My travel sketchbook: The Iron Gate
Having left the seaside and retreated back within the ancient solid walls of Diocletian’s Palace, it was always a pleasure to enjoy the very active café culture which is so prevalent in Split. High quality restaurants and laid back bars alike spill out onto the ancient cobbled restaurants where once the Emperor Diocletian himself might have reclined back on a couch to drink a cup of Zinfandel wine (the famous Croatian-born grape). Despite the excellence of their food, Split’s eateries are far from pretentious. Rather, Split is alive with an atmosphere of the bohemian, a resolutely relaxed happiness which is underpinned by a plethora of live music performances from one business to the next. I will always remember one evening sitting in a cosy wine bar, funnily enough called Zinfandel, where live music was being played. Suddenly some girls started dancing to the music out in the street, and their energetic vivacity for life spread like wild fire. Within seconds the rhythm of the night had spread, and practically the whole restaurant and much of the nearby street too were dancing with strangers, inhibitions completely set aside. It was a magical moment.
Anyway, I digress. One day, heading back to the city from the beach, we stopped off in one of the spiritual hearts of the city, the Pjaca, or People’s Square, which was the first inhabited section of the city set just outside of Diocletian’s Palace. With all of the beautiful renaissance palaces which can be found in the square, the visitor is rather spoilt for choice in terms of the views on offer from one of its many cafes, but perhaps the best of the lot is the view afforded of the Iron Gate. One of four gates (Golden, Silver, Iron and Brass) which mark the four original entrances to Diocletian’s heavily fortified palace complex, the Iron Gate is one of the most distinctive, with its addition of a famous Renaissance clock characterised by its 24 digits instead of 12.
I loved this view, for all its layered complexity. Arch laid upon ancient arch, the renaissance bell tower of St Theodor, and the Venetian style palace overlapping the lot… it all made for a wonderful sight, and a clear requisite of my travel sketchbook. So sitting at a cafe I made a start on this sketch. Made with pen on paper, it’s a quick capture of a view which remain active in my mind for a long time.
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