Friday, April 17, 2009

Croatia Online - Split In All Centuries

It was something of a surreal experience travelling back on the London tube this evening carrying a “goody bag” from the Split tourist office. No less surreal was discovering some more secrets of Split within the very hospitable confines of the Croatian Embassy by Fitzroy square. Just to reinforce the many links between Croatia and the United Kingdom, we learnt that Fitzroy Square was Robert Adam’s next project, after he had finished discovering the Diocletian Palace, and hides a few fragments from Split.

Many thanks to the Croatian Embassy for an absorbing evening on what Split has to offer and a real insight as to how Split might continue to hold the rapt attention of visitors for many years to come. Here are just a few excerpts from tonight’s evening:

1. It appears that that many of the state of the art skills, particularly in stone masonry, expounded and led by those restoring the Peristil in Split, were inspired by training and education at Weymouth College In Dorset. The faithful restoration of the Peristil is still a work in progress and it seems there are many more treats to come before the summer of 2012, the ultimate deadline for all phases.

2. There is a fascinating and already well researched theory that Diocletian’s Palace may have been more of a factory for the production of imperial military uniforms, than a luxurious Emperor’s Palace. The most compelling evidence we heard, alongside plenty more, was the “productivity” of the aqueduct built to carry water from the river Jadro to the Palace. This was capable of carrying 130,000 cubic metres of water per day which would have served a residential population of 173,000, many times in excess of the population of a “normal” palace, but just about enough to meet the demands for the wool washing and dying required by the military.

3. Did Diocletian decide to be the first Emperor to choose early retirement or was retirement thrust upon him? Tonight was the first time we heard that he was anything other than an early “quality of life” merchant, rather than a victim of a the equivalent of a recession or political coup.

4. We learnt a little bit more about the details of the hold up on Split’s Riva reconstruction (see earlier postings) – we knew there were some new archaeological finds that temporarily stopped the clinical “refurbishment” of the sea front, but tonight we obtained just a little bit more insight into what they might have been, and wonder how the “modernisation” still managed to go ahead in a form that seems so out of kilter with the heart and spirit of Split. It appears that there was plenty of life and civilisation prior to the building of Diocletian’s Palace, and a thriving port directly in front of the palace where metallic “street furniture” and slippery, heat reflecting, paving stones now lie.

One of the most important and uplifting message of tonight’s evening, and one that has been resonating the more we have got to get to know Croatia and all its gems, is Split as a prime example of one of Croatia’s living historical cities. Croatia has seen many civilisations come and go, and Split is (mostly) a great example of making the best of its heritage available to permanent inhabitants and visitors alike. Refreshingly, the head of Split’s tourist board, conveyed a very honest and insightful image of a Split that is faithful to the best of its culture and history, but continues to reap the rewards of ever changing circumstances whilst ensuring that people are at the heart of Split’s continuing intrinsic wealth. Vedran Matošić seems to have the balance right and let’s hope that his vision of Split’s tourism – event led but faithful to, and protective of, its heritage – will ensure the continuing prosperity of a great city. That message, in conjunction with strong signs that Split is empowering the best of professional help it can get to uncover, preserve and share yet more of its history, is reassuring.


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