All About the Bura (No Jugo)

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After a wonderful whirlwind week and a quick Friday trip to Brac for the Biser Mora Culinary Festival, I was nearly blown away when My Bloody Trail to Biser Mora eventually ended in bura and not just any bura, but the best bura, the final March bura. Was that a “Hallelujah” I just heard the entire Dalmatian coastline sing out in unison? In case you don’t already know what bura is from any of our previous posts including, the most recent by Split’s newest entertainer and resident Total Split blogger Michelle Rowsell revealing how she found out the hard way, I’ll try my best to break it down briefly. I could write a book on bura, but I’ll spare you the boredom and in the spirit of the fast approaching Spring provide one final piece (hopefully) putting it in the past where it belongs.


Bura (said almost like Buddha) is the Croatian word for wind. “That’s it?” you’re probably thinking. Well to be more specific, a northerly wind blowing from the mountains to the sea, but yes, if you ask me bura is just wind. However, to Dalmatians it is so much more and one of the most talked about topics of Dalmatian life. If I ever did write that book and then used it every day for the rest of my life here to beat a dead horse with we still wouldn’t be done talking about the phenomenon that is bura. Many Americans argue that Europeans have an irrational fear of wind and while I’ve often found this to be the case in Croatia, I’ve noticed the opposite also rings true when it comes to bura.


Don’t get me wrong Dalmatians definitely fear bura and with good reason, but they also respect it and welcome the almighty wind with arms open wide like the seagulls wings while struggling to fly in it. In stark contrast, Fall in Southern California brings the warm Santa Ana winds and along with them a very rational fear of the consequent wildfires that devour everything in their path and force the worlds 7th largest economy and 5th largest supplier of food into a state of emergency. However, my 25 year experience with those familiar winds could never have prepared me for the love/hate affair with bura (and it’s counterpart jugo, which we’ll save for another time) that I would later in life embark on. So in honor of the onset of Spring, let’s welcome bura one last time by appreciating 5 things we love and hate about it and our complicated relationship with this infamous Dalmatian wind.   


1. Bura is STRONG. Let’s blow past the bad traits of bura first and further examine the main reason it is feared and respected so much in the first place. Bura brings hurricane strength winds that leave a trail of damage and destruction in their wake not dissimilar to the acres of land and structures destroyed in the fire path pushed along by Santa Ana’s. I have seen myself or heard stories of facades being torn off entire buildings, boats being sunk in the sea as well as road signs, light posts and trees being ripped out of the rocky Dalmatian ground and people being knocked to that ground breaking their bones in the fall. Downed electricity lines and power outages present another danger and render people helpless and often without heat. The entire region of Dalmatia along with the highways connected to it shut down when blows hard and most people stay inside for fear of previously mentioned building facade falling on their head! Now if that’s not scary enough for you, it’s even more dangerous out on the Adriatic sea, which sounds like perfect conditions for placing high rising oil platforms into, but just like jugo we’ll save that for another post or two. The first March bura this year was the mother of all buras and the worst in several decades so it’s not at all irrational to fear that the last one could also live up to its legacy, but let’s try to not to panic and pray to the Buddha gods that it doesn’t! 


2. Bura is COLD. Not all Croatians hate this part about bura, but this SoCal girl who misses her warm Santa Ana’s definitely does! It’s as close to a blizzard as I ever hope to get and many people will claim that it’s much colder. These icy hurricane winds cut through layers of clothing like a blazing hot knife through butter and can even cause frostbite for it’s unsuspecting victims. I’m not an authority on cold by any means, but I’d argue with all but Antarcticans that you don’t know cold until you’ve experienced bura in the dead of winter. However, don’t make the mistake of letting a bright and sunny bura day any other time of the year fool you because it’s well known for making people shudder in much more than just fear all year round. My first visit to Croatia was in the winter and I was welcomed by howling bura winds that kept me awake through the night, but if that terrifying sound and my frozen bones weren’t enough to scare me away then I’m confident nothing else can. If I ever did leave, I’m also confident I could live anywhere because if I can make it throught the bura here, I can make it anywhere!


3. Bura is CLEAN. Now, cold and strong sound like normal descriptions for wind to me, but when I first heard from locals that bura is clean it sounded even more irrational than their fear of it. Much like their beloved rakija or liquor, Dalmatians adamantly claim that bura cleans everything. It cleans the air, the ground, the sea, you name it bura cleans it, except for my house of course, I get no help from bura with that one. However, I will admit I have seen bura take out the trash by dragging huge metal dumpsters down the road nearly ploughing into my car in the process. So thanks bura, for picking up my husbands slack, but a little less muscle next time. There’s a running joke with my friends and family that whenever someone calls me at home and asks me what I’m doing my answer is always cleaning. Although not really a joking matter in my mind; I thought it was quite humorous to hear bura referred to as a cleaning lady as it was only then that I realized me and bura are kindred cleaning spirits. 


4. Bura is HEALTHY. Here’s another choice word I would never think to use when describing wind, but as an American my knowledge of wind is obviously quite skewed, I mean it’s not like tornadoes count for anything. After awhile though I began to think that maybe they are onto something here and once I was introduced to this word I found I could also use it’s opposite to describe that infamous California Fall breeze. When Santa Ana’s result in wildfires they are actually unhealthy because of all the smoke and debris in the air that forces people to stay inside due to the bad air quality and inability to sometimes see or breathe. I’m sorry though, enough about those silly Santa Ana’s, let’s get back to the serious topic of bura. People simply feel good, their minds are cleared, their hot Dalmatian tempers are cooled and as long as it stays below hurricane grade winds the world of Dalmatia is a much cleaner, healthier and better place when bura comes to town.   


5. Bura is A CLOCK. Speaking of visitors, along with a clock bura can also be compared to a house guest. It typically only lasts 3 days where you will hear it’s healthiness and cleanliness factors referred to often with pride, but if it lasts any longer (sometimes up to 7 days) then it starts to stink and it’s strength and cold temps are complained about in excess. Luckily though, even if bura overstays it’s welcome we can be comforted by the fact that you can set your clock to it. Especially in March when you can count on three buras stopping by for a few days to a week typically on the 7th, 17th and 27th. However, this year the third March bura arrived a day late and ended after only one so maybe the changing of the clock forward for daylights savings time broke it, but if it did I’m hoping it doesn’t get fixed anytime soon. No matter what capacity bura creeps into or rather takes over our lives and conversations it’s a relief to know that in 3 to 7 days (or possibly just one) this too shall pass and we’ll be onto the next tantalizing topic (such as wine or olives) in no time.  


So there’s the prologue and first five chapters to my bura book and your last chance before Spring to share with us your own bura stories or give me some ideas for the next chapter!


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