The Realities of Self-Isolating on Hvar, Croatia’s Premier Island

Total Croatia News

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Photo credit: Taliah Bradbury

March 18, 2020 – Everyone has their own coronavirus story, but what is it like self-isolating on Hvar, Croatia’s premier island? 

Where are you spending the next two months?

As the realities of the coronavirus crisis started to hit home more and more in Croatia, the mood changed very quickly from corona memes and very relaxed attitudes to taking things very seriously. While the number of cases in Croatia remains very low, with no reported deaths at time of writing, the closing of cafes and restaurants in Istria was one dramatic move which helped to focus attention, and suddenly streets, bars and restaurants all over the country were almost empty. Schools closed for two weeks initially, and the prospect of an extended period of self-isolation looms. With no school and no tourist bookings, we took a family decision that rather than being cooped up in the house we rent in Varazdin, it would be preferable to go and self-isolate on Hvar, at our place in Jelsa.  

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Croatia’s premier island in mid-March, a time when it would be traditionally waking up for the season, but not this year. Along with the rest of the country’s tourism sector, Hvar faces a tough tourism future in the short term. Living there would have its advantages and disadvantages. Whatever shortages come to shops on the mainland, they will be a lot worse on the islands. But if one can prepare oneself mentally for that, there are many, many advantages. The sun, the nature, the tranquillity. We were making the right decision, weren’t we? I wondered to myself as the ferry left Drvenik for Sucuraj. This would be the last glimpse of the mainland for some time.  

The look on the kids’ faces as we hit the coast on the drive down convinced me we had made the right choice. Windows opened, sea air inhaled.

“I just love the smell of our island, Daddy. I have really missed this.”

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Restaurants would be closed, and many of the trappings of city living unavailable, but one of the great plus points of life on the island would be access to the freshest home-grown field from the family garden. My father-in-law is a legend with his field, and his toil provides much of the food on the family table. We had brought seeds with us, and more stuff was planted today. 

And what a delicious welcome! Some staples such as meat may soon be in short supply, but there will be food available from the field.  

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One definite advantage is the morning view! Sunshine and coffee on the terrace – one of the benefits of self-isolation on Hvar. I wrote a (what was intended to be a lighthearted) piece on the toilet paper situation yesterday, including the fact that we had decided not to panic buy in the mainland supermarkets, but rather go with the flow (so to speak) and adapt if there are shortages.  

As I have not interacted with anyone physically since coming back or been to the supermarkets, I cannot give you a first-hand account of supplies. One neighbour said that meat, carrots and toilet paper were not to be found, while another friend found plenty of toilet paper in Stari Grad, but no milk, flour or onions. As with everywhere, I suspect, the situation will fluctuate. Dalmatians are a lot more conditioned for self-reliance than fat Irishmen, and they also have the recent experiences of the Homeland War to draw on. In a weird way, I am kind of looking forward to the impending hardship, as it will make me a tougher and better person. I am certainly looking forward to the Croatian solidarity – no nation is better at coming together in a time of crisis. 


I have decided on self-isolation on Hvar without stocking up on alcohol. I look wistfully as one of my favourite photos in life, the Bombay gin terrace of 2012 and my current Facebook cover photo, but those bottles emptied a long time ago. Perhaps this self-isolation on Hvar is a chance for lifestyle reflection.  

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(Photo credit Vivian Grisogono)

Not that life is without temptation. I can see The Office is still open on the main square (this photo from a couple of weeks ago – thanks Viv), and there is nothing I would rather do than slip down for a midday cold one or three in the sun, as was part of my daily routine for years. But my greetings to Captain Nijaz and the team will have to wait.  

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I was curious to see how remote schooling was going to work, and how the kids would take to it. There were system server issues on the first day, but things seem to have settled down, and they are diligently at their tablets doing their chores, as well as following the classes on television. I was not that optimistic that the whole thing would work, but it seems to be working very well, backed up by Viber group chats with the teachers. And this is a country where homeschooling is illegal. I wonder if one of the consequences of COVID-19 will be to push that agenda forward… 

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Self-isolation on Hvar means not seeing people. But a little walk around nature at night, when nobody is around, is refreshing indeed. Jelsa in the dead of night, as magical and chilled as when I first discovered it way back in 2002. 

Self-isolation on Hvar? So far, so good. I will update in a week or so, from toilet supplies to wild asparagus hunting success. 

For the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section


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