Docked at Omis
Back to some summertime fun to get through this cold winter and plan your summer vacation—or if you’re Australian or other inhabitant of the great southern hemisphere, then a place to plan your winter vacation.
We got on the boat at Split and set sail, the wind already roaring through our hair as the ancient Diocletian palace slowly disappeared into the horizon, while big plates of seafood pasta were being served at our places on the deck of the ship.
It was a Sail Croatia cruise on board one of their Explorer cruises. The ship was everything that could be hoped for, with spacious rooms, freezing cold air conditioning, and private en suite bathrooms. The deck was spacious, one out of the sun and one on top for bathing. There was also a bar serving beer around the clock, so it was a perfect floating vacation machine.
Our first stop was Omis for a brief pause and continuation through the rich history of the Dalmatian coast.
The Pirates of Omis
The ancient inhabitants of Omis were pirates—or corsairs, as pirates of the Mediterranean are known. Omis was long a thorn in the side of the Venetians and Ottomans. It had a natural boundary around it of rivers going inland, carving into steep cliffs, and a close relationship with the highlanders that lived in the neighboring mountains.
made for great pirate hideouts
As the Ottoman Empire crept its borders up the coast of Dalmatia and into he Balkans, the pirates of Omis had to transform their town from a pirate cove into a fortress settlement, building walls and a castle. But it wasn’t from the encroaching Muslim Turks they had to fear the most, it was from their fellow Christians, especially the Venetians who were long annoyed by the pirate attacks.
The corsairs of Omis would harass and charge a toll for any passing merchant ships, while they would quickly flee up the river whenever warships would come by. The boats of the Omis were specially designed to glide up their river and still be seaworthy, making them nearly invincible in the region.
On one such raiding trip, they captured a very special Eucharistic chalice, one owned by the Pope himself. The Omis so prized this booty that they didn’t much care when the Pope demanded it back. So the Pope did as popes always do, he declared a Crusade against the town.
The pirates fled the town and waited for various Crusading groups to arrive. They then dressed up as Crusaders themselves and joined in on the fun, waiting late one night to start murdering all the bona fide Crusaders until finally their town was safe again.
Omis is a narrow town of small alleys and squares
Then came more troubles from the Venetians, who decided to team up with the Ottomans against the city-state. They teamed up with Suleiman the Great, and the combined forces were finally able to take the pirate town. The Ottoman general who led the occupation decided to take some of the local girls for his harem, which included one Milla Kolocavic. She locked the general’s door and then took a torch to the palace, burning it down along with the general.
The occupation of the Ottomans forced the Omis to finally accept their fate—to join with the Venetians or to be subservient to a foreign power. Venetian dominance eventually brought in the Austrians and finally, after years of war, it became a beautiful tourist town on the coast of an independent Croatia.
Ziplining across canyons is half the fun of the town
Things to do
Besides all of the historical monuments, such as the old pirate castle, there’s also a great deal of other activities. You can go rafting up the river, in the summer witness a mock battle between a corsair and a Venetian ship, go climbing, hiking, or head to the hills for a zip line tour. Almost every other building in the village is a travel agency, so if you don’t have something pre-booked with a cruise line or other group, it’s an easy enough thing to sign up and join in. Check the town’s tourist page here for more information about the local travel agencies and to book ahead.
The zip line tour is worth every penny. I’ve been on tours where you just glide through trees. This one, you literally jet off across canyons, rivers rushing thousands of feet below. You’re led by two professional guides who make sure that you know what you’re doing and that you’ll make it down all right.
Here’s a video of my wife taking on the zip line: