Away from the nightclub swimming pools which are temporary home to British princes and the luxury moorings of some of the world's biggest private yachts, there is another tourism story in the hills of the island of Hvar which is attracting more attention, and the latest festival to celebrate the history and traditions of authentic Dalmatian life opens on August 7, 2012, with the 'Puhijada', or edible dormouse festival.
The festival, now in its fifth year, is growing annually and is becoming one of the most important festivals on the island, which is better known for its beaches, endless sun and celebrity draw. Located in the unfashionable inland village of Dol, the festival has its roots in the efforts of local association, Tartajun, a group of concerned locals who wanted to work to preserve the history and traditions of the village. New Tartajun president Sime Surjak spoke to Digital Journal before the festival started about the origins of the festival and the work of the association.
A dormouse festival! It sounds very exotic. Tell us about the history of the festival and what visitors can expect.
"Actually Tartajun originally was founded because of our magazine “Tartajun” (first edition was released 2007), which focuses on the history and traditions of the village of Dol. With the release of every new edition we organized a small party with food and drinks. And in the summer of ’08, when we were preparing 3rd number of “Tartajun” magazine we decided to organize a bigger party with live music, games, performances…
"The name and theme of festival was logical for us – “Puhijada” or “dormouse festival”. The reason for that is because people from Dol have been hunting and eating dormice since ancient times and that tradition has remained in Dol, whereas the tradition is largely lost in other villages in Dalmatia and on Hvar.
"We continued with organization of Puhijada every summer, so this year we have the fifth Puhijada and eight edition of the Tartajun magazine."
Tartajun seems very active in the village. Tell us a little about their work and your projects.
"Puhijada festival and “Tartajun” magazine are not the only activities of Tartajun, we are trying to improve life in our small village with culture, fun, sports and humanitarian activities.
"And year by year, Puhijada becomes a bigger event, one of the biggest on island.
"So we organized a few live concerts in the winter, we are helping with landscaping in the village, renovation of some objects, we helped Caritas with humanitarian actions, published a few books, founded futsal club “Tartajun” etc.
"Also, we installed a Weather station, which shows weather condition in Dol in real time online."
While the highlight - and most attention-grabbing moment - of the festival is the final night on August 11, which includes a mass grilling of dormice (very tasty but very thin pickings), the festival celebrates much more diversity of culture. The puhijada will open today with the start of the fiercely competitive balote
tournament (a Dalmatian version of boules) and a photograph exhibition by Vilma Stojkovic. Events in the ensuing days include a photo session with the dormouse in its natural habitat, an overview of wine making by leading Croatian vintner Andro Tomic, free climbing and various concerts, before the main event on Saturday.
The efforts of Tartajun in Dol - which has suffered huge depopulation as previously reported by Digital Journal
- are being mirrored elsewhere in the inland villages, as a new generation is working hard to preserve its heritage. Close behind Tartajun in the nearby village of Velo Grablje, local association Pjover is performing wonders in a village with a population of just five, the highlight of which is the annual lavender festival, which Digital Journal covered
The village of Svirce recently held a Bogdanusa wine tasting evening, celebrating the island's indigenous grape variety, which included a demonstration of the almost extinct Dalmatian game of zoga falo
(see video below, including interview with this Digital Journalist), while the Beekeepers Association held the island's first ever honey festival in Stari Grad last week, which was an unqualified success.
The celebration of the island's traditions is an important part of Hvar's tourism makeup, as it continues to offer one of the most diverse holiday experiences on the Dalmatian coast. Boy George was DJ-ing at Carpe Diem Beach last week, not far from village where the edible dormouse is celebrated. Both events will be attended in equal numbers.