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 the 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 a sad proclamation of joylessness. In Communism, even miniature golf must be reduced to its base components; there will be no fun in the design of this game.
How can something so cold be built merely 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 the deadening impact of Communism allowed for the installment of this sad, broken game.
Beyond the resorts, there are concrete-coated beaches: a functional yet aesthetically miserable solution to the naturally-jagged coastline. Sure, your feet won’t be punctured by the rocky shore, but in exchange you sacrifice all charm and beauty. Metal ladders dot the edges of these concrete beaches, allowing for visitors to safely descend into the sea as if it were a swimming pool. The taming and uniform-ication of nature.
As we walk the sideways “v” shape of Stari Grad’s coast, we see many untouched rocky beaches, populated by locals and tourists alike. The concrete isn’t the norm, luckily.