Two Fortresses

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Croatia  , Dalmation Hinterland,
Sunday, July 4, 2010

I started off the morning with a longer-than-expected walk to the Museum of Croatian Archeological Monuments, including an unexpected trip up Marjan Hill. Marjan Hill was Split's version of Central Park, except with more climbing. As early as the Middle Ages, grazing and cutting timber were banned on the hill. The main draw for tourists was the view. I intended to go around the base, but my map wasn't topographical so I wound up at the hill's main scenic overlook. It wasn't a great time of day for pictures, but it was a good view of the harbor.

Climbing down the other side, I continued on to the museum. It was closed. I thought, according to my guidebook, it was open on Sunday. Unfortunately, it turned out there were actually two museums of archeology in the vicinity of old town Split. My book listed times for the one I didn't try to go to.

Sweaty and irritated with the guidebook (I didn't know at that point what had happened, so I blamed the book), I went to old town Split to give it a more thorough going over than I had the previous day. At least two cruise ships had docked for the day, so it was even more bustling than the day before, which I would not have thought possible. I didn't mind, though, because the palace area was large enough that we weren't jammed together. Plus, it gave me lots of tour groups to eaves-drop on for historical tidbits. I'll put the interesting info in the picture captions to keep the size of this entry manageable. The old town walls don't technically constitute a "fortress", but "two fortresses" sounded like a better title than "two things surrounded by old-timey walls".

The center-piece of Split was Diocletian's Palace. The soldier who would become the Roman Emperor Diocletian was born in the area outside of Salona. He apparently remembered his hometown well because he decided to locate a palace nearby, creating the nucleus of modern Split. Diocletian was known for persecuting Christians, but after his reign when the status of Christians was normalized, the palace's most impressive buildings and monuments were reused as Christian churches or chapels.

Originally, the Emperor and his guards lived in the palace. Years later, when nearby Salona was overrun by barbarians, the remaining Romans moved into the palace with its protective walls. During my tour yesterday, I was told many people still lived on the palace grounds, but there were rules about what changes they could make to their buildings to preserve the historic structures and, apart from the location, they weren't terribly desirable apartments, with many of them lacking modern conveniences.

Since I didn't make it into the museum, I ended up back in my hotel room in the early afternoon. I had good timing. A block or two from my hotel, I began to hear thunder and feel a few drops of water. Just as I was walking into my hotel, it started to rain. It didn't last long as there was only one, albeit huge, cloud in the sky.

I was taking off my shoes, getting ready to call it an early day, when I remembered about Klis Fortress. Klis Fortress wasn't in my guidebook. In fact, the first time I heard of Klis, was looking through the tourist map for Split. I didn't think anything about it, until on my trip to Solin when I saw a sign for Klis Fortress. The Fortress part got my attention. The map should have said Fortress, that's the hook.

I didn't know anything about Klis Fortress, and there are plenty of structures in Europe calling themselves "fortresses" or "castles" that really aren't interesting, plus I couldn't find information about operating hours, so I put it on my B-list. Flash-forward to me sitting in my hotel room at 2pm, and it was the perfect time to take a chance. Today was also the last day I would have my rental car, and Klis was about 10km outside of town without a bus I knew about, so it was now or never.

By the time my shoes were back on and I had located a map with Klis, the rain had stopped. The importance of that was it never occurred to me to take an umbrella when I left for the fortress, and I had taken the umbrella out my car in preparation for returning the vehicle. Just as I got to the stairs to the fortress, it began raining again.

I don't know if I caught up to the first cloud, or if a second one came in, but either way I was looking at getting wet. Because it was another single-cloud situation, I decided to wait it out. While I was waiting, a family arrived and started up the stairs sans-rain gear. The rain was the type with large drops spaced relatively far apart, so it was fairly light. Watching the family go, I started to feel kind of wimpy, so I got out of my car and started up after them.

When I got to the top of the hill, it turned out Klis Fortress was both impressive and open for business. Already in the 13th century, the fortress was used to resist invading Tartars. Later, in the 16th century, it was the scene of a 25 year-long siege during an Ottoman invasion. The defenders were eventually over-taken, and the Ottomans used the fortress as their own for the following century and a half. Klis was briefly retaken by local forces once during that time, an event that seems to have become legend, at least in the local area. The Venetians were the last group to take the fortress through direct military action.

The fortress had great views of both the city and surrounding valley. It was relatively intact considering it's history, but it was undergoing some serious rebuilding at the time. According to the internet, there was supposed to be a museum of arms and armor, but the only exhibit I saw in the area was of old Dalmatian (the area, not the dog) postcards. I didn't go in because I was looking for weapons, but now I'm thinking I should have at least poked my head in to see the postcards. Maybe next time.

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