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A climb to Starigrad Fortress

 

by Robert Bralić | May 11, 2020

 

This Sunday, under the already well-known circumstances caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, I went on a trip to nearby Omiš – a charming town located at the mouth of the river Cetina.

Cetina river mouth with Omiška Dinara mountain from the northern side

 

Omiška Dinara from the south with Stari Grad fortress on top

 

But the town of Omiš itself was just a passing destination; Eager for some fresh air, beautiful weather, and physical activity, I decided to climb the 260-meter Omiška Dinara hilltop located above the town and visit the fortress of Starigrad (Old Town) or Fortica. Fortica is a common name used for this fort, but that name is nothing but a general term for a military-type fort on the Croatian coast and islands. Speaking of common names, they seem to have grouped in the area of ​​the town of Omis, which an inexperienced traveller could mistake with the names of some other places in Dalmatia. For example, Omiš Fortica should not be confused with the ones on the island of Hvar, Vis, or Pag, nor should another name for the fort – Strarigrad be confused with the settlements on Hvar (Stari Grad) or Starigrad under the Velebit mountain. Furthermore, the hill of Omiška Dinara with the “real” Dinara mountain in the interior of Dalmatia, Omiška Rogoznica, or nearby Lokva Rogoznica to one near Šibenik. While this might be confusing even for some locals, these names are frequent historical coastal toponyms or phytotoponyms.

Coming back to my climbing, starting with an earlier morning drive from Split, with an empty road and soft early morning light ahead, I arrived in Omiš in half an hour’s drive. I drove uphill by car to the Borak hamlet where only two to three vehicles can be parked, after which the walk could start. Otherwise, if the situation was normal, parking in Omiš and walk from the city itself is highly advisable.

The fortress zoomed in from the start of the trail

 

The very beginning of the trail does not look particularly promising. The winter lack of activity on the path and the plants’ spring growth seems a bit rustic but tempting. We climb between the houses and the surrounding gardens, so we walk briefly along a solid fence that prevents us from falling off the mountain and crashing into the settlement. I say we now because I forgot to mention my companion.

Start of the track from the parking area

 

Escarpment safety fence

 

Going into a rare forest, a view of the Brač channel and the Omiška Dinara cliffs opened. I stopped and took a look from top to bottom; life flowed in its course as in the old days; the occasional ship was sailing, local fisherman fishing in the company of very patient seagulls waiting on his mercy throw.

Breakwater with Brač Island in the distance

 

Breakwater binocular view

 

Idyllic Mediterranean scene

 

A lot of beaks to feed

 

However, perhaps it is not patience that is at stake, but security. Very high above me, I noticed a few birds in flight quite specific for the ultimate predator – a bird of prey. I took a shot and magnified the image on my camera. Maybe it’s…? Is it…? Could it be…?

The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in flight

 

Yes! The fastest animal in the world. Quite surprised to see them here. There were three to four of them, almost floating in place, scanning the cliffs, waiting probably for their future victim to get wet, and then to swoop down upon them. Not even five minutes passed when I looked up again when … there was nothing, no sign of them. Their patience must have paid off. Pity I missed it.
Little by little, as we came under the very slope of the cliff, an impressive view opened up below and towards the southwest. Visibility is often much better, though, but it would be wrong to whine on this lovely day.

The town of Omiš with Cetina river mouth beneath Omiška Dinara cliffs, sand beaches and islands Brač and Šolta in the distance

 

Closer view of sandy beaches

 

Omiška Dinara is a favourite climbing area for many hiking enthusiasts. Climbing to its highest peak called Kula or Imber is a bit longer, but higher altitudes usually give a higher reward. The trail to the Starigrad fortress is, for the most part, quite easy and suitable for kids and very inexperienced climbers. There is a shorter, steeper and more rocky part, but nothing that can’t be crossed over with a little effort. Even my pocket dog went through everything without any help from me.

My faithful companion was well ahead, checking on me frequently

 

Ours led to the left

Before I arrived at the very top of the ridge, I suddenly saw one surprise, but for a better photo, she was a bit too fast and me – a little too slow.

A squirrel; damn! She got away like a bullet.

 

Once we reached the top of the ridge, the Starigrad Fortress was just a 5-minute walk away, along a beautiful path, in addition to an open view of the southern slopes of the Mosor Mountain across the Cetina River that separates Mosor from the Omiška Dinara.

The view of the Cetina river canyon

 

Easy-peasy; there was the fortress

 

Although the history of this area could be related to prehistoric times from the name of the Illyrian tribe Onastini mentioned by ancient sources, the earliest solid material traces date back to antiquity, i.e., during the Roman colonization of the eastern Adriatic coast. The fort itself was first mentioned in the 15th century, under the Croatian name Starigrad, which is worth emphasizing, but which is also logical given the prolonged economic activity of piracy carried out by some Croatian tribes most famous of which were Kačić and Nelipić. It was at the time of the Nelipić tribe that the first construction of this fort could be connected, while during subsequent Venetian administration, it was renovated and upgraded, especially just before and during the greatest Ottoman invasion of this area, which took place in the 16th century. From the 18th century, this position started to lose its strategic importance, leaving the fortress to oblivion, until the time of a slightly newer strategic importance – cultural and historical, but as well as touristic and economical.
Namely, the reconstruction of the fortress began in the ’80s and, given the not so generous funds, was a real construction project. The value of this fortress is all the more significant because it was restored by many lovers of heritage from the Omiš area. Still, the efforts of government organizations that resulted in several financial campaigns are not negligible.

The fort can only be approached from the east, entering through one of the two bastions that secured that access side from intruders. After an irregular entrance situated within the bastion, the courtyard of the fortress opens.

Aerial view of the fortress in the evening light from the west, picture courtesy of Kris Martin (www.krismartyn.com)

 

One can immediately see the terrain on which the walls were built; hence the bedrock protrudes everywhere and is only in the necessary places removed or carved into stairs. In addition to these elements, there are only the most basic constructions of a small water tank and a modest barrack for the crew. Then to the west, a narrow corridor leading to the tower, or watchtower – as stated in historical documents.

Fortress interior from the east

 

Primitive steps carved towards the corridor with the tower in the background

 

An easterly view from within the tower

Of course, the view is the best from the tower – the highest point on the hill and the fortress. From here, the strategic importance of this position is easily recognized. The view is genuinely far-reaching in all directions except to the east. I sure took advantage of having my lenses at this point.

Northwesterly view with the village of Naklice and a small church to the left, at the edge of the hill…

 

Close-up view of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, very nicely blended with these electric power transmission lines.

 

View to the north with Gata village barely visible in the distance

 

Above Gata village, I was able to focus on Skočibe – one very charming, long time ago abandoned hamlet.

 

Just enjoying some motives from above

 

This is a very famous Loger shipyard, established more than a century ago. Trade went from father to son for generations here and continues still. Some stunning ships have started their journey from this very modest dock.

 

While I was enjoying the view and the solitude on the fortress, I noticed some climbers arriving slowly from the west and began feeling the heat of the sun as well. Therefore, I slowly started heading down, pausing here and there for a few interesting shots.

Local climbers doing the Ferata trail to the fortress. A trail for serious climbers, as you can see. They are dead serious.

 

Aurinia saxatilis (lat.) – or commonly called Golden Alyssum. Convenient to decorate brick walls because they require very little soil.

 

Spanish broom (lat. Spartium junceum) sprouting in the middle of the trail .

 

I took a break in the town of Omiš, which has an exciting story in its genes and therefore deserves a separate blog post. It was a shame not to stop by because I hadn’t been to the old center for a while. I parked under the Peovica fortress, right next to the river, and headed towards the center. The streets were charming, deserted, with only a soul here and there.

Descended all the way to the canyon

 

Parked near here and started my walk

 

Saw only a few people. It felt a bit strange but beautiful.

 

The old centre feels authentic. Is there something on the window to the right?

 

Yes, there is. Another soul I saw in town. She was very curious, surprisingly.

 

Going from Omiš to Split or vice-versa, I rarely take the coastal road; I much rather enjoy driving through the ancient Village Principality. I stop for a moment in Priko (eng. Across) – (part of Omis across the river Cetina), to see the pre-Romanesque architecture of the church of Sv. Nicholas in this light.

I just love Pre-Romanesque architecture in Dalmatia. This church derives most probably from the 10th century. I wonder how it had looked in these stunning surroundings at the time of its construction.

 

Then I climb the winding road to Mosor to visit the unique panorama spot and the monument to a legend about one Dalmatian heroine. All in all, one beautifully spent morning.

The road I adore. Curvy, a bit dangerous and empty.

 

A last glimpse of Omiš before I go…

 

 

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