretty extraordinary, but the best part is what you can’t see. The lower level of the palace was for servants, deliveries, food prep and one can only assume/hope some measure of debauchery, and its design was identical to the upper level, so walking around you get a great sense of what the palace was like roughly 1,700 years ago. Same architectural design, same building material, the exact same layout, the whole basement is a brilliantly preserved example of Roman ingenuity.

The light was pretty low, which made for great ambience but tough conditions for taking photos, but we still managed to take a couple halfway decent ones.
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After admiring the ingenuity of the Roman engineers and contemplating the vastness of human history through the prism of the downfall of the Roman Empire, I decided to pretend to sleep outside Diocletian’s final resting place while Ferda took pictures.
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We also walked around the fairly compact historical center of the city, which featured an impressive opera house, as seen below.
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After a sufficient amount of time spent goofing off, we decided to go hiking up the hill for a better view of the city, though if I’d known just how far we would eventually walk, I probably would have stayed by the water and eaten ice cream all night, as a certain someone suggested.
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Still, once we’d reached the top, we had a panoramic view of the city, the Adriatic and the surrounding tiny islands. These photos are only at the halfway point, and we snapped them on the way up while there was still a little light left in the day.
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On the way back down, I took a few more photos of the city at night.
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To cap off the trip, and as a proper goodbye to Croatia, when we got back to our hotel I introduced Ferda to the pleasures of a Manhattan.
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