Sunday, November 11, 2012

The wives of Henry the VIII are legendary, but there is a more curious royal tale involving the island of Hvar in Croatia and Italian football club Juventus Consumed by lust, a British monarch splits with the Catholic church over the latter's refusal to grant him a divorce. Centuries later, a Russian billionaire sails into a harbour dubbed the new St. Tropez in his new mega-yacht, while across the Adriatic, a thumping header from a centre-half provides a winning Juventus goal. Three random, unconnected events. Or are they? The connection can be found in one of the most stunning, abandoned villages in Europe - Malo Grablje. Malo Grablje - the royal connection Just a few kilometres from the party atmosphere of Hvar Town, there is a small, rough road to the left. Few people venture up it, preferring to take the preceding right down to the fishing village of Milna, known for its excellent fish, great beaches and some of the best views in Europe. This is the island of Hvar after all, voted in the top ten islands in the world by Conde Nast readers. However, a less popular turn to the left will take you back in time and provide the initial clues in one of Europe's more curious stories - how an entire village, completely abandoned for fifty years, has one quintessentially British thing in common: the surname of each house owner is Tudor. By Royal Appointment. About a kilometre up the makeshift track, the remnants of what was once a thriving community comes into view. In a hauntingly beautiful (some would say hauntedly beautiful) setting, against a backdrop of majestic cliffs, lies a stunning stone village of perhaps sixty houses. Not only does nobody live there, but during the great Croatian Property Rush of 2004, this was perhaps the only village on the island where no property was sold. It was not for want of trying, as investors, drawn by the beauty, tranquility and close proximity to the beach (1.5km) and Hvar Town, enquired through local agents, only to be told that nobody was selling. A completely abandoned village, owned by Tudors, where nobody wanted to cash in on the property boom. Rumours even abounded of an Italian businessman, who was so taken by the location and saw it as a potentially lucrative filmset, offering large sums to rent the location for his purposes - all to no avail. Juventus v Inter - the royal connection Legend has it that an illegitimate son of Henry VIII was shipwrecked off the coast at Milna, stayed and did the decent thing with a local girl. With the emphasis on location being hidden from marauding pirates, the settlement of Malo Grablje was founded, completely hidden from sea view, but with close proximity. Not that the Tudor name in Dalmatia rests on the laurels of a British monarch - the most famous son of Malo Grablje is Igor Tudor, a distinguished defender for both the Croatian national team and Juventus FC, in Serie A. Waking the dead What makes the story a little stranger is the decision of the villagers to completely abandon Grablje in the 1960s, not just one person, but the entire community. The explanation seems to be that life was hard in Grablje and the opportunities presenting themselves in tourism in a more liberal Yugoslavia meant that the focus shifted from the village to a nearby bay, Milna, which today is one of the must-see places on the island, a delicious way to dine away a lazy afternoon on the water. Mention is made of the Tudor connection and aristocratic features can be detected in the local restauranteurs, especially after a bottle or two or the excellent local wine. An added twist to the tale was the decision to remove all the bodies in the graveyard in Grablje and transport them to the cemetery in Milna. The village graveyard today has the original holes in the ground, some of them slightly open. Perhaps there is a simple explanation to the whole story, and there is nothing strange about it at all, in which case the advice would be to visit the village anyway, for its raw beauty and excellent makeshift, rustic restaurant, which operates in the summer. Or perhaps there is a more sinister explanation for this illegitimate royal emigration, complete with illegitimate royal ancestral bones. Either way, a wander round the village and an inspection of the graves is an excellent appetite builder for the superb fish platter down the road in Milna. Enjoy!

Looking for inspiration to create your own superhero? Take the ferry to Hvar and look out for a man in a purple leotard and white Vespa - meet Lavanderman!
Lavanderman - a Dalmatian force for good - SpeedyGonsales (
As far as world premieres go, it didn't have the glitz of Hollywood, but A-listers such as Angelina and Brad missed out on a raucous evening, as Dalmatia's very own superhero was unveiled to the world. Major Hollywood settings were rejected in favour of the rarely-used local outdoor cinema next to the fish market in the superhero's home town of Jelsa, on the picturesque island of Hvar, voted as one of the top ten most beautiful islands in the world by Conde Nast readers.
Lavender Superhero Outfits
With echoes of Clark Kent, local boy Boris Buncuga woke up one day after supposedly being in charge of the lavender press, having inhaled more than his fair share of lavender fumes, on an island famed for its lavender. Emerging from the fields in his new purple attire and shiny white Vespa, the newly christened Lavanderman raced back to Jelsa to assume his superhero duties.
Quite what those duties are remains somewhat unclear to the outside eye, but it does appear that Lavanderman is a massive hit with the ladies, as these interviews with various international tourists in Jelsa in 2010 will attest. The feature length movie has caught local attention, having featured on the national news and with screenings in the capital Zagreb, while a slot at the regional film festival of Pula is on the cards.
Local businessman Frankie Dubokovich was asked in the interview above to give examples of the superhero's superpowers. With a view to no job being too insignificant, he gave the example of Lavanderman being able to assist with the removal of moths from the household by the emission of Lavanderman odours. Not quite the single-handed saving of Gotham City, but every superhero has to start somewhere.
Hotels in Jelsa preparing for the Lavanderman Effect
With the island of Hvar famed for its lavender, beaches and sunshine (hotels are reputed to offer free accommodation if it snows), the hotels in Jelsa are bracing themselves for a bumper season in 2011 as the Lavanderman Effect is realised. Even without the presence of a resident superhero, Jelsa is one of the hidden gems of Europe, easily accessible from Split, and offering a wonderful relaxing holiday for tourists, whether pensioners, young families or honeymooning couples. Rarely has the motto of the Croatian Tourist Board - the Mediterranean as it once was - been better emphasised than in this picturesque stone fishing village of 1500 permanent residents.
That, combined with its very own resident superhero, should ensure that 2011 is a great season for this Dalamatian town, and any superhero aficionado would be advised to visit the gallery of Dalmacijaland in the old town, which is run by the creators of Lavanderman.

No comments:

Post a Comment