Croatia // Split and the south Dalmatian coast //

Jousting in Sinj

Sinj is famous for its annual Sinjska alka (usually the first weekend of August), a medieval joust that celebrates the townsfolk’s victory over the Ottomans – contestants, clad in eighteenth-century costume, gallop down a steeply sloping street at the southern end of town and attempt to thread their lances through a ring dangled from a rope. First recorded in 1715, the Alka is one of the few remaining examples of the contests that once took place in all the Adriatic towns, and its survival in Sinj is seen as a powerful symbol of regional identity. Membership of the Alkarsko Društvo, the association of riders allowed to take part in the Alka, is still seen as a badge of knightly prowess in a part of the country where traditional patriarchal values still rule. It remains an authentic expression of living folklore, involving all the surrounding villages and taking up a whole riotous day of colour and procession. Tickets for the main spectator stand are hard to get hold of (costing from 80Kn to 150Kn, they usually go on sale in travel agents in Split and Makarska a few weeks before the contest), but the atmosphere is worth savouring whether you get a grandstand view or not.

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