Founded by Irena Dorić and registered in March 2014, the Udruga Održivi otok (Sustainable Island Association) has achieved much in the short time that the Association has been in operation.
There have been successful forays to clear and restore old paths, including the path from Jelsa's Church of Our Lady of Health (Gospa Zdravlja) up to the remains of the Illyrian fort (Tor). This was especially needed, because the new road extension, opened on 17th February 2015, had cut off the old route. Now the new route starts from further east, that is from just behind the rear of the right side of the church instead of the front, and involves crossing the main road. Eco Hvar hopes that a pedestrian crossing of some kind may be introduced to provide a measure of safety. Is that wishful thinking? Do we have visions of flying pigs? Sadly, none of the road improvements to date has included provision for pedestrians or cyclists.
The event was organized by 'Održivi otok' in collaboration with the Jelsa Tourist Office, and two other charitable associations, 'Humac' and 'Trim'. It was multi-faceted, and aimed to attract both foreign visitors and locals. Its attractive advertising poster gave details in English as well as Croatian - something of a rarity, as all too often events which tourists might enjoy are advertised in Croatian only, even in the height of the tourist season. The festival Facebook page exhorted visitors to 'come in long sleeves and bring plenty of goodwill'. June days, of course, are generally very hot, but the evenings can get cool once the sun goes down, so it was good practical advice for the inexperienced.
At the Ethno Hvar Festival there were stands selling locally produced goods, including herb liqueurs, dried herbs, jams, lavender oil, as well as sweet treats, including the firm favourite of crystallized bitter orange rinds. The latter sold briskly as sustenance for the walk to the Grapčeva cave. Dalmatians, and probably most Croatians, believe that no journey, however short, can be undertaken without some food to eat on the way, Heaven forfend that one might run out of energy!
There was also a stand where people could sign the petition opposing the proposed drilling for oil and gas in the Adriatic, and a pleasing number of people who had not already done so added their names to the list. To read about the petition in Croatian, click here.
Beautifully arranged around the walls of the stone houses were some highly attractive, fine quality paintings by local artists Pjero Grgičević and Antun Tonči Carić.
The start of the formal proceedings was delayed, as the main guest of the evening, Stipe Božić, had managed to get on the wrong boat from the mainland, despite being a renowned traveller, travel writer, film-maker and alpinist!
Once things were underway, after Jelsa's Mayor Nikša Peronja had given his speech of welcome, there was just time for the visit to the Grapčeva Cave, the oldest Neolithic site on Hvar, before dusk fell. A large band of all age groups set off with enthusiasm, most of them carrying their vital supplies of water and, as mentioned, foodstuffs. On the way they visited Humac's newly opened distillery for etheric oils.
The path to the cave has been much improved over the years, but parts of it are still quite tricky to negotiate, and the entrance to the cave is very low and restricted. The group displayed admirable fortitude, and returned in good spirits, their appetites fully ready for the abundant feast of local specialities which awaited them.
A very popular contributor to the proceedings was Radovan Marčić, one of Croatia's leading gastronomic luminaries, well-known as a juror on the Croatian TV Master Chef series.
Among the guests were some distinguished politicians, including the Mayor of Stari Grad, Vinko Maroević and former Split-Dalmatia County leader Kruno Peronja, who were made welcome by Jelsa's Mayor Nikša Peronja.
One of the guests was Green Euro-MP Davor Škrlec of the ORaH party (Održivi razvoj Hrvatske), who congratulated the event organizers, mentioning how well they had used the EU pre-accession funds available for preserving historical villages like Humac. He was on hand during the event with Adela Duboković, answering individual questions and discussing environmental issues with all comers. Following on from his participation in the Humac Etno Hvar Festival, Davor Škrlec invited a group from 'Održivi otok' to Brussels in October 2015 to visit the European Parliament.
As dusk fell, the Vrisnik singers entertained the audience with beautiful Dalmatian harmony singing, after which Stipe Božić gave a presentation of his book and documentary film, titled "Ja, Mate svjetski". The speeches and presentation were in Croatian, but the event was rich enough in content for non-Croatian speakers to have enough to enjoy. Without question, a good time was had by all, and the organizers and participants were fully deserving of the highest praise.
'Održivi otok ' has many plans for the future, including collaborating on a major project to re-plant Hvar with the European black pine trees which are special to Dalmatian islands. The vision is not restricted to Hvar, Dalmatia or Croatia alone, but extends to international collaboration with like-minded organizations. In the immediate future Irena and her colleagues are setting up an office in Jelsa, in order to serve as an information centre for individuals and organizations with similar aims. The Association's current aims and needs are set out in an end-of-year newsletter in Croatian, with an application form for membership of the Association. Eco Hvar is looking forward to collaborating with this dynamic new force for improving our environment.
© Vivian Grisogono 2015
Footnote: Stipe Božić was interviewed recently for Dalmacija News (December 12th 2015) - article in Croatian