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Hurrah for Hvar! Discovering the Croatian isle that is often called the sunniest Mediterranean island

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There’s nothing mistaken with letting your imagination take over — particularly once you’re on an island as evocative as Hvar.

As I board the bespoke Maslina motor launch taking me from Split to this fabulous little island — around the identical size as Malta — I feel the spirit of Jackie Kennedy. She visited here together with her sister in 1964, nearly a yr after the assassination of her husband had shaken the world. She used her visit to ‘reset’ her troubled life.

Hvar, the sunniest Mediterranean island, has long been known for its transformative powers, and has attracted every kind of outsiders. Even though it has been inhabited by humans for greater than 6,000 years, it was settled properly by the Ancient Greeks with their colony of Pharos, on the positioning of one in every of the oldest villages in Europe, Stari Grad.

Keep it local: Jo Knowsley explores the Croatian island of Hvar – ‘the sunniest Mediterranean island’. Pictured is Hvar Town 

Then got here the Romans, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, the Italians and, in additional modern times, communism.

Finally, after the break-up of Yugoslavia and its vicious civil war, Hvar became a part of the brand new country of Croatia.

None of that tumult is within the air today as we speed across the water for our hour-long boat trip to the brand new five-star, eco-friendly Maslina Resort, which blends seamlessly into the pine-tree-clad hillside. The hotel has 50 rooms, three villas, a spa and a non-public beach, and bills itself as a spot of ‘mindful luxury’.

Jo takes an hour-long boat trip from Split to the new five-star, eco-friendly Maslina Resort (above) on Hvar

Jo takes an hour-long boat trip from Split to the brand new five-star, eco-friendly Maslina Resort (above) on Hvar 

Jo notes that Maslina Resort, pictured above, bills itself as a place of ‘mindful luxury’

Jo notes that Maslina Resort, pictured above, bills itself as a spot of ‘mindful luxury’

Above is one of 50 rooms at Maslina Resort, which also boasts three villas, a spa and a private beach

Above is one in every of 50 rooms at Maslina Resort, which also boasts three villas, a spa and a non-public beach 

The Maslina Resort blends seamlessly into the pine-tree-clad hillside, according to Jo

The Maslina Resort blends seamlessly into the pine-tree-clad hillside, in response to Jo 

Hvar Town, with its hilltop castle and clutch of clubs and bars across the old stone port, has had something of a fame as ‘party central’.

But away from the harbour there’s an air of sleepy leisure and an amazing scent of lavender. (Hvar once produced among the biggest quantities of lavender on this planet, and it continues to be nicknamed the Lavender Island.)

Hvar doesn’t have many long, white, sandy beaches — in reality most of them are made up of enormous stone coves. The compensation for that is the clearest blue water and fragrant, leafy surroundings. Within the north, beyond Stari Grad, Vrboska and Jelsa, you’ll find private coves overlooking the even quieter island of Brac. There are also the beautiful Pakleni Islands a brief boat ride away.

'Hvar Town, with its hilltop castle and clutch of clubs and bars around the old stone port, has had something of a reputation as

‘Hvar Town, with its hilltop castle and clutch of clubs and bars across the old stone port, has had something of a fame as “party central”,’ writes Jo 

In the north, beyond the town of Jelsa (pictured), you’ll find private coves overlooking the quiet island of Brac

Within the north, beyond the town of Jelsa (pictured), you’ll find private coves overlooking the quiet island of Brac

The lovely Pakleni Islands, pictured above, are just a short boat ride away from Hvar

The stunning Pakleni Islands, pictured above, are only a brief boat ride away from Hvar 

Jo meets Grgo Lucio, a former fisherman who produces the bulk of Hvar’s lavender and sells his wares in a shop near his home in Zastrazisce. Above is Zastrazisce's church, 'Crkva sv Nikola'

Jo meets Grgo Lucio, a former fisherman who produces the majority of Hvar’s lavender and sells his wares in a store near his home in Zastrazisce. Above is Zastrazisce’s church, ‘Crkva sv Nikola’

Hvar once produced some of the greatest quantities of lavender in the world, and it is still nicknamed the Lavender Island

Hvar once produced among the biggest quantities of lavender on this planet, and it continues to be nicknamed the Lavender Island 

One morning, I meet 58-year-old Grgo Lucio, a former fisherman who produces the majority of Hvar’s lavender. He sells his wares in a store near his home in Zastrazisce, deep within the countryside.

He fought within the civil war, and had been shipwrecked on his boat before finding a better life on land — if ‘easy’ will be defined by working seven days every week on this lush but mountainous and difficult countryside.

Most locals have eschewed fishing and agriculture to work in tourism. There are emerging local wines, and quirky family run restaurants similar to the Konoba Maslina (no connection to the resort) which sits atop one in every of the tallest hills.

The individuals are gracious, but their manner hints at their past. In St Stephen’s Square in Hvar Town, a ticket office attendant on the Hvar Public Theatre — one in every of the oldest theatres in Europe, in-built 1612 — barks: ‘Money only. You can’t visit with card: money only.’

It was an irony I encountered time and time again. The individuals are warm and welcoming (the box office youth had the face of an angel) but underneath they’ve spines of steel. I believed of how Napoleon famously said: ‘If I had only 100,000 Croatians (soldiers) I’d conquer the complete world.’

Hvar definitely conquered me. I particularly lost my heart to Stari Grad, a UNESCO world heritage site. Archaeologists were working on the day of my visit. ‘We didn’t should dig very deep before the bones began popping up,’ says archaeologist Sara Popovic, working near the Church of St John.

Jo picks up a ticket to the Hvar Public Theatre, which is one of the oldest theatres in Europe, built in 1612

Jo picks up a ticket to the Hvar Public Theatre, which is one in every of the oldest theatres in Europe, in-built 1612

Jo loses her heart to Stari Grad (pictured). On the day of her visit to the UNESCO world heritage site, archaeologists were working near the town's Church of St John

Jo loses her heart to Stari Grad (pictured). On the day of her visit to the UNESCO world heritage site, archaeologists were working near the town’s Church of St John

TRAVEL FACTS 

Rooms at Maslina Resort from £305 per night B&B. Private speedboat transfers from Split cost from £728 for as much as 12 people (maslinaresort.com). London Luton to Split with Wizz Air from £46 return (wizzair.com).

‘The previous civilisations are all here, in 14 layers, under the stones. Now we have found buttons from the garments of buried children which date to the thirteenth century.’

A tiny museum houses the island’s oldest artefacts — including small glass bottles during which, in response to folklore, the wives of fishermen at sea kept their tears. 

There may be a poignant statue of St Rocco, the patron saint of contagious diseases, who claimed to have recovered from the plague because a street dog brought him food when he was abandoned and left to starve by fearful locals.

There is no such thing as a probability of tourists ravenous here now. Stari Grad is stuffed with eateries serving seafood. The alleyways bustle with life.

Within the essential piazza, the old washing area is now a wishing well filled with coins. The idea is that by throwing a coin in you might be guaranteed to return to the island. I didn’t hesitate to throw in mine.

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