One of Dalmatia's most interesting and eagerly awaited festivals of the year opened on June 29, 2012, as the 4th Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje began with a dry stone wall workshop in the village which is undergoing a spectacular renaissance just five kilometres from the Hvar Town waterfront, which is filled with some of the world's biggest yachts during the summer months.
The contrast with Velo Grablje could not be starker, but it is the soul of this village - once the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia and today with a full-time population of just 5 - which has a large influence over tourism in Hvar, as many of the island's leading restaurants hail from the village and are investing back in their roots. While the village might only have a permanent population of 5, its church is packed every Sunday as people drive up the hill from Hvar to congregate in their ancestral village.
Despite its small population, the village managed to win the highly competitive Hvar league last year, a journey which was followed by Hvar TV, who produced a documentary on the village which is being screened throughout the country (trailer above).
The enthusiasm of the younger generation with connections to the village has raised the profile immensely. They founded an association called Pjover, whose mission is to restore the traditions and heritage of the village, with a focus on its proud lavender past.
The centrepiece of their efforts is the two day lavender festival, which is now in its fourth year, when all aspects of lavender are celebrated, from some rather unusual food combinations including lavender ice cream and lavender flavoured bread and butter pudding to a live demonstration of the distillation process of the lavender crop.
The festival has attracted increasing national and some international attention, and is part of an encouraging regeneration of the inland villages on the island, which were decimated by emigration in the 20th Century.
Nearby Dol is another village enjoying a cultural revival, with its main festival - celebrating the edible dormouse - taking place on August 10-11, while the residents of Svirce are still basking in the success of one of the traditional events of the year, which was organised by Hvar Wine Association President, Ivana Krstulovic Caric, and included a game of the almost extinct Dalmatian game of zoga falo and the international debut of Jelsa's first female klapa group (see video).
One of Hvar's more famous chefs - Djordje Tudor from waterfront restaurant Djordjota Vartal will be cooking traditional dishes from his native Velo Grablje for the festival. Hvar TV released a video interview from his kitchen this morning, as he showed the cameras how he prepares some of the island's more traditional dishes.