Explore Klis: An elevated place of the Dalmatian karst and the Adriatic Sea

Written by Anita Palada
Photo: Općina Klis, Stella Croatica

The Klis Fortress – royalty, powerful, mysterious, and tough to conquer

A new day dawns. The light of the rising sun breaks through over Mosor and spreads towards Klis. Within the ramparts reigns a temporary peace. Soldiers watch the surroundings, overseeing the city walls. Women inside stone houses light fires and knead bread, and men are already in stables and feeding cattle.

Not for long! The deafening thud of horses’ hooves shakes the ground. Peace is broken, once again! The soldiers know what it means for them! Once tired of the constant Ottoman campaigns, they are sure that this battle will be as ruthless as any so far, if not worse.

The conquistadores in the ominous assault have only one plan – to take over the fortress! The swords are ready and the visors lowered. No retreat! The sun-scorched Dalmatian land also suffers from cannons on horses, and dense clouds of dust announce great danger. The angry cries of the conquerors bounce off the gorge of the mighty Dalmatian mountains, Kozjak and Mosor, creating an eerie echo, announcing a fierce battle. They are almost there! Who will triumph? Will the attackers be luckier this day? Will anyone survive, or will the bodies remain lying here and there, on this wasteland, motionless at the foot of the Klis, like many past conquerors who wished to conquer it?

It was smoking from the firelock, shining from the strokes. Arrows burned the scattered hay. Swords were crossed. Heavy maces flew, shattering even the strongest armors. The ominous sound of metal rang all around, and the force of the attackers finally languished with bursts of hot oil pouring in jets down the wall. It’s over! Tall, powerful, brave and proud Uskok soldiers repelled the attack, defending their Klis once again. 

Filip Ninčević and Damir Žura – “modern Uskok soldiers” masterfully reconstructed one of the historical battles. They perform it with such zeal and artistry, along with other representatives of the Kliški Uskok, the battle every year at the end of July seems so authentic. So true to the region’s gory history.

“This is our story. During a long and uninterrupted two-thousand-year history, our ancestors, here at their hearthstone in Klis, fought tragic, victorious, happy and unhappy battles. They had feats and defeats. We are grateful to them for handing over this land and fortress today. But that also means they obliged us. That is a pledge of the past for the future. Here, on this fireplace, was born our tradition and culture. This is where our roots sprouted. The cherished spot for Klis people, the cradle of our survival’’, – said Jakov Vetma, the first man of Klis.

The charm of Dalmatian Karst

The Klis Fortress is located at the top of a steep, rocky inaccessible gorge with a heavenly view of the surrounding towns Solin and Split, Kastela, Trogir, the islands of Ciovo, Solta and Brac, and beyond. To the distant horizon, the glimmering islands of Hvar and Vis.

During the long and often threatened historical construction the Klis Fortress has left a lasting mark on this place and its people. Casual travelers and people from Split, and thirty kilometers away from Trogir, have also been emotionally moved by the fortress’ history.

No wonder! The enchanted sunshine, views of Mosor, Kozjak, and Biokovo, along with the beautifully mountain landscapes, framed by azure Adriatic Sea. The Croatian kings, along with many conquerors, couldn’t resist the natural attractiveness, mild climate, and strategic position of this land.

Klis dishes that never fade

Dishes served on the tables of the natives were prepared in open chimneys. The special taste of food mixed with the smoke of the fire evokes the flavory taste and aromas of the famous Klis lamb, bread under the baking sheet and ujenak whose main ingredient is homemade chard, grown on sunny slopes, watered with crystal clear water from the nearby river Jadro.

Creative and hardworking Klis women still, like their great-grandmothers a long time ago, make desserts according to a special recipe. They use homemade figs, raisins, lemon and orange peel, olive oil extract, prosecco, rosemary, lavender and almonds, tickling the palate and the most picky gourmets. These special Mediterranean scents spread throughout the place just as they did a few hundred years ago. All thanks to the enthusiasm of the wise women who prepared the sweet recipes, leaving them as a legacy for future times.

Photo Stella Croatica

Does modern gastronomy go hand in hand with antique glass?

Deana Miletić went a step further in her gastronomic work. In a romantically decorated kitchen, surrounded by the whiteness of handmade lace curtains and pieces of antique furniture, filled with a collection of antique ceramics and glass, she experiments curiously and boldly. “I like to explore. When I am in creative ecstasy, my thoughts flutter, I imagine and combine essences and flavors’’ – says Deana Miletić, owner of OPG Spara, enthusiastically.

In such ecstasy, the cakes Uskočka pogača, Kliška štruca and Spara were created, that she kneads, fills and bakes every day with the help of her junior partner Ivana Perić, sending them to the table for true aficionados. In these cakes, she successfully captured the abundance of Mediterranean aromas and the virgin taste of homemade olive oil. The jams!!! It is just a special taste that should be tasted because they hide the flavors of all kinds of earthly treasures, homemade figs, apples, oranges and lemons, plums and peaches, and many other combinations. “It is a significant challenge for me,” she admits, “but also a pleasure to combine the flavors and aromas of Mediterranean plants into a completely new, as yet undiscovered gastronomic unity with the desire to one day become the traditional heritage of this region. “

Stella Croatica – at the intersection of modern and traditional

On the other side of Klis, on Polić’s estate Stella Croatica, the synergy of modern and traditional is imaginatively blended. It is reflected in modern decorated office buildings and several reconstructed stone houses that form a unique image of a traditional eco village. The stone construction and interior design of the living space, rooms, open fireplace, tavern and cattle barn evoke memories of past family life on this karst, in the Dalmatian hinterland.

“In these stone houses during the season we welcome guests, bake bread under the fire sheet, our guests taste the best cheeses from the surrounding estates mixing it with our extra virgin olive oil, sweeten with homemade desserts made according to the wife’s family recipe” – says Andrija Polić. In memory of the family, her wife Melita joined the conversation. She spoke emotionally. “This is our house, our home, and I want to welcome our guests  in the most beautiful way possible, to make them feel like they have come to their best friends. Offer them delicacies of special taste, introduce them to traditional culture and show them through our desserts and natural preparations how powerful the plants of this region are. We not only use them only in gastronomy, we also put them in the service of beauty and health every day.”

According to the interlocutors, this rocky area has a special energy that is captivating. It’s a region that hypnotically calls you to dedicate yourself to it. Rugged, but in many ways lovely and magnificent. A piece of land that combines the life of modern and past times in the most cordial and charming way, uniting nature, tradition, culture, customs and gastronomy.

Finally… Game of Thrones!

The imposing Klis fortress was also the site of the mega-popular series Game of Thrones. Actors Emilia Clarke, Nathalie Emmanuel, Iain Glen played roles in the Klis fortress and spread its name around the world. The fortress appears in the scene when Daenerys Targaryen and her army enter the city of Meereen, intending to free the slaves.

Daenerys discovered Klis and found the key which means the name Klis. Arriving from the northern side of the mountain pass, she opened the door leading to Dalmatia and discovered the magnificent synergy of karst and the Adriatic Sea.

Take your key, unlock this door because you will surely find many more undiscovered treasures in this Dalmatian paradise. Yes, and Bunari rajčice (Tomato wells)! Apparently an alien karst phenomenon of Dalmatian Zagora in which there are ten wells made in ancient times. Even today, there is water in them, which quietly shimmers in the silence of carefully arranged stones, glimmers and plays with the sun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *