Klis – Fortress, food and game of thrones

By Anita Palada –

Travel journalist Anita Palada travels back in time to the cradle of the Croatian region of Dalmatia. The imposing fortress of Klis is linked to the origins of Dalmatia and has served as a fortress for kings and a last defence against the Ottoman forces that besieged Klis for decades. It dominates the mountainous hinterland of Split, facing the sea, and has a history and heritage that far surpasses its imaginary role as Meereen in Game of Thrones. The real facts and faces of Klis are far more interesting than fiction.

The fortress of Kliss: a journey through time.

A new day dawns. The light of the rising sun breaks over Mount Mosor and spreads towards Klis. Inside the walls, a temporary peace . Soldiers watch the surroundings, guarding the city walls. The women light fires in the stone houses and knead bread, and the men are already in the stables and feeding the cattle.
But not for long. The deafening clatter of horses’ hooves shakes the ground. Peace has been broken, once again. The soldiers know what it means to them. Tired of the constant Ottoman campaigns, they are sure that this battle will be as merciless as the previous ones, if not worse.

The assailants of the ominous assault have only one goal: to take the fortress! The swords are ready and the visors are lowered – there is no retreat! The sun-scorched Dalmatian land also suffers from the mounted guns, and the dense clouds of dust herald great danger. The furious cries of the assailants echo from the mighty Dalmatian mountains, Kozjak and Mosor, creating an eerie echo and heralding a fierce battle. Who will triumph? Will the raiders be luckier this day? Will anyone survive, or will their bodies lie scattered across this wasteland, motionless at the foot of the Klis, like so many raiders before them who sought to conquer it?

Arrows scorched the scattered hay. Swords crossed. Firelocks smoked as bullets flew out of the cannons in small explosions. Heavy maces flew, shattering even the toughest armor. The ominous sound of metal rang out everywhere, and the strength of the attackers finally languished with bursts of hot oil spilling down the wall. It was over! The tall, powerful, brave, and proud Uskok soldiers repelled the attack, defending their Klis once more.

Filip Ninčević and Damir Žura; “modern” Uskok soldiers masterfully reconstructed one of the historical battles.

With such zeal and artistry they represent, together with other members of the historical unit “Kliški Uskok”, the battle every year at the end of July and make it look so authentic. So true to the bloody history of the region: “This is our history. During a long and uninterrupted history of two thousand years, our ancestors, here, at their Klis bonfire, fought tragic, victorious, happy and unhappy battles. They had victories and defeats. We thank them for giving us this land and this fortress today. But it also means that they forced us. It is a promise of the past for the future. Here, in this hearth, our tradition and culture was born. This is where our roots sprouted. The favorite place for the people of Klis, the cradle of our survival,” says Jakov Vetma, the first man of Klis.

Precious position

The fortress of Klis is situated on the top of a steep, rocky and inaccessible gorge, with a paradisiacal view beyond the surrounding towns of Solin and Split, Kastela, Trogir and the islands of Ciovo, Solta and Brac. To the distant horizon, the glittering islands of Hvar and Vis.

During the long and often threatened historical construction, the fortress of Klis has left a lasting impression on this place and its people. Occasional travelers and people from Split and Trogir have also been moved by the history of the fortress.

No wonder. The intense sunshine, the views of the Mosor, Kozjak and Biokovo mountains, along with the beautiful ridge landscape, framed by the blue Adriatic Sea. Croatian kings, along with many conquerors, could not resist the natural attraction, the mild climate and the strategic position of this land.

Dishes with historical roots

Dishes served at native tables were prepared in open fireplaces. The special taste of the food mixed with the smoke from the fire evokes the taste and aromas of the famous Klis lamb, breads and uljenjak, which are pastries made from home-made chard, grown on sunny slopes and watered with the crystal clear water of the nearby Jadro River.

The creative and hard-working women of Klis still make, as their great-grandmothers did long ago, desserts according to a special recipe. They use homemade figs, raisins, lemon and orange peel, olive oil, rosemary, lavender and almonds to tickle the palate and satisfy the most demanding gourmets. These special Mediterranean aromas spread throughout the kitchen just as they did a hundred years ago. All thanks to the enthusiasm of the wise women who prepared the sweet recipes and left them as a legacy for the future.

Taking ancient recipes to new levels

Deana Miletić went a step further in her gastronomic work. In a romantically decorated kitchen, surrounded by handmade white lace curtains and pieces of antique furniture, filled with a collection of antique ceramics and vases, she experiments with curiosity and boldness. “I like to explore. When I am in a creative ecstasy, my thoughts flutter, I imagine and combine scents and flavours,” enthuses Deana Miletić, owner of OPG Miletić SPARA.

In that ecstasy the cakes Uskočka pogača, Kliška štruca and Spara were created. Every day he kneads, fills and bakes these cakes with the help of his junior partner Ivana Perić, to bring them to the tables of true fans. In these cakes he successfully captures the abundance of Mediterranean aromas and the taste of home-made virgin olive oil – and jams!!!! It’s a special taste, to be savoured because they encompass the flavours of all kinds of treasures of the land; homemade figs, apples, oranges and lemons, plums and peaches, and many other combinations. “It’s a major challenge for me,” he admits, “but also a pleasure to combine the flavours and aromas of Mediterranean plants in a completely new gastronomic unit, yet to be discovered, with the hope that one day it will become the traditional heritage of this region.

Stella Croatica: at the crossroads of the contemporary and the traditional.

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

“In these stone houses we welcome guests during the season and bake bread by the fire. Our guests taste the best cheeses from the surrounding farms, taste our extra virgin olive oil and satisfy their palate with homemade desserts made from my wife’s family recipe,” says Andrija Polić. His wife Melita joins the conversation: “This is our house, our home, and I want to welcome our guests as beautifully as possible, so that they feel they have come to visit their best friends. To offer them delicacies with a special taste, to introduce them to the traditional culture and to show them – through our desserts and natural preparations – how powerful the plants of this region are. We not only use them in gastronomy, we also put them at the service of beauty and health every day”.

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

A fortress worthy of Game of Thrones.

The imposing fortress of Klis was also the setting for the popular television series Game of Thrones. Actors Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen starred in their roles at Klis Fortress and spread its name around the world. The fortress appears in the scene where Daenerys Targaryen and her army enter the city of Meereen, intending to free the slaves.

Follow in Daenerys’ footsteps to find many more treasures to discover in this Dalmatian paradise. Like the Bunari rajčice, which translates as “tomato wells” and is a unique karst phenomenon of the Dalmatian hinterland. Ten ancient wells that still preserve the water, which shimmers quietly in the silence of the carefully arranged stones, glistens and plays with the sun.

About Anita Palada

Anita Palada is a Croatian journalist specializing in travel and tourism. She mostly writes about her country, Croatia, especially about different picturesque places on the Adriatic coast, such as Terra Madre. But not only about Croatia, she also travels, explores and talks to people from all over the world to pass on interesting stories about destinations, historic hotels, good restaurants, traditional food and tasty wines, like this article about Croatian wine.


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