Monday, July 13, 2009

Hvar, Croatia

We have been back in Oregon since July 4th, but before too much time passes I must make an entry about our trip to Croatia. We left Copenhagen on June 25th, flew to Budapest, Hungary where we met my sister, Susan, and her family at the airport and then all flew to Split, Croatia. From Split, we boarded a bus for a 35 minute trip to the harbor, where we caught a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride to the island of Hvar. The ferry dropped us off in the town of Jelsa and we got a van ride to the town of Star Grad, and to our villa. The whole journey took 12 hours, from start to finish and by the end, as we realized just how far away we were isolating ourselves, we wondered if this place was going to be worth it.

Not only did we have a good time, Stari Grad and the island of Hvar has become one of my favorite places in the world. Never have I arrived at a city or country and felt like I immediately belonged. We didn't realize until we got there that Hvar is one of the top ten islands (in the world) to visit. It has everything: scenery, recreation, inviting ocean, warm weather, fantastic food, and friendly people. A country that relies significantly on tourism, they have their logistics and such organized and efficient. We decided not to rent cars for the 9 of us, for the week. It limited us to staying on the island and not seeing much of the mainland, but we had plenty to do and plenty of time to relax and enjoy where we were. Having just ended a eventful year, we needed a vacation with "down time". I will have to get back to the mainland another year and investigate the beautiful parks and cities.

Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia (a country that used to be part of Yugoslavia, and is located south of Austria and across the Adriatic Sea from Italy). It was a Greek outpost dating back to 300 B.C. It sits on one of the many islands off the mainland of Croatia, and tucked 5 miles deep in an inlet, guarded by small mountain peaks. The country has had eras of occupation by the Greek, Italians, Austrians and French, before it's most recent socialist status but draws it's architectural influence mainly from Venician culture. The stone buildings and red tile roofs look as if they are carbon copied from Italian villages. The language (Croatian) is a strong slavic, but heavily influenced by an Italian tone. One would think that Italian was being spoken, and many d.

Stari Grad is where my great-grandfather was born and lived, before moving to Portland, OR. Susan and I were on a "roots" quest, like many Vranizans before us, and as many foreigners do for their families as well. We visited the cemetary, the church, the old family house and managed to meet with another Vranizan - but realized our family lineage was too distant. The original Croatian spelling is "Vranjican" and some changed it to "Vragnizan" later, to appeal to the Italian interactions. Our roots hunt added a different dimention to our vacation that was terrifically stimulating, as we wandered the old city cobblestones in our search and connected with locals. Turns out, Vranjican is a very well-known name and anyone who has lived there knows it well. As a matter of fact, in the history book of Stari Grad, the Vranjican brothers were infamous in their efforts in the French resistence at the beginning of the 1800's and were endowed with nobility. Yes, we ancestors of blue bloods. Maybe not direct to our specific family, but it sure makes for a good story.

Our villa sat up the hill, so from our terrace we viewed the old city and harbor. Mornings we would wake up and have coffee on the terrace while the girl cousins played and we figured out our adventure for the day. The vegetable and fruit market opened every morning at 6 am, which was only a 5 minute walk, if that. We were just minutes from the store, market, tourist information, restaurants and places to rent bikes, scooters, boats. For a vacation spot without a car, we did just great. On the days we wanted to travel away, we rented a van and driver, which was faster and less expensive than the island busses. Other days we scootered to one beach and rented motor boats and explored a more private cove. Molly and Lucy were sick during the trip and we got to experience the doctor's office, which turned out to be a pleasure. Molly's fever prohibited a couple days of play, but she bounced back.

Our vacation crescendoed with a trip to the Amfaro Hotel in Hvar Town on the last day. We lazed in the sun and played in their pool for 6 hours and then back in Stari Grad had a private one-of-a-kind dinner in a Croatian konoba, cooked by an egocentric and off-center yet famous chef, named Igor. We had a traditional peasant meal made with all local fresh foods, meats, fish and poulty with heavy sauces. We ate arugula salad with our fingers and had 4 rounds of carbohydrates: bread, mashed potatoes, polenta and gnocchi inbetween each meat course, followed by ice cream and a local liquer. We had to take breaks between courses and the kids were invited to help prepare food in the old, miniscule kitchen.

Our trip back to Copenhagen was extra long, as we battled thunder and lightning storms and airport travel which is never fun. We overnighted our very last night in Copenhagen at the Marriott Hotel, downtown - THE most American hotel in the whole city. It sort of prepared us for the re-entry. The last long flight home was long, yet uneventful. We landed quietly in Portland on the fourth of July, rented a car, drove ourselves to our temporary condo downtown without any fanfare or regalia. Just what we wanted. We forced ourselves to stay awake to see the fireworks from our bedroom window - a rare treat and then slipped into a jet lagged sleep.

Our very first activity on the first day back was a trip to Fred Meyer Grocery Store. But that's the beginning of another story.....

Thanks for your continued reading interest. Love and Light to all,
Mary Jo
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1 comment:

Piero said...

Mi chiamo Piero Vragnizan, e, se mi ha fatto molto piacere, saper che esistono altri Vragnizan, voglio togliere ogni dubbio sull'origine del nome Vragnizan che nulla ha a vedere con Vrajinican o simili, i testi originali che ho in possesso, chiariscono che Vragnizan arriva da Dobrinovich o Dobreta, signori di Brazza e Lesina, abitanti a Vragniza, penisola fronte a Solona nella Baia dei sette Castelli (Spalato) e non è l'italianizzazione, tutt'al più venezianizzazione di Vrajinican da cui deriva il ramo di Cittavecchia. ora Starigrad. Vragnizan Significa: Piccola Venezia