Eastern Europe Days 12-13
September 13, 2023
Last night the captain announced again a beautiful entrance into the port for anyone who wanted to set their alarms. We didn’t.
Yesterday we signed up for an excursion today – a walking tour of Split. 9:15am for 2.5 hours, $49 per person. We met in the lounge (after breakfast in the main dining room), and then walked off as a group. Our group had 18 people, and the guide had the wireless transmitters (he said it is required for any group over 16 people). We walked from the cruise ship into the town, and to the palace.
The palace in town was built by Emperor Diocletian from 295 to 305 AD. Up until this point, the average length of time an Emperor ruled before being killed was 2 years. He ruled for 26 years, and then he decided to retire. He built this palace as a retirement location for himself, with barracks, religious areas, a throne room (even though he was retired), a personal spa, and living area.
After Diocletian’s death, it was used by Roman Emperors and their families. In 640 AD, the city to the north, Salona, was attacked and conquered by the Avars. The people of the town fled to Split; the palace at Split was safe from the Avars because it couldn’t be seen in the distance, so the Avars headed east instead of south.
These refugees took shelter in the palace grounds, taking down existing buildings to use the limestone to build houses. There were many more people than were ever intended to live there, so the sewer system couldn’t keep up. The sewers and garbage were routed to the system of tunnels below the palace. In 100 years, it was filled and they routed the sewers elsewhere, with the sewage and garbage remaining in the tunnels.
In World War 2, bombs struck the structure and exposed the lower levels. It took 15 years, but they cleaned out the tunnels almost completely (some areas could not be excavated because the houses above would collapse). The work was done by “volunteers,” assigned by the communist leaders.
In 1979, this became a UNESCO site. People live in this historic palace, in the homes that have been handed down through the centuries. The Croatians have the highest respect and regard for their history – 3,000 year old red marble pillars and black sphinx are not cordoned off from the public. Elementary school children are brought here for scavenger hunts and to learn about the history. Every high school studentis required to do projects related to the palace.
The people who own the homes in the palace don’t need to work. Since AirBNB they just rent out their homes and they earn enough money to “retire.” There are no property taxes – they pay 3% tax when they purchase, and they are not taxed until they earn over $40K Euros per year.
In the cathedral, columns are from Aswan, 3.5K years old, and is considered the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. The doors were made of walnut and the carvings tell the story of Jesus (because people couldn’t read). It was built to honor St. Domnius – he was a 3rd century bishop that was martyred in persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian. The people honor him every year on May 7, and the celebrations are bigger than for any other holiday, including Christmas.
When couples get married in Split, if either one if from the city, the cake is a replica of the bell tower. The couple then takes a machete and chops it up. However many pieces fall is how many children they will have. Our guide said they had 99 pieces, so with only one child so far they have a lot of work ahead.
We also saw the Temple of Jupiter – the Romans took the Greek Gods and renamed them (except for Apollo).
Grgur Ninski statue honors the man who was the first to say that church services should be held in Croatian, not Latin. During WW2, the statue was cut apart, dismantled, and hidden, and then reconstructed after the war.
The tour ended in a little shop where they served us coffee or orange juice. Vic and I went back through the town. We had passed two stores that had rubber ducks – yes, just rubber ducks. My sister Cindy loves rubber ducks so went back and bought a couple. We also went to the Game of Thrones store – we’ve never seen the show, but both our kids have. We looked around but didn’t know what they might want or need. There is also a Game of Thrones museum – a lot of the Game of Thrones TV show was filmed in Croatia, and here in Split (especially in the tunnels below the palace).
We walked around the palace and shops for a bit, and then we decided to do a “mobile” tour – we were thinking about a tuktuk, but decided on a rickshaw. There were a bunch of young men with bikes, so we walked up to one and asked how much. He said 40 Euros, so we said yes. He drove us down by the water front, then over to a park with great views, then back through town and to our ship. By the way, it was an e-bike, so he went fast without breaking a sweat!
We were back on the ship at 1:45pm, so we went upstairs for lunch. Then I went to the cabin to do some work and relax with my e-book, and Vic went to do a workout.
Tonight is a special night – White Night. This is an Azamara tradition, held once in each cruise. Guests are encouraged to dress in white, and dinner is a buffet around the pool. Amazing amount of food selections, including sushi, black ink pasta with seafood, lamb, and so much more. There was a DJ during dinner, then an orchestra and singer, and the party started!
September 14, 2023
We had breakfast in the dining room, then we stopped at the front desk to ask about recommendations for walking and visiting a beach. Then we headed down to deck 3 to board our boat to shore. This is a smaller port, so the ship couldn’t dock. We had to take tenders – the cruise ship used lifeboats..
The island of Hvar is home to the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world. It is the birthplace of organized tourism in Europe (1868), and home to the oldest public theatre in Europe (1612).
Another very charming town with lots of little walkways between buildings, lots of historic buildings. There is a fortress (built in the 1500s) on top of the hill above the town, and we started walking in that direction, and before we knew it we had decided to hike all the way up (330’ elevation).
Beautiful views from the top (including Italy in the distance on the left, and our ship), and then we decided to take a cab down.
We asked the driver about the beach club they had recommended on the ship, so he took us close (for 20 Euros). We walked down, and Hvar Beach Club was on the right, for 50 Euros per person, with curtained sun beds and steps down to the water; or a stone beach with chairs on the right for 15 Euros per person. We opted for the stone beach, but there were no towels so we walked back up and bought a Croatian towel for 12 Euro.
Everyone kept saying the water is warm, so I said I wanted to go to the beach today. I guess I was picturing a Caribbean beach – fine sand (doesn’t exist in Hvar), and warm water (it was not warm). The rocks were hard to walk on, and the water was chilly. I did get in up to my waist (eventually), but Vic jumped in and swam around for a bit.
Then we walked back to the ship along the waterfront, and got some ice cream (hazelnut and chocolate) along the way. Back on the tender, and back to the ship.
This evening there is a show – Wanderlust, at 8:15pm and 9:30pm, so we went to the 8:15pm show. There were 3 guys and 3 gals, 2 of each were singers, and 1 of each were dancers. I can’t say we were impressed.