Away from the beaches and glitzy waterfronts of its coastal towns, there is another tourism story from Croatia's premier island of Hvar, which is helping to regenerate some of the depopulated villages inland, and Digital Journal was on hand to witness the main day of the 4th Lavender Festival on June 30, 2012.
As previously reported on Digital Journal
, the village was once the centre of lavender production for Dalmatia, but fell into decline as people moved abroad in search of better economic opportunities. The decimation of the island's wine production following an attack of phylloxera was a catalyst for mass emigration, and Hvar suffered massive depopulation and fields were left untended. There were 5,700 hectares of vines under cultivation on Hvar 100 years ago, compared with 300 today.
Things are changing and there is renewed energy to revitalise some of the traditions and heritages of the villages. In the last decade, restaurants have opened in several inland villages, offering an authentic Dalmatian experience. They are thriving, as more tourists head inland from the more fashionable coast.
There are also some very unique and interesting festivals in the villages, which afford visitors an opportunity to learn more about older Dalmatian traditions. The Velo Grablje festival is now its fourth year, and came days after the village of Svirce hosted its own festival, which included the first organised game of zoga falo as part of the festival (see video below). The village of Dol will be hosting its unusual edible dormouse festival on August 10-11.
There was something for everyone at the lavender festival, from lavender ice cream for the children to the chance to participate in a dry stone wall workshop.
There was considerable interest in the traditional bread-making workshop.
One of the most interesting aspects of the festival was the opportunity to take part in the distillation process. The furnace was heated and first rosemary then lavender oils were produced.
Bundles of lavender were put into a metal container and then trampled on in order to compress them. I doubt a Digital Journalist's feet have ever smelt better...
The festival is growing every year, and more aspects of Grablje life are included. Leading Hvar restaurant Djordjota Vartal cooked for guests in the restaurant he is building. They plan to open it next year, the latest addition to the successful regeneration of inland Hvar.