Pond Jumpers: Spain

header image for Free Split City Tour

Free Split City Tour

Posted on May 14, 2011 at 8:29pm Madrid / 2:29pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes

head shot of kelly

Our friends Mario and Milda are among the smart people we know in Croatia trying to overcome the ridiculous bureaucracy to run a successful business. They just launched a new addition to their Dalmatia Events event planning company: a Free Split City Tour. Jay and I really enjoyed free city tours we took in Berlin, Budapest, and Prague, so we think this is an excellent idea. The idea behind free tours in almost any city is that the tour guide provides the tour for free, but gladly accepts tips at the end. We’ve found this model is ideal; the tours are superb since the guides are motivated for tips, and even with a generous tip it is cheaper than a traditional tour where we’d have paid up front.

Us with Mario and Milda, in DubrovnikStone Architecture in Split

Mario and Milda were kind enough to give us a preview of their tour last year, the night before we left Split and moved to Madrid. They intended to start the tours last summer after Mario attended tourism school to become an officially certified Croatian guide, but bureaucratic rules got in the way. Luckily they decided to wait and do it by the books because a jealous competitor has put the inspectors on them already and has also gone around town stealing their fliers. Not cool.

Last June we got the first unofficial tour. We met at the metal Split city model on the Riva and proceeded throughout Diocletian’s Palace on what is now Split’s Free City Tour. Mario and Milda took us through the history of Split from Diocletian’s time in the 3rd century until today.

Split's city metal model: the meeting point for the Split Free Walking TourSplit's city metal model: the meeting point for the Split Free Walking Tour

It was fun seeing them in professional tour guide mode. I learned so much. I guess it was expected since they did a lot of studying, but I was surprised and impressed by just how knowledgeable they were, knowing dates, noble families, architectural styles, and numerous fun anecdotes.

We learned how Diocletian had the floor of the Peristil where his worshipers stood lowered so he would appear taller and more astute. This made me laugh because this philosophy has endured thousands of years. Leaders like French president Sarkozy wear thick soled shoes and hire only short body guards so they appear taller.

Many of the columns throughout the palace were brought from Egypt and originally there were 12 Egyptian sphinxes. Only two still exist today. One of the most dramatic differences between the Roman ruins in Split and in Italy is that the ruins in Split are living ruins; people still have their homes and work inside the ruins. And it isn’t even surprising to see a kid climbing on one of the original Sphinxes.

Statue of an Egyptian Sphynx in Diocletian's PalaceThe Peristyle in Diocletian's Palace

In the Pjaca (main plaza), we stopped at a statue of a saint that I had probably walked passed a hundred times and paid no attention to it. And I had definitely never noticed the mischievous looking little man peeking out from behind the saint’s robes. It was the nobleman who commissioned the building of the statue.

Split's Sveti Duje cathedral, its oldest cathedral, in Diocletian's PalaceSplit's Pjaca Narodni Trg

This was a wonderful way to spend our last night in Split. All through the palace Mario and Milda pointed out things I had never noticed. It gave me even more of an appreciation for Split. Mario has lived his entire life in Split (actually he grew up in Stobrec, a suburb of Split) and even he said his tourism classes showed him new things he had never seen and historical facts he had never known. It definitely motivated me to learn more about the history of my hometown, Cincinnati. It’s so easy to miss intriguing things right at our doorstep.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Split, here is what you need to know:
Monday through Saturday at 13:00 and 18:00
Meeting Place: Riva (Promenade) next to Split city metal model
For more information, visit the web site or write to info@dalmatia-events.com

4 Reader Comments to “Free Split City Tour”

  1. Bluegreen Kirk on June 27, 2011 at 5:17pm Split / 11:17am Cincinnati

    Sounds like you had a wonder time on the tour. But this business is only based upon them getting tips after the actual tour? Do a lot of business survive using this model?

  2. Mack Reynolds on September 14, 2011 at 5:26pm Split / 11:26am Cincinnati

    Stealing flyers? Who does that?! Seriously, get a life, Jealous Competitor. The tour looks pretty awesome though. I’d love to visit that palace. It looks so epic!

  3. Croatia Travel on April 5, 2012 at 11:46am Split / 5:46am Cincinnati

    Hi, I see you had wonderful time in Split. :)

  4. Vickie on June 28, 2012 at 8:42pm Split / 2:42pm Cincinnati

    Are you still running these free city walking tours? If so, are they daily and what time?
    Thanks