In the center of the old town, stands an ancient cathedral with a tall bell tower (St. Dominus Bell Tower), which Yuriy and I decided to climb on a whim for $2 each. Outside the tower is a sign that says “climb at your own risk”. The tiny door opens to very steep, very narrow stone stairs that begin immediately, and turn to the right at every corner of the tower. It’s hardly light enough to see the stairs and the ceiling is dangerously low. A little higher, we reach a landing with light and views. Arches are cut out of the walls. A bare metal staircase that was obviously added later, continues the ascent in a spiral. The view is continually breathtaking and as I lean into openings to take photos, my knees feel weak. We realize there are no railings or fences or caution signs. It’s unbelievably easy to just walk off the edge of the window and splat on the stone so far below. I have never felt so uneasy about heights! My knees felt rubbery and my stomach in knots. The stairs freak us out beyond belief because it feels like they could come loose any minute. We’ve already realized that Croatians are not all about safety, especially in comparison to overregulated America, where everything is as safe as it gets to prevent lawsuits. As we climbed to the top, we didn’t run into anyone, and we had the top of the tower all to ourselves. The top landing was round and had open windows on every side for a 360 degree view. It was definitely worth it to climb up and see the city and sea from above, also providing us with a good view of what is left of the old walls that surround the palace. I try to imagine the men who built this bell tower, how they didn’t splat, and what they were thinking making it so darn dangerously tall.
A little Split history
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Among our many wanderings, we learned that Split is the site of an ancient palace, the best preserved Roman palace in the world. It’s hard to believe it was built in the 4th century AD, and exists to this day! Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled the entire world at the time, chose this spot in central Dalmatia to built his “vacation home” in which he planned to retire. It was well protected from sea by several islands and from the landward side by mountains. Strong stone walls and fortresses extend from the palace. Over the centuries, it has been influenced by many people and grown into a city. Today, homes, shops, and restaurants are tightly built right into the palace walls. It’s amazing to think that such historical landmarks are being used by negligible, consuming humans today and not sealed up and protected like everything else in museums. It hurts to see that almost every wall is covered with graffiti (much of which has to do with their soccer obsession). We can tell that tourism is just picking up in Split. Yuriy and I wondered if the people here see these royal ruins as junk, while we gaze upon them in awe and regard them as treasure. Maybe the elderly are boggled why foreign people would come all this way to see their old, crumbling city.