Best Guests

Published in Highlights
There were two young ladies with enormous rucksacks waiting by the roadside out of Jelsa in the heat of the early afternoon.
It was not a good time to be hitch-hiking, with most people at lunch, so I gave them a lift, even though it meant a detour from my planned route home. They were heading for the Stari Grad ferry, having spent just a couple of days on Hvar. I assumed that that, being young, they might have come for Hvar's increasingly famous (or notorious, depending on your point of view) youth partying. Not so. They had come for a rest, as they were in the middle of a strenuous trip by rail through Europe. Both aged 20 and from Madrid, Belen Blanco and Ana Ruth Resco began their train adventure in Berlin, and they had taken in Prague, Vienna and Ljubljana before arriving in Split. There they decided to head for Hvar, as they were very tired. They had a restful time on the island, and when I met them they were looking in peak fitness for their departure. I noticed some serious hiking boots attached to the rucksacks, which must have added considerably to the weight. I was impressed by the ease with which they handled their loads. They told me how much they had enjoyed the island, which was similar to some of the Spanish islands. They took a keen interest in the natural surroundings, and were pleased that the island did not seem too 'touristy'. They told me that they took care of the environment, picking up litter when they came across it. They had certainly not come to Hvar to drink themselves senseless and rave to destruction. They looked healthy, happy, contented and well-balanced. 

Partying-to-excess has apparently become an accepted element of tourism in recent years. This has caused dismay in destinations which have other attractions to offer, such as peace and quiet, clean facilities and law and order. Organized party-tourism is big business. In Dalmatia, sadly, individuals in power, especially local mayors, have been able to ignore the wishes of their local Councils and residents to allow party-tourism despite fierce and well-reasoned opposition. The public debate has gathered momentum. Even those who favour party-tourism in principle do not want Dalmatian islands to descend to the level of other Mediterranean destinations blighted by excess partying. Belen and Ana prove that not all young people need the stimulus of loud music, flashing lights, drink, drugs and uncontrolled gyrations to enjoy their leisure time.

I was embarrassed to think of visitors to the island picking up rubbish. It's hardly an activity we would want to advertise as a tourist attraction. Almost every day, I pick up litter as I walk around Jelsa and other parts of Hvar Island. I'm not the only local resident doing this. But some locals find it strange, so I have to explain that a clean environment makes visitors feel comfortable; and if we want 'better-quality' guests, we have to show ourselves to be 'high-quality' hosts. Many youngsters take the view that picking up litter is someone else's job. They've probably watched too many American films, where making a mess for someone else to clear up is a (peculiar) demonstration of power. No, actually it's our job to dispose of rubbish responsibly. If others have failed to do so, it's a communal responsibility to put the situation right and keep the environment tidy. Mess and rubbish are tourist turn-offs. 

Hvar has an abundance of natural beauty, with myriad sights, smells and sounds to delight the senses. Guests of all ages have the right to come and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the island. There is also room for party revellers, but there has to be a clear separation between the ravers and the rest. In the heat of the afternoon, birds and insects create a soothing background to the post-prandial siesta.

Clean seas and blue skies are a must for holiday tourism on a sunshine island like Hvar. No effort should be spared to maintain a pristine environment to the best of our ability. 

Everyone needs a rest while on holiday - even the most determined partygoer. The natural human cycle is to use the hours of darkness for one's main sleep. Hvar's normal laws prohibit loud music during the early hours with good reason.

Guests like Belen and Ana prove that the quieter natural attractions of Hvar appeal to the young, not just the middle-aged and elderly. Eco Hvar wishes them both well for their further travels. They (and those like them) will always be welcome guests if they choose to come back and explore the island more fully in the future - and maybe later on with their children and grandchildren!

© Vivian Grisogono 2014

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