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.
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 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.
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.
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…?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.