Do not be startled by the grim, communist architecture of the apartment buildings rising out of Split. They are not pretty, but if you stay and look around, you’ll find that the sometimes-drab buildings give way to a vibrant culture.
Split’s architecture was not always so dull. Split was built around Diocletian’s Palace, a summer cottage for the emperor Diocletian built in the third and fourth centuries. The palace remains today as a waterfront tourist hub at the center of the city. Stay in Diocletian’s Palace if you can find a room, or at the very least, stop to appreciate the marriage of old and new if you happen to use one of the Internet cafes popping up in one of the oldest structures on the Adriatic.
In Diocletian’s Palace you’ll find attractions like Ivan Mestrovic’s statue of Grgur Ninski. Located just outside the palace gate, rubbing the shiny big toe of the right foot is supposed to bring good luck and many tourists and locals alike stop to touch the toe before heading through.
The smallest attraction in Split may be “pusti me da prodjem,” which is a street just big enough for one person’s shoulders and roughly translates to: “Let me pass.” How this street is still considered a street in the fifth tallest country in the world is anyone’s guess.
The relative size of Croatians has aided their appetite for sport over the years. Split has produced 67 Olympic medalists, as well as several tennis stars and the Chicago Bull’s Toni Kukoc. The overall commitment to sports in Split was reflected in the city’s parks and playgrounds, where outdoor pick-up basketball games often featured the most talented players in the city trading elbows on the local courts.
One of the city’s basketball courts is located on the Plateau at Marjan Park. Split’s version of New York’s Central Park, Marjan offers a view of the city in almost all directions from 175 meters up and is a convenient way for a nature lover to get their fix of the outdoors without leaving the city.
Split is Croatia’s fastest growing city and is beginning to reemerge economically after a collapse caused by the break up of Yugoslavia. Split is one of the few cities that has been able to revive some of its shipbuilding trade, although, like most Croatian cities, the economy is dependent on tourism.