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article imageHvar's biggest party of the year celebrates the dormouse Special

By Paul Bradbury     Aug 12, 2012 in Travel
Hvar - Croatia's premier island is famed for its legendary nightlife and Carpe Diem full moon parties, but the biggest night of the year celebrated the humble dormouse in an inland village.
It is the island where a British prince fell into a nightclub swimming pool last year, and also the home of some of the best and most popular parties on the beach with internationally renowned DJs, but the best attended party of the year took place on August 11, 2012 in the unfashionable inland village of Dol, with an unlikely theme at the heart of the celebrations - the edible dormouse.
While Hvar Town's clubs are enjoying another successful season - and some 2,600 people attended the latest Full Moon party hosted by DJ Roger Sanchez on August 2 - the additional space available in an inland village means that in terms of capacity the fifth Puhijada - or edible dormouse festival - has been the best attended event of the summer so far.
The puhijada dormouse festival is in its fifth year  and is growing in terms of size and visibility
The puhijada dormouse festival is in its fifth year, and is growing in terms of size and visibility
Sime Surjak
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The unlikely theme of the festival is matched by the speed which it has taken off, as Digital Journal discovered in an interview with the president of the local association which found the festival, Tartajun.
"It all started about six years ago," said Sime Surjak, over a beer in the neighbouring town of Stari Grad on Saturday. "My friend Ivica called me a little drunk from Dol, telling me that they had just heard the funniest story in the bar, and that we should write it down so it could be recorded forever. Shortly afterwards, we thought about the idea and decided to produce a magazine about the history and traditions of the village.
There were activities for all ages  including free climbing on the tree where the dormice were later...
There were activities for all ages, including free climbing on the tree where the dormice were later released
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"The first edition - 24 pages - appeared in 2007, with a second a few months later. With the imminent publication of the third edition in the summer of 2008, it was decided to combine the launch with a party. A band was hired from Bosnia, and the celebration of one of the village's more curious traditions - the hunting and eating of the edible dormouse - was incorporated. The first puhijada (puh means dormouse in Croatian) was born."
The young ones were kept amused by musical clowns
The young ones were kept amused by musical clowns
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It is a festival which captured the local imagination and quickly grew into a cult event, with several thousand people attending last year's event. In order to prepare for this year's event, the road traffic system was turned into a one-way system and cars were parked along the road for several kilometres.
The traditional sport of  balote  was a hotly contested theme of the five-day festival
The traditional sport of 'balote' was a hotly contested theme of the five-day festival
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While the dormouse eating might be the headline event, there is much more to the festival - now spanning an impressive five days - than the eating of the dormice, whose numbers for sale are limited by a state licence, and the festival is a true celebration of all aspects of Dol life and traditions.
Leading Croatian winemaker Andro Tomic was among the judges on the various wines produced in the vil...
Leading Croatian winemaker Andro Tomic was among the judges on the various wines produced in the village
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The traditional game of balote (a local version of boules) was a constant theme throughout the festival, with a hotly contested competition, while Hvar winemaker Andro Tomic hosted an evening seminar on the wine production, which included tasting and judging the various wines from the village's producers.
The  puh   or edible dormouse  has been a staple on the Dol diet since ancient times.
The 'puh', or edible dormouse, has been a staple on the Dol diet since ancient times.
Sime Surjak
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There was plenty to do for the kids, including clowns and free climbing (up the tree where the live dormice were eventually released), and the organisers are to be congratulated for such a thoughtful, original and inclusive festival, which has very quickly gone from such humble beginnings to the island's biggest party, ahead of its more famous names.
There were two enthusiastic guardians of the living dormouse  including Hannah B. who gave her first...
There were two enthusiastic guardians of the living dormouse, including Hannah B. who gave her first television interview with Hvar TV
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And the answer to the burning question of the night - how does a dormouse taste? Well, the subjective answer of this correspondent is that the meat is very tasty, a stronger version of chicken, but with the catch that there is not much meat on the animal, and what there is hard to find.
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