topics: school visit, UNESCO and World Heritage education activities, Split, history; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: April 20, 1998

Food of the Day: ice cream

We will definitely be coming back to this food again and again, just as we have found ourselves enjoying it again and again and in just about every country we have visited. Oh the joys of ice cream, a chilly treat for a warm day and a jet of flavor for a still afternoon. While Italy has perhaps the most famous ice cream (or gelato) in the Mediterranean, we have found many alternatives that are just as good and sometimes even better. One of the excellent quality ice cream establishments we found was in Split. On the evening of our second day, we wandered around the old part of town and followed the trail of ice cream eating pedestrians until we zeroed in on the source. It was worth the effort.

Person of the Day: Jasenka Zuvela-Splivaloclick to view a photograph

Jasenka Zuvela-Splivalo is a teacher at the S(h)kola Likovnih Umjetnost (see our Place of the Day) in Split. Jasenka contacted us by email and invited us to visit her classroom at the school and share our project with her and her students. click to view a photograph Jasenka teaches Art History and English among other subjects at the school.

We have rarely met a teacher as internationally minded as Jasenka. As Project Coordinator in Croatia for UNESCO's "Young People's Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Promotion" and a teacher who encourages her students to participate in projects involving young people from many other countries, Jasenka is the kind of instructor we encourage others to become. Active in her home city, aware of the challenges being confronted by her home country, eager to see those challenges met in cooperation and collaboration with teachers and students in other cities and countries, she is definitely a teacher for the 21st century.

One of her most recent and impressive undertakings involved her work with UNESCO's "Young People's Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Promotion." Begun in 1994 "for students between the ages of 12-18 years old with the aim to introduce, promote and safeguard the world's cultural and natural heritage. The project aims at reaching young people worldwide, its activities being carried out through the international network of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project." (The Associated Schools Project, something that BikeAbout would very much like to have been associated, was created "to help reinforce the role of education in promoting peace and international understanding. ASP schools are regular schools within national educational systems willing to participate in developing programs of international cooperation in the area of human rights, protection of natural environment, understanding of cultural heritage and identities, world concerns and the United Nations system, etc.")

Now, World Heritage Education is on everyone's mind and the First European World Heritage Youth Forum was held in Dubrovnik from May 25-30, 1996 with the view to begin brainstorming for the development of the a World Heritage Education Kit which will include slides, videotapes, computer programs, and CD-ROMs, posters and photographs of and about World Heritage sites. (BikeAbout, as a collaborator with the World Heritage Center, believes that this effort is right on the money, and hopes that the BikeAbout information about the World Heritage sites it has visited will find its way into this kit.) Jasenka is now intimately involved in the process of developing these tools and creating lesson plans through which they can be used.

In Jasenka's words (taken from a brochure about the "Young People's Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Promotion" First European World Heritage Youth Forum in Dubrovnik), "We are here to create the positive energy and to promote the idea of heritage as a component of peace and cooperation among nations, so that you are aware of the importance of it, will be able to transfer these ideas to your friends and we will all unite in preservation of World Heritage."

We wouldn't agree more with her sentiment and we hope that the example of her ability to put into practice what she so strongly believes will be followed by as many other teachers and students as possible.

Thank you Jasenka for reaching out to us and for working in a way that we applaud and in which we join you.

Place of the Day: S(h)kola Likovnih Umjetnost (School of Fine Arts)click to view a photograph

The S(h)kola Likovnih Umjetnost (School of Fine Arts) of Split is located in a former army barracks building about 5 km (3 mi) from the old city center and within full view of the near-distant mountains. click to view a photograph The school used to occupy an old building in a more central area, but with the changes brought about by the war in the ex-Yugoslav countries (see more about this in Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and Mostar), this new and bigger space was made available. The entire building has yet to be renovated, but progress is definitely being made! The two and a half floors we saw were in good condition, colorfully decorated click to view a photograph (as befitting an art school), and chock full of tools for the making of art, as well as some results. click to view a photograph

We learned about the S(h)kola Likovnih Umjetnost when Jasenka Zuvela-Splivalo (our Person of the Day) contacted us by email. She had first read about us in the online newsletter from the UNESCO World Heritage Center and then in a communication from her contact at the Croatian Academic and Research Network, which is BikeAbout's Internet Service Provider partner in Croatia. A teacher with an interest in and flair for international cooperation, she decided to reach out to us. We are thrilled that she did.

The school is one of three fine arts secondary school institutions in Croatia and is therefore quite competitive. Originally founded in 1907-8 (and having recently celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special art show that traveled internationally), it now has a number of different departments, including photography, painting, sculpture, and graphic design. In fact, the focus of the school is very much on the arts, even at the expense of more traditional subjects like math and science. Also, unlike some schools, where all the students come from the city, the School of Fine Arts in Split pulls students from a wide area and had representatives from as far away as Pula (in Istria or northern coastal Croatia) and Montenegro. But regardless of the city of birth, the students all share a love of the arts in all its forms. And the school has inspired quite a few well-known artists in Croatia.

Our time at the school was centered around Jasenka's classroom where students study the history of art, English, and plenty of other subjects. We were something very different on this particular day.

During two class sessions, first Corinne and then Padraic click to view a photograph click to view a photograph and then Ethan click to view a photograph presented BikeAbout and asked questions of the students. They were a tough crowd. click to view a photograph Perhaps the toughest we have faced yet. click to view a photograph But after a while they warmed up to us. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph click to view a photograph As in so many countries, we learned about the students' likes and dislikes - they eat fast food similar to the foods students in America eat, they listen to rock and pop music sung by the big international stars everyone knows, they like to go to the beach and hang out with their friends, and they are always looking for a good vibe when they are traveling. We talked only a little about the recent war in the area, but many students did not have much to share. Perhaps this was because Split was spared the worst of the fighting. Perhaps this was because they didn't want to talk about it.

After giving and taking, we got a tour around the schools facilities (during which we admired some of the truly excellent art) and even got a sculpting demonstration from one of the students, Danilo. click to view a photograph

We were very impressed with everything, especially the teacher and students click to view a photograph, and we wish them and the school all the best in the future.

Tech Fact of the Day: the oldest church in the world

Split's main cathedral was once the Mausoleum of Roman Emperor Diocletian and may be the oldest Christian cathedral in the world. It was built sometime between 295 and 305 AD. However, a few years after Diocletian's death (in 313 AD), Constantine the Great issued an edict of toleration for all religions, and in 380, Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. At that time, Diocletian's Mausoleum was converted into the cathedral it is today. Thus, given its very early year of construction and its size, it may in fact be, as the people of Split boast, the oldest Christian cathedral in the world.

Group Dispatch, April 20
photograph of Ethan

It was a day full of remarkable people in a remarkable place. We were lucky today to have arranged to meet in person with a wonderful assortment of Internet friends from Split, all able to give us an interesting picture of what life in such a city can be like.

It began for Ethan and Padraic much the way it had ended: listening to the elderly woman living in the apartment right above their room. Apparently she suffers from an affliction that makes her groan involuntarily and uncontrollably. All the time. And not just monotonous groans. High groans and low groans; soft groans and loud groans; groans of mixed volume and melody. It is probably something very difficult for her to live with and we tried to respect her advanced age and suffering. But it was also quite disturbing to us. We went to bed with it and we woke up a little too early as a result of it. Ah well.

So it was an unusual alarm that woke us up, but it was followed by an ordinary morning in a bed with our trusty computers writing dispatches and email.

Right around noon, we hopped our Wheeler bikes and cruised out to the local CARNet offices where we would meet with Mr. Damir Mrkonjic(j) (see tomorrow's Person of the Day). CARNet, which stands for the Croatian Academic and Research Network (or Hrvatska Akademska I Istraz(h)ivac(h)ka Mrez(h)a in Croatian), is BikeAbout's Internet service provider sponsor in Croatia. And Damir, responding to a request from the CARNet central office in Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) took it upon himself to give us a hand.

And help he did. At his office we up- and downloaded email and ftp'd finished dispatches to Elizabeth, our Webmistress. We even did a little preparatory Web research taking advantage of the wonderfully swift CARNet Internet connection. Plus, we enjoyed an opportunity to spend time with Damir. After we discussed many things, including BikeAbout's time in Croatia and our needs down the road, we were happy to learn that we would meet Damir again in Zadar on Wednesday. We could not refuse his offer to help coordinate with the CARNet representative Zadar so that we could chat from the CARNet facilities there. He also promised to join us, even though it was more than 100 km (62 mi) away to the north.

With time fleeting, we took our leave of Damir (after a quick photograph click to view a photograph) and zoomed up the hill to the very nearby S(h)kola Likovnih Umjetnost (or School of Fine Arts - our Place of the Day) and a meeting with Jasenka Zuvela-Splivalo (our Person of the Day) and her students. click to view a photograph The next few hours there were quite wonderful. For more on this visit, please see the Place of the Day and the Person of the Day sections.

Running terribly late for our third and final appointment of the day, we all raced back down the hill and into the center of town to meet Danira click to view a photograph. Danira had learned about BikeAbout from Kat who, prior to BikeAbout's arrival, called people she knew would be interested in cyclists. Well, Danira's two sons are both professional cyclists and she was seemed very glad to sit with us in a sunny café and talk about life in general, life in Croatia, life in Split, cycling, and anything else that came up. All in Italian (the only language we had in common), we chatted about the world and its wonders.

Finally, as the day was drawing to a close click to view a photograph, Ethan and Anthony went on a speedy tour of the town while Padraic and Corinne returned to the sobe to work and rest. In the fading light, Anthony and Ethan enjoyed one last look at some of the famous Roman ruins for which the town is famous and has received so much recognition, including being a World Heritage site visit the World Heritage Site page and a World Heritage City visit the World Heritage City page.

Split is today the largest Croatian city on the Adriatic with its pretty old town surrounded by a vast expanse of production plants and modern apartment buildings. As a result, it is also an important center for commerce and industry. However, once upon a time it was famous as a retreat for the great leaders of Rome. In fact, one of Rome's most notorious emperors, Diocletian, famous for his merciless persecution of the early Christians, built a luxurious palace here between 295 and 305 AD, the remains of which constitute one of the treasures of the Dalmatian coast and the greatest Roman ruin in Eastern Europe.

Split suffered the comings and goings of different waves of invaders just as many places did. When, under Constantine the Great, the Roman Empire divided (just a few years after Diocletian's death), it remained a part of the Western Roman Empire. Later, it fell to the early Croatian Slavic tribes, then the Byzantines, then the united Croatians again, then the Venetians (who successfully defended it from the Hungarians and the Turks by building a huge wall around it), and finally the Austrians (of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). After World War I, Split followed Croatia into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later called Yugoslavia), and then joined Croatia in its 20th century fate.

But back to what it is today. Well, what is it? It is magnificent. A city, not unlike Dubrovnik in its careful and consistent use of the same kind of stone for both buildings and pavement click to view a photograph, in its narrow alleys and wide squares, in its old-world feel combined with modern shops tucked into the heavy-walled reminders of an illustrious past.

The most preeminent structure of the city's past and present is Diocletian's Palace. Originally built as an imposing fortress with high walls click to view a photograph stretching 215 meters (235 yds) along the waterfront (now a lovely promenade area click to view a photograph) and reaching back 180 meters, there were four gates to the complex. The northern gate, the most magnificent of the four, was called the Gold Gate click to view a photograph and used by Diocletian and other Roman notables. It led straight into the Peristyle click to view a photograph, a square surrounded by columns and off of which were located the palace, Diocletian's Mausoleum (now the Cathedral click to view a photograph with fine sculptures click to view a photograph - see the Tech Fact of the Day - complete with a lovely 13th century bell tower 60 meters (66 yards) tall click to view a photograph), the Temple of Jupiter click to view a photograph (now a baptistery), and other important structures. Of the original palace buildings, only the mausoleum-cum-cathedral, temple-cum-baptistery, and parts of the walls and the basement of the palace remain. The rest was demolished and used as building material for the residential buildings that clutter the grounds within the walls of the old complex.

The three other gates can also still be seen - the Silver Gate to the west opening on to the picturesque, medieval Narodni Trg (Main Square) click to view a photograph and the rest of the old city beyond the walls; the Bronze Gate click to view a photograph to the east leading to the market area click to view a photograph, and the Iron Gate to the south heading to the sea directly from the palace and once used only by servants and slaves.

Besides these gates and walls are street after street of pleasant stone passages and squares. Many of these squares contain statues of illustrious Croatians, including writers and poets and one colossal monument of Grgor Ninski. click to view a photograph Grgor Ninski (apparently also known as Gregorius of Nin) was the first Croatian clergyman who, in the 10th century, broke from tradition and claimed the right to preach in Croatian, not Latin. We assume that he triumphed, if for no other reason than that with his foot alone, he could crush any opposition. Even Big Foot Anthony Ziehmke (size 13!) paled in comparison click to view a photograph click to view a photograph, as might the sandal of Zeus.

With so much accomplished and empty bellies to fill, Anthony and Ethan returned to the still "groaning woman" sobe, picked up Corinne and Padraic and found a nearby pizzeria. Only ice cream separated them from bed, so Anthony led the assault through town and found his way to an excellent shop. This was just the beginning of a process he would carefully hone, reaching hunting-dog efficiency in Zadar.

Content and happy, we all returned to our sobe tucked into a little corner click to view a photograph right by the port , and Ethan and Padraic slipped between the sheets of their respective beds and fell into a deep sleep, breathing to the rhythm of the "groaning" woman's sighs.

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