Historic complex of Split and the Palace of Diocletian

“Many places in the world are beautiful, but I carry Split in my heart.”

This from national soccer hero Slaven Bili´c. Split can be found on the Croatian coast where the sea and sun meet. Its name comes from the word spalatum meaning palatium or palace and goes back 1,700 years. The rectangular Diocletian’s Palace, which took a decade to build, is Split’s centrepiece. It was named after one of the greatest Roman emperors and was originally built as his retirement home. Although the palace may be crumbling and damp in parts, this mighty site contains two-metre-thick stone walls and marble columns, which I’m told were looted from Greek and Egyptian temples. Today the walls still surround the ruins, and tourists can visit the Cathedral of St. Domnius from the 7th century, shops, hotels and even a market in this friendly, slowpaced city. Don’t assume that if you’ve seen one cathedral you’ve seen them all. This one is a masterpiece. The Romanesque entrance with wooden doors carved from walnut depicts pan els of the life of Christ. The dome, with Corinthian columns and a relief frieze is an architectural triumph. Even local brides replicate their sugar wedding cakes in the shape of the bell tower!

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Still in Croatia but light years away from city life is Plitvice Lakes, one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, located north of Split in the direction of Zagreb. Sixteen turquoise lakes are interconnected by a series of waterfalls set in deep woodland. Even 100 years ago, scientists were emphasizing the necessity of protecting this beautiful area. Much of it is covered by forest and with over 160 bird species, it’s a birders paradise. You can walk around and between the lakes. From start to finish, it’s an extremely long walk and at one point towards the end there are over 200 stairs to climb. The trick to relieve the aches and spasms is to listen to the singing of the birds and the rustling of red deer hidden in the thicket.