Honeymoon is over

Reason #163: the initial “in love” phase eventually wears off

This is the case with any big move. The typical “honeymoon period”, where you’re in love with the place and everything is amazing, eventually has to wear off.

For me that usually comes at the 6 month mark. And here it is, right on time and unrelenting. Like a Swiss train.

The hard thing about the Honeymoon being over is that you no longer live on a high of everything being great. Things actually start looking ugly.

The great thing about the Honeymoon being over is that you can finally start seeing things as they really are, in relation to you. And that’s when you can really start enjoying a place for what it really is.

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Rest In Peace on Brač

Reason #162: Brač cemeteries are a beautiful final resting place

If you’re looking for a great place to be buried in, look no further than one of the many wonderful cemeteries on Brač.

Great views, plenty of sunshine, fancy tombstones – Brač has it all. Put it in your will and come on down!

Seasonal veggies ::: part I

Reason #161: get broad beans, peas and potatoes

There’s some veggies all year round, but in the spring it starts getting crazy. People have so much stuff growing you’re bound to get some for free, or at least buy it at a symbolic price.

It’s all, what we in the city would call, organic. Here, people just call them vegetables.

Broad beans. Yum! Yum! Yum!

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Potatoes with a heart:

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Peas:

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Beach time!

Reason #160: beach season starts in June

Although you can be a hero and start dipping your toes already in April and May if you want, the water really only starts getting comfortably warm in June.

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How warm is warm enough, you ask? 21-23 C (70-73 F), for some. Locals won’t start going to the beach until July, when it’s 24 C (75 F) and higher.

Raining cats and … more cats

Reason #159: cats, kittens and pussycats

As cat people know, you can never truly own a cat. Here on Brač especially, as there are always cats running around or lounging; cats that everybody feeds and pets, but nobody keeps caged. They have it made!

On a less happy note, there have been instances of mass cat poisoning sprees. Basically, somebody leaving poison all over the village for cats to eat. Lots of people still mourn their friends who died in this way. Unimaginable, who would do such a thing!

Fast and Furious

Reason #157: driving too fast on the road Nerežišća – Supetar

There’s a stretch of a road just after Nerežišća, on your way to Supetar, that’s long and narrow. With most of Brač roads being twisty, this one long stretch just begs your foot to hit the gas pedal.

And that’s what many drivers do. And that’s why this road has claimed another couple of victims recently.

Please, be careful. Slow down.

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And a Google Maps link.

Oleander – so beautiful, so dangerous?

Reason #156: beautiful oleander trees adorn streets and seafronts

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Besides looking and smelling wonderfully, apparently, oleander trees can also be poisonous. The 1999 Janet Fitch novel, and later movie, White Oleander has the main character (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) uses oleander to kill her lover.

I can say for sure that nobody has yet died of oleander poisoning on Brač :)

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Things to watch out for when cycling on Brač

Reason #155: a few reasons cyclists might not like

Other than the usual things cyclists need to watch out for, here are a few that former mainland or city cyclists should bear in mind when coming to Brač and other islands in the region:

  1. Local drivers.
    Local drivers are confident and know the roads like the back of their hands, some of them, especially young guys, can be overly confident and drive too fast and too close past you. Coupled with their attitude that cyclists are a nuisance and that the road belongs to motorized vehicles, which many of them have… well, you get the picture.
  2. Tourists behind the wheel.
    This is such a mixed bag of surprises, you just have no idea what you’ll get. It could be a confident tourist from a cycling culture who knows exactly what to do. It could be one from a country with even less cyclists than Croatia, in a rented car, first day of vacation, freaked out by the Croatian driving culture – a cyclist suddenly appears behind one of the many bends – scary for both of you. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, it’s mostly just in July and August, and you can even avoid it by minding the ferry schedule and staying away from the main road at those times.
  3. Dirt in the corners. 
    Winding roads are great, especially across a hilly landscape, such as here on Brač, but going downhill you have to be careful because each bend could hold a bunch of dirt, gravel or sand in the corner. Adjust your speed accordingly.
  4. Sheep.
    They hang out in the bushes by the side of the road sometimes. Then they freak out when you come along and jump right in front of you. Cos they’re stupid.
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  5. Pitch dark.
    If you’ve never cycled in the countryside, listen up. In a populated area there’s always some source of light. In the countryside, on a moonless night, it’s completely dark, you can’t see anything. You can’t walk, let alone cycle. Make sure you have a powerful front light, preferably with a wider beam.
  6. Fake snakes.
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    If you’re afraid of snakes and you don’t have perfect eyesight, these asphalt stitchings could trick you, from afar ;)
  7. Real snakes. 
    Snakes can be a nuisance. They like the heat and the sun, so they come out onto the road sometimes. Most snakes on Brač are not poisonous and will therefore run off if you give them a chance. Just as with sheep, the worst thing that could happen to you on a road is that you get startled by one and fall off the bike.
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Next: Things cyclists will love about Brač

Škuta… heavenly cheese. Thank you, Brački sheep!

Reason #153: Brač sheep make delicious cheese

As we know by now, Brački sheep are known for their delicious meat on a spit. Well, that’s not all you can get out of these lovely creatures…

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Photos by Malcom a.k.a. Selca on Flickr

There’s also škuta. Škuta is soft cheese made out of sheep milk.

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You can eat it straight, add it to salads, but the best, THE BEST way to eat škuta is to sweeten it up. Cut slices of škuta and sprinkle them with lots of sugar or pour honey over them. YU-UM!

Bulletproof Heart of Jesus by Ivan Meštrović

Reason #152: admire art by one of the greatest sculptors of our time

Srce Isusovo / Heart of Jesus by Ivan Meštrović adorns the Brač cathedral – Church of Christ the King in Selca. The great artist donated it to Selca in 1956 and local sculptors cast it out of bullet shells left over from the fighting against fascists in Selca during World War II.

What a poignant message of Love above all.

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Photo courtesy of Tourist Board Selca

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Photo courtesy of Općina Selca

Ivan Meštrović, one of the greatest sculptors of our time, was so incredibly prolific that it’s nearly impossible to compile a complete list of his works of art scattered all over the world, in both public and private collections. This sculpture is practically unknown even to Meštrović fans, so it’s kind of a rare find.

Life is rosey ::: “Smell this!” series, part II

Reason #151: scented greeting at the gates

These particular roses have such a powerful scent. If you plant them at the  front of your garden, each time you walk in, you are greeted with a little olfactory ecstasy :)

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As you know, I’ve decided to introduce a new category to this blog – “Smell this! series”. I’ve read that technology experts predict we will soon be able to convey scent through computers.

This post is for those reading in the year 2024. Go ahead, scratch and sniff your screen! ;)

“Armed shopping not allowed. Try next door.”

Reason #150: you can’t take your gun into a supermarket

Whether you see this as a pro or a con of living on Brač, there it is, you can’t do your grocery shopping while carrying a gun. At least not at the Tommy supermarket in Supetar.

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Photo by Tom Kelsey. Thanks, Tom!

Foreigners are probably shocked to see this sign, but Croatians are quite used to it, even though carrying guns is not common enough these days to justify the need for such a warning sign. It’s thanks to the war of ’91-’95 when many people owned guns (no longer the case) that we now have this odd rule as a remnant of that time.

My favorite is definitely the gun/ice-cream combo that can be seen inside the Zagreb railway station.

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Photo by Anton Whittle. Thanks!

Roadside supermarket

Reason #149: pinch free seasoning on your way home from the beach

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Koromač (fennel) leaves can be finely chopped and added to lots of refreshing dips. However, Bračani don’t do no dips, so if you want to do as the locals do, you will add fennel leaves when you’re boiling blitva (chard), preferably with some bob (broad beans) and a potato. Seasoned with just salt and olive oil.

Did you know that fennel is one of the main ingredients in absinthe? I bet it just got instant cred in your book, am I right? ;)

Rosemary is everywhere, too. Even if you’re not going to be marinating or baking anything that particular day, it’s great to just pinch a bit off, or even just run your fingers through it. Mmmm, lovely.

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Capers are also something you no longer have to buy in the supermarket if you live on Brač. Their bushes sprout from between the blocks of stone on old houses. More on when to pick them and how to preserve them another time.

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Fennel is great for decorating roadside posts, too.

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Brač is no place hypocritical carnivores

Reason #148: to enjoy yummy meat you must face reality

Growing up in a big city often means that we are shielded from some facts of life. How we come by our meat is one of them. An anonymous lambchop on a plate is one thing, but knowing your lamb and seeing it on a spit makes things very real.

Living on Brač brings you closer to nature in every way, including the ways you might not have wished for.

From this…

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to this…

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Photos by Malcom a.k.a. Selca on Flickr

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and finally this…

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Mintalicious

Reason #147: grow mint for your teas and cocktails

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Mint grows like crazy and you can always have some fresh leaves for your cocktails, or…

Tie a bunch of them up, hang them out to dry. Once dry, separate the leaves from stalks and put them in a tin box or a jar. Make your own healthy cup of mint tea whenever you feel like it.

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UPDATE

And here’s a recipe for a refreshing mint and lemon drink from Tom:

“Combine the juice from several lemons with some handfulls of fresh mint, add sugar and water (or simple syrup) then blend with some ice cubes. What a thirst-quencher!”

Pops of red

Reason #146: red poppies in the spring

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Brač is bursting with color in springtime.

Seeing how most of the flowers are either purple, pink or yellow, poppies and their blood red petals are a special treat.

Poppies growing in springtime. One of the many bays on Brač.

Brač has a big heart ♥

Reason #144: when tragedy strikes you can count on people here

In the devastating floods of May 2014 that have affected large areas of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and help was and is still needed. Everyone in Croatia has rallied and helped. The people of Brač were no different. Emergency humanitarian aid was raised in a couple of days and shipped off to the flooded areas.

The photos show just a portion of the collection activities. Some photos by: Pučišća FB page, braconline.com.hr

Not to paint too rosy a picture of Bračani, there is another side to this coin. A small number of people react to these kinds of situations with selfishness, nasty comments or look for self-interest and self-promotion. There will always be people like that everywhere, luckily their voices are quickly drowned out.

—————

To get an idea of scale and effect of the flooding, watch this powerful video by Robert Balasko

First Communion in Selca

Reason #141: nine year olds take part in a traditional Catholic ritual

Croatians take their Catholic traditions very seriously. And in the case of the sacrament of First Communion that means that in towns and villages across Croatia little nine year old girls and boys prepare for a special service in which they take their first hostia, i.e. the Body of Christ.

 

Brač is no different, of course. Even if you’re not religious it’s interesting and nice to go see this special service. Compared to most Catholic services this one is more cheerful with the children center stage, singing and performing.

The 10 boys and girls in Selca were really excited to take part in this ritual.

After the church service each child’s family holds a reception at their house. The child receives gifts, there’s lots of food and a special cake.

Here’s a short video that sums up the long First Communion service.

Springtime roadkill

Reason #138: snakes come out to get a sun tan and get squashed by cars

This time of year is the best chance to run into snakes. They like to come out onto the road and soak in the sun, to their detriment. snake_brac_roadkill

I took a bunch of pics of dead snakes, a lot more graphic than this, entrails and all, but was advised that not everyone would appreciate them :)

This place is bugged!

… but in a more literal way than in spy movies.

Reason #137: smelly millipedes in your house

If you’ve lived in urban areas all your life and now you’ve moved this close to nature, this will be something to get used to. You will find lively, crawly creatures in your house from time to time.

These are my least favorite ones. They’re very crawly and they smell. They smell especially bad if you touch, squish or hurt them in any way.

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Here they go by the name smrgorke, but I couldn’t find anything under that name on the internet. They’re millipedes and they’re harmless. That much I know.

Found one in my bathroom the other day. They always look for water, so you tend to find them there.

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I’ve tried different ways of killing them. Picking them up gently will still cause them to release the smell. So my latest technique was to spray them with toilet cleaner. That kills them and seems to stop the smell from getting too bad.

They don’t seem to show up in the summer at all. And new houses and properly insulated places probably don’t have this problem at all.

You have been warned, though.

Hang me out to dry. Gladly.

Reason #131: life on Brač is a real-life laundry detergent commercial

The sun is shining, the air is clean, the wind is blowing… yes, washing your clothes here feels like you’re in a TV commercial for Ariel washing powder.

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Not all year round, of course. There are wet, cold Jugo days when you can hang your clothes out for days and they never dry. But there’s always another sunny day just around the corner if you wait it out.

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Some clothes were hurt during the making of this commercial.

Roses are red… and yellow and white and pink and…

Reason #129: grow a garden full of beautiful flowers

With this wonderful Mediterranean climate on Brač there’s lots of warm and sunny days all year round and that means anyone can grow just about any plants and flowers they want.

Disclaimer: my anything-but-green thumbs are not in any way responsible for this garden. Aunt Nada is the wizard behind this magic. I just get to wake up to it every morning. That’s a pretty rosy deal, as far as I’m concerned.

Nautical hibernation

Reason #125: some boats get to have a nap over the winter

Some on the beach, sunbathing their bottoms…

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Some smack in the middle of their owner’s olive grove. Why not.

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Not everyone takes their boat out for the winter, but most people do. It’s just easier that way and less maintenance. Plus, winter weather can be harsh and if your boat is not tied up properly a rough bout of Bura or Jugo can do serious damage.

Shopping center? What’s that?

Reason #123: there are no shopping centers on Brač

In an era of excessive consumerism and when family lifestyle in big cities often sadly centers around visits to shopping malls, it’s so refreshing to live in an area without any.

And to get to the nearest one in Split would take all day and two boat rides. Excellent!

Yes, I’m sure that many locals disagree with me and would love to have a shopping mall on the island, but fortunately enough Brač is too small of a market for investors to get any return of ka-ching. So, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see one. Phew!

Photo submitted in evidence of non-existence of shopping malls. I dare you to zoom in and find me one ;)

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Joking aside, if you do look closely, you’ll see a man building foundations for a very non-shoppingcentric structure there. 

Ferry rides to and from Brač

Reason #121: riding the ferry can be anything you want it to be

372672718_73bc54054c_z When I first thought of living on Brač the fact that I had to get there by ferry each time seemed like a hassle. And it sure can be. But I’ve also since come to embrace the positive aspects of it. So, let’s do another pros&cons list. But first let’s watch this fun video:

And now the pros&cons list…

Cons of ferry rides to and from Brač:

  • they take a long time (50 minutes!)
  • the tickets are kind of expensive (pricelist PDF)
  • tickets for bicycles are ridiculously expensive IMO: 38kn
  • you’re stuck, you can’t go anywhere for an hour
  • the wi-fi is there to tease, but you can’t actually log onto it
  • if the weather is bad it’s not as fun
  • if the wind is really strong, especially on the Sumartin-Makarska side, the ferry won’t run

Pros of ferry rides to and from Brač:

  • they’re not that long (just 50 minutes)
  • if you live on the island you pay half the price for everything (people, bike, car)
  • you can’t go anywhere for an hour so you can get a lot of things done: read, work, write blog posts, chat with people, play cards, think, meditate, people-watch, etc.
  • you run into people you know and hang out
  • you can sit outside and enjoy the sun, even get a tan
  • you can sit inside and enjoy the A/C
  • there’s a bar
  • there are toilets, with toilet paper
  • there’s a tv and if you love soaps and the news, you’re in the right place

Here’s a great page (unfortunately, facebook) with lots of pics and videos from all the ferries to and from Dalmatian islands, including Brač: Uživo s dalmatinskih trajekata / Live from Dalmatian ferries

Brač has its The Voice: Glas Brača

Reason #120: compete in a singing talent show

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The participants were chosen through auditions in elementary schools and they sang Croatian pop songs.

Check them out, they’re adorable:

Check out the video medley with this year’s participants:

Although this latest craze with talent shows is a relatively recent thing, since the Idol, The Voice, CountryX’s Got Talent, etc… However, this talent show has a much longer tradition. It used to be called Pjevači amateri and was conceived in Selca by Zoran Vrsalović Peci.

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All the photos courtesy of Dalmalino. You can find lots more here.

Kudos to the organizer – Dalmalino and Zoran Vrsalović Peci – on a great effort. Hopefully Glas Brača becomes a long-standing tradition once again.

Za križen – Following the Cross

Reason #119: follow the Cross in a traditional Easter procession

Za križen is a procession ritual, part of the Catholic Easter tradition observed in Dalmatian towns and villages.

The start of the procession varies. In Selca, Sumartin and Novo Selo it starts on Friday morning. The three villages start at their own church and walk to the next village and back. Without running into each other.

The Selca procession starts at 6 am.

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It follows the old road to Sumartin

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At the same time, the procession from Sumartin heads to Selca, but via another route, so that the two processions never meet.

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The Selca procession arrives in Sumartin and is met by Roman soldiers who escort us to the church of St. Martin. The march of the soldiers is eerie and impressive.

 

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Photo courtesy of  Žudije Sumartin.

Here’s a tip for those who intend to join Za križen for the first time: try to be at the front of the procession, where all the singing and the decorum is happening. If you hang in the back it can be annoying and the magic is lost, as most people chat and instead of thinking of Christ and His suffering, they’re more interested in “Whose house is that? Check out those curtains!”, “When was the last time he trimmed his olive trees”, and such.

In the evening we gather in Selca again, for another service and procession. The streets of Selca are lit up by torches and people sing hymns all the way. It’s beautiful.

Change of guards at the tomb of Jesus in the church Krista Kralja in Selca.

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In the video you would have heard a loud, rattling noise. That would be these:

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Rachet or škrpajke are carried in the procession (by kids mostly) and at certain points the procession stops, the singing stops and on command all the rachets make noise in unison.

Although many Dalmatian towns and villages observe this tradition, the most famous and reportedly the most impressive Za križen procession is the one on the island of Hvar. It even made the prestigious UNESCO Cultural Heritage listing.

More on the Easter tradition in Selca and Sumartin in this post: Easter ritual of Žudije – Roman soldiers

Don’t let the snails fool you

Reason#107: snails are not as cute and innocent as they would have you think

We’ve had a few April showers last few days and that means the snails will come out.

I always thought they looked funny and cute.

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But they are not as innocent as they appear. As a city girl until recently I was totally clueless, but now that I have my precious greens growing in the garden I know full well that snails are evil. Yes, evil. They feast on my beautiful greens and leave ugly holes in the leaves. Bad snails!

Truck heaven

Reason #100: Brač is a great place for kids and grownups who love trucks

Because of the Brački stone industry and because there’s a lot of building and transporting going on, there’s also trucks galore.

Old, abandoned and rusting trucks:

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Active MAN-ly trucks:

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Red, blue, green and yellow trucks:

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And it wouldn’t be a Brački truck if it wasn’t loaded with Brač stone:

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Get away from billboards and neon advertising

Reason #94: miles and miles of billboard-less space

One of my absolute favorite things about living on an island like Brač, after having lived in cities all my life: there is hardly any advertising, especially no billboards and neons.

Look to the north…

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Look to the south…

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All clear.

OK, some can be seen in a few of the bigger places on the island, especially in and around Supetar. And a few more will pop up during the summer, targeting thousands of tourists who visit the island in July and August. But that’s still nothing.

But some people might miss the sight of big city advertising. Some people might get super annoyed at the kinds of alternative sights Brač has to offer… Such as…

Bob Squarepants & friends balloon fest. Really annoying, all those happy faces…

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Pizza place advertising. For a pizzeria that hasn’t been open in years. So that’s annoying…

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Street name plates in stone. If you don’t like stone, it’s really annoying…

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Art at the side of the road in Novo Selo. Really annoying, as all art should be closed inside galleries…

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Mess behind a mechanic’s in Radonja, plus, trash container advertising. Really ugly annoying. Everything in the world should be tidy and neat…

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UPDATE: I checked yesterday, this particular mess has been cleaned up. So, that’s annoying. But there’s definitely other messes out there, don’t worry.

Same goes for this old Fićo (Fiat 600). Rally old and annoying…

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This cageball sign written by hand. Cost nothing probably. That’s annoying…

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My uncle’s socks in fresh air and sunshine. Annoying…

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This hand painted sign advertising a restaurant in Povlja. How annoyingly adorable and unique…

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Some joker mocking poor cows. Annoying when someone has a sense of humor…

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This guy’s selling home made vine in Postira. With a home made sign for it. How annoying…

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Annoying cyclists who are amused by their own shadow…

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Bags of olives waiting to be taken to the press. Annoying stuff. Olives should be seen only properly packaged in jars with fancy stickers on them…

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Trees in meadows. No advertising anywhere. How annoying…

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Donkeys. Just standing there. Not advertising anything. Probably annoyed because of it…

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So, there. If you think you’ll miss looking at billboards while stuck in a traffic jam and inhaling exhaust fumes on your way to work, you definitely shouldn’t move to Brač ;)

 

Home Depot? Bauhaus? No. Neighbor’s back yard.

Reason #93: building material can be bought from someone’s back yard

Although for some stuff you’ll have to go to one of the proper stores on the island or mainland, some stuff can be bought from “a guy”. Such as this guy’s back yard, offering firewood and roof tiles (special, Brač stone roof tiles).

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And how do you know which guy is selling what? There are no classifieds, you’ll see no ads for them. Just ask locals at one of the usual hangouts.

To poison or not to poison, that is the question

Reason #92: sheep and goats could get poisoned if tras-grazing

As dramatic as that sounds, apparently it doesn’t happen too often.

So I came across this the other day, on a bike ride.

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If we take a closer look, you’ll see that the sign says OTROVANO:

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Otrovano means poisoned in Croatian. As in, the land beyond this fence has been poisoned. As in, the owner of the land has treated the land with toxic weed killer chemicals recently.

So, I’m told that there have been a few people known not to notify like this and when another guy’s sheep or goats die from poisoning, they feel justified because they should not have been on the land in the first place.

Another, more common way of communicating that a piece of land has been treated is to leave the container (of the chemical you used) up on the gate, for all to see.

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Luckily for everyone, humans and animals alike, not everyone resorts to using chemicals on their land.

Palm trees

Reason #91: palm trees create a nice tropical vacation feel

These palm trees in Sumartin are getting a trim in the spring, so they can be all nice and fresh for the tourists in the summer.

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They have to look pretty for when they pose with the Sumartin church, of course.

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And over in Supetar I found a house where you can buy baby palm trees. Or, so the sign says.

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Scarcity and Lent

Reason #88: a sense of scarcity

We’re in the middle of Lent right now and that means that many Christians are using this time to give up something and reflect on their relationship with God, with themselves, with material possessions, addictions, and much more.

Living on a rock where resources can be scarce and historically people have had very tough lives, it makes you think of the act of abstaining in a different way.

For a lot of people Lent is about removing excess from one’s life and making a personal sacrifice. But I’m thinking, what is the point of doing that in a place that has been in constant state of scarcity since its first inhabitants, all the way up to recent modern times?

What would my grandma, and even my mom, have abstained from for 40 days? Not cake or meat, that’s for sure. They were hard-working, poor and hungry for at least half of their lives. If they finally had a bit of excess later in life, shouldn’t they enjoy it?

And even though most people don’t go hungry on Brač these days, and a few are even quite affluent, the general sense of scarcity is still present. Call it gene memory or culture or mentality, it’s there somehow.

I have no point here. Just something to think about.

 

 

Fickle March

Reason#85: you can expect just about any type of weather in March

March on Brač is awesome for people who like surprises and change. One day you could be wearing a t-shirt, enjoying a perfect sunny day such as this one…

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… and the next day you could be freezing, or even worse, running for cover from hail (like they did in Pučišća Monday morning). Yes, hail!

tuca_puciscaPhoto by Karmen Koljatić, thanks to Pučišća facebook page.

Check out the wind column in this 7-day forecast. Just about every possible wind direction Nature could come up with! At least I know which day is good for badminton.

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Source: meteo.hr

 

 

Snow in Selca

Reason #83: if it snows, you don’t have to go to school

Spring is here and days are only going to get warmer from now on. I feel like paying a tribute to the winter of 2011/12 when it snowed for the first time in forever. Towns and villages in Dalmatia are so unused to snow that life was almost completely shut down because of it.

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As always, kids had most fun with it :)

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Photo sources: braconline and selca.hr

It’s not all fun & games, though. When it snows as bad as this time, many people get injured, there are power outages and related issues, old people in scattered villages get cut off and need assistance, there’s loss to the local economy, etc., etc.

Also, I should point out that in the highest parts of the island (alt. 700m) it snows every winter, but it’s very rare for snow to come down to sea level where most of the settlements are.

Brass ABBA

Reason #77: you can join a brass band in Selca and play ABBA’s greatest hits

The brass band is called “Hrvatski sastanak 1888” and it was formed in 1939.

Everyone is welcome to join and learn how to play one of the brass instruments. You just have to know how to blow air out of your mouth, basically, and you’ll learn :)

You’re never alone, part II

Reason #75: there’s always people around, even when you don’t want it

The other day I talked about the great aspect of you’re never alone, how there’s always people there for you when you need it.

The other side of that coin is that you could miss the lack of anonymity that a big city offers, the lack of being able to just not deal with anyone if you don’t feel like it. In a big city, if you wanted to, you could go for days without seeing anyone you know. And I don’t mean being stuck in your apartment, not at all. You can go out among people, do stuff, have fun… all the while being anonymous, if you wanted to.

Also, it’s pretty hard to do anything in a small place like this, without someone finding out. And by “someone” I mean “everyone”, in most cases. There are people who are discrete – I know some of them and respect them for it greatly, but that’s more of an exception, rather than a rule.

There are some solutions to this. You can leave every so often, either to a big city (Split is close by), or to a secluded spot (there are plenty of those on Brač).

Saint Anthony watches over us

Reason #74: St. Anthony will make sure you don’t get lost in the woods

St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost stuff and people.

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“Saint Anthony, pray for us!” it says on the iron cast door.

Catholics are into their saints, as you might already know. And Mary, of course.

On Brač that means that you will often find chapels and altars such as this one. Most of the time they’re built spontaneously by people. Either on their property, or just along paths and roads.

This one of Saint Anthony is one of my favorites. It’s so DIY and imperfect, yet so organic and fits in perfectly.

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If anyone local is reading this and knows who built it, please let me know. Thanks!

 

Mmmm… smells lovely, and costs nothing

Reason #73: in springtime you can pick flowers in the wild and your house will smell great

Did everyone else already know this but me? That freesias smell great!

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Don’t know if you can tell, but the cat is very pleased with the freesias, too.

The great thing about it is that you pick these flowers in the wild, meaning you’ve had a nice walk outdoors and they were for free (which we, Bračani, really like :)).

Also in the wild: daffodils, hyacinths…

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There’s wild asparagus in that bunch, too. Not for smelling, for eating :)

…. and cyclamen.

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And tons more. Just come on over to Brač in early spring if you like flowers and hiking.

Olives and olive trees

Reason #72: olive trees are all around you

It’s estimated that there are more than 500 000 olive trees on Brač. That sounds grossly overestimated, but no matter what the actual number is, the impression you get when you’re here on the island is that they’re everywhere. No matter which way you turn, you will bump into an olive tree.

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Photo by Anton Whittle. Thanks, buddy!

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Photo: Masline by Vankufer

You could argue that olive trees are ugly, but I find them fascinatingly beautiful. Each tree is unique and full of character.

Some olive groves on Brač are hundreds of years old. The handy thing about old olive trees is that you can cut them down and let new ones grow out of them.

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A baby tree growing out of the old tree.

Even though olive trees are incredibly resilient, they still need some water and grooming in order to produce good olives. That means that in particularly dry years, or if you completely neglect them, the trees will survive, but there won’t be a lot of olive oil for your salads and grilled fish. And nobody wants that, no, no.

That’s why in early spring everyone goes to their olive groves to groom them.

You’re supposed to saw off some of the big branches and cut off lots of small ones. The aim is to control the shape of the tree for easy picking, and reduce the number of branches so that the remaining ones give you a good yield.

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To get rid of the piles and piles of branches you’re left with, most people burn them. This has to be done very, very, very carefully and in controlled conditions, so as not to cause the fire to spread. Always far from any trees, with buckets of water standing by. And no wind.

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Watch out for these buggers, though.  They can cause bad skin reactions. They’re normally around pine trees, but this one got lost and ended up on this olive tree. I didn’t touch him, luckily.

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Pine Processionary (borov prelac in Croatian) and we’ve seen them here before.

If all goes well, these olive trees will bear fruit and we’ll pick and press the olives in November. More on that in… well, November.

One of the most famous klapa groups in Dalmatia, named after olives – Maslina. Here they are singing about… well, olives :)

Bunja – Stone huts

Reason #71: stone huts to hide from rain when you’re in the field

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Photo above by Selca. Thanks, Malcom!

If you look carefully in the fields, vineyards and olive groves you’ll still find plenty of these on Brač. Bunja is a hut created by piling the rocks found in the field that had to be cleared in order to get to the soil. You have to remember, soil is hard to find on Brač, and rocks are ev-ry-where.

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If Peter Jackson ever runs out of locations in New Zealand…

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They were built by farmers and shepherds as shelter from the elements.

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Nowadays people don’t use them as they don’t spend all day in the fields anymore. But I think they offer a great spot to come to, relax and contemplate the past; times when life was much simpler, definitely harder, but also healthier, in some ways.