Sinj celebrates a 300-year-old tradition.
Three hundred years ago this week, 700 horsemen in the small Croatian town of Sinj fought back 60,000 Ottoman Turks to defend their city in one of the world’s most celebrated David vs. Goliath battles.
To commemorate the battle, the town has held a tournament of skill every year since 1717. The Sinjska Alka, a competition in which men of Sinj ride at full gallop toward an Alka, or coffee-plate-sized sectioned ring (see left), attempt to spear the center for points. (Three for hitting the target, 2 for the top section and 1 for the bottom sides.) To ride in the Alka is a great honor for men born in Sinj and surrounding villages, and the tournament itself is now a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. We captured the winning moment of this year’s tournament on the ground (see featured image), and we were excited to land highly coveted front-row seats for a few of our guests — right across from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Here is what our guests had to say about the Sinjska Alka in our first Guest Travel Diary. (If you’d like to contribute your own travel diary from a trip with us, send your story to email@example.com!)
Travel Diary by Tracie H. & Jane L. from New York, NY
We had read about the Sinjska Alka before we arrived in Croatia — our first visit to the country! Having enthusiastically studied the tradition, we thought we had a good idea of what to expect. We knew the rules of the competition, the history behind the event, and the significance of this year…but we couldn’t quite picture the atmosphere. Internally, we thought of a modern jousting competition, residents dressed in the traditional clothing of the 18th century — a jubilant crowd waving flags, perhaps?
Only when we finally settled into our seats (hard-earned, we realized, due to the event’s overwhelming popularity), watching the stadium fill residents of Sinj, did we realize how much the real Alka far surpassed our expectations. It’s never easy to place a finger on the feeling of an event, but we can say we felt far more like we had been invited to a family celebration than any historical re-enactment we had experienced before. The crowd gave an air of relaxed familiarity, a sense of belonging rather than spectating, and we felt pulled into it. Rather than hooting or hollering as each Alkar took his turn, his neighbors waited in hushed silence until the verdict called — a band breaking out each time a lance looped the middle ring, a cry of “U sridu!” prompting buoyant cheers. When the victor had been named, the President began a speech to the crowd; we didn’t need to understand Croatian to feel its significance. Leaving the narrow streets of Sinj, we knew we had been welcomed to a special part of the town’s history, and for a day, we were part of the family, too. We hope to be back soon!
Gallery of the Sinjska Alka:
Ask us how you can see the Sinjska Alka next year, and please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800.908.7108 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more suggestions, activities and events across the Adriatic Coast.