Sunday, November 11, 2012

Welcome to the Lavender Island: Hvar in Croatia

A look at lavender on Hvar, important to the local economy, an aesthetic addition to this beautiful island, and the inspiration for a Croatian superhero.
Welcome to the Lavender Island: Hvar in Croatia - Nik Sibley (
Tourists who can drag themselves away from the beaches or the party atmosphere in Hvar Town are often astounded at the colourful sights and aromatic smells of the flora and fauna of Croatia's premier island, and perhaps the best time to visit is June and July, when the fields are alive with lavender.
History of Lavender on Hvar
Known as the Lavender Island, Hvar has a long tradition of cultivating the crop, although the origins of lavender on the island are not clear. One local folklore version is that a poor villager went to his local priest in search of advice to find money for a dowry for his daughter. The priest suggested he plant lavender and, while the locals initially labelled him crazy, they eventually changed their mind, as the harvested lavender oil was sent to France as perfume and he became the richest man in the village.
What is known is that the Rosemary Cooperative of Velo Grablje, on the old road from Hvar Town to Stari Grad, was formed in 1892, and produced oils from both rosemary and lavender.
The Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje
Velo Grablje, an almost deserted village today, experienced a lavender boom in the late Twenties, and there was significant planting between 1928 and 1930, as the village became one of the biggest producers of lavender oil in Dalmatia.
The lavender tradition continues in Velo Grablje to this day, with the annual highlight being the Velo Grablje Lavender Festival every June, which is an opportunity to pay tribute to the hard work of lavender workers in the past, as well as motivate the youth of today to carry on the practice.
Souvenirs from Croatia: Lavender Oil and Fragrant Bags
The lavender grown on Hvar is of exceptional quality and organically produced. It is widely available in the tourist boutique shops and makes for an excellent souvenir from the island. There are two main types of souvenir: lavender oil, which is packaged is attractive miniature bottles; and lavender fragrant bags, which are filled with dried lavender flowers.
Inspiration for a Local Superhero: Introducing Lavanderman
The lavender on Hvar had a curious effect on one mythical local called Boris Buncuga, who was so overpowered by the lavender presence that he turned into Hvar's very own superhero, sporting a lavender leotard and driving a white Vespa. Lavanderman was released as a movie and a comic and was an instant hit, both on the island and beyond. Lavanderman makes regular appearances and was on hand to help at the recent carnival celebrations in his home town of Jelsa.
While the beaches and party atmosphere of Hvar Town continue to be the main attractions, a very pleasant change of pace can be had experiencing the sights and smells of lavender field driving through the hilltop villages away from the coast.

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