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The Island of Hvar - General Information

Hvar is, with its almost 70 km (43 miles) length, second most longest island of the Croatian Adriatic coast. With its 300 qkm (3229 sq ft.) surface is Hvar fourth largest island of the Croatian islands. It lies in the archipelago of Central Dalmatian islands - Brac, Vis, Korcula, the Peljesac peninsula- and the coast of Makarska (Makarska Riviera). Its mountain peaks rise on the southwest of the island - St. Nikola (626m, 2053 ft.) and Hum (603m, 1978 ft.) -with wonderful panoramic views to savor.

Hvar is, with its 2700 hours of sunshine a year, the warmest among 1000 Croatian islands, with its winters being very mild. That is why the island of Hvar is always colorful - orange mandarine trees, silver olive groves, lemon yellow broom bushes, always green pine´s forrests, palm trees, lemon trees ,figs, carobs, cypresses, grape-vines... Spices like thyme, sage, rosemary and especially purple lavender, give this island a wonderful, fragrant smell. The sea as clear as crystal, azure blue water with its soft, iridescent, glittery waves give us one glamorous part of nature full of sensuous tranquillity. It is therefore no wonder that Hvar was chosen one of the 10 most beautiful islands of the world selected by the „Traveller“ magazine (1997).

The island of Hvar has approximately 11 000 residents. The capital Hvar (4000 residents). lies in a protected bay on the southwest coast of the island. On the northwest coast lies the city of Stari Grad one of the oldest towns in Europe (2000 residents), once the capital, todays ferry port. Further east, on the end of the sea fjord, lies Vrboska (500 residents), a dreamy fishermen village. Vrboska was in 2005 awarded as second most cleanest town in central Dalmatia. Other towns and villages are Jelsa (1600 residents), mountain villages Vrbanj, Svirce, Vrisnik and ferry port Sucuraj that lies on the east end of the island.

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The Island of Hvar - History

Hvar has the richest history of all of Croatia´s islands.

The island was already populated in the prehistoric time, proven by the records of fragments of ceramics found in Grapceva and Pokrivenik caves, which date to the 3rd milennium before Christ. Hvar was later populated by the Illirians.

384 before Christ, the Ionian Greeks from the Island of Paros settled and established Pharos, what is today Stari Grad, one of the oldest towns in Europe. The name of the island derives from this settlement. There were confrontations between the Greeks, Illyrians and Dalmatians from which the Greeks came out as victors.

In 213 before Christ a greek commander, Demetrius, a born Hvarian, died from the Roman hand in the battle by Massene. Thereafter begun the Roman conquest of the island of Hvar, a time not progressive. The Romans destroyed Stari Grad, already in 219 before Christ.

In the 2nd century, the Neretljani tribe came, Croatian tribe, coming from the valley of Neretva river on the continent, and named the island Lesna. There are, curiously, not many records of those times.

Between 870-886 and 1164-1180 the Byzantines came again but the power was redeemed by Neretljani. In 1420 Venetians came and stayed until 1797. 1147 was Pharos (Stari Grad) diocesan town, and until 1278 administrative centre of the island when these functions were transferred to the town of Hvar. After that, the town of Hvar became the richest, self-governed parish of Venetian Dalmatia. The town of Hvar was a central, most important port for all Venetian vessels on their way further in to the Mediterranean sea. The nobel sovereigns (arbiter) were chosen by the great Venetian conusel. That way were the inhabitants of the town excluded from participating in municipality. This brought about the rebellion of the island´s population, led in 1510 by Marija Ivanic, a Croatian from Vrboska. This was among the longest rebellions in Renaissance European history, lasting 5 years. At the end, Venetians were able to put the rebellion down.

1571 came the Turks, led by Eulg_Ali, and burned down the town of Hvar. Nevertheless, the Venetians, after several decades, build up the town again. In 1774 Hvar lost its position as Venatian main port in the Adriatic Sea to Kotor, a town on the south coast of the Adriatic Sea.

In 1797, with the fall of Venice, came Hvar under the rule of Austrian empire.

In 1806-1812 was Hvar under the French. Between 1812-1813 the English came. After Napoleon was defeated , Hvar was under Austrian rule.

After World War l ended in 1918, Hvar came under Italian occupation until 1922 when it was adjudicated to the south Slavic state. During World War ll Hvar was again occupied by Italian troops, given after the war to the Socialist Republic of Croatia, a republic in a newly formed sate of Yugoslavia.

Since 1991 Hvar is part of the independent state of Croatia.

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The Island of Hvar - Culture

The city of Hvar - the Spanish fortification

The fortification on the hills surrounding the city of Hvar is known as „Fortica“ or „Spanijolka“ (Spanish fortress). With its throne position and its cannons , she gave the town of Hvar protection. The fortification was built in 1557 by Venetian and Spanish architects on the ruins of s fort dating back to the Middle Ages. The premesis inside the fortification were constructed by the Austrians. Today´s view from „Spanijolka“ on the island of Hvar and the group of islands Pakleni Otoci (Hell Islands) is impressive.

The city of Hvar - the French fortification
This fortification is also known as Napoleon´s fortress, and was built by the French in 1811, to the westeast of the Spanish fortification, on the higher Nikola´s Mount. It is today in good condition, well preserved but unfortunatelly not open to the public. The Hvar´s Observatory and the earthquke staion are its today´s „inhabitants“.

The town of Hvar - The main Square and St. Stjepan Cathedral
The Main Square called Pjaca, paved with white marble plates, is with its 4500m2 the largest in Dalmatia. Pjaca is surronded by the Cathedral of St. Stjepan on the east, which was erected in the 17th century, on the location of a former Benedictine monastery. The Cathedral, a Renaissance architecture edifice, has three domes, the mittle dome adorned with Gothic components, originating from the previous site. The altars and the paintings are works of great Venetian masters like Longhena, Celesti, Tremignon, and Palma. Close to the baroque altars from the 17th century lies the altar of the Hektorovic family with Madonna and an inscript dating back to the 13th century. The finely structured bell tower of the Cathedral counts as most superb bell tower of its art in the whole of Dalmatia. Just as its sanctuary. Its Romanesque, from stone made lecterns and the Baroque altars immerse in one mystic atmosphere. Next to the Cathedral lies the Bishop palace, once the Benedictine monestary, with an inscript from 1249 after Christ. Museum with priceless sacral artifacts is inside the palace. An Arsenal, with a dauting archway to the port lies next to the palace. The Arsenal was built in 1579 and 1611 on the site of a building form 13th century. Under Venetian rule it was used to load and unload the galleies.

North to the Pjaca one finds partially ruined Gothic palaces belonging to the families Hektorovic and Lucic, who gave great Croatian poets. In the middle of the Pjaca, in front of the Cathedral, a big font built in year 1529, one of the emblems of the Hvar Town.

Looking west from the Pjaca one sees a port basin for small ships, dating back to 15th century. The town bank was paved in the 16th century, the Baroque pyramids enclosuring the docks build in the 18th century. Further north stands only the bell tower of the ruins of the church of St. Marko.

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Stari Grad - the Church of St. Ivan
The oldest cultural monument of Stari Grad are the ruins of the cyclopic wall that once surrounded the greek town of Faros. A few meters of the ruin may be still found on the southern site of the church St. Ivan and the family house Tadic-Gramotorovi. The church is built in Romanesque-Gothic style, on the ruins of a temple, and is the oldest of the town. It was the first diocesan domicile at the island of Hvar. The first written records of the church date back to 1332. In the 20th century, in the year 1957, a Roman baptistry from 5th/6th century was found.

Palast Tvrdalj - The Tvrdalj Palace
The small Renaissance palace Tvrdalj was being built between 1520 and 1569 under the supervision of its owner - poet and writer of Croatian Renaissance Petar Hektorovic (1487-1572). A pool with mullets surronded by wonderful arcades found its place in the courtyard of the palace. Here wrote Hektorovic his most famous work „Fishing and fishermen discourse“ (1568), which describes the life of fishermen. His work is a treasure of Croatian maritime terminology and it counts to one of the oldest poetic epistles.

Stari Grad - Ager Stari Grad - Ager
The main wein growing area finds its place between Stari Grad and eastern seated fishermen town Vrboska. The entire area was lotted by the Greeks, when the resettlers recieved land for farming.

These lotted areas are still visible, especially good seen on the satellite photos : 70 rectangular areas, with 1081m x 905m (3546ft. x 2969ft.) measurement. The Greeks named them „Chora Faros“ (meaning „belonging to the town of Stari Grad“). In contrast, the Romans lotted the land quadratically, and did not care much if they vandalized the existing Greek parcels. Fortunately, the Romans did no such thing with the Greek lots by Stari Grad. Instead, the Romans named these parcels „Ager Publicus“ ( meaning „belonging to the state“) thus leaving these 1200 Hectares to be, not the largest Ager but the most preserved of all Greek parcels in the world. Only the Grekk parcels of Herson (Krim), Emporia (Barcelona) and Metaponta (South Italy) are larger.

This area was put under landscape protection act and will hopefully soon be under UNESCO protection.

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Vrboska is harbor town situated in a deep cove on the northeastern part of the island. The long and elegant sea loch(an arm of the sea nearly landlocked), connected with two small bridges, is enveloped by lovely baroque and renaissance houses.

Vrboska - The Church of St. Marija

She rises on a little hill - one of its kind on the Croatian Adriatic coast- the renaissance church fortification of St. Marija, built in the 16th century. Valubale works of art found thier home here. The fishermen of that time earned good money by selling their specailly marinated fish (salty anchovies) in Venice and Padua. Having a great love for art they brought back from their trips many valubale paitings done by Venatian masters. Those have been removed, due to humidity in St. Marija, to the church of St. Lovro.

Vrboska - The Church of St. Lovro
The parish church of St. Lovro was built in the 15th cenutry, but altered in the 17th century baroque time. The church salvaged the priceless paintings of the town. The main altar, created by Ivan Rendic, incorporates the famous triptych of the venetian´s master Veronese (1528-1588), some saying it is Tizian´s work. Paintings done by Bassano and Medovic top off the collection. A silver cross form the 16th century stands in the sacristy, done by either Tizian Aspetti or Benvenuto Cellini. The paintings of Antonio Sciuri and Stefano Celeti (17th century) came from the church of St. Marija.

Vrboska - The Church of St. Petar
The small church of St. Petar is one of the oldest on the island and was, in 1331, declared as a frontier between the villages of Pitve and Vrbanj.

Vrboska - The Fishing Museum
This is a unique museum on the Croatian Adria. It showes the development of fishing from the 18th century to these days. The exhibited shows the development of fishing on the island, the fishermen tools, types of fish (preparated) found in the sea, boat lamps, a typical scene from an old kitchen.

Vrboska - „Following the Cross“ procession
In the night between the Maundy Thursday and the Good Friday, a procession „Following the Cross“ takes place. This more than 400 year old tradition starts at 11 PM on Maundy Thursday, lasts more than 8 hours, covers a distance of 19 km and includes six parishes: Vrboska,Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and back to Vrboska. The bearer holds a 18kg (39 pounds) heavy Cross followed by candle beares who wear white greatcoats singing 400 years old traditional songs. Only in 1944 the procession could not be held due to the War and occupation of the island. Other 5 towns hold the same procession but are all going in different directions. If any of the processions would meet on their way to the neighbouring, village this would mean bad luck for both. Being a part of this procession is a unique experience for all, not only the believers. „Following the Cross“ procession begun in the Middle Ages as a thank to God from the ihabitans for sparing their island from cholera and death.

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Jelsa - Tor and Grad

An hour long walk, going to the southeast from the votive church of Jelsa, brings one to the Greek observation post called Tor (huge ashlar stones resting on one other) dating back to the 3rd - 4th century before Christ. From this post, had the Greeks an open view to the neighbouring island of Brac and the mainland. Not too far away lies Grad, a Roman observation post.

On a hill, just under 10km (6.2 miles) eastern from Jelsa, lies a small „crowd“ of stone houses. This was, in the 14th century, a herdsmen settlement. The round form of the houses was replaced with today´s larger and squared stone houses. This happened around 300 years ago. Humac is today under preservation order.

The Grapceva Cave
Leaving Humac for a 30 minute walk will bring you to a cave called Grapceva Spilja (cave). It belongs to one of the most important prehistoric cultural heritage. Excavations happening between 1912 and 1952 introduced a fairly unknown culture. The finds go back to the time span between years 4500 before Christ and 1000 before Christ. The conclusion is that the Island of Hvar nurtured active trade connections with distant regions. Sherds of so called impressoceramic with the drawngs of a vessel(clay ceramic from the Stone Age) from the year 4000 before Christ were found here.

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The Island of Hvar - Climate

On Hvar, the Sun shines 2726 hours a year.

The mild climate of Hvar is reflected in its´ sea temperature. The average temperature of water for months June to October lies above inviting 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). It may also happen that the sea reaches temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius (80 degree Fahrenheit).

The avarage air temperature lies above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) between the months June and October. Only in the two months of the year, January and February, the air temperature goes below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Hvar´s summer climate is suiting because of the easy wind called Maestral coming from the northwest. This wind starts cooling the air when the figs sprout. The Maestral begins at 11am, and starts to ease with the begin of the sun set. This is a type of wind loved by yachtsmen - steady. Rainy days are very seldom in the summer, and if , they come as short storms.

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Croatia in General

Country name
Republika Hrvatska (Republic of Croatia)

Croatia has a rather peculiar shape that resembles a horseshoe. It streches among the eastern Alps on the northwest and the Pannonian lowland on the east. It sprawls over the Dinnara rock mass in its middle to the Adriatic Coast to its south.

Total 56.542 km2 (21,831 sq mi)
Territorial waters 31.067 km2 (11,995 sq mi) or 0,01%

4.500.000 (80 pro qkm, in Germany 230 pro qkm), 90 % Croatians, almost 7% Serbs, 3% other nationalities (Hungarians, Italians, Slovaks, Slovenians, Bosnians, Czechs and others)
The number of Croatians living abroad is estimated to be around 3,000,000.

Zagreb (930 000 population)

Form of Government
parliamentary democracy

Official language

over 80% Roman-Catholic, 5% Orthodox, 1%Muslim

Split (190 000 population), Rijeka (170 000 population), Osijek (105 000 population )

Highest Elevation
Dinara with 1831 m

Coastline length

5835 km - from that 4057 km coastline of the islands, islets, ridges
The number of islands, islets, ridges and rocks 1185 (67 are populated)
The largest islands - Cres and Krk.

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