Reason #115: meet lovely and patient donkeys
Why does a Bračanin get mad at his refrigerator?
He’s never sure the light goes out when he closes the door.
It makes sense to me :)
This particular reason for living on Brač would probably make my top ten on any given day. What you need here is a plastic bag (Konzum, Tommy, Kerum, Studenac… any of these will do ;)), a handy knife, knowing where to look and which plants are edible. The latter two I’m not good at yet, so for now I just go with Aunt Nada and follow her lead. Once you’ve got a bag full, you can go home and clean it before cooking. Cooking is simple. Just boil the water, add some salt and don’t cook for too long. You can also add potatoes, and if you don’t have a lot of mišanca, add any other greens you can buy or grow, such as blitva (chard). Blitva and potatoes will also soften the otherwise strong flavor of concentrated mišanca, if that’s prefereable.
Some of the plants that go into mišanca: žutinica, kostrič, radič, divlji luk, koromač, martaduha.
There is a guidebook on Brač wild plants which can help you identify the mišanca plants. Read about the guidebook here.
Breathing the unpolluted air on a crisp, clear night and staring at the skies, it does really feel like you can see all the stars in the universe.
That still picture gets occasionally disturbed by a falling star (Make a wish!) or a passing airplane.
The latter is my mom’s favorite evening pastime. She can sit for hours on the porch and count the planes, imagining where they’re coming from and where they’re going.
Sirnica (or pinca, as it’s called in some parts of Croatia) is a traditional sweet bread made and eaten at Easter, marking the end of Lent.
As a kid I used to wonder where the cheese was, as the word sirnica contains the word sir=cheese in Croatian.
Sirnica is made with eggs, flower, milk, butter and sugar – no cheese.
You can buy a decent sirnica at the baker’s or the suprermarket these days, but some people still like to make their own. In fact, they even compete for the best sirnica on Brač, each year on Easter Monday.
This year Selca won first place. Yay!
Team Selca: Marina Jakšić, Ela Tonšić, Sandra and Marta Mančić… and, of course, their husbands ;)
To skip to the highlight of the ritual, go to 1:50
Easter is an intriguing holiday as it is, but in these here parts they add even more excitement to the festivities with Žudije – 13 men dressed as Roman soldiers. Both Selca and Sumartin have their Žudije organizations. In some Dalmatian villages and towns this tradition has been observed since before WWII.
Žudije from Selca, selački soldati župe Gospe Karmelske (Photo selca.hr)
Žudije take part in ceremonies starting with Easter Thursday. The highlight is the reenactment of the moment Roman soldiers realized Christ was resurrected. At that moment the soldiers first fall to the ground then flee the tomb as angels appear. Although the basic premise is the same, the beauty of the tradition is that each Žudije club has their own performance style and costumes. All the Žudije organizations gather each year on Easter Monday to show off their styles and compete for the title of the best Žudije of Croatia.
Last year’s Žudije festival in Rogotin. (Photo: slobodnadalmacija.hr)
Good luck to our Žudije at tomorrow’s festival in Vrlika!
UPDATE from this year’s festival in Vrlika:
Žudije from Selca with their youngest member Niki :)
More on the Easter tradition in Selca and Sumartin in this post: Za križen – Following the Cross
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.
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!
Elementary school in Selca was built in 1982. and dedicated to the local men and women who were killed in World War II on the side of the Partisans – National Liberation Army.
The plaque and stone relief inside the school:
My grandfather’s name on the commemorative plaque – Vjeko Štambuk (Miloša). He died in 1945. Just days before the war ended.
On Palm Sunday Catholics other Christians gather in a ritual to commemorate the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, before he was crucified. They carry with them palm branches, or in our case, olive tree branches.
Don Jakša, the parish priest, blesses the branches before the procession. Choir ladies sing and we say prayers.
Everyone joins in the procession to the cathedral.
Most people bring their own olive branches. But some go the extra mile in effort and creativity:
And my friend Ruža with her bunch of olive branches and sun in her eyes :)
Preferably, with a soundtrack of Dalmatian music from the local cafe :)
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:
Active MAN-ly trucks:
Red, blue, green and yellow trucks:
And it wouldn’t be a Brački truck if it wasn’t loaded with Brač stone:
Brač stone is relatively soft, so it’s great for sculpting and carving. I’d rather you didn’t practice this skill on my beach, but if you’re a cocky adolescent desperate to impress a girl (or a boy), I guess you can’t really help it.
Lame, Božidar. Really lame, dude.
And not particularly skillful either.
(Mama, ne čitaj dalje. Slika zmije! Nije prava, ali sliči.)
Poskok is the most poisonous snake in Europe and we got them on Brač. But more on the real deal in another post.
This post is dedicated to its impostor, a wannabe Poskok carved out of a piece of wood found on Vidova gora.
The fact that it’s fake won’t help my mom who’s terrified of anything that even resembles a snake. Let’s hope she reads the warning before she looks further.
The artist is Jurica aka “Lola”, a fellow hiker in the “Profunda” hiking club. It took him about 10 minutes, as something to do on a marenda (brunch/lunch) break.
Sunrise over Biokovo, 7 am in the morning, silence everywhere, except for a fisherman coming back from a night of fishing.
Brač is awesome for cycling! That’s one of the top three reasons I’m here, of course :D But it’s not easy cycling. Both paved and off-road cycling routes are pretty tough. Especially in the summer, when it’s too hot during the day. To understand this better, check out the elevation profile on this sample route: Yes, that’s upwards of 500 m above sea level, and there are routes that go higher than that. But as long as you have a decent fitness level, you take enough water with you and cycle in moderate heat, you should be enjoying it. My least favorite bits of road on Brač for cycling in the summer are these two: Bobovišće – Dračevica route. No shade, straight uphill battle. No houses, so if you run out of water, it’s torture. Another road from hell scenario in the summer is this bit between Supetar and Nerežišća. Also straight, steep and long, no shade.
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…
Look to the south…
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…
Pizza place advertising. For a pizzeria that hasn’t been open in years. So that’s annoying…
Street name plates in stone. If you don’t like stone, it’s really annoying…
Art at the side of the road in Novo Selo. Really annoying, as all art should be closed inside galleries…
Mess behind a mechanic’s in Radonja, plus, trash container advertising. Really ugly annoying. Everything in the world should be tidy and neat…
Same goes for this old Fićo (Fiat 600). Rally old and annoying…
This cageball sign written by hand. Cost nothing probably. That’s annoying…
My uncle’s socks in fresh air and sunshine. Annoying…
This hand painted sign advertising a restaurant in Povlja. How annoyingly adorable and unique…
Some joker mocking poor cows. Annoying when someone has a sense of humor…
This guy’s selling home made vine in Postira. With a home made sign for it. How annoying…
Annoying cyclists who are amused by their own shadow…
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…
Trees in meadows. No advertising anywhere. How annoying…
Donkeys. Just standing there. Not advertising anything. Probably annoyed because of it…
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 ;)
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).
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.
As dramatic as that sounds, apparently it doesn’t happen too often.
So I came across this the other day, on a bike ride.
If we take a closer look, you’ll see that the sign says OTROVANO:
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.
Luckily for everyone, humans and animals alike, not everyone resorts to using chemicals on their land.
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.
They have to look pretty for when they pose with the Sumartin church, of course.
And over in Supetar I found a house where you can buy baby palm trees. Or, so the sign says.
Lovely bird choir singing at 550 m above sea level.
Turn up the volume and enjoy! :)
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.
Step 1: go out and find flat pieces of rock such as these: Step 2: make friends with a couple of great Bračani guys such as these, to help you carry the rocks, joke and have fun with the whole thing: Step 3: have a car such as this one that you don’t mind messing up, then load the rocks into it: Step 4: find a skilled Bračanin such as this one, who knows what he’s doing and enjoys what he does: Step 5: take coffee breaks such as these, to enjoy the whole thing properly: DIY geeks, you may want to see a short little video showing finishing touches on the mosaic:
Maybe it’s just me, but I find an old phone booth like this one so odd these days. Like it belongs in a museum already. Who is even using it?
Does it still work? I guess. I would have to buy a special card to really check and then who would I spend it on? I don’t know anyone’s number by heart. Now that’s pretty sad.
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…
… 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!
Photo 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.
Two Bračani stood on the pier and dared one another:
“We’ll both jump in and whoever comes up for air first is buying dinner.”
They both drowned.
Source: Marjan U., via his mom ;)
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.
As always, kids had most fun with it :)
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.
Back by popular demand, after their shy first appearance during the winter, they’re now back in full force and all their glory. I present to you: The Sheep Show.
Make sure you turn up the volume ;)
There’s lots to say about stone-masonry on Brač and I’ll get to that eventually. For now just enjoy this photo.
Photo by vankufer. Thanks, buddy!
If you have good eyesight, that is. They’re notoriously difficult to spot.
As you can see (hopefully), they’re much thinner than their domesticated counterparts.
Don’t overcook them, there’s no need. You could even eat them raw, especially if you don’t find enough of them for a decent sized meal.
Season with just olive oil and vinegar. Serve with a hard boiled egg and enjoy!
And here’s a very short video about “the hunt” :)
I’m guessing this trunk was sent by Petar Carević with goods to feed the family in Selca. Probably flour, sugar, salt, all the basics…
I found out about him in the book “Iseljenici otoka Brača” (Brački zbornik 13). He was born in 1892 and immigrated to the US in 1909.
Many Bračani immigrated to the United States (but also South America, Germany, Australia, Canada…). Their stronghold in the US is still San Pedro, CA. They contributed significantly to the fishing industry there.
Immigration is a huge part of Brač history and I’ll talk about it in another post in more depth.
UPDATE: Another trunk, this time the sender and the recipient seem to be the same person – T. Ursich and Tonči Ursić…. They’re both Tonči Ursić, but they’re different people. Tonči is a popular name in Dalmatia :)
Trunk photo op thanks to Doris :)
Croatians of my generation will know why this topic reminds me of this particular song ;)
Not everyone can make great rafioli, but luckily (although my waistline would disagree that’s it’s lucky) I’m surrounded by Bračanke who lead the pack in this art. Especially my Aunt Nada who always spoils me for my birthday with a box full of these.
The Rafioli Army, prepared for battle with hungry Bračani :)
The crust is hard and the filling is soft and very, very yummy. If you like walnuts.
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 :)
They say this is a good sign that the winter is over and spring has arrived – when the gents start hanging outside again, sitting on the benches to discuss politics :D
Photo: Vinko Truto Šćepanović. Thanks to Facebook page Pučišća!
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).
St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost stuff and people.
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.
If anyone local is reading this and knows who built it, please let me know. Thanks!
Did everyone else already know this but me? That freesias smell great!
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…
…. and cyclamen.
And tons more. Just come on over to Brač in early spring if you like flowers and hiking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
If Peter Jackson ever runs out of locations in New Zealand…
They were built by farmers and shepherds as shelter from the elements.
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.
The good thing about living in a small place like this is that you are never completely on your own. Especially if you’re sick or having a hard time in some way. There will always be people, neighbors, family or friends, to help you out. They’ll check up on you, bring you food, run errands. That’s a comforting feeling.
Having lived in cities all my life, it’s a completely new paradigm to get used to.
There’s another side to this, but that’s for another time.
Collard greens, or raštika and kupus, as it’s known here, is all the rage among health freaks out there. And it just happens to be the most basic veg over here, next to blitva.
So, I decided to plant some of my own. With the help of my aunt Nada, who’s basically my Mr. Miyagi for all the Brački skillz.
Plant the seedlings and water them. Make sure the soil doesn’t go dry until they take.
Here’s a bouquet of wild flowers for all the ladies of Selca on this International Women’s Day.
To all the moms, grandmas, sisters, daughters, aunts . To all the married ones, single, widowed and divorced ones. To stay-at-home moms, to entrepreneurs and other working women. You cook and clean and bake and take care of everyone. To the wonderful nuns who take care of our grandmas at the old persons’ home . To our doctor and nurses. To the waitresses in our cafes. To the teachers and the staff at the elementary school. To our hairdressers. To the women working at the općina, tourist board, pharmacy, supermarket… to all of them. You are wonderful! :)
And did you think today would go by without a party? No way, check this out:Poster inviting us to a Woman’s Day party at Ružmarin (restaurant in Selca). There’ll be live music by Trio Brač and lots of food and drinks, of course.
I was told there’s going to be old-fashioned ballroom dancing, so that’s exciting. But I was also told you need a date for one of these things, so I’ll have to give it a miss. Maybe next year :)
UPDATE: the ball was cancelled and later I found out that there was a strip show in Povlja. A strip show, with an actual stripper. A male stripper…. and I missed it!!!
Selca is not a big place, and as discussed before, there’s no big fish market for us to to pick and choose what’s going to be for dinner. Sometimes it’s just a local guy who caught a bunch of small fish. Take it or leave it!
When you get a bunch of small fish that you can’t do much else with – you make a brudet, one of the yummiest dishes ever. So, we’re not complaining here, at all.
There’s 6 types of fish in the bunch. Plus, a few shrimp.
Ok, so this is simple:
Again, like with practically any other meal here, you start with olive oil and onions. When they’re soft, add the fish.
Prepare some water, vinegar, Vegeta (spices, not the Dragon Ball character), konšerva (concentrated tomato paste), pepper, parsley… what else? I can’t remember. But that’s close enough.
Add that mixture to the fish in the pan. Cook for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.
While that’s cooking, make palenta – cornmeal porridge, to serve with the brudet.
My first attempt at brudet was pretty good. I forgot to add pepper and I could have used more vinegar.
The hardest part for me it’s cleaning the fish before cooking. I’ve only done it twice so far, so I still mess up the whole kitchen and it takes me forever. Aunt Nada suggested I do it outside next time. Good idea.
UPDATE: Ok, so, after she saw the post my mom called to complain. She said, ‘What kind of a pale ass brudet is that?!’. There’s an eternal tug of war between the two of us when it comes to how much konšerva should go into meals. This subject deserves its own post at some point.
But, yeah, you might want to add a bit more tomato paste than I did.