The island of Hvar likely evokes images of nightclubs and tattoo-covered twenty-somethings sprawled across rocky beaches. However, this portrait is only true for Hvar Town, rather than the entire island of Hvar.
Cris and I are back in Croatia, and this time we are in Stari Grad, which is about a twenty minute bus ride from Hvar Town on the Island of Hvar. Stari Grad also sits on the coast, and the scenery is like something out of a story book: medieval limestone houses, olive trees, and clear blue water. Stari Grad is quiet; the only tourists here are curious day-trippers taking a break from the bustle of Hvar Town, or yacht owners seeking a private place to dock. There are plans in the works for erecting a Four Seasons resort here, but for now Stari Grad is something of an untouched gem.
However, walking along the coast away from the central medieval village, you will begin to see relics of Communist-era resorts. Hotel Lavanda, Hotel Helios, and Hotel Arkada exist in a cluster at the northwest edge of Stari Grad, and they instill in one an eerie feeling, a sharp contrast to the quaint charm of the center. A concrete putt putt golf course sits along the road that connects these hotels. The concrete obstacles are crudely coated in loud yellows and blues. The floors are covered in cracks. It is an odd paradox: putt putt is typically nostalgic and joyful, but these courses are somewhat repellant. I feel like if I step to close, I’ll awaken some restless ghosts.
It is strange to think of the mind that could build something so cold just meters away from the alive, creative, golden center of Stari Grad. Stari Grad is a symbol of the longevity of the human spirit. It was initially occupied by the Illyrians, then the Greeks, then the Romans, then the Slavs, then the Venetians, then the Turks, then the Austrian-Hungarians. Then Stari Grad was a part of Yugoslavia, and now it is Croatian. There is something so palpably significant about this place, something so inspiring and encouraging, and yet here lies this sad, strange game.