1. Supetar and Sumartin: before the tourist season
A story to tell about Brac is olives, olives, olives… Along the 40 km from Supetar, the ferry port, and administrative center, to the most eastern town of Sumartin. From time to time, olive trees are changed by other species, but mostly a road view looks really monochrome. The good news is that olive is an evergreen plant, therefore you can come on Brac out of the tourist season.
The bad news is monoculture. That is probably due to historical tradition. People say that during the Venetian rule on Brac no young man was allowed to marry until he had planted a hundred olive trees. Maybe, it also relates to a lack of knowledge about other plants. Some few people in Split can recognize Phillyrea (mock privet) trees, although it is also from the Oleaceae family, a close relative of the olive. A few know how an olive flower looks like while everyone cares only about olive oil. An olive flower is small and appears early. You can see it if you come to Brac from the end of April till the beginning of June.
A possible reason for the prevalence of olives there is also unpretentiousness. Why plant grapes to constantly tinker with them when you can plant olive trees and don’t bother either yourself or your descendants within the next 400 years? In sum, islanders have more time to care about their guests when they care less about the garden! They do care as I’ve learned from my own experience coming well before the start of the season. There were barely any tourists and no young people on the streets.
There are kindergartens and schools on Brac, but to continue studying, you have to go to the mainland. Unless you’ve decided to become a stonemason. There is a known school of stonemasons in Pucisca. Besides olives, Brac stone is another export brand of the island. Diocletian’s Palace in Split, the most beautiful churches in Croatia, the parliament buildings of Austria and Hungary, and the White House in Washington DC are made of this stone. Returning down to earth it seemed to me that sculpture is quite a popular hobby among the locals, therefore you easily notice interesting sculpting along the roads in villages like Selca and Povlja.
There are no faculties or universities on Brac. Students who left to study on the mainland unlikely to come during the winter season as well young tourists seeking a beach party paradise on Brac Bol in summer. Thus, I was going to spend my weekend walking and sightseeing alone. I took a bus from Supetar to Sumartin and went other distances between the villages by foot, 24 km in a day. However, I was most impressed by the social kind of entertainment – a village party in Sumartin on Saturday evening. I had done 24 km and wanted to drop dead on my bed for a few hours, but the hostel owner’s daughter (of my age) who met me had another plan.
We have a party up the street. You can come with me. I invite you! – No, thank you. I’ve walked 24 km. I’m bloody tired, I want to have a rest. Sure, I understand. You need to have a rest…But actually, you know, we are young, we don’t need much rest, so, you can go to a party with me! – OK! [I didn’t have the energy to argue]
The party was devoted to the end of construction of the ground floor of a house that one young guy from the village built. Village friends had slaughtered and roasted a lamb, they brought homemade wine and olive oil. I felt in the first few minutes my visit was not in vain.
Organised ‘village tours’ are not popular among youth, it usually lacks true authenticity that you can meet as an independent tourist. It was the very case for me. I met fishermen, builders who speak only Croatian, students from Split (they speak English). Naturally, they played Balkan turbo-folk music. They were not good at dancing, so when guys didn’t know what to do during a ‘groovy’ song, they grabbed heavy objects (a poker, a barrel, etc.) and began to lift them. Meanwhile, girls did sit-ups crazy fast!
I was going to give a dance workshop and climbed up on the table, but two girls jumped in there after me and started a conversation. They literally attacked me with questions, therefore we stood on the table for an hour just chatting. Perhaps, we would never have such a chance at a nightclub party! A chance to meet at the village party a fan of the Russian tv-series ‘Kitchen’ (‘Kuhinja’) was even less, but Eni from Brac was flattering a lot to my Russian background.
The most epic moment happened to me when a son of the owners of the house where we had a party – the biggest house in Sumartin, only the church is higher, – was showing me everything he owned: a house, a gazebo, a grill terrace, a bar, a garden, swimming pools, garages, etc. Let’s say, a sightseeing tour accompanied by nice complaints. “When I go somewhere with friends, I pay for everybody… When I show my parents anything I like, they buy it immediately for me… It’s so hard to be independent if your parents are rich…” Top complaints, huh? I really had top entertainment that night! Finally, it happens amid a contrast: while some people on Brac apply for EU funds for rural areas development, others suffer from a family abundance. It’s a pity and simultaneously a good topic for reflection when you travel before the tourist season.
2. Sutivan and Milna: waiting for a miracle
My second trip to the island of Brac occurred in April. At this time islanders start slowly preparing for the season. A lot of places are still closed, but the atmosphere becomes more welcoming and bracing. Largely, I would say it’s a good direction on Brac regardless of the season.
A little derogation about the ‘Su’ towns. Su is Latin ‘Sv’, two letters have a similarity in writing and pronouncing. Sv is short for ‘Sveti’ (Saint in Croatian). In this way, Supetar is Sveti Petar, Saint Peter’s town, Sutivan is Sveti Ivan, Saint Ivan’s town, etc. I’ve already seen Supetar, ferry port, thus I just did a loop for my friend come from Split for the first time. Riva, St. Peter’s church, Jobanova Street where you can easily think that Croatia is the most beautiful country in the world – that is Supetar. At the west exit from the city, we found a firehouse. I’m interested in fire departments on islands because they are voluntary, not municipal. Their volunteer showed us an old fire truck donated by Great Britain. When he learned I’m from Russia, he said that his neighbors here are Russian too. A wife lived for 5 years during the Chechen war in the 1990s. A husband is a healthy Russian man, he can drink a liter and a half of vodka. Great job!
We travelled from Supetar to Sutivan on foot. Further movements around the island were planned by bus. Waiting for the bus to Milna I put things from my bag at the bus stop. “Get up! Let’s go! Don’t forget your phone!” my friend commanded. I answered “No way! I would rather forget my own hand.”
Actually, I paid attention in Milna and noticed a lot of yacht tours on Dalmatian islands do stop on Brac in Milna bay. I liked Milna as soon as the bus began to approach it on the serpentine road.
On the waterfront (literally ‘first line’ by the sea) there is an abandoned multi-storey house. I don’t know what happened there, but the holes in the ceiling/ floor look terrible. A blockage on the stairs between the first and second floor doesn’t let to climb up higher. Anyway, I would not recommend entering a house for safety’s sake. In a corridor on the first floor, we found a nice retro ‘archive’. A poster inviting for the Final concert of the 3-rd Concert-Opera Seminar in Milna on August 21, 1981, hangs in my room in Split.
Waiting for a bus back to Supetar we were chatting with my friend at the bus stop. The topic was an exes’ birthday: to congratulate or not. I implore you: Do not discuss such topics at the bus stops! When the bus came, I was lost in thought and… I forgot my smartphone at the bus stop. I realized it in a couple of minutes on the bus. But the bus, apparently, goes faster than it seems. I asked a driver to stop. I’d prefer to ask him to turn back to Milna, but we were on the serpentine road. We went 52 min down the serpentine on foot.
Somehow I was sure my phone was still there at the bus stop. It wasn’t there! We asked in a nearby cafe – no one knew. We tried another cafe – it was closed. We asked men working at the marina opposite the bus stop – they were really enthusiastic to help me. They actually proved my hypothesis that everyone knows everyone on the island and it’s very safe on the island. Men remembered their friend was walking with the children near the bus stop. Through 2-3 contacts we found his number. Unfortunately, he didn’t answer the phone. Almost desperate I wandered back to the bus stop looking around.
A group of people came towards me. “I have nothing to lose,” I thought and came to ask them about the phone. And then a woman coming in the front took my phone out from her purse! It was pure luck, because her company was moving to the parking place behind the bus stop to leave Milna. Then we tried our luck again, because we got off the last bus to Supetar. We’ve overcome the serpentine road before we succeded to flag cars down. One senior man gave us a ride to a crossroad, Supetar was out of his way. Then two young men drove us straight to the ferry to Split. One wondered whether my friend and I are daughters of those Russians who own a mansion somewhere nearby. “No, wait, it was the mansion of a Hungarian oligarch, not Russian,” another guy said. Anyway, we were not, so they switched a topic.
3. Bol: ideal summer beach weekend chill trip
I was deliberately postponing a visit to Bol and Zlatni Rat on Brac to the beginning of summer. Out of the season, you always risk being disappointed there, especially when you’ve already learned something about the prominent horn-shaped beaches (Zlatni Rat in Croatian means ‘Golden Cape’, or ‘Golden Horn’). Golden Horn needs sun to be gold.
Besides sunny weather needed, a trip to Bol is easily organised leisure that few things could spoil. Ferry boat trips Split-Supetar and bus trips Supetar-Bol matches perfect, thus you don’t lose time waiting. Also, it’s pleasure to continue with a green promenade from Bol village to Zlatni Rat beach after a mountainy road to Bol. I would, perhaps, aware that there are a lot of people in the season. However, it has some advantages. For instance, my friends and I came on Sunday and saw a wedding on the square in front of the parish church (Zupna crkva Gospe od Karmela) in Bol.
Returning from the beach we noticed that the return trips to Split are also perfectly matched. Therefore, you have all the possibilities: 1) to have dinner in Bol and go back to Supetar/Split by last trips; 2) to take the second to last bus to Supetar, have dinner there and go to Split by last ferry trip; 3) to go back to Supetar/Split by second to last trips and have dinner in Split. We choose first and enjoyed island hospitality in one of the restaurants in Bol. “Why is the place called Jadranka?” a question came to my mind. “My name is Jadranka,” an owner answered to me. She was the only child, and (grand) parents called it after her. With her husband, they cook all dishes and keep this place already for decades. One more sign of true hospitality is that they remembered our friends who visited it two months ago.
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