The island of Vis

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Vis is a small Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. The farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland, Vis cover an area of 90.26 square kilometres (34.85 square miles). The highest point of the island is Hum which is 587 metres (1,926 feet) above sea level. The island’s two largest settlements are the town of Vis on the eastern side of the island (the settlement after which the island was originally named), and Komiža, on its western coast.
Vis was inhabited by the time of the Neolithic period.

In the 4th century BC, the Greek tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Elder, founded the colony Issa on the island. Later, it became an independent polis, and even minted its own money and founded its own colonies, the most notable of which was Aspálathos (the modern-day city of Split). In the 1st century BC, the island was held by the Liburnians. Its importance in the region ended with the first Illyro-Roman war (29-219 BC). Having sided with Pompeus during the period of civil struggles in Rome, became an “oppidum civium Romanorum” in 47 BC.

Until 1797, the island was under the rule of the Republic of Venice. Administratively, the island of Lissa was for centuries bound to the island of Lesina, now named Hvar. The Venetian influence is still recognizable in architecture found on the island, and some vocabulary of the Croatian dialect spoken locally are Venetian in origin.

After the short-lived Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, with Italian as the official language, the island was ruled by the Austrian Empire since 1814. It maintained its Italian name of Lissa. After the end of World War I, it was under Italian rule again in the period from 1918 to 1921, according to the provisions of the 1915 Treaty of London, before it was ceded to Kingdom of Yugoslavia as part of the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo. Vis was at one point the site of the general headquarters of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the leader of the Yugoslav Partisan resistance movement. It was liberated by the Partisans under the command of Tito, and by a British flotilla, in 1941 and 1943. At the end of World War II the island returned to Yugoslavia.

Vis attractions are mainly the natural ones such as its unpolluted sea, soil and air. On the south side of the island, the open sea waves sculptured some of the most eye catching coves and beaches. One of them is Stiniva cove. On this side of the island the largest settlements are Milna and Rukavac. However, there are also other things, besides the nature, to do and see. The first settlement on the island was Greek colony Issa, today’s urban village Vis, founded in 4th century BC. Later, under Roman rule, on the peninsula Prirovo, were built spa and theater on whose ruins was built a Franciscan monastery in the 15th century. The remains of ancient buildings are visible in the monastery garden and under the sea around the peninsula can be seen the remains of a Roman port.

The museum with archaeological and ethnographic collection is located in the fortress built during the Austrian rule. There are exposed objects about life and history of Vis from antiquity to the present: ceramic pots, figurines of terracotta and metal, furniture, folk costumes, jewelry, items associated with the shipbuilding and wine. Perhaps the most valuable among them is a bronze head of the Greek goddess of hunting Artemis.

Historical traces recorded in the island’s stone streets reveals a story of the arrival of the Croats, and missionary work through Benedictine naval battles, to the establishment of military bases after World War II. From the war era are preserved barracks and underground tunnels. On of these is “Velika Glava” (big head), which consists of an underground tunnel 400 meters deep, and the largest sea trench “Jastog” (lobster) in the bay Parja. On the island there is also Tito’s cave where Josip Broz Tito lived during one period of the Second World War. All abandoned military premises are open to the public with local guides but still it is a risky expedition where you should be prepared to climb and crawl.

One of the most known nature attraction of the island is the Blue cave, actually located on the island of BiševoModra spilja (The Blue Cave) is located in a small cove of Balun on the island of Biševo. The cave itself is 24 meters long, 10–12 meters deep and up to 15 meters high, while the entrance to it measures 1.5 meters high and 2.5 meters wide.

In 1884. baron Eugene von Ransonnet described and depicted it. On his suggestion the entrance to the cave has been enlarged, making it this way accessible to the entire world. The cave has two entrances: the smaller one artificially widened and deepened so that the boat could sail through, and the wider one, located at the southern part of the cave – the underwater passage, through which the magical game of the light and water is performed…

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