The Sweet Aromatic Smell of a Lavender Festival
The annual lavender festival on Hvar took place this weekend, as the village of Velo Grablje, once the capital of lavender production for all Dalmatia, came to life once again for what has become one of the most iconic events in the Hvar tourism calendar.
The next couple of weeks are truly magical on the old road from Hvar Town near the villages of Brusje and Velo Grablje, and the road which is usually not so busy is filling with cars parked randomly by the side of the road, as passengers and drivers head into the fields for that most aromatic of photo opportunities. It is well worth the short drive from Hvar Town.
As for the festival itself, it is evolving each year and affords people an opportunity to experience an important part of the tradition of Hvar. While lavender is the theme, there are other important activities, such as a dry stone walling workshop for those interested in learning more about this dying art.
The annual crafts fair, with all sorts of lavender uses, helps focus attention on the healthy uses for this exceptional product, and there is plenty for the kids to enjoy as well, including a special children' workshop and some rather unusual ice cream - from lavender.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the two-day festival is the demonstration of the distilling of the lavender oil from the freshly harvested bunches brought in from the fields. Tourists are occasionally invited to stand on top of the bunches in a large steel container, jumping up and down until the bundles are compressed. There is then no need to wash one's feet for a week...
The renaissance of the village of Velo Grablje is one of the great success stories of the last decade on Hvar, and EU money is now coming in to this eco-ethno village, and the improvements in signage and facilities are evident for all to see. The latest great addition of course is the opening of the first restaurant in the village, Konoba Zbondini, owned and run by the Tudor family who have realised a long-held dream to make their contribution to the revival of Velo Grablje by opening a restaurant in their old family home. Open daily through the season, and with plans to be open at weekends in winter, Zbondini is just one more reason to come and enjoy the great lavender story of Hvar.
Make sure you put the lavender festival in the last week of June in your diary for 2016.
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Rafael Janic Photography