Sometimes the search for a good photography site takes a turn for the strange. One of the best ways to scout for photography is to look at what other photographers have done. Usually we do this online, but while we were in Split, Croatia walking down Marmontova Ulica, a beautiful shopping street paved with polished stone, we saw a local photo studio with window display of his work, we wanted to see if there are some unique angles of Split that we might have missed, and one of them in particular caught our attention. It was a portrait of a bride and groom ascending a beautiful and strange spiral staircase … and we (Dannie) became a little bit obsessed with it (it just was before valentines day, so I went along with her obsession).
After some searching on google images (“spiral staircase split Croatia” yielded nothing useful), we decided we’d have to thicken up our skin and get the location out of the photographer inside. Of course, Dannie decided I should be the thick skinned one.
“Are you a photographer?” I asked. He said that he was.
“Did you take these photos?” I asked. He said that he did.
“I love that one!” I said, pointing to another copy of the staircase photo hanging on the wall. “Are those stairs in Split?”
He then began to describe the location to Dannie and me, but we were having a hard time understanding what he was saying. At some point, I heard him say “old town” and Dannie heard him say “behind him … the park.”
So we knew that we were looking for a building across from something, during Lisa’s afternoon nap I set out to find it. I figured that a staircase like that must be in some kind of historic building or museum. I took a cell phone photo of the photo in the window and went off to search.
Wandering around the old town wasn’t really getting me anywhere. I even searched along the waterfront promenade. Eventually I decided to just start showing the image to random people and asking if it looked familiar. The general response I got was that it looked like it was inside some apartment building. “There are many apartments with staircases.” That was a discouraging answer. The old town and the surrounding area was packed with apartment buildings, most of them tall enough to require a staircase.
I came back in the late afternoon to Dannie and Lisa feeling disappointed. But Dannie hadn’t given up, so after dinner, she and Lisa joined the search party.
Dannie said she remembered the photographer saying something about a park. Well, there are a lot of parks in Split. Given our limited information, there wasn’t much to do aside from going door to door. So we went to various parks, opening doors to nearby apartment buildings. If anyone asked, we decided to act like innocent lost tourists.
Our plan (or lack thereof) obviously should have failed. We could have opened random doors all day and never found the place. But it turns out we got lucky.
Because we don’t want the residents of the apartment building to be annoyed with too many tourists and photographers dropping in for portraits, we won’t give out the exact address. If you want to go there you’ll have to be determined enough to do a small amount of searching on your own across from Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera. It’s not as big as Marjan Park, but it does have a nice little fountain and it’s just outside the Split old town.
I have to say though, that the residents were extremely friendly. I went in and set up our flash and got the camera calibrated so that we could take pictures and get out before Lisa started making too much noise. The stairway looked just as it appeared in the photo: the ornate railing, the bicycle, the lamppost and everything. Of course, once we brought Lisa in, she saw the stairs and immediately started screaming because she wanted to get down and play on them. It wasn’t long until a woman heard us and came out of her apartment to say hello.
I was worried we’d be asked to leave, but instead, she chatted with us and actually helped get Lisa’s attention so we could get a good shot. We still made some noise though and a man came down the stairs to see what was going on. Upon learning that we were Americans, he asked us if we could help him understand an obscure expression he’d recently read in a book written in English. He then went on to tell us the history of the building and how the various governments that had ruled Croatia had changed its purpose over the years.
It’s a very strange feeling when you go from worrying that you will upset people, to finding out that they’re so friendly you wish they’d just let you take your photos and finish trespassing in their house already!
It took us the better part of a day, but we got the photos we were looking for. We’re really grateful to the photographer who inspired us, the locals who were so kind and helpful and to our own good luck finding the place.
If you really, really like stairs, consider a trip to the fortress of Klis while you are in Split, Croatia. They aren’t as ornate, but there are a lot of them!