Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 10, 2017

Split’s fabled waterfront Hotel Ambassador finally gets a new life

Splitski hotel Ambasador kupio je 'kralj Birkenstock sandala'

Vacant for decades, the Ambassador and its location are considered the jewels of Split’s waterfront

Built in 1937 and vacant for decades, the Ambassador sits directly on the western promenade of Split’s waterfront Riva.  It’s one of only two direct waterfront hotels in the city (the other is the 3 star Jadran at the end of the promenade that abuts the city’s wonderful Zvoncac park).

Being such a prize property, the battle for ownership went on for years with lots of false starts until finally one of the Birkenstock family members who lives in Brela (famous for their shoes, remember?), bought the place lock, stock and barrel.

According to real estate reports, the new 4 star hotel will have 80-100 rooms, underground parking and up to six apartments.   And for that fab waterfront locale, will pay the city a hefty annual rent for the privilege and privacy of being on its own piece of the Riva.

Demolition of the old Ambassador Hotel began today

The build will take 18-24 months…with the plan to have the place ready for the 2018 season.

Everyone in Split will be waiting to celebrate, that’s for sure!


Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 1, 2017

St. Michael, guns and klapa singing–Sept. 29th in Split

As part of the Day of St. Michael, the defender of the Church and patron saint of police. Split’s men and women in blue show off their arsenals.

Being a 95% Catholic country, Croatia has a rich tradition of celebrating the saints…and many of them actually come from this part of the world.  Among the most celebrated is Sv. Mihovil, St. Michael, the avenging archangel of the Church, patron saint of police and other “defenders”.

So tourists as well as locals can enjoy the many festival performances that are an integral part of saint’s days like St. Michael’s, a performance stage is set up on the waterfront Riva.

But it was a little startling to see an array of assault weapons and hand guns framing the stage as an octet of men in blue sang traditional klapa–and boy were they good!

Singing traditional klapa, members of the Split police were up on stage as part of the St. Michael feast day.

Considering how rare it is to even see a uniformed police officer walking around the city or a police car, it was quite a site seeing all the weapons, commando dress and officers and rank and file filling up the Riva enjoying their patron saint’s day clearly having a wonderful time.

Another adventure is always surprising Split!

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | August 27, 2017

7th Annual Split Blues Festival Outdoors at Zvoncac!

The 7th Split Blues Festival wound up a three day gig last night with a quartet of groups featuring Be Ha Ve from Zagreb, Harpoon Blues Band and Trio Trabacool from Split and Raphael Wressnig and the Soul Gift Band playing past midnight.

The venue this year was the park at Zvoncac, just in front of the Jadran Hotel and the small marina at the end of the Western Promenade.  The crowd was smaller than I thought it would be, around 2,500 for the Saturday show, but the energy was high and the music, well, what can you say about the Blues!

My love affair with this genre began in college when I managed The Cloud, a Boston blues band.  Although we never landed a contract, we did open for Chuck Berry and gigged with some groups that went on to fame and fortune like the J. Geils Blues Band, whose original name, a reflection of the times, was The Hallucinations.

So it was a lot of fun to get back into it last night and even hear some memorable covers of songs like Sunshine of your love and Gimme Shelter.  Let’s hope the Festival gets some decent sponsors so it can continue to bring in talent from around the globe in years to come.

Mike Sponza

Mike Sponza from Trieste


Raphael Wressnig & The Soul Gift Band

Rapheal Wresnig and the Soul Gift Band from Austria/Italy

There’s always something going on in and around Diocletian’s Palace.  If you have been here, as you enter the substructures under the south part of the Palace,  there is a small, open well-like structure filled with brackish water that visitors like to throw coins into.

Every so often, a workman siphons the water out and scoops up the coins and tosses them into a bucket.

According to local staff, several hundred Euros a year are collected, which are used to help support the continued upkeep and protection of the Palace.

The substructures of the Palace are a constant reminder of just how sublime Roman (with the help of a lot of Greek slaves) architecture can be.  Made of limestone, travertine marble, brick and mortar, with carefully notched out blocks to make sure the building wouldn’t collapse in an earthquake, the substructures are as beautiful as they are functional.

The southern part of the Palace is at sea level and the area from the central Peristil north is much higher, so a cavernous substructure was created to hold up the south side of the Palace–where the emperor and his family lived.  During Diocletian’s time, these vast basements were primarily used to store wine, olive oil and other effects.

300 years after Diocletian died, the Avars and Slavs overran this part of the Roman Empire, conquering Salona, the then capital of Roman Dalmatia, a cosmopolitan city of more than 60,000.  Fleeing for their lives, the safety of the Palace seemed a perfect refuge.

Fortunately for them, Byzantine rulers living in the Palace, let these refugees in–but made them live in the substructures–even today, you can still see staircases and outlines of roofs down here.

Since the Palace walls were never breached by any enemy, the refugees felt so secure that for more than 1000 years, residents never moved out.  Instead they eventually began building their own houses up above, using chunks of the Palace and bringing in other stone.  The once gloriously wide, straight, elegant Palace streets became a warren of buildings both small and large.  When the Venetian arrived–and stayed for more than 400 years–they built their own palaces within the Palace.

The result of course, is what we see today–much narrower streets and many, many more buildings (and churches) within the Palace that its original structure.

And what happened to the substructures?  The new residents and those who followed  simply dug holes in the streets and alleys where they built their new homes and threw building debris, garbage, human waste and more down into the “basements” where they once lived!

When they were dug out, archaeologists were amazed to find so much intact–after 1,700 years of continuous occupation all that debris literally filled up the substructures and preserved them beautifully! More importantly, once revealed, archaeologists were able to re-construct what the use and dwellings above must have looked like.

There are lots of older structures than the Palace of Diocletian, but precious few have been continuously lived in for such a long time and are in such a remarkable state of repair.  To the local workman collecting modern coins from a small well inside a 1,700 year old Roman building, it’s just part of his job.

But to me, living here, it’s part of the never-ending adventure that is Split.

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | August 2, 2017

Kuwaiti billionaire’s $100 million yacht Samar motors into Split

Kutayba Alghanim yacht

For the second time in as many weeks another $100 million plus mega yacht pulled into Split, this time the proud possession of a Kuwaiti billionaire–but for $425,0o0 week, it can be yours too.  Complete with helicopter, the Samar sure was a sight tied up the Western Promenade here today.

Complete with its own helicopter, the Samar on its mooring at the Western Promenade

Here are a few particulars about this superyacht:

Yacht Samar

The yacht Samar was built at Devonport Yachts in England to a design of H2 Yacht Design, withLaurent Giles as naval architect. The luxury yacht has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure.

12 Guests and 20 Crew

She can accommodate 12 guests and a crew of 20. Samar has large pool, a gymnasium, a cinema and several bar areas. She has an opulent interior.

A Mini Cooper and a Helicopter

The yacht carries several toys, including a Mini Cooper and a Bell 407 helicopter.  

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | July 17, 2017

Raging wildfire threatens Split!

Smoke fills the sky casting a dark shadow over the city. this photo was taken from a neighborhood about 6 kilometers from the site.


The wild fire had reached the populated area of Dracevac, less than 3km from where we live.  This photo was take from our roof.

The fire was so out of control, you could see the flames spreading down the hillside

It’s been a wickedly hot summer with temperatures in the mid 30’s–almost 100F–for weeks.  With no rain, the threat of wildfires here has never been greater.  The predominant trees here are pine, and when they catch fire, filled with tar and sap, it’s explosive….the flames spread quickly from tree to tree and the parched ground grass, practically like hay, is the perfect tinder to keep the flames going.  The smoke can be seen for miles here and with the fire high up in the hills in-between the rocky crags, it’s almost impossible to fight.  Although housing here is concrete with little worry of burning, the olive trees, vineyards, orchards and vegetable farms that many people living up in the hills depend on for their livelihoods is really under threat.

On every rooftop, people gathered to watch the blaze

Last year almost 70% of the vineyards in parts of Korcula were wiped out from fire.  And the year before, the vineyards on the Peljesac peninsula too a direct hit from the flames there.

It’s days like today that make you think, yes, a gorgeous part of the world, surrounded by blue skies and the sea–and Mother Nature just around the corner letting you know that she’s in charge….always.

UPDATE:   The fire is now greatly expanding and waves of fire fighting aircraft are now being used, which we can see swooping in from our roof, dumping chemicals on the blaze to try and contain it.  News reports now claim several houses in the area are ablaze and a call for fire fighting equipment from around the region has been made and trucks and personnel are on their way.

July 18 UPDATE

Still burning, the fire is slowly being contained….friends who have houses nearby fought the blaze with water hoses, but so far we have not heard about any loss of life…..both malls were evacuated because of smoke and we lost power for several hours last night…’s how the media is handling the story:

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | July 17, 2017

Queen Mira docks in Split, welcome aboard for $2 million a week

92 meters long, the luxurious Queen Mira is the largest mega yacht to dock in Split this year

It’s always a real kick to go by the Western Promenade of Split’s waterfront “Riva” and check out the yachts tied up for a day or two on their way around this part of the world.  There are always some real beauties with fabulous names and fabled home ports like Gibraltar, Valleta (Malta), the Caymans, etc.

This week the Queen Mira is here, a megayacht with its own pool, a crew of 30 plus and cabins for another 36.  Complete with helicopter pad, this kind of ne plus ultra cruising is for the rarefied few who can put up a cool $2 million a week to charter this literal queen of the seas.

A stunning pool, plus a sauna, steam room and all sorts of other goodies on this ship.

This photo isn’t as glam as the first one, cruising along smartly at 17 knots–the Queen has a 7,000 nautical mile range by the way—but it shows how it dwarfs the mooring along the Western Promenade here in Split:

The cover of the new Split/Central Dalmatia Travel Guide. free, pocket-sized and packed with content!

For the past six months we have been working tirelessly to create the first travel guide that gives tourists a fits-in-your-pocket view of what’s waiting for them when they come to Split/Central Dalmatia.

Complete with a list of all travel agencies with offices in Split (more than 100!), the Guide is divided into activity/destination sections like “Adventure”, “Islands”, “UNESCO sites,” etc.

The Guide includes information about events, festivals, towns and more

Although the internet is a treasure trove, lying on a beach or hanging out in a cafe trying to go online and find a particular event, town, etc. can be a trying experience from someone from Norway who is here in Split or Dalmatia for a week.  So our goal was to create something comprehensive but compact, with just enough information to get you interested in finding out more.  We took the idea and a few concept pages to both the Tourist Board of Split and the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board for their input.

The Guide has separate sections on key towns and cities in the region, with links to their websites for more information

They both thought it was a great idea since so many tourists who have “done” Krka and Hvar come to the the tourist office and ask “what else can we do in the next few days we are here?”.   So being able to hand them a comprehensive Guide instead of endlessly repeating the same information was viewed as something really valuable.


Even Festivals in Split and Central Dalmatia are covered

The next thing to consider of course, was advertising.  With a press run of 50,000, giving away a well-printed 128 page was not going to be cheap.  So we decided to have ONE advertiser for any given activity or destination giving each advertiser an “exclusive” opportunity to get a direct booking and surely a lot of visibility!  Less ads, more content.

So we began contacting the advertisers whose programs we knew were the best, most professional and the response was wonderful….and they loved it!

The next task was getting great photos and making sure all the texts were the same length so the design would make sense…and of course, a ton of proof-reading!

Having only l ad per activity or destination puts content first in the Guide

After a number of text proofs, we finally sent it off for printing and now they are here and available at all tourist offices, most of the cities and towns in the Guide, hotels, and more.  So far the response has been great–we hope to make it an annual publication.  Special thanks to Mario Vrandecic, our fabulous designer!

To download it, please use this link:

And if you do please let us know what you like, don’t like and what we can do to make it even more useful!




Posted by: viewfromtheriva | June 29, 2017

San Jose Youth Symphony in Split, with violin soloist Eunice Kim

Soloist Eunice Kim

The San Jose (California) Youth Symphony, which does an international tour each year, came to Split last night for an eclectic performance that included Gershwin, Bruch’s 1st. Violin Concerto and Sherherezade by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Since entrance was free, the gorgeous Split National Theatre was so packed our seats were at the very top balcony, practically touching the ceiling!

The view from way up high, looking down at almost 100 young musicians

The youth orchestra was founded in 1951 and has been led by the Israeli-born conductor, Yair Samet for almost 25 years.  The musicians, almost 100 in number, are mostly high-school age and perform in San Jose in the spring, fall and winter, and then go on an international two-week tour in the summer.

We were there especially to here Ms. Kim, a 26 year violinist (you can watch and hear her debut at age 7 here:  A celebrated graduate of Curtis, she has won a number of international competitions and has performed with some major orchestras as well as at the UN and Kennedy Center.

The evening began with Gershwin and it was like watching 100 musicians jamming–if you love Gershwin, it’s hard not to get into his swing.  Although the orchestra played with gusto–the brass/horns were terrific–harnessing all those musicians into balance was a constant struggle.

Then it was time for the Bruch.  First performed in 1866, his concerto is a perennial favorite with orchestras all over the world. When the intense third movement begins, it’s hard not to find yourself silently humming along–oh, yes, this is Bruch!

Ms. Kim did some beautiful work in the first two movements, but inexplicably left the orchestra behind as she tore into the third movement.  Tempo, tempo!  Clearly well-trained and is completely comfortable with her instrument, like many young, gifted violinists with terrific technical ability, overall I felt her playing lacked warmth.  She clearly is a talent, who has many decades of music in front of her to take her considerable gifts to the next level.  We’ll be listening!





Image may contain: one or more people and text

Tonight was the premiere of a marvelous “ballet tryptych”–three different works choreographed by young artists from Macedonia and France, under the direction of the Split Ballet’s new director, Igor Kirov.

This is the kind of evening that really tests a company.  Lots of challenging lifts, intense physicality (try listening to Penderecki!) juxtaposed with deeply emotional pas de deux and lots of full company ensemble work–exhausting!

Unlike Kirov’s previous work at HNK, “5 to 12” which never got beyond its original concept, The Edge was visionary, clear and profound–with gorgeous, passionate dancing by the company’s best. Watching these lovers express their pain, joy and dreams accompanied by evocative live solo piano and violin music by Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi was pure joy.

Special mention goes to Irina Ciban Bilandic, in Isadora Duncan red gauze, a dreamy soloist, Ivan Boiko and a new company member from Malaysia whose name I do not have, who made time stand still with some absolutely stunning work.

What a triumph for all concerned–the lighting, costumes and lovely work by the musical soloists.

My only criticism is Kirov’s penchant for having dancers act like stagehands during some part of the performance, as if somehow this bit of stage business is an integral part of his artistic expression.  In one scene, inexplicably,  a solo dancer, crouched over as if to tell the audience please don’t notice me, starts to unroll a carpet directly in front of of a trio of dancers, who of course pretend not to notice that he is actually not waiting until they finish!  What’s the point?


The evening began with Sasha Evtimova’s Patterns.  A young Macedonian, her choreography was very visceral and pushed the company to its limits.  It didn’t work for me.  She clearly liked using as many dancers on stage as possible to create “patterns”.  But with so many dancers on stage you need to make sure the “patterns” clearly emerge.  Alas, they never seemed to get beyond a series of well rehearsed physical motifs that drained so much energy, the dancers couldn’t really express anything beyond.  And the lighting and costumes, which could have added some life and texture, did little to enhance the experience as they did in the evening’s second and final performances.

After a long intermission, probably to allow the dancers to recover, it was time for France’s Martin Chaix and Penderecki.  BOOM!, the piece started with alacrity and never stopped.  It was a terrific performance, clean and powerful, sinuous and nuanced when it needed to be–with great lighting and vivid costumes to match.  The reason people choose to dance is the joy.  The freedom.  And Chaix clearly understands this and that gifted dancers can fly.

I wish I had more images, but even on line there aren’t many.  The same program will done later this year as part of the Split Summer Festival and again in the fall.  It’s something Kirov and his company can really be proud of, bravo!

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