Sunday, 11 October 2015

Hvar Island, day five: Beauty as Pharos the Eye Can See

Waking up in beautiful Stari Grad, we checked out of our apartment and planned to explore the island's other large settlement (and most visited by tourists) Hvar Town before catching a ferry back to the mainland.
But before we move on, let us enjoy this photo of the old town while I regale you with tales of its past. The island of Hvar was settled by Greek colonists in 384BC on where Stari Grad now stands, making it one of the oldest towns in the whole of Europe. To the Greeks it was known as 'Pharos', which means "lighthouse", and was in an advantageous location in terms of trade routes through the Adriatic Sea. As with everywhere else on the Croatian coast, it was fought over intensely and was even subject to persistent pirate attacks in the sixteenth century. This may explain (it really doesn't) why there were so many pirate themed candy stores dotted around the island. A subject of fierce pride for Croatians would appear to be the long tracts of vineyards and olive groves that the Greeks initially cultivated and have been maintained ever since, producing the popular Plavač among other varietals. We found a tourist newspaper that raved about it and how it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 
Talking about raves, let's move on to Hvar Town. Known for its thriving nightlife, a bit of modern history was made in 2011 when Prince Harry turned up with some friends to a nightclub in Hvar Town, danced around and dove into a pool fully clothed. Cool story, bro. We stayed clear of da club and instead sought older relics of Hvar's past. 
A stroll around the waterfront led us to the seventeenth century Franciscan Monastery. As it's still in use, we were unable to enter, but the attached church contained some wonderful Venetian paintings from the time Hvar was part of the Venetian Empire. You may recognise the oft depicted scene of the Last Supper above, positively aglow among rich wood panelling. Suffering a kinder fate than varnish was the centuries-old Cyprus tree that in its old age needed to be propped up on stilts out in the monastery garden.
Inside the chapel I spotted this little guy: a fanciful gilded dragon bearing an insense holder. They don't make 'me like they used to. 
Unexpectedly, the church museum also displayed a collection of artefacts from an ancient Roman shipwreck off the coast. The goods were apparently on their way to Solin! Now how do I know that name...? Much of the horde was comprised of barnacley amphorae and coins, which had been lost under the sea for two thousand years.
Boarding the ferry back to Split became interesting when it was discovered that one of the trailers in the queue front of us was unmanned, the car to tow it missing. Cars began to drive around the abandoned trailer as boarding commenced, so we joined in and were then accused of not belonging in the line at all. Eventually the trailer owner turned up, all jokes and smiles as he navigated the confusion he had sewn. Clearly this Italian with a hand-written number plate (in ballpoint pen no less!) had had urgent Italian business to attend to and thought it would be okay if he just wandered off for a while. 
All the excitement made me weary and I slept through the whole ferry ride "like the nap-infested sleep sleep badger" that I am (Yannick's words, not mine). I was sad to leave Hvar, as I had some of the best days ever there. But, onwards and upwards! You never know when you'll have the next best day ever. #sleepbadgerwisdom

Today's post was almost called: a Roman Shipwreck and a Royal Trainwreck