The very picturesque town of Omiš nestles at the foot of the high coastal mountains, just where the Cetina river breaks through to reach the Adriatic. It’s a spectacular location, a narrow gateway in the sheer mountain wall, with the town clustered on the flat area around the mouth of the river.
Up on the heights, it’s bristling with fortifications, such as the 13th century Mirabella fortress, home to the Lords of Omiš. Back then, this was the den of the infamous Omiš pirates, who used to terrorise the shipping up and down the Adriatic. Now there is some distinction between any old band of ruffians stealing from traders, and these “corsairs” whose activities were sanctioned by their lord, Duke Kačić. Between the 12th and 13th centuries, they caused all kinds of trouble to anyone wanting to use the shipping lanes. Highly skilled sailors and shipbuilders, the pirates would hit their targets, then swiftly retreat upriver again past the Cetina gorge and the defensive guns, well beyond reach.
The pirates would attack the merchant ships of Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor and Split. They were even known to attack crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, which really annoyed the Pope! The local islands also suffered from pirate raids, and no coastal settlement was safe. By 1331, Hvar voted to join the Venetian Republic for protection, and gradually Venice took over most of the Dalmatian coast, finally managing to subdue the troublesome Omiš pirates in 1444. It all seems rather peaceful now!
We visited at the end of July, for the grand finale of the Festival of Dalmatian Klapa – women’s final on the Friday night, men’s on the Saturday. The little Sv. Mihovila square in the centre of the old town is taken over for the festival, a lovely intimate space for a concert on a warm July evening. The preliminary rounds for the event are held in various other places Dalmatia – Split, Zadar, Bol, etc, and we’re down to the final 10 in each category.HRT – Croatian Radio Televisiion – were there to record the event, and it’s wonderful to listen to the best klapa groups as they each sing their two songs. In addition to the Judges’ awards, the audience also has a chance to vote for their favourites. The final scores are listed on the charts, with Judges in one column, public in the final column.
.Great performances by all the groups – what a wonderful way to spend a weekend!
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