Those who know me personally are well aware that I am not the earliest riser. Today we have been promised a tour of the fish and produce markets in Split – “to pick up ingredients and fresh fish for today’s meals”- so I haul myself out of bed for the experience.
The only problem is that today the market stallholders have gone on strike – perhaps it is more correct to say they are boycotting. Starting yesterday, the Croatian government has implemented a system whereby all businesses must issue receipts for sales. The problem is that this requires special software and a direct electronic link to the finance department. This is not the style of a local produce seller, and it is expensive to implement. So many growers have stayed home today, and fishing boats did not go out last night. It is not the habit of Croatians to buy foodstuffs in the supermarket. Our guide Antonia expresses that this new law may lead to a loss of traditional marketplaces.
I thought it may have had to do with the European Union, but Antonia says they are two different things. Croatia joined the EU also yesterday, the 1st of July. We heard of parties and celebrations, but we didn’t see any ourselves – only the clean up the next day. There was also some protests, but we didn’t see them either. Hands up all the Aussie readers who knew that the anthem of the European Union is ‘Ode to Joy’……..Live and learn.
After the market tour, we up anchor and head for Hvar – which is an introduction to a correction I need to make on yesterday’s post. I spoke of Hvar leading to the French word cravat. What I meant to say was Hrvati ( with a roll on the ‘r’). Hrvati refers to Croat, and perhaps by using the correct word, it is easier to understand how the French pronounced that as ‘cravat’. Hvar is an island – something quite different.
Our local guide on the island of Hvar introduces us to the local dialect, heavily influenced by Italian words from the time of the Venetian empire on this coast. She stresses the ‘v’ in the name of the island much more strongly than we have heard elsewhere. She also uses many words that are actually Italian.
Hvar has been named as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world, and now it can be over-run with tourists. We are still early in the season, but all the same we have to wait our turn to dock, and all through the evening as more boats are allocated a berth, they tie up to each other, until there is a width wise collection of boats tied one to the other.
After our town tour, and a long explanation of the local lavender industry – we climb up to yet another fort, for a magnificent view of Hvar town (The island has the same name).
It’s at this point that I have to give an ‘ignorant Aussie’ warning. All through the Balkans we have climbed up to fort after fort. I just want to know – if everyone had a defensive fort – how is it that so many towns and areas were conquered by invaders and usurpers???? Hmmm? – I’m just saying – it seems an oxymoron to me.
Well, I can’t complain. This is an extremely relaxing cruise, with opportunities for swim breaks and sun baking on the roof. We are fed three huge meals a day, delicious traditional food including varieties of fish I have never had before such as scorpion fish. So tramping up to a fort is really necessary to wear some of it off.
Another tradition from the island of Hvar is the lacemaking of a local nunnery. Their specialty is making the lace from the fibre of the agave plant.
We had noticed posters advertising folk entertainment in the evening. It turned out to be two groups of young people from the States, descendants of Croatian immigrants, who were keeping some of the traditional music and dancing alive. For a couple of hours in the evening we enjoyed their open air performance. It is one of the things I love about long summer evenings in Europe, finding a spare spot in an open piazza and soaking up whatever is happening around the place.
Hvar is a party town, and every bar and boat in town (except ours) was playing thump-thump music and spraying strobe lights. I thought I was going to be writing that we have finally had a bad experience, and we tossed and turned all night. (Of course, the best answer is to give up and enjoy the party and don’t come home until 4am). In the end though, it was no big deal. Nothing that could not be sorted with ear plugs. On the other hand, we should pity the crew member who was on the roster to guard the boat from midnight to 6am.
Tuesday 2nd July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Hvar