Diocletian: “Come back to Rome, are you crazy?!”

Reason #135: living on Brač makes you feel like a Roman emperor

The legend has it that after Diocletian retired from being a very successful Roman emperor and moved into his palace in Split, Rome was in trouble and so they asked him to come back and run the place again. To this Diocletian supposedly told them: “If you could see the raštika* growing in my Palace garden, you wouldn’t be asking me this.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel when someone calls to ask when I’m coming back to Zagreb. Without the part where anyone there needs me to run the place, though :D

The view of raštika from my Palace in Selca:

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As mentioned before, the credit for anything growing in our garden goes to my amazing Aunt Nada.

*raštika is collard greens in English. More on this yummy plant in this post: Planting your own multi-vitamin (raštika).

Japanese mock-orange tree ::: Smell this series, part I

Reason #133: this Japanese pretends to be an orange and smells wonderfully

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! ;)

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You barely notice these trees during the winter, but once they start blooming you realize – they’re everywhere!

Pittosporum tobira is a tree native to Japan and it’s also called Japanese mock-orange. The scent is similar to that of an orange tree, but I would say it’s even stronger.

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Although I love it and would gladly hug one all day, I can imagine that, as with all powerful fragrances, not everyone does and that they can’t wait for the season to be over.

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.

No thyme for Scarborough Fair

Reason #127: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Hiking or cycling on Brač in April and May you feel like you’re in flower heaven. Colors and smells are fantastic. Sage and rosemary are practically everywhere you look. And with parsley in your garden, you know what that means… you can’t help but hum Scarborough Fair as you go ;)

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Sage in the wild

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Growing out of a rock

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Sage planted to decorate public spaces 

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Rosemary. This was taken back in February when it was in bloom.

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Parsley in our garden

Now all we’re missing is some thyme. Obviously we can’t show up at the Scarborough Fair until we have all four. The guidebook tells us it’s definitely here somewhere, so off I go:

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Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel

Poskok wannabe

Reason #97: carve out a wooden snake if you can’t find the real deal

(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.

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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.

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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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 :)

To all the Selčanke

Reason 67: the women of Selca

Here’s a bouquet of wild flowers for all the ladies of Selca on this International Women’s Day.

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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:IMG-20140304-01097Poster 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!!!

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Poster advertising a Women’s Day show with live music from Duo No Stress, plus a male stripper. The poster is stuck to a bus stop in Novo Selo.