Tourist Board of Split-Dalmatia County has recognized the potential of cultural tourism as one of the priorities of tourism development strategy, to reduce seasonality and stimulate tourism activities for a larger part of the year.
Around 37% of all international travel is attributed to trips motivated by culture. With three sites included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, an extremely valuable and rich archaeological heritage and with the concentration of protected cultural and historical monuments, the Split-Dalmatia County is ideally positioned for the development of cultural tourism. Half of all Croatian, UNESCO-listed tangible and intangible cultural heritage properties, are located in the area of this county.
Intangible heritage includes various forms of folk and traditional cultural expressions such as language, oral literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs and traditional crafts, as well as cultural areas or living communities in which these forms are still nurtured – hence the extreme importance to protect, present and put in service to tourism all of this valuable heritage.
Croatia proudly boasts with thirteen items included the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Five of them are from the Split-Dalmatia County:
*agave lace as part of lacework in Croatia
*religious procession on Hvar Island named “Za Križen”
*the knight tournament “Sinjska alka”
*the traditional “silent” dance “vrličko nijemo kolo”
*a cappella singing by “klapa”
The agave lace in Croatia is made only by the nuns of the Benedictine monastery in Hvar town, and this skill has been present in Hvar since the mid-19th century. The lace is made of threads which are obtained by a special, painstaking process from the middle of the fresh agave leaves. After processing, the threads are white, fairly thin, and of a certain strength and length.
The religious procession “Za Križen” is a unique ritual of particular devotion, an expression of the religious and cultural identity of the inhabitants of the central part of the island of Hvar, which continues for five centuries and connects six island towns (Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska).
On the night from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, processions start from six parish churches, guided by the “križonoša” – the cross bearer, carrying a cross weighing 18 kilograms. He is followed by a large number of believers and pilgrims, who stop at the churches and chapels of other villages and small towns, before they return to their parish church in the early morning hours. The procession takes eight hours and passes over 25 kilometers.
Sinjska alka is a knight tournament held in Sinj since 1717, on the first Sunday in August, to commemorate the victory over Turkish invaders, on August 14, 1715. During the competition, the rider races on the horses in gallop down the main street, aiming for the “alka” – the iron ring hanging on the rope. Tournament rules promote fair play and emphasize the importance of participating in community life. Also, Alka’s participants must be members of families from the area of Sinj and Cetina area. Sinjska Alka is the only surviving example of medieval knight tournaments that were regularly held in Croatian coastal towns until the 19th century.
“Vrličko nijemo kolo” or the Silent Dance from Vrlika is unique for its performance, with no musical accompaniment or independent if such accompaniment exists (it is played by traditional “diple”, a bag-pipe-typed instrument, or by a specific way of singing in small groups by “shaking” the voice – “rera”, “ganga”, “ojkavica”).
It is performed in a round – in a “kolo”, only in the area of Dalmatian hinterland, but it can also be broken into pairs or performed during the entire dance in pairs, which are moving freely in the “kolo” or the dance area.
Klapa singing is a traditional polyphonic a cappella singing, without accompanying instruments. The tradition of klapa and klapa songs which we know today was formed in the mid-19th century, at the time when the cultural and musical identities of Mediterranean towns on our coast and islands, especially in Dalmatia, were profiled. The oldest model of klapa, the folk klapa, is an informal group of singers who occasionally sing to satisfy their love of singing, more than anything else. Tradition of oral expression, the simplicity of musical expression and spontaneous singing are part of the main features of this model of klapa. During the last decades, klapa singing has seen great changes and has gained great popularity even outside Dalmatia, the fatherland of klapa singing.
Photo: TB Split Dalmatia County, TB Stari Grad, TB Vrlika, TB Sinj