We take an early morning boat ride to Split and check into the oldest hotel named Hotel Slavija which was built directly over the Roman baths of Diocletian’s palace.
We had a walking tour with Mirjana who told us that her name means peace. She asked us where we were from and if our cities were tourist destinations. We told her no and she commented how lucky we were. Her comments made me think about the effects of tourism.
Rob and I like to call ourselves travelers, but, by definition, we are tourists albeit in a marathon rather than a sprint.
Tourism’s Impact on a City
Croatia and the cities of Dubrovnik and Split were part of a war-torn country just 30 years ago. There was no tourism. Split has changed more in the last thirty years than any time in history.
Now tourism is huge from cruise ship ports of call to bus loads of tourists. The city centers are so packed that it is hard to move.
The locals enjoy meeting people from all over the world and hearing people speak other languages, but there is a price to pay when you are a popular destination.
Tourism can change culture and certain local traditions are being put aside for tourists. In fact, the very reason that one visits a locale is being destroyed. Think of it: a charming little out-of-the-way spot is now plastered all over Facebook and then it is overrun with tourists.
First thing that happens is that entrepreneurs leave the center of the city because they can rent out their homes for a high price. Those that stay can’t afford the rent because it is too high.
Next, small businesses that support those living in the city move to where their customers are as their businesses have declined.
Then, these small business shops are converted into restaurants, souvenir shops, and other businesses that cater to tourism. Authentic, organic, and local are just marketing words.
The food prices are high so that locals can’t eat out. In fact, locals can’t afford to live in the city. When one is on vacation, one expects to pay higher prices, but what if those prices were at home? Would you spend that much at home??
Tips for Tourists
When you are a tourist, show respect by giving locals space.
Don’t take up the whole walkway. Stay to one side and don’t walk in the middle.
Don’t stop. If you stop, everyone behind you has to stop. Definitely don’t stop if you are with a guide. Looking at souvenirs during a tour is a big no-no.
Don’t speak loudly and don’t make your guide speak loudly. In fact, avoid loud-talking guides.
Stay close to your guide. Keep up.
Intrepid uses local resources such as private homes, small restaurants, and local guides. They encourage responsible travel by suggesting local purchases, conserving water, air conditioning and lights.
Mirjana showed us one of the last local restaurants of Split. She said that when she would pass by on her way home from school to eat lunch, her grandparents or some other family members would be there and wave and call out. They serve food until it is gone. They don’t speak other languages. Go there but don’t advertise it. Don’t rob the locals.
After her comments I started to consider if tourists could be considered an invasive species.
Here are the three main basics of invasives
- Must be both non-native AND cause harm
- The greater the population, the greater the impact.
- The three areas of impact are economy, ecosystem and human health.
In Ohio our main invasive species is honeysuckle. It grows fast below trees and is the first shrub to leaf out and the last to lose its leaves. Native plants are denied sunlight and the ground cover dies and we lose plant diversity.
After an internet search, I don’t think that biologists and ecologists have looked at it that way per se.
The first step is recognition. I am a non-native but I will strive to limit the harm that I cause. Tread softly, leave the space as I found it, and minimize the use of natural and manmade resources.
If you want to read more about invasives, below is a thoughtful article about invasives (humans aren’t mentioned).
In the 3rd century, Diocletian built his retirement palace here in Split. Diocletian’s Palace has three parts: the Royal Palace which is near the sea, the middle part for gatherings, worship and meetings in the central square, and the last part for servants and soldiers to defend against land attacks.
Diocletian was born in nearby Solona. He was born of peasants, but his father taught him how to read and write. He became a soldier and rose quickly through the ranks.
Diocletian never lost a battle. He built a palace for retirement. The islands in front of Split provided additional protection from approaching enemies from the sea.
The water here comes from mineral springs and has sulfur which was the leading medicine of the 4th century. Diocletian had a bad back.
Life in Split
In the Mediterranean (and Split), life happens outside. They only cook and sleep indoors. The streets are narrow and the ladies talk across the way through windows. The sound travels so everybody knows about everybody…and bad news travels the fastest. There is no personal space.
In the 7th century in the ancient town of Solona, they had to run for their lives from invaders and fled to Split. These refugees lived in or around the palace.
Often the entrance for one home was used for others with a bridge over to the other home. They took this idea from the railroad bridges being built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century.
People live in small communities. They share. While one bakes, the other watches the children or goes to the market. Each role is important. And strong small communities make for strong cities.
This way of life also served to preserve the ancient palace as they incorporated their houses onto the palace walls.
In Dalmatia there are a lot of stones in the fields that need to be cleared
for farming, and after a long day of lifting stones in the hot sun, they come together for singing and drinking.
Today there are traditional Dalmation singers inside the connection vestibule in Diocletian’s Palace where Diocletian would make announcements. The sound carries a great distance, and the acoustics are beautiful for these a capella singers. (The addition of instruments are only used in wedding songs.)
If a boy likes a girl, he sings outside the window. If the shutters open, he is accepted, if she closes the shutters or they remain closed, he is not accepted. I asked Rob if he would sing for me. He asked if I would open the shutters. Yes and yes.
Each region in Croatia has its own style of dress. The men are wearing white shirts and red waistbelts. The woman’s dresses identify their region and their jewelry identifies their city.
The jewelry of a woman is her own portable wealth. It is a safety net. Jewelry is often handed down from gandmother to granddaughter. Each piece of jewelry has a story.
In the palace square there are sphinx and columns that were dragged here from Egypt.
In modern times, the square has been the site of Guinness World Record holder of the largest chocolate square ever made.
Under Diocletian’s Palace is a large columned room. (Apparently, this was a setting used to fight a dragon in the Game of Thrones.) No one really knew it was there for years and at the beginning of the 20th century, some of the elders said that is where they threw the trash in the olden days. Sure enough and it was like a compact time capsule.
Here are the holes in the ceiling that acted as trash shoots.
Compacted trash revealed much about history.
Stone from the island of Brač, used to build Diocletian’s Palace, was also used in parts if not all of The White House.
The mother of the bride gives her daughter an olive tree and a stone from Brač. Both will last for centuries.
Legend of Diocletian
Diocletian and his friend Maximinus were having lunch one day. They did not leave a tip. The waitress was angry and confronted them. Diocletian bowed and said that he would tip her when he became Roman Emperor. This made her more angry, and she grabbed his hand and read his palm.
The waitress said, “I see greatness, but it won’t be easy. First, you must kill the wild boar.”
Diocletian was a high-ranking and popular soldier. He was involved in many campaigns. The soldiers supported him.
Numerian was Emperor and Flavius Aper was said to have killed Numerian while returning from Persia in his carriage.
Diocletian killed Flavius Aper to avenge his death. His name translates to “wild boar”.
Diocletian decided that the Roman Empire was too big and divided it into a tetrarchy, also splitting it between East and West. I guess one could say that he brought on the initial collapse of the Roman Empire.
Diocletian was the biggest persecutor of Christians. He was the first Roman emperor to abdicate. He was tired and wanted to retire.
The next Emperor was Constantine. His powerful Edict of Milan gave Christians rights and so they should no longer be persecuted.
The Christians wanted to erase the memory of Diocletian. (I can understand that. Diocletian’s Mausoleum would be like a memorial to Hitler in Jerusalem!) It might be revenge or repurposing a building, but Diocletian’s Mausoleum is the oldest and smallest Christian cathedral in the world. You can tell that the niche was inserted into the round structure.
Here is one of the intricate wood carvings from the entrance door. It illustrated the kiss of betrayal from Judas.
The Golden Gate was approached from the land side. There were two doors. One could enter through the first door, and then it closed behind you. There was a closed second door, so you were trapped with soldiers surrounding overhead ready to shoot.
Our informative tour ended at the narrowest street in town. Here is Rob Street standing in the middle of Let Me Pass Street.
After the tour, Rob said, “What do you want for lunch?”
Without pause, I said, “Mexican.” I was missing nachos and thought I would give Rob a new challenge. Within 15 seconds, he said, “OK. Let’s go. It’s 100 meters away.” Boy, is he good!!
We had some time before we met our tour group for a farewell dinner, so we started to walk around the park, and then we just kept going and hiked all the way to the top!!!
I didn’t know what this sign meant…but it was more steps just not sure of the number.
The glory of God can be found everywhere sometimes made by man;
sometimes made by God. We worship the Creator not creation. But creation leads us to worship the Creator.
Believe it or not, at the top was a zoo!!! It was in pretty bad shape but we paid the admission so it would at least feed the animals. Amazingly, I was able to clearly hear the traditional Dalmation singing from the vestibule in Diocletian’s Palace.