One of our first nights in Split, an older gentleman dressed in a trench-coat approached us on the cobbled streets of the city’s old town.
“May I help you with something?” he asked in polished English that was subtly embellished with a Croatian accent.
We explained that we were not lost, and that we were simply taking in the details around us – the marvelous hodgepodge of 1,700 years of architecture that makes Split so special.
The gentleman, who introduced himself as Ante, continued.
“May I show you a few things here,” he asked. “I have been writing a book on Diocletian’s Palace. Sadly, too many of the people who live here fly by all this history. They aren’t interested in it. They take it for granted”
Before we could answer, Ante had linked his arm in mine and started telling us the history of a weathered sculpture of St. Anthony overlooking Narodni Trg. Until he’d drawn our attention to it, we’d never noticed the little man at St. Anthony’s feet. Ante explained that this little fellow was the artist’s depiction of himself.
Just meters away, Ante also pointed out the west gate of Diocletian’s Palace, explaining that the winged goddess Nike once adorned it. Such tidbits offered a wonderful introduction to Split, and we were happy that we could be Ante’s audience, if only for a few minutes. After he’d shared his select anecdotes the historian bid us farewell and headed home via a limestone lane polished by centuries of feet passing over it.
Our kind apartment owner, Novica, is as equally passionate about history. When he was restoring the apartment that we’ve been calling home the past two months, he uncovered an old doorway filled in with Roman bricks. Our building is likely ‘only’ from the 17th Century, so it makes us all wonder who scavenged the now 1,700 year-old bricks from Diocletian’s Palace, and when they did so. Whenever we enter our little apartment, we pass this wall so unintentionally beautiful – comprised of irregular limestones and those Roman bricks. Our pledge is to never take such character for granted.
Novica recently allowed us to take a peek at two rare, vintage books featuring images of Split from the early 1900s. During quiet moments, we’ve carefully turned the books’ browning pages, feeling as though we were stepping back in time onto Split’s black & white streets. So much remains the same, yet little details have changed.
It is from Novica and those vintage photography books that I found my inspiration for this piece. May I present Split in Black & White, circa 2014.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.