Day 5 - Split, Croatia
We ate in the main dining room this morning while waiting to disembark. We've noticed many areas that we could give them some pointers for improvement in logistics. There was no communication about how the process of getting off the boat really worked (they had tenders). It turned out that we could have gone early without waiting, but we went with the printed material which said to wait until after the tour groups left - we ended up being one of the last groups off, then we still had to wait in a hot, crowded room while they filled up the boats ahead of us. By the time we got to shore it was the heat of the day, and it was HOT!!! Pat wanted to go with us to see the city, but he only made it about an hour before having to turn back because of the heat. Sally and the boys opted to go back with him too. Jim and I continued on wandering the city. Noah's impression - OLD, not all that exciting and hot with no escape. Zach - hot. Pat said he didn't see enough to have an impression, but HOT. There were signposts in English at the important sites, but it was hard to really learn enough information to make it interesting and apply it to context of what we knew about history, so I had the same impression as Noah at first when we were trying to follow the walking tour.
I had heard that the city museum was worth visiting, so we stopped in. In order to do that, we had to pay with Kunas - their local currency, so we found an ATM and got some money. Things were fairly cheap, so we didn't need much for entry and souvenirs. The city museum was sparse, but helped to give us a sense of the city over time.
Split was originally built by Emperor Diocletian as his palace in 300 AD. He was emperor of Roman empire at the time - pretty much it's heyday. The city infilled within the palace walls until it got too crowded, then started moving out little by little. Rather than tearing down and rebuilding, there was a lot of repurposing of buildings and remodeling through the ages. The town reminded us very much of the back alleys and squares of Venice - only about 1000 years older (actually, Venice conquered Split during Venice's time as the center of the region - perhaps they stole some building tips as they were stealing other resources). There were layers upon layers of different stones - bricked up windows - arches filled in - walls rebuilt/repaired with newer materials (this was Sally's most memorable impression of the city).
Split's old town was pedestrian only and rather than the garbage barges/delivery barges/luggage barges of Venice, they had little carts that were used for such purposes (equally semi-efficient). We followed a bread delivery grocery cart from the bakery to the back of a restaurant, then saw the guy go out the front of the restaurant with his cart a few minutes later. We were pleased to stumble upon an acapella quartet in a former mausoleum - missing the mosaic floor, statues, and cupola - but with wonderful acoustics - who sang a few songs then asked people to buy their CD of native Croatian songs. Unfortunately it was really expensive, so we passed on that souvenir. We didn't find enough souvenirs that we wanted to buy, so we used up the last of our Kunas by buying some Croatian pastries and brought them back to the boat to share with Sally and Pat. One souvenir I had been admiring was lace tablecloths that old ladies were selling, but I didn't see any as we were walking around. As we were getting to the boat we had several hawking them around us, so I broke down and bought a couple - I knew they weren't high quality, wasn't even sure they were handmade, but they were pretty, so I got two. I bargained the guy down to what I was willing to pay, then found out the lady down the way was selling them starting at that price - oh well - I was happy.
Jim and I both enjoyed seeing the city, as we got a little better view of it. We were impressed by how everything was repurposed - brand new high end shops in 1500-year-old buildings. The city was having a music festival starting tomorrow and all the stuff was set up - hot pink floor runners and a big modern stage set up in the courtyard of an old square - sponsored by the cell phone company. This city was not preserved as a museum, it was all in use in some way. They even had a concert venue set up in the basement crypt (good acoustics I guess) among the artifacts and rubble.
We set sail at 4:00 (16:00). I did some laundry in the room so it could dry on the balcony in the breeze from the boat moving - too much humidity in the room and in the outside air to dry without a breeze. We didn't see the boys all afternoon or evening - kept missing each other - but they are enjoying the freedom and following the few rules we have set, so it seems to be working well. They grab dinner on their own so us adults can eat in the formal dining room without the worry of anxious and tired kids.