Central Dalmatia - holiday apartments and houses
Central Dalmatia has an area of 4.524 sq km, 16 cities and 39 municipalities. It is the centre and the true heart of Dalmatia, where the majority of its inhabitants live (approx. 460.000), where the main Dalmatian islands are located, where the beaches are the most beautiful. Here is where most of the precious cultural monuments are to be found as well as two of a total of five Croatian localities included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage: the historical nucleus of Split with the Diocletian’s Palace, and the historical city of Trogir. If Dalmatia is indeed, as many say, the true, primeval Mediterranean, then its central part around Split is, in itself, the heart of the entire Mediterranean. Limited is the narrow coastal strip by the Biokovo Mountains (highest point of 1762m), a karst mountain, which is under protection.
Historically the Split part of Dalmatia shared the destiny of other parts of the entire region, but its central position, and the protection its hinterland provided, ensured that its exposure to devastation was much less than its neighbouring areas. That is why so many people live here and why the original spirit of the Mediterranean has been so well preserved. This applies especially to Split, the second largest Croatian city after Zagreb, and the cultural centre of Dalmatia. Located close to Split are other large coastal towns of Central Dalmatia: Trogir and Omis. While extending further south is the Makarska Riviera. Lined in front of Split, one after the other, are almost all the larger Dalmatian islands: Brac, Solta, Ciovo, Hvar, and Vis. The major part of the Dalmatian hinterland, with the towns of Sinj, Imotski, Vrlika, and Vrgorac, are also oriented towards Split.
Although the whole of this wide area abounds in cultural heritage, ranging from the prehistoric to recent times, what makes the central part of Dalmatia so special is its well preserved heritage dating from Antiquity. Two of the most outstanding ancient settlements of Dalmatia are located here: early Greek Issa and Roman Salona, not to forget the greatest pearl of antiquity in Croatia – the very centre of Split and its Diocletian’s palace. The popular local song which tells us that the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in “the most beautiful part of the world, right in the middle of Split”, is not all that far from the truth. At the end of the 3rd century that Roman emperor chose for his abode the location in a protected and tranquil bay beneath the wooded Mount of Marjan, in front of which islands extend one after the other, and alongside which medicinal waters still flow.
Split became the capital of Dalmatia only after World War I, when Zadar - then the capital - temporarily came under Italian rule. The centre of Dalmatia in the times of Antiquity was Salona, its remains being located in the immediate vicinity of Split, in what today is Solin. Ancient Salona was the metropolis of the large Roman province of Dalmatia which encompassed an area on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea larger than contemporary Croatia.
The one-time importance of Salona is evident in the expanse of its ruins, which often surprises visitors bearing in mind that the location is in the predominantly industrial suburb of Split. In places the entire ground plan of individual buildings and the preserved arches of what once were Roman palaces are still visible. But the most valuable finds from Salona are secured in the most treasured of all museums in Split, the Archaeological Museum, which is also the oldest Croatian museum, having been founded in 1820.
The Museum building is adorned by a beautiful atrium, and a finely appointed interior with 150.000 different exhibits. In addition to the finds from Salona and other Roman localities, the museum houses numerous objects from ancient Greece and the early medieval period. Among the displays some collections deserve special attention, like the collection of ancient sarcophagi, stone plastic, ancient clay oil lamps and Roman glass, objects made of bone and metal, and precious stones.
Located along the shores of Kastela Bay in addition to Split and ancient Salona is yet another striking jewel of Croatia’s cultural heritage which also enjoys the protection of the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage: the historical city of Trogir. There are also many preserved cultural monuments in the near surroundings of Trogir. Of particular significance is a mill dating from the 16th century in the locality of Puntana, not far from Split International Airport, and the 15th-century tower in the village of Marina.
Leaving the shores of the Split region of Dalmatia and heading towards the islands of Central Dalmatia, the abundance of monuments dating from Antiquity and from the Middle Ages is evident, and so is the greenery of the landscape and the picturesque towns and villages. A special place among those islands belongs to Hvar, which Traveller, the popular American magazine, declared one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world. Visitors are drawn mostly to the beauty and charm of the main urban centre on the island, the town of Hvar, encircled by mighty medieval walls. From its Spanjol Fortress, rising high above the town magnificent views open towards the group of green islands known as Pakleni otoci (Hell’s islands) and the open sea.
And now, at the end of our journey through Central Dalmatia, it is time to take a look into its karstic interior, into Dalmatinska Zagora, homeland of proud highlanders and warriors renowned for their dedicated preservation of ancient customs. And pride of place among all those customs lies with the best-known Croatian tourney, the Sinjska alka. It takes place every year in August in the largest town of Damatinska zagora, in Sinj, on the anniversary of the battle fought in 1715, when 500 Croatian soldiers from Sinj repelled an attack by a 60.000-strong Turkish army.
In this tournament a rider, dressed in traditional Alkar costume, riding his horse at full gallop, has three attempts to pierce the middle of a small iron ring (the “alka”), with his lance and to collect the highest number of points for victory. Other participants of Alka are also dressed in traditional costumes, as are the girls of Sinj and its surroundings, who have also preserved their traditional dress. In addition to Alka, Sinj is known as the place of pilgrimage to Our Miraculous Lady of Sinj, the most important in Dalmatia. The town also has an interesting museum.
In the surroundings of Sinj there are many archaeological sites from the period of Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, its very specific feature being the standing tombstones, of medieval origin. Situated on the road from Sinj to Split is the most striking monument in Dalmatinska zagora: the magnificent fortress of Klis, famous for battles fought against the Turks in the 16th century. From its preserved walls and towers it is possible to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Split. A monumental fortress adorns the second most important town of this region, Imotski, which is situated above the magical Modro jezero (Blue lake).
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