So Hvar…

‘You have arrived’. Google was quite clear.

‘We’re at a marina! Did you put in the right address? We’ve been past heaps of vineyards. Mind you I don’t know how they manage them. They’re almost vertical! We must have missed it.’

We walked up and down the road. We were at Bilo Idro! There were wine barrels. We had to be close. Google should come with a hot/cold game. I was distracted when I found the cutest ‘island’ (otok) about ten square metres, having a single beautiful tree growing on it and joined to the main island by a rocky bridge.  I wanted John to come and look but he was getting a bit testy.

Times like this call for liquid sustenance. The marina had what looked like a konoba with two stone trulli-like structures side by side. As we got closer and saw more barrels and bottles of wine, we were mystified. Was this it? It’s in the sea! Sure enough, Zlatan Otok is a winery by the sea with the cellar under the sea- complete with viewing window of surrounding marine life. Damir, our sommelier, took us to the terrace and we began our journey into the story of Plenkovič wines. We learned about indigenous Croatian grape varieties the most notable of which are Platvac mali and Posip. We were right about the vineyards- all the grapes are hand picked as no machinery could possibly access them.

While sampling the wine accompanied by wonderful Pag cheese and olives from the area, we were entertained by the chef. His kitchen was attached to the winery overlooking an inner marina. He stepped out in front of his barbeque, gutted a squid, attached it to a small handline, threw it in and in less than a minute pulled up a pan-sized fish for someone’s lunch. Colleen from NYC and Nick from Montenegro were each as gobsmacked as we were. ‘Now that’s fresh!’  Colleen gasped. We would have thought it some sort of stunt, but he tried again numerous times, to catch another but failed. He had a lobster tank with other fish in it, so decided to retrieve one from there. He was totally nonplussed.

Hvar lies roughly east west along the Croatian coast and is the fourth largest island in the Adriatic. It is about seventy kilometres long, but the tourist activity centres in the western third and it gets more desolate as you drive east. This beautiful island has five UNESCO acknowledgements.

The system of farming on the Stari Grad plain divided by dry stone walls has changed little in 24 centuries. So, that explains the millions of working hours it would have taken to create the tens of thousands of stone walls.

Specific lacemaking from the Agave plant called Aloe lace is made by a group of nuns on the island and there is a religious procession called the Zakrizen Procession which has also made the UNESCO list.

Also on the list of Intangible UNESCO heritage are Hvar’s Mediterranean diet which emphasises eating together and respecting seasonal rhythms and Klapa which is the Croatian form of a cappella and literally means a group of friends.

We had enjoyed Klapa in the Cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery, visited the world’s oldest public theatre, enjoyed amazing food including a traditional fish soup made with firm white fish, potatoes and onions called Hvarska Gregada. It was delicious.

We sipped Aperol and Cuba Libre most evenings, we swam in clear turquoise waters in small coves and bays on adjacent islands and sat on our windowsill on the square watching tourists, travellers, tradesmen and talent crisscross the Square of Saint Stephan busily filling their lives.

Our time to move on had come far (Hvar) too soon.

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