Hvar next stop on Eastern European tour for ladies
By Marguerite Kirkpatrick

Posted on October 4, 2016 5:26 PM

Thursday, July 7

Hvar is a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, unusual because it has a large fertile coastal plain suitable for the growth of vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields. Miles and miles of orderly, terraced agricultural fields cover what is known as the Stari Grad Plain (another UNESCO site) between the highway, high above the plain, and the sea.

This morning we join our local guide to walk the city center in the town of Hvar; this is the largest square on the Dalmation coast, called a piazza because of the Venetian influence.

St. Stephen's Cathedral commands a prominent position at the far end of the piazza. Though the first church on this site was built in the sixth century, the current building was begun in the 16th century and finished in the 18th with elements of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture. St. Stephen's received cathedral status in the 13th century.

Every year on Holy Thursday there is a Procession of the Cross, a tradition begun 500 years ago to commemorate a miracle when a small cross in the town of Hvar miraculously wept tears of blood during a time of social turmoil. Representatives from each of the six churches on the island carry the cross a distance of 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) and end at St. Stephen's Cathedral. Cross bearers are barefoot, and the procession takes place no matter the weather. It is considered a great honor to be appointed as a cross bearer; babies born today must wait until the year 2045 before they will be eligible to carry the cross. 

We stop for a brief time outside the Benedictine nunnery whose nuns are famous for making beautiful lace out of agave. The lace is famous world wide and was once presented to Pope Benedict as a gift.

Then it is time to return to the hotel for a bus trip to our “Be My Guest” luncheon.  Marisa has spoken often about the number of Croatians who abandoned their homes during the time of war in the early 1990's. Today's luncheon will be held in one of those homesteads that is being reclaimed by a young couple who live without electricity and modern conveniences, making their living by providing unique culinary experiences for tourists. They are proprietors of a Konoba, the name for any restaurant in Croatia that is privately and locally owned and serves Croatian dishes.

Traveling to our destination, we pass many abandoned stone huts. Even the roofs are made of stone. At the Konoba in an abandoned shepherd's village, we sit at tables under the trees near very large stone ovens where our lunch is being prepared on open fires by the husband and wife and their two young nephews who are visiting from the city. Lunch begins with cheese, prosciutto, anchovies, bread, and Croatian wine. The second course is tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in olive oil.

Then because our main course is still cooking, we go with the nephews to a tiny church on the property—the Church of St. John and Paul. Inside the church stand statues of two Roman soldiers, honored because they were beheaded after refusing to renounce their faith during the time of Roman persecution of Christians.

As we leave the tiny sanctuary, the young boys delight us by ringing the church bells before we return to our lunch. For the main course, we dine on roasted octopus, lamb, veal, and potatoes. Dessert is homemade cookies and berry liqueur. A fine repast in a beautiful setting!

Returning to our hotel, we spend the afternoon enjoying our first swim in the Adriatic Sea. The crystal clear water is a beautiful blue-green, cool and invigorating. Unlike the sandy beaches in Florida, this coastline is covered in fairly large pebbles. We wish for beach shoes!

Friday, July 8

Today we are taking an optional excursion to the town of Vrboska. Our bus navigates a narrow, winding road. If we meet a car on a curve, that car must back up to allow us to pass. Though the Stari Grad Plain lies below us, we are climbing into a rough, rocky landscape.

As Marisa says, the stones “have been plucked from the earth for centuries” and stacked into low, meandering walls. Between the walls, farmers have scratched out patches to plant rosemary, lavender, and grapes, three very important products of Hvar Island.

Soon we travel downhill toward the bay and arrive in Vrboska, the smallest town on the island. We walk about the town crossing the stone bridge that leads to a little island in the bay. Here we find the Church of St. Mary of Grace built as a fortress against the Turks in the 16th century.

For lunch we visit another Konoba, owned and operated by the fifth generation of wine makers. We are escorted into a charming stone room where several tables are waiting with white cloths and bottles of red and white wine. Soon we are feasting on sardines, prosciutto, cheese, fish pate, bread and a delicious casserole made with alternating slices of zucchini, tomato, and Gouda cheese, finished with fresh oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Dessert is chocolate torte.

Returning to the hotel, we spend a lazy afternoon at the pool and later walk to the piazza for pizza at Adriano's.  At dusk we stroll along a walkway by the rocky beach in search of the recommended spot for a “beautiful sunset.” 

On the way we pass an outdoor bar crowded with scantily-clad young people swaying to the sounds of loud American music. One girl, whose back is to us, must be wearing a thong (we hope); the back strap of her bathing suit top is flesh colored. From our vantage point, she looks completely naked! Does her mother know where she is? What she is wearing?? Not wearing????

Another bit of fashion news: at the beach and at the pool, we four seem to be the only people wearing one-piece bathing suits. Everyone else—men and women, young and old, fat or skinny—is wearing a bikini. Perhaps we need to go shopping.

To be continued.....


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