DAY 5 — SPLIT, CROATIA
ABOARD THE MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY —Another morning on the balcony with room service coffee and croissants, this time overlooking the Croatian city of Split with its lovely cream-colored buildings with orange-tiled rooftops. I doubt that I will ever go down to the restaurant for breakfast again. This is just too good.
Morning room service consists of a continental breakfast of coffee/tea, juice, fresh fruit and an assortment of pastries and breads. The service is relatively quick, at about 15 minutes. There is also limited room service from noon until 10 p.m. that offers sandwiches, cheese and biscuits and a fruit plate.
This morning we had a half day excursion to the Palace of Diocletian. We began our outing with a tour of the palace cellars which are well preserved, then on to the Cathedral of St. Duje built on the remains of an ancient shrine. Next was the Split City Museum which occupies a set of medieval buildings in the northeast part of Diocletian’s Palace. Other landmarks visited were the city’s Golden Gate, Silver Gate, and the Peristyle Square.
While the beginnings of Split are often connected to the construction of Diocletian’s Palace, the city was founded earlier as a Greek colony of Aspálathos. The Greek settlement lived off trade with the surrounding Illyrian tribes, mostly the Delmatae, who inhabited the (much larger) nearby city of Salona. In time, the Roman Republic became the dominant power in the region, and conquered the Illyrians in the Illyrian Wars of 229 and 219 BC. Upon establishing permanent control, the Romans founded the province of Dalmatia with Salona as the capital, and at that time the name of the nearby Greek colony Aspálathos was changed to “Spalatum”.
All of our tours are conducted using a Quietvox listening device found in each stateroom. The device can be hung around your neck via a lanyard with a connecting earpiece. Simply turn it on and the voice of your guide is detected. Reception is a few hundred feet, allowing one to wander off a bit (as I tend to do).
The Odyssey remains in port until midnight leaving plenty of time to roam the cobblestoned streets of Split on my own.
At 6 p.m. we had a lecture by Dr. Nigel Ramsay, a medievalist from University College London. His lecture was entitled, “The Culture of Venice.” Dr. Ramsay is primarily a medieval historian, but has wide interests which include the history of monasteries, cathedrals and parish churches, funerary monuments, heraldry and book collecting. He was born and brought up in Oxford, and educated at Cambridge University, where he wrote a PhD thesis on the history of the medieval legal profession. He has spent his career working for Canterbury Cathedral, the Department of Manuscripts of the British Library and the Department of History at University College London. He was a well prepared and articulate speaker, exceptionally knowledgeable about his subject. Well done.
I had dinner in the Marco Polo tonight, sitting with a group from Sydney. Australians make up about 90 percent of the passengers on this trip and are an enjoyable lot.vI had the San Daniele prosciutto with melon, a hearts of romaine lettuce salad with grated carrots, raisins, grapes, almonds and lemon dressing, roast leg of lamb marinated with lemon and oregano and chocolate truffle cake on fruit coulis along with a very good Greek white wine. All was well presented and prepared as usual. Dinner was accompanied with music from the Café Concerto musicians.
Again, there were few men in jackets. Sport shirts and slacks were the norm. The maître d’ did have to enforce the “no shorts” rule several times. These types of infractions will certainly decrease as the passengers get accustomed to the ship’s way of life.
The cruise director tells me that the primary market for the line is Americans and Canadians, followed by Australians and Brits. In fact, these nationalities make up nearly all passengers. As the ship is at nearly 100 percent occupancy this year, we must assume that the Voyages to Antiquity marketing department has it right.
Later in the evening there was music and dancing in the Charleston Lounge. Drink prices are reasonable: Beer is $3.50, while a glass of wine ranges from $3.50 to $7 and cocktails are $9.