Eating in Korcula Old Town: Lunch

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Seawall walk lined with places to eat

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How’s that for lunch with a view?!

Old Town Korcula has a large number of cafes and restaurants, especially along the waterfront and at the point of the peninsula. So, making a choice of where to eat is quite difficult as most of them look attractive and the food we saw being served looked great.

So, for us it was pretty random really: if the menu looked good with reasonable prices, and if they had a table for us (preferably on the edge of the waterfront), then we went there.

We were not disappointed in any of the choices and were delighted with the view out over the sea. I’ll spotlight just a few of these great places. I’m feeling hungry just looking at these pictures again!

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Marco Polo restaurant (konoba) is up a narrow alley

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Selfie of the 4 of us at Marco Polo

First, lunch time:

We went for lunch on our first day in Korcula at Marco Polo, partly because our apartment host recommended it and partly because it was just two buildings further up the stepped lane from our apartment. For wine, we had a glass of Stolno. Sonya and I tried the mushroom soup, and Rod and Nath had the fish broth, then we all had the Marco Polo salad (lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, anchovies). Everything was fresh and very good.

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Marco Polo salad

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Marco Polo

SNviewAnother lunch was at Račiška on the seawall walkway, where we had various salads, bread, a Račiška plate, mineral water, Croatian Ozujsko beer, a chocolate drink and coffees, for a total of 418 kuna, about US$ 61.

 

 

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Views and food

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Quite an appetizer

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Sonya and Nath discuss the menu

redsub2Besides the good food, the view out was great—across the bay to the mountains, with the odd boat passing by, or the tourist red submarine.

 

 

 

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Importance of Language

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Sign introducing Korcula

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Just outside the lower entrance gate to Old Town Korcula are a cluster of shops, including a grocery store

Sometimes you do need to know the written language

Most often when we travel to foreign countries we do not know the language. We try to learn a few basic words, which always helps to smooth the way, and our guide books have some menu translations, so you know what you’re eating. Maybe the menu has pictures of the dishes and you can just point or, like in Japan, almost all restaurants have plastic models of the dishes they offer and you just point. And, more and more, service people in tourist places speak at least some English.

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Konzum is a well-known grocery store chain in Croatia

Grocery shopping can be a different experience though. We’ve lived in France before and speak reasonable French, so going to the shops there is not a problem. When we lived in Japan, our host took us to the supermarket the first few times and showed us where everything was. Then I would remember the position of the butter, for example, or other packaged items. Bread, fruits and vegetables, and meats were easy as you can see them.

While on Korcula Island in Croatia we stayed in a small apartment and decided we could easily do our own breakfasts. So, off to the local Konzum supermarket we went. Bread and bananas, no problem. Juice, fairly easy as there was a small fruit picture on each bottle. Then to the dairy section, all nicely grouped together. Yoghurt we eventually worked out, and then we looked for butter. There were tubs of what must have been spreads, as they had a long list of ingredients (which we couldn’t read). Next to those were small slabs

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That is definitely not butter!

wrapped in gold-colored foil, similar to butter we can buy at home. Plus, there was a a picture of a pastry on it. So, we grabbed a couple of those. Big mistake, as we discovered the first breakfast. It was hard, had a strange consistency and taste, so definitely not butter.

We asked Pero, who rents out the apartments, and it turns out that was a cake of yeast! We had a good laugh about that, realizing the importance of language.

If only we could have read Croatian!

 

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Marco Polo and Korcula

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Map of Marco Polo’s travels

museumMarco Polo, the great 13th century explorer, is Korcula’s favorite son and there are signs of that all over Old Town (in Korcula they sometimes spell his name Marko). In the Old Town is a house that is supposedly his birth place, and numerous shops in the Old Town sell Marco Polo related items. A group of 4 collectively call themselves Marco Polo Museum, as they have set up various scenes that explore the life of the great explorer and try to explain his connection to Korcula. They even offer Marco Polo icecream, which we didn’t sample! On one narrow street, in front of a souvenir shop, is a huge wooden chair with Marco Polo inscribed on the top. It’s supposedly lucky to sit in it, as then the person will come back to the island. We did, so we’re hoping there’s a return visit to Korcula in our future! There’s also a lovely restaurant called The Marco Polo, halfway up one of the narrow lanes.

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Viv and Rod and “Marco Polo’s chair”

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Marco Polo restaurant on one of Old Town Korcula’s narrow alleys

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Many shops seeing Marco Polo items are close to his house

Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) was a medieval Venetian merchant, who is better known as a world-renowned writer and traveller. The exact date and place of Marco Polo’s birth are unknown but most scholars believe he came from Venice. Some historians argue, however, that he was born on the island of Korcula on the Adriatic coast, in what is today Croatia, although evidence for this is sketchy. Nevertheless, Korcula still claims him as their own.

If he were from Korcula, the story goes that his father was a merchant from Dalmatia named Nicolo Pilic, who Italianized his surname to Polo when he established himself in Venice. Records show that Marco Polo’s father Nicolo and his uncle Maffeo Pilic were rich merchants from Sibenik in Dalmatia, then under Venetian rule. They went to Venice as businessmen. All of the merchant and nobility class of that time used the Italian version of their names, so Pilic, which is Croatian for chicken, became Polo in Italian. The Pilic/Polo family coat of arms shows a crown and four chickens.

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museumsignTogether with his father Nicolo and his uncle Maffeo, Marco Polo was amongst the first Europeans to travel the famous Silk Road trade route, stretching from the Middle East to China. They traveled under the auspices of the Venetian Republic. He brought back amazing stories and exotic goods, like silk, that Europeans had never seen before.

After the trip, Marco Polo fought in an important naval battle near Korcula against the Genoese, between the Venetian and Genovese states. He was captured and taken to Genoese prison. He told his story about his travels through Asia between 1276-1291 to a cellmate, Rustichello da Pisa, who wrote it down. It was published, making Marco Polo almost instantly famous.

It was written first in Old French as Livre des Merveilles du Monde (Book of the Marvels of the

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What’s left of Marco Polo’s house

World). In Italian it became known as Il Millione, or Oriente Poliana, and in English it’s usually known as The Travels of Marco Polo. Some have questioned whether these fabulous stories are actually true, but most scholars believe they are broadly authentic, and the record of an observant traveler.

Whatever the truth of his birth, Korcula town still boasts Marco Polo’s alleged house of birth. The interior is rather featureless and partly ruined, but the house’s tower (loggia) gives a panoramic view of Korcula, stretching from east to west. The house is under the protection of the Korcula Town Hall and the plans are that it will soon be turned into a Museum of Marco Polo.

Maybe we’ll see that next time? I’m also inspired to read Marco Polo’s book, something I’ve never done, not in its entirety anyway.

 

 

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Apartment in Old Town Korcula

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Looking down “our” lane

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And going up

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Downstairs apartment

Apartments Lenni

When we planned to stay on Korcula, we knew we needed to have accommodation pre-booked. So, we consulted our trusty Rick Steves Eastern Europe and sent out a few enquiries.

The best option was offered by Apartments Lenni, and it was a great choice. Lenni and Peter/Pero have a number of apartments and rooms in Old Town Korcula, and we got 2 double apartments/studios.

We notified them (via email) when we would arrive and Pero met us at the dock, to escort us to the apartments, a short walk away. Might be hard to find on one’s own at first, as the streets are so narrow and not all seemed to be marked. Pero speaks good English and was happy to explain anything about Korcula to us. We walked up a narrow stepped lane that leads up off the waterfront walk, and the apartments are about half-way up.

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A place to hang wet swim wear

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Enjoying wine at “our” table on the lane

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Sonya in our lane

Rod and I had a ground-floor apartment, and Nath and Sonya had the one directly above us. Each one has a sleeping area, a dining area, a kitchen area in an open plan, plus a bathroom. The kitchen is fully equipped so one could easily cook in —we only ate breakfast in the room, and had lunch and dinner out. In our downstairs apartment, the kitchen area was separated from the sleeping area by a large fish tank—a nice touch and rather soothing. One of the apartments had a washing machine—very useful. And there was wifi, so we could keep connected.

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Writing the journal and enjoying the wine in the cool of early evening

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A bottle of local wine

Just outside our front door was a bench on the stepped street, where we could sit and enjoy the breeze and the view, have coffee/tea in the morning, or a drink in the evening before going out for dinner.

It was the perfect location and if we ever return I hope that Apartments Lenni are still open and we can stay there.

See http://www.korcula-apartments.com/index.php?accommodationkorcula=27&apartment=1&croatia=1

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Time on Korcula Island

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The catamaran arrives

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Old Town Korcula is that brown bit that looks like the turtle’s head

Korcula (pronounced “Kort-chula)

On our way between Split and Dubrovnik we stayed on Korcula Island on the Croatian Dalmatian coast, and were very happy that we chose this as our island stop-over. The town of Korcula is not large and has a very pretty Old Town, with plenty for visitors, even though it’s not terribly touristy, compared to Hvar Island.

Korcula is a long, skinny island and the town of Korcula is on the Old Town peninsula, which pokes into the sea towards the end of the island (facing the Peljesac Peninsula, which in turn faces towards the mainland and Dubrovnik). The Old Town peninsula is connected to the rest of the island at a big staircase leading to the Great Land Gate, just above the harbor where the catamaran docks. This is (and was) the main entrance into Old Town.

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Stairs and gate leading into Old Town

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Part of the city walls on the “touristy” side

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Marina on the resort side

towerwallA waterfront street lines the edge of the Old Town peninsula on both sides, basically following the line of the Old Town’s old walls, some of which are half their original height now. That’s because in the 19th century the people of the town quarried the top half of some of the walls to build new homes and to improve air circulation in the Old Town. At the point is a tower, dating from the 16th century.

We thought the prettier side (not the marina/hotel side, where the resorts are and the big boats come in) was the Set Petra Kanavelica walk; it has many small shops and restaurants lining the waterfront street on the sea wall, up above the sea below, and is very pretty with trees all along the sea wall.

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The pretty sea wall walk

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The pretty sea wall walk at night

narrowlane2The Old Town peninsula is like a long skinny hill, so from the waterfront walk on one side you can walk up steep lanes, sometimes just sets of steps, to the top main street that runs like a spine along the top (called Korcula Statute of 1214 Street), and then walk down the corresponding lanes to the other side. This layout is apparently good on two counts: it catches the breezes when necessary and also makes it easier to create shade.

Korcula town was founded by the ancient Greeks. It became part of the Roman Empire and was eventually a key southern outpost of the Venetian Republic. The people of Korcula are very proud that Marco Polo was born here in 1254, and there are numerous mentions of him, plus a museum. Later, it was ruled by the Habsburgs, until the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up after WW1, and the time of Yugoslavia began (with bloody wars and break-ups in the last century that I won’t go into here).

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Narrow lane leading up to the top “spine”road

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One of many decorative touches to old buildings

prettywindowStaying in Korcula was a great choice for some “down-time”, for relaxing and “smelling the roses”. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in our apartment on one of the steep lanes (after buying groceries at a Konzum grocery store down by the harbor). Then each day we just wandered at will, exploring the narrow lanes, admiring the houses, many with elaborate facades and detailed carvings; stopping for tea at a place where we could enjoy the views of the sea; checking out the many churches or the small museums; and then choosing a place on the waterfront walk, or on one of the side streets, for lunch.

 

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Sonya testing Marco Polo’s chair for good luck

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From the sea wall we see the bay and another “arm” of the island

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A selfie from one of the restaurants along the sea wall

A siesta after lunch, maybe, or catch up on essentials like laundry or writing up the journal. Then a swim in the sea (steps lead down form the waterfront walk), and a beer or glass of wine at the outdoor table of our apartment. After that, it was the important task of finding another great restaurant for dinner. We had many wonderful meals, all along the waterfront overlooking the sea, and it was magical. The food was great too!

One evening we were lucky enough to catch a free dance show, on an open plaza near All Saints Church in Old Town just above the harbor. It was a mini version of the famous Moreska Dance, a medieval folk dance.

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Korcula’s cathedral

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Narrow bridge connecting two buildings

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Lane leading up to Apartments Lenni

I’ll put up a separate post on some of the yummy meals in Korcula, plus another with a short account of some of the main sights.

As you can tell, we really enjoyed our time here. It was also helped by the fact that the apartment we rented—Apartments Lenni, thanks to Rick Steves—was ideally placed in Old Town and the owners were so friendly and helpful (see short post to follow)

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Korcula Here We Come

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View from pier in Split

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Rod and Sonya waiting to get on our catamaran

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The line gets busy

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Nath and Sonya on the pier in Split

Setting off for Korcula Island/Bye to Split

We wanted to spend a few days on one of the islands along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia on our way to Dubrovnik. We read up on some of them and decided that Korcula sounded less touristy, even though it’s definitely still on the tourist trail. Turned out it was a great choice—more on Korcula later.

The big Jadrolinija car ferries go fairly regularly from Split but, seeing as we didn’t have a car, we opted for the fast catamaran.

An interesting factoid: “Jadrolinija” means “Adriatic liner”.

In the summer season, tickets sell out fast, so one needs to plan ahead. We bought our tickets the morning of the day before we wanted to travel, and even then we got some of the last tickets. Get them at the blue Jadrolinija kiosk at the harbor end of Riva, just beyond the taxi rank.

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Leaving Split

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Selfie of the 4 of us in the catamaran

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I try my luck at a selfie with Rod!

A Katamaran (in Croatian) ticket from Split to Korcula cost us 130 kuna each (about $US19 at the time), which we thought was very reasonable for a 3-hour trip.

We left from Pier 11, which was really busy, on a very hot summer day, so the A/C in the catamaran was welcome.

A smooth ride, stopping once at another island, Hvar.

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Water and Wine

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Soul Bistro in Budapest

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A Georgian wine we had in Ljubljana

And now for something a bit different and a bit of fun, as a bridge between Split and Korcula on our travels.

As you may remember from when I started writing this blog, Nath was pregnant on the trip. She did really well, and the only thing that really bothered her was the summer heat in some places. Another, more minor, irritation was that she couldn’t sample any of the great wines and beers that we found along the way.

At dinner times, Rod, Sonya and I could try the local beer and/or wine, and had fun comparing and contrasting. For the first week or so, Nath would just order plain water, which did seem rather boring! But, at some point, we found that some of the bottled waters had interesting names too, and some bottles had fun sayings on them. So, for fun, we started taking pictures of the water too!

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Water in Ljubljana

Well why not, as it was a big part of the trip and of the whole experience.

Here’s a small selection of the waters and the wines (and a couple of beers) along the way. Not all places on the trip are covered—-that would get too encyclopedic!

First photos in Budapest, at Soul Bistro on Raday Utca.

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A very good Hungarian rose

Next we moved to Slovenia, to Ljubljana. Here Nath tried a typical Slovenian drink called Cockta, a type of cola with an unusual flavor (supposedly from berries, lemon, orange and herbs). It was originally called “Cockta-Cockta” and introduced during the communist period when Coca-Cola was difficult to get. When the Iron Curtain fell, real coke became available again and sales of Cockta plunged. But, apparently nostalgic Slovenes are trying to revive interest in drinking this again.

Nath was happy to try but didn’t like it very much—said it was too sweet and rather syrupy.

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A light refreshing Slovenian beer

Then to Lake Bled in Slovenia. A delightful place.

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Slovenian wine in Bled

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The next photos are from Split, Croatia. I’ve written a lot about Split, so you can tell that we really enjoyed it.

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Water bottle in Split says “Love is all I need to fix my world”

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Wine in Split, with writing in the Glagolitic language

From Split, we caught a catamaran to the island of Korcula, a wonderful place to relax for a while.

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Water bottle on Korcula says “Never give up. No one knows what is going to happen next”

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Rukatac is a local white wine from Korcula

After visiting Dubrovnik, we went to Bosnia-Herzegovina for a quick visit to Mostar.

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Sarajevo beer in Mostar

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Water in Sarajevo

After Mostar, a couple of nights in Sarajevo, also very interesting but also rather sobering, as the scars of war are still very evident, as is the case in Mostar too.

 

 

Posted in beer, Bled, Budapest, drinks, fun moments, Korcula, Ljubljana, Mostar, Sarajevo, Split | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Split: Korta Caught Our Fancy

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The setting

menuThis place was so good, that we returned for dinner the same day.

Korta Konoba (konoba means local restaurant), at Poljana Grgura Ninskog 3, serving authentic Dalmatian dishes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This restaurant is in an enclosed square up a few steps just to the right of the Silver Gate as you enter the old palace-city through that gate.

We were looking for a place for lunch and decided to get off the main streets and squares, so we randomly happened on this square. But, it was a great find for many reasons: the food and service were great, it was quieter and less crowded, and the couple of cafes in the square all had ceiling fans going—a real boon in the summer heat.

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Rod at lunch. Note the bread in the bag

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Fantastic seafood soup

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Prosciutto plate with sea fennel

The food genuinely was local and different to other dishes we’d had up to then in Croatia. Our waiters (at lunch and then at dinner) were very happy to try and explain the dishes and the ingredients to us, and to tell us about the special wines, so we felt we really did learn something new about Croatian/Dalmatian cuisine.

At lunch, for appetizers Nath and Sonya shared a bowl of fish soup (excellent, with plenty of shellfish);

Rod and I shared a Dalmatian prosciutto plate, served with sea fennel, a first for us (Dalmatinski prsut). The sea fennel was interesting and tasty—a cross between a seaweed and a fresh green vegetable.

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A lovely fresh salad

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Nath’s “Fig Pillow”

Following these appetizers, we each had a Palace Salad (fresh and substantial, with feta cheese, egg and fresh anchovies). The meal was served with homemade bread—it’s very nice and less salty but dries out quickly, so it’s served in a hessian (I think) bag. Sonya had a beer; Nath, Rod and I a large bottle of water. Afterwards, we had double espressos and Nath had tea and a small dessert called a “fig pillow”. The total for all that was 487 kuna (about US$70).

In the evening, we wandered around looking at various restaurants and their menus. Many looked pretty good, but somehow the Korta seemed more compelling, so we decided to return there. It was a great decision!

 

We got there reasonably early (7:30pm) so we easily got a table and the service was great again. Rod and I had a bottle of excellent very local wine. It was called Zlahtina Toljanic, and comes from Kvarner, the wine-growing hills of the island of Krk, not far off the coast from here. It cost 110 kuna in the restaurant (about US$16). The Zlahtina grape is found only on the island of Krk.

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Back of wine bottle

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Wine bottle with special writing. Note bread bag again

The other writing on the wine label is Glagolitic/old Croatian. This writing was also found on a stone on Krk. (I also wrote about this language when we found a panel in the Cathedral in Zagreb. See here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/zagreb-more-than-a-gorgeous-cathedral/ )

The menu at Korta is in both Croatian and English luckily. But, it’s fun to try and figure out the Croatian words too, so I’ve put a few in here.

For the dinner meal we focused mainly on seafood, as we were at the sea after all! For appetizers, Nath and Sonya shared a mixed seashells soup (as they called it), again, as it was so good (Juha od mijesane skoljki). They said it was the best fish soup they’d ever had. Rod and I shared a seasonal salad, which was very similar to the Palace salad at lunch, so was plenty for two.

Bread came in a bag again—a nice touch, and perhaps helps to keep it moister for longer.

For the main dishes: Rod had Brodetto (Brudet od mijesanih glavonuzaca), which is a crustacean stew (see below):

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I had Popara odd mijesane ribe, a fish stew with noodles (see below);

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Nath chose Lignja na Dalmatinskoj mjesavinisquid stuffed with a barley mix served with Dalmatian mixed vegetables (see below);

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Sonya had Prodimljen riba na motrusmoked fish on sea fennel (below).

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A memorable meal in all ways. I hope that we can get back to Split one day—and to other places in Croatia, of course.

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One of the World’s Smallest Churches

 

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Inside the tiny church

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Outside the Gold Gate

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Inner walls at Gold Gate

(My apologies to everyone for the longish break in posting here. Our holiday season was hectic, but fun, with extended family and no free time!)

Split: A wonderfully evocative space

In the north walls, not far from the Gold Gate is the Church of St Martin, tiny and not so well-known, but not to be missed. It’s a little church literally between the walls. I think it’s the smallest church we’ve ever seen, set in a passageway between the outer and inner walls. To get there, you need to climb up some steep narrow open steps.

Only a few people can be in there at one time. It’s still “manned” by a nun—we paid her 5kn per person to get closer, but you could just look and take a picture from the entrance. From the 14th century there was a Dominican convent next to the church.

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Stained-glass window near bottom of stairs to church

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Plaque on stairs going up to the church

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That’s the church!

That space, in the time of the emperor Diocletian (284-305AD) was a narrow corridor (10m x 1.64m) that was used as a guardhouse and sentries’ walkway. The guards used the small windows, which are still well-preserved, to survey anyone entering the palace.

The church originates from the 5th and 6th centuries but was remodeled many times. In the time of the Croatian Duke Trpimir in the 9th century, the Duke’s chaplain, the priest Dominic, renovated it into the first Christian church in Split dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St Gregory the Pope, and to St Martin, the father of western monasticism.

It was used by the sisters from the Monastery of the Dominican Sisters of the Third Order, until around 1372 when all had to flee from the plague. It became a storage room until 1890, when archeologist Father Franc Bulic found it. He recommended its renovation, so they built a new altar and nave. Later in 1929, a tablet was discovered, which people think might be the gravestone of the priest Dominic, its builder.

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Early Romanesque chancel screen

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Note the inscription

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On the stairs going up to the church

This little church is important for the valuable Early Romanesque chancel screen of the 11th century preserved in situ. The inscription on the screen tells of the dedication of this church to the Virgin, to St Gregory the Pope and to St Martin.

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Diocletian’s Palace: From the Basement Up

 

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Looking down on one of the now-open basement halls (ceiling collapsed)

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Old and new in this city all fit together

 

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A basement hall from above

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Rod and Sonya in a huge vaulted hall

Seeing How a Complicated Palace-City Fits Together

More to visit in Split

It’s also really interesting to do a visit of the old Palace Basement Halls (Podromi) (40 kn per adult, just under US$6). It’s easiest to enter through the Brass Gate facing the Riva on the seafront (this used to be the emperor’s main entrance on the actual sea, so the sea has receded quite a bit). However, you can also approach from Peristyle, walking through the Vestibule and the arcaded passageway (now shopping stalls) connecting to the Brass Gate.

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Entrance and ticket hall

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Sonya shows the size of one of the enormous pillars

vaultedTo the left and right of the gate is the start of the cellar visit. This huge area of cellars and basement halls really begins to give an idea of the size of this old palace—how grand and monumental it was. The Palace Basements are cool (a huge plus in the hot summer) and nicely done with information boards in multiple languages.

These ground-floor halls and corridors were originally the supporting substructure of the emperor’s massive residential quarters above and follow the same layout as the upper floor did. This basement substructure allowed the emperor’s palace to be above sea level, so the palace could have a projecting porch catching the sun and summer breezes. Very little of the substructure has been changed over the centuries, except for minor partition walls.

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When you enter to the left, past the ticket booth, you come first to the huge vaulted main hall, with sturdy pillars to support the structures upstairs. In different rooms and corridors branching off this, you’ll see, to name some of the sights:

–a bust of Diocletian;

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–petrified wood beams that supported floor boards. They were found under the floor level and probably date to Diocletian’s period, 295-305;

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–an old stone press that was probably used for either grapes and/or olives, dating from the Middle Ages;

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–original Roman sewer pipes, square outside and round inside;

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–and a well (there were apparently two ancient wells).

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Plan of old Palace

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Intricately carved stone

This is the part of the palace where some of the villagers from nearby Salona (Diocletian’s birth place) escaped the rampaging Slavs in 641. The elite lived upstairs in what was once the emperor’s wing. They carved holes in their floor (the ceiling here) to dump their garbage and sewage. As the city started developing more above the substructures, the basement halls gradually filled up with debris and became inaccessible over time. Some fifty-plus years ago, cleaning and rehabilitation of the substructure started, and the cellars have allowed archeologists to derive the floor plan of some of the palace’s long-gone upper sections.

The section on the right of the Brass Gate entrance leads through now-ruined courtyards, openhalla huge network of interconnected parts of the palace. Many have their ceilings missing, so they’re open to the air and you can see other parts of the old city. It’s a great experience of archeology in action, a way of seeing how a complicated palace-city fits together.

The cellars are now used for many purposes: as a museum exhibit, as art exhibition space, for concerts, for trade, flower and book shows.

 

 

 

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