Hvar’s Genius Loci
Hvar town is picture-perfect, virgin bays seem like an invitation to the true Mediterranean hedonism
In the town of Hvar, the tourist season hits the locals’ lifestyle hard, so, in case you haven’t visited Hvar yet but have heard many stories, forget the summer season and enjoy the piazzas, narrow stone alleyways, local corners, even the beaches – in Spring, the perfect time to really get a feel of Hvar. Sailing in the direction of Hvar in April or May will show you the picturesque scenarios you see on vintage postcards. And now, we have just revealed a secret to you – in Springtime, Hvar is a magical place. This period bears special days for the locals as well – an open window to relish the town spirit. So, you can meet friendly, chatty, calm and open-minded people, as they usually are, except when it’s season time! Many forget that Hvar had its world premiere in tourism 150 years ago as a health resort for the rich and famous of those times. It was not only due to the blissful Mediterranean climate but also to the unique fusion of the perfect south orientation, lush nature, unique scenery, and the ancient Hvar port which always provided a safe-haven for seafarers. Fast forward to the 21st century – after last year’s grand anniversary of tourism, Hvar stands before new historical milestones. The term luxury means something else today, instead of picking glitz&glamour hang-out destinations as it used to be, enjoying luxury actually means finding a beautiful location, at the right timing, in good company – whether it be a peaceful oasis by the sea or off-the-beaten-path destinations where you can get in touch with the genius loci (the spirit of the place). The Hvar Easter Regatta takes place in pre-season and even though it attracts many yachtsmen and a spectacular image of colourful sails snakes through the Pakleni Islands, Hvar in pre-season retains its ‘sleepy’ winter mode.
Take this as an invitation, not discouragement; for example, primarily this period provides mooring spots on the extended riva plateau, which in the summer months is overrun with party-oriented crowds. Many restaurants and shops might still be closed, yet those who are open, offer a friendly, relaxed and authentic Mediterranean ambiance. As you stroll down the picturesque streets, your shoulders will relax as tension releases, and, as you inhale, you will be drawn to the incredible aroma of homemade food escaping from local windows. Most of the tradesmen you encounter in front of their shops will happily give you their time, yearning for conversation after long, lonely winters. Visiting rare and authentic galleries in the heart of Hvar town, like the Hvaroom on the Hvar Pjaca (piazza) or the Šoša Gallery, offer insight of what the artists created during the winter months and a chance to really appreciate the art. Engage in light conversation with locals or simply enjoy the tone and vibe of the chitchat at the local bar or even better, it might sound like a cliché, in a tavern. Hvar cherishes a few genuine traditional taverns; hidden schmooze-nooks which always provide valuable information like the reliable weather forecast or fish of the day at the local market or as the locals say – fish caught at the ‘Wallet Cape’. Usually, one of the most prominent local fishermen displays sea bream in the fish market and you can win one by playing the traditional raffle, definitely worth trying your luck. If you get lucky with the sea bream, why not drop anchor in one of the exclusively-preseason-virgin bays and throw a gastro-feast.
This is the sort of luxury that money can’t buy. If you are striving for deep peace, especially if you are on a sailing boat, use the breeze in the channel between Hvar and the island just across, i.e. ACI marina on the St. Clement islet, and immerse your soul in a day of pure sailing. A safe berth in the marina and a walk along the St. Clement islet enchanted with protected flora and fauna, breathes a meditative spirit into your mind and body. In the last few years, Hvar has also grown into a mecca of endurance races. At the beginning of April, you can expect to see people swimming or running next to you – participants of the Ötollö Swimrun qualifications for the World Championship, while at the end of April you might stumble upon racers of the Hvar Mountain Madness race. In case you feel fit, do not miss your opportunity to join in – winning is only half of it, having fun is the other half (Bum Philips). After a decade of seasonal parties, the current local authorities aspire to welcome new or old guests who choose Hvar for the Hvar Summer Festival or for the Mediterranean magic it can provide. Two magnificent cultural monuments which make this town world famous, are the Arsenal building and the oldest theatre in Europe – which will be open this summer.
Text Filip Bubalo Photos by Ivo Pervan & Damil Kalogjera