Saturday, January 4, 2014

SPLIT, CROATIA: EXPLORING OUTSIDE THE PALACE WALLS AND CALLING HOME

The northern Golden Gate of Diocletian's Palace was originally conceived as the main entrance, and the upper three niches were once filled with statues of Diocletian and his co-regent Maximilian, with an eagle (the symbol of Jupiter, whose temple is now the baptistry) between the two. The lower two niches flanking the entrance held statues of two of Diocletian's successors.

This large, wonderfully preserved arch is just inside the Golden Gate as one looks into the Palace:




We found a completely different atmosphere outside the walls where crowded, narrow, shopping streets are replaced by wide, lazy avenues and broad vistas:
The image below from Wikipedia shows a similar section of the Palace wall during World War II when Split was occupied by Fascist Italy. The words say, "Death to fascism; freedom to the people."
In both World War II and later during the break-up of Yugoslavia, Split was hit by some artillery, but it avoided the massive destruction leveled on Mostar, Dubrovnik, Belgrade, Sarajevo, and other cities.


Possibly the most popular attraction outside the Palace walls is a statue of Gregory of Nin created by our favorite Croatian sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic, whose work we had already appreciated inside the Palace walls (a statue of John the Baptist) and in Novi Sad, Serbia (a statue of Svetozar Miletic). Gregory faces the Golden Gate and seems, like a worked-up street preacher, to be warning and admonishing all the under-clad,over-indulging tourists who pass by:
Gregory was a Croatian bishop in the 10th century known for opposing the Pope and conducting religious services in the Croatian language. His actions increased the strength of Christianity in Croatia, and so he is greatly revered. However, if you Google his name, almost all of the links refer to this sculpture, which leads me to believe that he is at least twice as famous because of Mestrovic's genius.

I think he looks like a cross between Disney's sorcerer and the Puritan Jonathan Edwards reciting from his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."



He is just a bit scary, don't you think?

The most significant feature of this statue is the big toe, somewhat comically misidentified in an accompanying sign as "Gregory's thumb":

Rub it for good luck because "that's what we heard from our grandmas."  Yes indeed, grandmas do know everything. They might even know the difference between a thumb and a big toe.

However, my favorite part of the sculpture is not Gregory's big toe/thumb, but rather his hands. Just like Mestrovic's statues of St. John and Miletic, the bony, spidery hands steal the show, one gesticulating authoritatively to emphasize a salient point, the other clutching the Bible.


It was hard to tear ourselves away from Gregory's appendages, but a lovely walking promenade between the Palace and the Adriatic was beckoning to us.




The lazy boardwalk is half Miami, half Venice:
Italian influence is everywhere:
The building above reminded me of the Doge's Palace in Venice, pictured below:
Photo from here
There was even an Italian influence on our choice of treats: gelato. (Of course, that is true all over Europe.)
To the gelato we added a white chocolate and Nutella-filled crepe, made for us by a street vendor at his Slatki Zalogaj ("Sweet snack stand").  Delicious.


Our final adventure in Split was figuring out how Bob could call in to work. We should have just used the international plan we had put on our cell phone, but we were paranoid about excessive charges, so we asked the owner of the apartment we were staying in what to do. She told us the post office had pay phones and drew a map for us. The clerk at the post office directed us to a bank of three or four phones down the block. We tried calling by inserting a credit card in the slot. Didn't work. We tried everything we could think of. Finally, a lady came and--through gestures--explained that we needed a special phone card available back at the post office.

We returned to the post office and were directed to the proper window. We bought a 50 kuna card (about $10), got directions on how to use it, and returned to the phones.  It seemed to be working, but at the end we got a recorded message saying the number was blocked. We tried calling the customer service number on the phone. They passed us to someone who more or less spoke English. She told us we couldn't make an international call with that card from that phone, and told us to return to the post office to discuss it with them.

Our post office man was incredulous. He called customer support himself, and eventually someone told us we needed to dial the prefix 001, not just 01 (which is what we had been dialing because it told us to dial a 12-digit number). We tried one more time, and voila! It finally worked.

Later, a friend told me I can make land-line calls with Skype from my iPad. I definitely need to learn how to do that.

Zbogom (farewell), Split.  Time to head out to our last destination of the trip: Zagreb.

3 comments:

  1. It's fun to see your pictures of Gregory. As a Grandma, I encourage my offspring to avoid touching strange people's feet.
    Gelato+Crepes=Heaven.

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  2. Gregory of Nin, perhaps my favorite of the Mestrovic sculptures. Per usual, you have some fun detail I was unaware of.

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  3. I'm with you on that statue--it's the fingers! Sorry about the calls home--always a challenge from a strange place. Thanks for the preview of our upcoming trip!

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