Our hosts were kind enough to take us to the Klis Fortress during our last week in Split. The fortification sits atop a steep hill near Split; we had seen it from the highway as we headed other places. Currently it is a popular attraction not just due to its history, but because it was one of Game of Throne’s Croatian filming locations (along with a few other spots in Split and Dubrovnik’s Old Town). The multiple layers of walls and wide paths that double back on themselves would have made it easy to defend and to stage a TV shoot.
The hill Klis sits on has been used as a defensive position since before the Romans arrived. Throughout the centuries it outlasted sieges, served as the seat of Croatian Kings, and held a key defensive position that helped prevent the Ottoman’s attempted invasion of Europe in the 1500s. Looking over the steep cliffs that Klis is built on, I realized how much more fun it must have been to been a defender rather than an invader. (Not that I want to do either; I like modern conveniences and reliable food stores…)
We also got a side tour of the Roman ruins at Salona just a few miles from Klis. I enjoyed these more than the fortress. We stopped first at the amphitheater. In its heyday it would have had three tiers of seating and room for 17,000 spectators. Thanks to Venetian orders for destruction, only portions of the lowest level remain. A few arches have been preserved and knocked down column are scattered in the weeds. I kept imagining how many ancient plays I’ve read might have been performed there.
A five minute walk down the road – apparently a Roman road with some original stones still in place – were a couple of early Christian churches. The smaller church was just a faint outline of stone in a grassy field. The larger church, its baptistry, and its outbuildings were better preserved and their shapes clearly visible. Broken columns were scattered where they fell and I could get a little lost among all the walls that were still taller than I. It was easy to visualize how it might have looked centuries ago.
Salona’s ruins are situated in a residential neighborhood; more modern structures use stone taken from the Roman buildings. Homes and yards sit right next to ancient history. It makes it feel almost ordinary.