Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hvar: The Lavender Island

We're off to a spectacular start, visiting the Spagnola Fort in the mountains above the town of Hvar. The harbor and the surrounding islands are spread out in a panoramic vista before us. Caper bushes grow on the stone walls of the fortress and the scent of lavender is everywhere. 

At one point, Hvar's sheltered harbor was a home port for the mighty Venetian Navy's Adriatic Fleet. Now, it's a favorite with the rich and the famous who moor their yachts along the wide, inviting esplanade. I'm talking about the seriously rich, people like Bill Gates. Our guide tells us which restaurant is their favorite, in. As ewe want to do a bit of celebrity watching. Trouble is, I wouldn't know Bill Gates if I fell over him.

We drive to Starigrad, on the other side of the island. The local economy is supported by lavender (oils, soaps, bath gels, fragrances) wine and -- of course -- tourism. The north and south sides of the island are connected by a tunnel through the mountains, which also carries the island's drinking water, piped in from Split. There are no hospitals on Hvar and pregnant women travel by ferry to Split to give birth. Sometimes, a baby is born on the ferry. When this happens, the child gets a free ferry pass, for life.

We stop at a Dominican Monastery, where Xingxing enjoys the garden in the courtyard and I admire the ancient books and manuscripts in the glass cases of the little museum. How far we've come from hand-written manuscripts and parchment pages!  Our last stop is at Konoba Vrisnik, a little establishment set in beautiful gardens, where artichokes are in bloom. I have never seen an artichoke in bloom. Here, we sit at wooden tables on a cobblestone pavement, sampling another local prosciutto, with bread, cheese and wine. The red wine is quite good, and Xingxing enjoys the garden.

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