Island of Lost Villages

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Living monuments to traditional architecture and lifestyle of the age gone by, these villages can still offer worthwhile advice for living in our modern times

When you’re hooked onto a good memory, distance means nothing: the power of a recovered memory of your old home will bring you straight back to the backyard of the days gone by. Old homes, forgotten and neglected victims of irresponsibility, are as many in Croatia as are rare intentions to restore them to life. Old, traditionally built houses attract many foreign visitors to Croatia, but that part of our cultural heritage is still ignored by the powers that be. As the years pass, the infrastructure decays and these houses and villages are getting farther and farther from the eye of the modern society. What makes them special, though, is the lifestyle they promise. Tranquillity and freshness of nature, as well as the splendid isolation make the old houses of the isle of Hvar especially attractive to foreign guests.

Hvar Velo Grablje
Velo Grablje boasts even quite a large village church – whose bell rings rarely indeed, mostly to say farewell to someone leaving for the eternal haven

Dalmatians have always been defined by their past, cherished it and preserved it, all the while question their very right to live in that beautiful place. There are as many as six thousand dilapidated, abandoned villages, all with sleeping potential to be someone’s dream come true; the dream of freedom. This yearning for nomadic carefree living is a direct consequence of too many years spent under the yoke of modern society – it is no longer only the very rich elite to long for their little peaceful corner of paradise, no longer the ultimate goal of the smart and educated top layers of society: it’s becoming a dream of the masses. The middle class is on the prowl for the picturesque: places like Humac, Velo and Malo Grablje, Zaraće, Brusje lure with their promise of a life soothing the body and the soul. Now more than ever before we are ready to throw whatever we thought defined us and rush into the thrill of unpredictable future.

Hvar Male Rudine
Male Rudine; time stops – when the young disappear; sadly, in many island’s houses only owls nest

The isle of Hvar feels more deserted than anything else, like a place struck by disaster and abandoned in a hurry – there are only things left behind, no new objects to sully the landscape. This virgin island is a place of self-reinvention, a place that teaches how to give with ease. To bring it back to life we must think things through, search inside ourselves for enthusiasm and goodwill, make only conscious moves. Peaceful island living in its essence in public interest when viewed as inspiration to turn all corners of the country into developed, stable areas, and it is therefore crucial the state support these ‘reanimation’ projects, especially when it comes to application of strict laws concerning traditional architecture restoration, seeing how many developers bend ecology-oriented rules much too easily. Maybe we should make them lay beck and look at the starlit sky, listen to the old stone houses tell their history – that is an experience money cannot buy.

Photos by Ivo Pervan

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