From "Dalmatian Baseball" to Palm Seed World Championships
One of the joys of long-term living on a gorgeous island of Hvar is that one slowly gets to know its hidden local secrets and traditions. Did you know for example that the island has its very own Hvar sports, including a World Championship, that even many locals do not know about?
Hvar has made great progress in recent years positioning itself as an adventure tourism destination – sailing, kayaking, climbing, hiking and cycling to name but five, but if you want to catch something truly unique, learn more about two rather unique sports, which appear to be very local to Hvar, zoga falo and plojke.
Sometimes called ‘Dalmatian baseball’ is an attempt to explain it, zoga falo is a traditional Dalmatian game which is played only certain parts of the island these days – most notably in the village of Svirce, but also in Vrisnik and occasionally in Velo Grablje on special occasions, as well as sometimes on the island of Brac.
There is said to be just one survivor of the times when zoga falo was popular over 50 years ago, and he is now in his nineties. The tradition has been continued by a younger generation and involved two teams on opposite sides of a Dalmatian square going back and forth with a small hard ball, but using their bare hands. The roofs of the square’s houses all seem to be part of the court, and you can get a little bit of a flavour of the action at atmosphere in the video below.
The best time to catch a game of zoga falo is at the annual Bogdanusa Evening wine festival in the village of Svirce, which started 6 years ago. A delightful evening of wine, song, history and tradition, a tradition which includes a game of this unusual sport.
Before tourism arrived on the island, life was harsh, and locals struggled to find enough to eat, never mind have money for luxuries. As such, people had to use their imagination and whatever resources they could find for their entertainment. Which is probably the explanation behind the sport called plojke.
All you need to get started is a smooth piece of stone with a back wall (a window ledge is ideal) and 14 palm tree seeds. A game for two, each player places his seeds at the back wall of the ledge on his/her half of the window, then takes it in turns to try and dislodge the opponent’s seeds by sliding a stone across the ledge. The first to get rid of his opponent’s seeds is the winner.
As you can see from the video below, plojke was taken seriously enough for Hvar to host the first Plojke World Championships in 2010. The best place to catch a game is the town loggia, just next the main square. If you look closely at the stonework under the ledges, you will notice that there is a very smooth ledge and stonework which has been chipped away under the window. What may look like an act of vandalism is actually proof of decades of competitive contesting of one of Hvar’s most ancient and little-known sports.
The image has nothing to do with the published text but we love it anyway, it's impossible to find a suitable picture in fact, we are sorry, there are two videos instead.
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Rafael Janic Photography