Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Day 15: Lavender on Hvar, Croatia
When I was growing up, we were never really beach people. I spent my summers at Keuka Lake and Squam Lake. But even if swimming in the ocean or going to Florida for spring break was nothing my parents were ever interested in, we did enjoy going to places with a great views of the sea.
Croatia is a place my family would have loved, but when it was part of the former Yugoslavia, I doubt they would have come here. Today in Hvar you can still see some of the former hotels built during that era and although today they have an ugly boxy quality about them, they're fun to see. The water here is an incredible aquamarine and so clear the ocean looks like a giant swimming pool. No wonder everyone heads out early in the morning to find the best spot for sunbathing.
Early this morning we followed a wooded path along the water's edge into town. As we approached the main square, we noticed many beautiful yachts moored in the harbor. The secret about Hvar is out and it is now a popular place for stars. We think we may have seen some celebrity has-beens today. They swept through the square looking dignified wearing white linen and designer sunglasses. All heads turned, but no one seemed to recognize them.
There's an old Franciscan monastery in town. Inside we saw a painting of the Last Supper. The painting, dating from the mid-16th century, comes with an interesting story. It was allegedly painted by a sailor who had been suffering from scurvy and abandoned on an island near Hvar. Monks from the Franciscan monastery took pity on him and brought here. The sailor, wishing to thank the monks for their deed, created the Last Supper which continues to take pride of place in the monastery. This quiet, seaside place of worship also features many ceramic bowls rescued from ship wrecks. Mass was taking place and the sanctuary was packed with people fanning themselves to cool off.
Visiting a church on a hot day can be a pleasant experience because it's usually very cool inside. Parts of the Cathedral of St. Stephen dates back to the 15th century. I lit a candle in memory of my parents because I knew they would have loved this town. Outside we heard the bells ring at noon echoing throughout the square.
In the late afternoon we sat in a cafe by the water for people watching. Young guys wear tropical swim trunks with mismatched shirts and some of the older men walk about with their button down shirts completely unbuttoned. Everyone looked positively wilted from the heat, yet happy. The smell of lavender is everywhere and this island is famous for it.
Tonight we went to Gariful, a famous restaurant with fish fresh from the sea. We had mussels and fish cooked in wine, but some tables spent a fortune with what they ordered. Heading back to the hotel at midnight, the city was alive with people dining at cafes or eating on their yachts. It's truly summer holiday time here in Croatia.
(Special message to my U.S. blog readers today. If you would like to receive a nice lavender surprise when I return home, leave me a message in the comment section . I'll even mail it to you if you don't live near me)