"May God preserve us from the hands of Senj." So ran a popular Venetian proverb, inspired by the warrior community known as the Uskoks who in 1537 made SENJ their home and used it as a base from which to attack Adriatic shipping. Locals proudly claim the Uskoks as Croatian freedom fighters who helped slow the Ottoman advance, although their penchant for piracy earned the enmity of Venice and Dubrovnik, and contemporary historians tend to be more equivocal about the real nature of their activity.

Modern Senj is a quiet little town of mazy alleyways, worth a brief stop-off. It also stands at the beginning of the road which heads inland over the Vramik pass towards the Plitvice lakes  and Karlovac - although there's little public transport on this route and it's much easier to reach the lakes from Split or Zadar.The only surviving reminder of the Uskoks in Senj nowadays is the Nehaj Fortress - the name means "fear not" or "heedless" - which looks over the town from a rubble-covered peak to the left of the harbour. It was constructed in 1558 under the auspices of Uskok commander Ivan Lenković, who obtained building materials by demolishing all the churches and monasteries which lay outside the town walls and so couldn't be defended against the Turks. Inside are three floors of exhibits illustrating the history of the Uskoks, featuring weaponry and costumes, with excellent English-language commentary. The view from the battlements justifies the climb, with the convoluted street plan of central Senj spread out immediately below, and the pale, parched flanks of Krk across the water.

The main focus of the town below is a scruffy harbourfront square, dotted with cafe tables, behind which lies a warren of alleyways and smaller piazzas. If you face inland and go left off the square, you'll come to the Town Museum, housed in the fifteenth-century Vukasović mansion. It's a lacklustre display of archeological fragments and engravings illustrating the many literary figures to have come out of Senj over the centuries – foremost among them Pavao Ritter Vitezović (1652-1713, the poet and politician whose extravagantly titled Kronika aliti spomen vsega i svieta vikov ("Chronicle and Remembrance of Everything and the World from the Beginning") was one of the first history books to try to place the story of the Croats in a global framework. Just east of here, below a much-rebuilt cathedral of Romanesque origins, the rich Religious Art Collection recalls the time when Senj was both the seat of a powerful bishopric and a major printing centre for Croatian-language religious texts. Among the Glagolitic missals, episcopal robes, paintings and silverware lie two exquisitely wrought fourteenth-century processional crosses, the biggest of which features a central relief of the Lamb of God surrounded by winged Bull beasts symbolizing the evangelists – the lion for Mark, the for Luke, the eagle for John, and an angel for Matthew.


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