Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 24, 2009

Klis Fortress, 2300 years of history


Klis Fortress, perched impossibly high on a rocky butte 15 minutes from Split, has had a fabled history for thousands of years.  During Roman times it was the most important fortification protecting Salona, the Roman capitol of Dalmatia.

When Klis fell in the 7thC, so did Salona (a city of more than 40,000 people, many of whom fled to the Palace in Split and then to the islands as far away as Vis)  and soon thereafter the rest of the mighty Roman Empire.

By 800, the Croats had wrested control of Klis back and ruled the area until the 11thC under a succession of Hungaro-Croatian kings.   Centuries later,  the Subica’s of Bribir, Croatia’s leading warrior family,  made it their stronghold.

But it was the constant struggle with the Ottoman Empire that cemented Klis’ reputation in Croatian history.

The Turks launched their major attack against Klis at the beginning of the 16thC.  Artfully defended by the celebrated Petar Kruzic and his Uskol warriors, Klis withstood the Ottoman onslaught for more than 25 years.

But with Kruzic’s death in 1537, Klis fell into Turkish hands.  For the next century and a half, the immediate area around Klis was the de-facto boundary between Turkish-controlled Dalmatia and Venetian-occupied land (which included Split).

Although the Turks regularly harassed Diocletian’s Palace, which was Split proper until 1300, unlike Klis, its walls were never breached.

In 1648 the Venetian army, aided by local Croatians, finally defeated their arch-enemies and Klis Fortress remained Venetian until 1797.

Then came the Austrians, but for less than a decade;  the French, until 1813; two world wars (with both Italy and Germany using Klis as a fortification) and the Yugoslav Republic.

After all of its tumultuous history, it wasn’t until 1990 that Croatia could fly its national flag from the ramparts.

Klis is easy to get to from Split, the road is well marked and a pleasant drive.  It’s well worth a few hours of your time…in addition to its military history, there is a 16C church on the grounds, a restored artillery position (complete with cannon) and a lot more.

Admission is only 10kn (about $2) and includes a helpful pamphlet (in many different languages) to help you get around.  You can hire guide on the premises, but most folks just enjoy the walk and the views.

Standing on the ramparts, looking across olive groves and vineyards to distant Split and the offshore islands, the views  are  stunning.

Do be sure to wear sturdy shoes and watch your step, the pathways are uneven and there are very few fences–you can get very close to the edge–and it is a LONG way down!

If you have young, adventurous children, watch them like a hawk.

Parking is free.  A single staircase gets you to the top and from there the walk is fairly easy.  Only 12,000 people visited here last year and for some reason,  it’s a popular place for new brides to come to get photographed and enjoy a top of the world view.

If you come in the morning, plan to stay for a roasted on the spit lamb lunch at several of the nearby konobas that specialize in this local delicacy.  You can’t miss them, the open air grill at these places practically touches the road, so just follow your nose.

Enjoy our new Croatian vacation portal

Read more about Croatia at secret dalmatia’s unique blog

Fabulous views to Split and the islands from almost everywhere!

Fabulous views to Split and the islands from almost everywhere!

Lower perimeter guard's passage with narrow wall slits to shoot at the enemy

Lower perimeter guards passage with narrow wall slits to shoot at the enemy

If you look closely in the lower right corner through the window, the bride in white!

If you look closely in the center of this photo, through the open lookout, the bride in white!

As you walk up the staircase to the Klis Fortress, a Venetian era tower with the Croatian flag sitff in the ever present breeze looms above

As you walk up the staircase to the Klis Fortress, a Venetian=era tower with a fluttering Croatian flag in the-ever present breeze salutes you!

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