Croatian Dermabrasion: The Ancient and Improved Split

Every time I hear the word “laser,” I think of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil’s “frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.”

Which is kind of how I now imagine Split got its recent laser makeover – sharks with laser beams trained in the fine arts of architectural preservation.

shark lasers

I’m obviously completely incorrect. According to The Art Newspaper:

Conservators in Croatia have completed a ten-year project to remove more than 1,700 years of grime from the courtyard of the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD244-311), in the coastal city of Split. Lasers were used as the primary method to clean the peristyle of the fourth-century imperial residence—an innovative technique that is normally reserved for cleaning individual sculptures or details of larger architectural elements, as opposed to whole structures. According to the architect Goran Niksic, who works for the city, this is the first time lasers have been used on this scale in Croatia to clean stone.

Pretty cool stuff. Science, man.

And those poor conservationists. Can you just imagine? I get impatient just brushing my teeth for the full recommended two minutes with my electric toothbrush.

Anyway, I don’t really know what Split looked like before, but it was pretty dang nice when we went. Which was a bit of a surprise. A couple we met in Dubrovnik had told us Split was no big deal. They said it was like any other big tourist city and not very charming.

Old wall in Split, Croatia

I’m not sure what part of Split they went to, because we were totally mesmerized.

Beautiful architecture in Split, Croatia

Split is famous for being built around the Diocletian Palace. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor who built a retirement home in Split. Just the fact that a Roman Emperor was retiring is pretty unusual. There wasn’t a whole lot of job security or retirement options for Roman Emperors, what with all the back stabbing (often, literally) and scheming of family members and wives and whatnot.

Diocletian Palace, Split, Croatia

Diocletian Palace, Split, Croatia

We walked around the palace/city in the early evening, just as the sun was setting and casting a golden glow on the stone walls. The city is a mishmash of architectural styles, representing the influence of all the various conquerors who occupied the city at various points in its history – Gothic arches from the Venetians, heavy Empire columns from the Napoleonic era, French Baroque, Romanesque, it’s all there.

Beautiful architecture in Split, Croatia

Beautiful architecture in Split, Croatia

We had dinner at an outdoor café in one of the many, many squares, with street performer/fire eaters entertaining crowds nearby. After eating mostly fish for the majority of our trip, we both had cheesy, baked lasagna after seeing the dish at another table. We sat full and content just watching the world go by and finishing our wine.

Nighttime in Split, Croatia
our restaurant is on the right with the red awning.

Lasagna in Split, Croatia

After dinner we walked around a bit more, stumbling upon another square with steps all around. People were sitting on cushions listening to some musicians playing a Coldplay cover in the shadows of the ancient columns and a sliver of a moon. Better than any nightclub.

Nighttime in Split, Croatia

Nighttime in Split, Croatia

To full for any ice cream (this was a common and regrettable occurrence), we meandered through one portico after another, each corner tucked away with a tiny out-of-the-way restaurant or bar until we finally reached the Riva, where we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel on the outskirts of town.

Nighttime in Split, Croatia

With or without a face lift, Split is a lovely lady of a town.

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