Stuck in Milna harbour for a second day we planned a busy day of Brač sightseeing! First stop was the Jakšić family artists’ studio in the village of Donji Humac. Lovre himself works large pieces of Brač stone into monumental masonry and sculpture and we did not visit his atelier for safety reasons. However his ex-fashion designer wife Ida showed us around her studio and the adjacent gallery. Ida makes striking pieces of jewellery in semi-precious stone and silver, all hand made and hand polished.
Their daughter works layers of Brač stone and coloured adhesives into sculpted colourful forms
and their son creates smaller sculptures of all kinds.
Next stop was the outskirts of Bol to visit the Dominican monastery, which was opened especially for us. The church contains a painting by Tintoretto
and the cemetery is most picturesque
Just around the corner from the Dominican monastery, in Bol proper, is the very well appointed Stina winery where we were to have a wine tasting;
starting with an excellent sparkling wine:
Glass in hand we were invited to enter the winery to see details of the wine-making process, but it turned out that the main doors had been slammed shut by the Bora wind with such force that they had twisted and jammed shut. After a short but noisy – and unsuccessful – attempt to open them we were ushered through the back door instead, finding ourselves inches from the conveyor belt conveying freshly picked black grapes from delivery truck to stalk remover to fermentation vat, and paddling through grape skins and water!
We were shown the various vats and ageing barrels (twice used French oak); got to taste new red straight from the vat; and then back to the tasting room for bread, cheese, olives and white and red wines. Oh and Prošek, a dessert wine; and jolly nice they all were, too! Cabaret was provided by the continuing efforts to force open the main doors, involving a fork-lift truck and much banging and (I assume) swearing, but the doors remained stubbornly stuck!
Full of bread, cheese and good cheer we then wobbled off to our minibus for the drive to the village of Dol, to Kaštil Gospodnetić for lunch. More bread, cheese, prosciutto, tapenade, tuna pate. Then a mixed peka with veal, chicken and lamb with vegetables AND local rabbit with gnocchi in a wonderful sauce. Then a huge slice of walnut cake topped with an inch-thick layer of walnuts in syrup. Then, mercifully, a walk – with the owner’s sister Ivana Gospodnetićaround the house (in her family for 300 years) and the village
before returning to the gulet after a long but interesting day. Surprisingly, no-one had much appetite for dinner…
We both had an enjoyable day, each in our own way. The morrow promises a new destination, the island of Hvar. Tune in to the next entry to see how that went!
September 24th. As we breakfasted in the warm sunshine aboard Perla, it was difficult to believe that we were effectively pinned into the Milna marina by a coming storm – things were calm and all my weather apps were forecasting 25°, light showers and a moderate breeze. But Filip warned us, as we set out for our day visiting the highlights of Brač, that we might need rain jackets and warm clothing. As we left Perla the wind had risen a notch and there were clouds in the sky, but the sun still shone and it was hot.
Our first port of call was Vidova Gora, a place we had hiked up to in the previous week. It was windy at the top and the visibility was even poorer than it had been the first time we were up there. This made it slightly difficult for Filip, who was trying to point out various islands and other things that we could have seen had it been clearer. He did explain the derivation of the name Vidova Gora, which has the same root as that of Saint Vitus (best known in the UK for his dance). St. Vitus is patron of many things, including dance and the arts for the northern Slavs, and of seeing, or vision, for southern Slavs – hence the name for this, the highest peak (or “penk” as the sign has it) in the Adriatic islands.
Our next stop was in a small town called “Pučišca”. In Croatian, the č is pronounced “ch” as is “cheese”; the š as “sh” and the c as “ts”. So good luck with getting the pronunciation of this town right. Apparently many of the locals can’t.
Like so many Croatian places, Pučišca is a handsome place
and its claim to fame is that it has a stonemasonry school (“Klesarska škola” in Croatian). Since Brač is famous for its white limestone (to be found in Diocletian’s Palace in Split, bits of St. Mark’s square in Venice and other notable places, although not, probably, the White House), it’s good to see that investment is being made to maintain and develop the skills of working it.
Our time there was sadly short, as it is an interesting place to visit. We had an explanatory description and a bit of a technique demonstration from a professor at the school, Siniša Martinić, against a background of the students hammering and chiseling away. Here is a link to some video clips of the place.
Here’s the template for the item that Siniša was using as a demo:
and here’s how it’s coming on:
If reproducing a complex shape, a kind of 3D manual pantograph arrangement is used.
The shape to be reproduced is in the foreground, and the odd-looking frame in the background is used to measure specific dimensions to ensure correct reproduction.
Siniša also showed us different sorts of stone. Some, from near the surface, has fossils clearly visible in it
and some is from deeper and has fewer fossils visible.
(The lump of stone from which this piece is carved would set you back €3,000, and the work to complete it would cost you an extra €6,000. Just so you know.)
Everything done at the school is done by hand – no machinery or power tools. If polishing is needed, the process is done by hand, using eight successively finer diamond pads, like the ones shown here.
It would have been great to have spent more time there, but the scale and scope of the storm started to become apparent and so we left the stonemason school in a hurry… the harbour in Pučišca was being whipped by a strong wind (the other image in the set is the BBC Weather App’s forecast of moderate breeze!)
And, as we ran for a cafe, we realised that the gusts were really very strong – outside tables and chairs were going flying and awnings were in danger of being ripped apart. The cafe we got to had a really tough time with ladders and rope to secure their awning. I would have videoed it, but that seemed a bit ghoulish, so I just drank their coffee instead.
After our coffee break, the script called for us to visit a place called Škrip, where there was a historical and archeological museum and also an olive oil museum, which sounds a bit niche. On the way, we could clearly see from our minibus how the wind was whipping up the waves, and how sensible had been the decision of our gulet captain to stay put for the day, rather than strike out for a different destination.
The wind is my introduction to the word “katabatic”. The locals call it “bura” or “bora” and it is caused by the clash of continental and adriatic weather systems. A major characteristic is strong gusts rather than simple raw wind speed, and what we experienced was actually quite light – 200 kph gusts have been registered in the past, apparently.
In our first museum in Škrip, a delightful lady called Andrea took us through a rapid overview of the history and culture of the island over the centuries, since there have been people living here since at least 900BC. At various stages in the island’s history there have been three alphabets in use: latin, cyrillic and glagolitic. This is terrifically important as one characteristic which defines the change from prehistory to history is the development of written language. So one display in the museum formed my introduction to glagolitic script
while a second was a reproduction of one of the earliest recorded instances of the cyrillic script used on the island.
Andrea was a real story-teller and covered many of the aspects of society as it developed on the island, with too much detail to record here. And then it was time to go and meet another charming hostess, called Dora, who looked after us as we went to the olive oil museum round the corner.
An olive oil museum sounds rather niche, and it is in fact quite a small place – but they gave us a nice lunch (I have a photograph of the spread of tapenades, prosciutto, bread, local cheese, tomatoes from their garden, marinaded olives, locally baked bread and fig jam, but my religious principles forbid me from sharing it, of course). After lunch, Dora explained how the process of making olive oil used to work, with a huge old wooden mill to create a paste from the olives and an impressively large press to extract the oil from the paste (which was put in rope baskets to filter out much of the remaining bits). Cold water was used at first, but still there was oil in the paste, so a second pressing used to be done with hot water, resulting in oil which was edible but not very nice. To get the last knockings out of the paste, boiling water was used, and the result was inedible, but could be used in, for example, oil lamps. So “cold-pressed” was the good oil, and you’ll see that on many an olive oil label these days. But all the olive oil one buys today is electrically extracted and with cold water, so it’s all cold-pressed. If it says it on the label, it’s because the marketing department put it there, and is nothing to do with the basic quality of the oil – the key phrase is “virgin” which (according to Dora at least) refers to oil produced no more than 24 hours after picking.
One of the recurring themes of our travels in Croatia is the presence of locally-produced liqueur wherever we have gone. The olive oil museum was no exception, and produced a sour cherry liqueur for us to taste which was very nice but not significantly better than others we had tried. But they also produced an olive liqueur, which was strikingly different… in a good way… so we now have two bottles of Croatian liqueur to take home – cornelian cherry and olive. Our New Year celebrations will be considerably enriched, I think.
Despite unpropitious weather, we had an absorbing day, indeed quite an exciting one at times! And when we got back to Perla, we found that the crew had set things up so that we could still have dinner on the deck, protected from the wind by screens and warmed by blankets as needed. And once again, we had a great dinner with much conversation, great food and good local wine. Here we all are – our tour group, and Filip and the boat crew:
We will stay on Brač tomorrow, so stay tuned to see what we get up to. For now, good night!
Breakfast came and went, as expected. The first variation from the plan came in the form of an extra passenger – our guide, Željko. He needed to get to Dubrovnik to guide another tour group; his only option to get there on time was to catch a bus at 2am. When we heard about that, we suggested that perhaps he might like to come with us, leaving at about 8am. Unsurprisingly, he agreed.
On our taxi ride to the airport, his phone rang, and one didn’t need to understand Croatian to realise that he was receiving bad news. It transpired that he had left vital paperwork back at the hotel – tour notes, vouchers, all the vital stuff that he needed in Dubrovnik for his next group! Fortunately, there was enough slack in our schedule to allow us to take him back to the hotel and then on to Dubrovnik.
So, papers collected, we headed back to the motorway and started the four-hour drive southwards. I was a little concerned about the border crossings we’d need to do through Bosnia, and so my idea had been to ensure we got back into Croatia on schedule before thinking about maybe a rest stop.
However, Željko had other ideas, and suggested that we stop for lunch – in Bosnia! As usual, he had a good suggestion, and so we found ourselves at the Hotel Orka, eating a traditional “Bosnian Pot” – beautifully tender beef chunks and vegetables in a very tasty sauce. As well as the beef, I swallowed my principles and took a photo of my lunch. But I’m not about to go as far as sharing it with you!
After lunch, we set off with (we fondly imagined) enough time to get us to our destination on schedule. We had reckoned without a few factors, though: hitting the border back into Croatia just at shift change time and so sat in a queue to get through for what seemed like an age, but probably wasn’t; being stuck behind camper vans; being stuck behind people on a slow moped. So we arrived at the Sixt car hire return at Dubrovnik airport somewhat late. However, Jane had managed to alert our new tour guide and so the taxi was waiting for us to take us onwards.
“Onwards” was, we found, subject to the vagaries of the weather. Apparently, a strong north wind was in prospect and so our cruise boat – a Turkish gulet – had to plan to leave early to avoid getting trapped in Slano harbour. So, our group were actually on the tour of Dubrovnik that had originally been planned for tomorrow. Amazingly, in the melée that is downtown Dubrovnik on a Saturday afternoon, we found our guide, Filip, and joined him, after he’d given the taxi driver instructions about where to leave our luggage. Filip, in turn, found the rest of our group and we continued with the tour of Dubrovnik old town, with Filip helping the official guide, a lass called Ana, by giving our group lots of historical, geographical and archeological information as we went along.
Memory plays strange tricks. It had been some 11 years since our last visit to Dubrovnik (see the photos here) and I had clearly remembered the difference between the original roof tiles of the old town and the new ones which had been used in the reconstruction after the Serbs had bombed the crap out of the old town in the 1990s Balkan War. But I had remembered the new tiles as being of a uniform colour, and they were clearly not so, now.
(above you can see the brightly coloured modern tiles as well as the faded colours of the originals). So I wondered if these new tiles had started to age and change colour unevenly. But no – it was basically a false memory on my part, as a quick check on Flickr told me. It’s clear that a single or mixed colour is a matter of choice.
The short tour passed some steps which I’m told feature in a certain vastly popular fantasy drama from HBO
but I wouldn’t know anything about that. It also gave us a sharp reminder of what an utter zoo Dubrovnik old town can be… and this is AFTER the cruise ship crowds had left…
…but there were still wedding celebrations going on.
So, tour over, we got on to our bus and headed out to meet up with another van upon which was the group’s luggage. Well, most of it, anyway. Some was missing – ours! Since this included my backpack with virtually all my camera gear in it, I was as worried as Filip was embarrassed. To cut a long story short, they did eventually find our luggage and brought it to the boat quite soon after we got there. Our boat, a gulet called “Perla”, was awaiting the group at Slano harbour, and looked lovely in the evening dark.
We embarked and finally had a chance to get properly introduced to the other nine people in our cruise group over dinner and drinks before turning in for the night. Getting under way early was going to be the order of the morrow in order to get to Korčula and Brač, and that’s what the next gripping instalment will cover. I bet you can’t wait!