Tuesday, March 11, 2014

102. Destination Croatia

My next stop is Croatia - and after a flight from Istanbul to Zagreb – the capital city - it’s another short flight to the city of Split on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. 



Here I am met by my landlord Jani who takes me to my apartment at Podstrana - half an hour away. Perched on a hill overlooking the village, the mountains and the Sea, this will be my home for the next four weeks as I catch my breath before continuing on with my adventure. Mind you, there will be plenty to see and do here in this historic part of the world.


My apartment is in the centre - almost to the top

This apartment is the ninth that I have rented through Airbnb - 
and I cannot recommend this online accommodation agency highly enough - 
all my apartments have been fantastic and priced well within my budget - 
so if you are traveling anywhere on the planet, please check them out 
before booking into over-priced hotels ...
< www.airbnb.com

The view from my balcony and windows is superb ...
The city of Split is just 20 minutes by bus 
over the peninsular in the centre of the image ...
...........................................................................

So the adventure continues ...

My first day on the job - bus into Split and after a good strong Croatian coffee and a hit of sugar to give me energy, I start my exploration of this sparkling city by hiking up the forested slopes of Mount Marjan – on a peninsular over-looking the region ...


Mount Marjan beckons me ...

... first there are the laneway steps 
leading to the foot of the mountain ...

... I don’t know how high the summit is, 
but the sign says only 314 steps to go !!! … 


... but once at the top, the view is stunning  
 - even on a cold windy cloudy morning !!!

... then of course there are those steps 
to get down from the summit ...



I think I understand why they built an tiny chapel here 
- to give tourists like me hope as the end nears !!!  ...

Split is one of the oldest cities in this region of Dalmatia, and while it is traditionally considered just over 1,700 years old - counting from the construction of the Palace for the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 305 CE - archaeological research dates the original founding of the city as the Greek colony of Asp├ílathos in the 4th century BC. 




Diocletian’s Palace – built for the Emperor at the turn of the 4th century – is my starting point for exploring the city at a closer range. Much of the Palace walls and imperial buildings have, over the centuries, merged with other constructions within the walls – and today it is fascinating to wander through the myriad of narrow laneways now sporting fancy up-market shops and boutiques and cafes catering to the thousands of sun-seeking tourists that will soon start descending on this popular region. 


Standing almost in the central part of the ancient Palace is the 7th century Cathedral of Saint Domnius – and rising 60 meters above the Cathedral is the St Domnius Bell Tower. And yes you guessed it, I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb another 150 plus steps to seek out another view of Split from above … 

Entrance to Diocletian's mausoleum - 
 - now the Cathedral of Saint Domnius 


The Bell Tower was constructed in the year 1100 AD, in the Romanesque style, however extensive rebuilding in 1908 radically changed the Tower, and many of the original Romanesque sculptures were sadly removed.


Entry to the Tower is through an insignificant doorway into a very confined dark space and up a few flights of steep slippery stone steps ... the first phobia then hit me - claustrophobia !!!   

Then out onto an iron landing - and looking upwards - this was the view that greeted me ...


Holding onto the railing very tightly - and not daring to look downwards or upwards and certainly not outwards - this was when my second phobia set in - vertigo !!!but ignoring all that and the strong wind that was blowing in - I made my way slowly upwards - past the huge peal of bells - hoping like crazy that they were not about to start ringing - step by step up the 150 steps to the top ... 


Once there - and relieved to find three other people also up there - though they too, like me were rather startled by the climb - but the view from this lofty height was just gorgeous ... there below us siting in its white and red uniform is the city of Split ... what a sight !!! ...








Then of course came the slower and even more scary descent ...   


... but just like the sphinx, I made it ...