Art, Music, Literature and Poetry,  Travel

Exploring with the one you love and loving what you are exploring

The Croatian poet Petar Hektorović who built a fortress-like home on the island of Hvar and patiently supervised the house’s construction for 40 years writes: “Remember that neither riches nor fame, beauty nor age can save you from death, that takes all”. While most of us would agree with the literal meaning of this statement, I tend to believe that we – as humans – can partially cheat on time and death by using our distinctive talent of creation and creativity. By forcing our inventive, artistic, or humanitarian nature to leave a mark on the World for all eternity, we remain immortal.

Another immortal phenomena, quite different from a person’s immortal creation, is the feeling of freedom that an island, such as Hvar, could offer. Famous for its lavender-related products, rich history, interesting traditions, captivating architecture, tasty sea food, and outstanding hospitality, the island of Hvar is the perfect get-away for anyone. I guess meeting by chance the mother of a very close friend of mine somewhere on this floating land in the sea speaks loudly about this fact as well. If this serendipity does not convince you, then maybe Prince Harry’s visit in 2011, King Edward the VIII’s visit in 1936, or even grieving Jackie Kennedy’s visit eight months after her husband’s assassination will. They all found what they needed somewhere on the border between the shore and the sea, and so did I.

You should be careful though, how you spend your money here, because the people in the shops are so nice that soon you might be leaving a shop with a house, rather than a postcard. For instance, as I was buying a postcard, the person working in the shop told me: “we are also trying to bring more people to live to the island, so if you are interested in buying a house, I am here for you”. Well, that escalated quickly, I thought. To me that sounded like: “miss, here are your postcards, do you maybe need anything else? A house, maybe? We can pack it in a paper bag if you wish and put a ribbon on it yes, we do accept cards”. On the other hand, I was the weird tourist who has just seen the perfect souvenir, but has found the price too high, so she has muttered some random excuse like: “I am sorry sir, the façade’s color is really not my style, maybe if it were green, I would have considered”. Bullshit of course, I cannot afford an island house with a green façade, but I have never been famous for saying “no” to a possibly interesting, future deal.

Although I not yet own an island house (actually, I do not own house anywhere, but that is another story), I now own a cell phone, mind, and heart full with the most wonderful memories of the island. I visited larger part of Hvar during the one-day scooter excursion with my boyfriend. We were mostly staying in Jelsa – a small, but exquisitely picturesque and pleasant “village” on the island, but we also travelled from there to Stari Grad and to the town of Hvar.

Our daily excursion around the island of Hvar

Let me for now focus only a little bit on Stari Grad. Its tourism is, according to many, still in its infancy, since it dates back only to the start of the 20th century. In fact, up to the end of the 19th century, strolling in swimwear on the coastline or swimming were unusual, and considered almost sinful-like, activities. The locals say that even some fishermen who spent most of their days on the open sea did not know how to swim and the idea of tourism sprang and bloomed only after all other ideas that could have provided certain livelihood failed. Today, Stari Grad proudly presents ancient Greek ruins, inspirational 16-century rebellions against the Venetian rule at the time, UNESCO-protected religious rituals as cultural heritage of humanity, and probably – the most important of them all – the Dominican monastery.

The Dominican mondastery in Stari Grad, Hvar, founded in 1482.
Image retrieved from:

Bearing a renaissance mark, the monastery was also the place where the two poets who have affected the Croatian renaissance literature most significantly were educated. The first poet is Petar Hektorović and he is the author of Croatia’s first realistic poem named “Fishing and Fisherman’s conversations”. On the other hand, the poet Hanibal Lucić wrote “The Slave Girl” – the first secular play written in Croatian. Although they both had kids with and lived with peasant women, and rejected to marry noblewomen – something extremely unconventional for the time – their lifestyles drifted drastically apart as soon as Hanibal moved to the town Hvar to socialize lavishly with food, drinks, and Venetian company, while Petar stayed on Stari Grad and built his fortress of Tvrdalj. Until today, the fortress-like mansion’s trademarks are the engraved stones that witness the poet’s romantic views on life, and the fishpond found in the yard. On the other hand, the garden next to it is the perfect hideaway, where in shadow you can enjoy your lunch or just quietly meditate for some minutes.

The pond in Petar Hektorović ‘s house
with one of the many engraved stones (middle, between Felix and me)
The garden in Petar Hektorović ‘s house

Another possible trademark would have been the mansion’s library, but sadly it was destroyed in the 19th century when one of Petar’s distant heirs decided to ignore all other nineteen rooms in the mansion and insisted on building his and his fiancée’s bedroom in the library. In his endeavors, he destroyed a Renaissance temple of a sort and he remains the main cause why a large amount of incredibly valuable ancient texts, documents, artistic projects, record-keeping books, maps, coins, and instruments are now forever lost. I guess a small bedroom for a couple can become a great loss for humanity, and no, I do not think that love can be used as an excuse for this irreparable damage.

What love can explain though is why this town felt so charming to me. The trip to Croatia was the first sea-side vacation with my boyfriend Felix and we got along really well. It was his idea that we rent a scooter and tour the island and I gladly accepted. I must admit, there is something uplifting about travelling with a person you love deeply. I have been a lone traveler for larger part of my young adulthood and I always thought that travelling with someone can be hard, especially if you have different opinions about how sight seeing, commuting, or entertaining should be done. Therefore, when you find someone with whom you not only agree with, but also complement on these topics, the journeys increase in quality radically. If nothing, I no longer have to ask other people to take photos of me. 😉 Of course, the main reason for the beautiful feelings that I was experiencing was the fact that I was building new memories with someone special to me. All of a sudden, a tiny town on an island, an ice cream in the shadow of a tiny café while the noon sun has reached sadistic 40 degrees, getting lost and being found – they all become actions that once I would have found borderline annoying, but now they are exactly the experiences that shape my smile. And I think, years after the trips are over, the photographs all pale, the memories all mixed up; one reminiscence will certainly remain unaltered: the way I felt walking through an old, tiny, island town by holding the hand of the one I love and thinking “yes Ivona, this is the life”.


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