This is exactly what Solta provides. Just a 45 minute ferry ride off the coast of Split in Dalamatia, Croatia, Solta isn’t just another beach town. It is quite easy to be happy here, and its beaches are in fact a haven for a few Europeans seeking escape from their usual responsibilities. Yet Solta, literally translated as “Sun”, remains largely ignored by traditional industry and tourism. It is also: small 19 k long, and less than 5 k wide. Its smallness perpetuates a raw beauty that offers travelers something unrefined and pure in intention.
Tradition is key here…as it should be as its root’s continue to pay homage to its 1800 year old history.
The patterns of the past are honored. As the sun rises to a mild, blue horizon, fishermen take to the water. The women walk into the town’s Pakara (bakery) to obtain fresh goods. During the day, one exchanges homemade wine, grappa, vegetables and some gossip with long time friends. The pace is “it is as it is,” and yet, work is accomplished. One might sail, swim, hang around the house, and then later, sip wine, grill fish over a freshly prepared fire, and laugh and argue as the sun dies behind the distant mountains and neighboring islands.
The best way to experience Solta is by staying in an apartment and choosing to spend time with the family that hosts you. I was lucky enough to be welcomed by Riva and Igor, staying the in home that had been owned for three generations of Igor’s family. The retired sea captain told stories, cooked up a mean grilled fish and laughed whole heartedly…all while sharing a jug of his friend’s homemade wine. His wife offered her homemade grappa, showed me how to make coffee, and how to prepare black risotto, where the ink of fresh squid colors the rich rice. A meal at their table spanned over four hours into the wee hours of the night, a culinary and social highlight of my year.
In addition to getting to know these wonderful friends, I got to participate in the production of the island. Literally, Solta overflows with figs, olives, bees, and grapes.
One of the highlights was a personal tour with Goran, owner of the only bee farm on the island: Tvrdic Honey. Goran’s passion for his current work creates a contagious buzz. He enlivened our small group as he shared the story of three generations of raising bees to form a modern business. With tears in his eyes, he spoke of making his father proud with his expansion. There was literal buzzing in my spirit, just as Goran explained that honey directly enters the bloodstream felt part of the story. Goran gives a LOT of facts (one bee makes 1/12th of a tsp of honey…and NEVER sleeps!) but more so, what travelers will find here is pollinated history and heart. Travelers can also stay in one of two independent apartments on Tvrdic land (there’s even a loft in one for the kiddos!).
The next day, Frane from Olynthia provided a personal tour, SHOWING how Olynthia integrates modern methods of production (e.g. cold pressing with a mill) with traditions practiced over 1000 years, like hand picking, and hand bottling. Frane patiently strolled us through his 100 year old trees, then allowed us to see how the mill operated, guided us to understand how the oil is made, and then offered a blind testing course to improve our palates. Out tour was completed with roasted potatoes, wine, bread and sampling of oils from a single variety to blends and flavors. For over 2 hours, this man impressed honor on his land by sharing with us travelers not only his product, but his heritage as well.
What turns a tourist into a traveler? Only the meanings we can attach to our stories.
Without knowing of ourselves, we are lost in this world. As cliché as it sounds, we cannot begin to try to understand the world around us without first understanding ourselves at the deepest, most personal levels.
All of Croatia felt welcoming and hospitable. But it was Solta’s unique buzz that elevated the time from a “trip” to a treasured life tale.
To reach Solta, travelers are encouraged to take a Ryan Air flight into Zadar. Contact Ivana at http://www.sail.charter-in-croatia.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on arranging tours on or around Solta.
(EXTRA! More Facts!)
Honey Tour….Some facts learned
- Bees produce three products: nectar, honey, and propolis. The last product, propolis, is beloved in Croatia for curing all sorts of ailments. A new friend placed a few drops on a spoonful of sugar for me to sample and slowly suck down.
- Bee Pollen is Super TASTY…but should be refridgerated or placed in honey to preserve it’s nutrition.
- One hive of bees makes
Olive Oil Tour…Some facts learned
- black olives are green olives, just picked WAY later in the fall season and usually have a sweeter tastes
- olive oil is the only oil produced from FRUIT and not nuts
- One tree makes about 5 kilos of fruit, the produces 10% liter of oil