Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 3.11.18
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the authors


A day around Hvar
Monday, October 30, 2017

This morning we sailed from Split to the island of Hvar and the town of the same name -- a journey of about 40 miles. It is a very small town with about 3,500 inhabitants -- the island has about 4,700. The town of Hvar has a lovely, sheltered harbor, which was welcome because part of the "ride" over was pretty rough. A couple people complained of being seasick. Not surprising since the Bura wind was pretty strong until we got on the lee side of the island.

The island is about 40 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest point and it sticks out from the coast lying roughly east west with a single road running the length of the island

Hvar had the now familiar progression of Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Venetians, Ottomans, Russians, and Napoleon’s army. Interestingly, the Hvarians invited the Venetians to come and use the harbor for their fleet -- usually, the Venetians just invaded. This protected them from other raiders.

The Venetians built the fort overlooking the town in the 13th Century, which saved the inhabitants from the Ottoman raids. During the time of the Venetians, the capital of the island was moved from Stari Grad to Hvar because the port provided a better defense of their shipping lanes. As you can see, there are not a lot of people walking around even at 10 AM. Because the town is small, the tour was very brief and like many other Dalmatian towns, charming.


We found it interesting that the owner of La Perla, Luka Bubalo, was on board with us for the entire trip, which he does frequently. Luka was intent on making sure we tried all the local foods; at cocktail time he brought a local ham, pršut, for us and another time, fresh oysters raised by a friend. This morning before our tour started Kathy asked to take his picture and Frank took this picture of our boat.

As you can see it is definitely small compared to most cruise ships. In addition to Luka’s generosity, the entire crew of La Perla could not have been nicer; especially Christina and Ante who attended bar and served dinner.


The lower deck, with the port holes, has cabins for the crew and some passengers; they are the cheapest. The middle deck has additional cabins with small balconies; we had one of these after we upgraded from the lower deck. The upper deck has the pilot house, forward, the galley and the main saloon aft of that, and an open back deck at the stern.


Back in the village there are, of course, narrow streets, ancient buildings, steep stairs, and a plaza with a café and a cathedral -- all required in the ancient towns of Croatia.


In Hvar, the plaza also had an apothecary, which provided sea sickness patches and throat lozenges.


The Loggia below is all that remains of the palace built by the Venetians; two lions can be seen over the entrance. The building is now the town hall.


Parking in many of these old towns is located outside the center part so even if you have a car, which most don’t have because the cars, insurance, and fuel are so expensive, there is still a lot of walking. In Hvar, one of the parking lots, automated, is behind the cathedral. We have commented about how clean the towns and cities are. This is one of the main reasons why, the other reason seems to be pride.


I have seen Zoran picking up liter as unobtrusively as possible and then there were the professional cleaners, below. We also saw some of the local citizens but I think most were at work on this Monday morning.

After the brief tour of the town, we got on a bus for our drive to Stari Grad (literally Old Town), which is located on the northern side of the island, at the end of a long protected bay. It is one of the oldest towns in Europe with a population of about 2,500 citizens. Fortunately, our bus was much smaller than the ones on the mainland, which we appreciated as we navigated the hairpin turns on this drive up and over the 2,000 foot. We were joined on this tour by Luca, La Perla’s owner, who continued his generosity by bringing a large box of Croatian chocolates for us to nibble on the drive.\

We made a couple of stops to take pictures.


There are a number of small towns scattered throughout the hills on Hvar, such as shown below. We took advantage of an offer at one of the stops to get our picture taken.


On the way to Stari Grad we passed through the Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape set up by Greek colonists in the 4th century BCE. The land was divided into geometrical parcels (chora) bounded by dry stone walls. The system included a rainwater recovery system involving the use of gutters and storage cisterns. The ancient system has been preserved.


Also, because these fields were remote from the villages, bee hive-like stone shelters (trims), were built. Grapes and olives, grown by the Greeks, are still grown. The original field layout has been respected by the continuous maintenance of the boundary walls by succeeding generations.

Resulting from Greek custom, the individual farm parcels are small. This results in the problem that when you want to farm at a modern scale, assembling the farm involves buying many dispersed and non-contiguous parcels. Our local guide, Carmen, and her husband raise, process, package, and sell lavender and rosemary. While they own several sites, there is a lot of driving involved between the sites to do maintenance.

This island, which has mostly sunny days, does not get a lot of rain so water is scarce. To water the plants barrels of water sometimes must be taken from homes to the site and then buckets used to water. Talk about labor intensive!

Below is the view from one of the stops toward mainland Croatia.


We were intrigued because one can see how different the vegetation is from one island to another. Also, the bare rock in some areas explains why most of the islands are not inhabited.

Carmen led our walking tour of Stari Grad with its many old stone buildings. You may detect a theme here.


Carmen is on the far right talking into her mike so we all could hear her on our receivers. Dave and Mary are center, George (the singer) behind the car and Paul (from Schenectady) far left.

After our guided tour, we wandered around the town on our own. Amazingly, a group of us all gravitated to the same café on the plaza and ordered coffee or other libations. Luka arrived at the same time, he knew the owner, and generously paid for all our drinks.

Having completed our tour of Stari Grad and our coffee, we went back over the mountain and returned to Hvar. Walking back to the boat, we stopped at the kiosk, owned by Carmen and her husband, to buy some lavender and rosemary oil. The rosemary oil, mixed with olive oil, is supposed to help sore muscles. La Perla stayed berthed in Hvar for the evening; we had drinks and dinner.