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Signs that summer has arrived in a Dalmatian village

Stone house in Dalmatian village
Image by Michael Freer

Unlike Sara, I live a short drive away from Split, hidden away behind the mountains where we see similar signs of summer.

As she mentioned, a lot of what she commented on sings straight to my heart, however here are a few more signs that others might relate to.

Life returns to the village

For all the tourists that come to the coast, many of the locals actually leave. They’ll head to their weekend houses or holiday homes, or if they’re going to be working all summer then only half the family moves away.

That half is the younger cohort, as the kids are sent to their grandparents during the school holidays. Suddenly the village isn’t just farmers and their flocks, but a number of young people roaming around too. The usual moo or whinny is now accompanied with laughter or chatter, and I have to keep my eyes out for humans and animals as I drive through the village.

At the weekends the parents also return, and what used to be a family stroll along the promenade is now an exploration through the village and surrounding countryside.

As soon as the summer holidays are over, the village returns to its usual sleepy self.

The grass stops growing

Roses in Dalmatian village
Image by Michael Freer

Unless you have some sheep, you’re in a constant battle throughout spring. The sudden downpours combined with the warm weather mean that the grass and wildflowers go crazy every few weeks. When you have a hectare or two of land in use, then you spend a few hours every morning before it gets too hot, trimming the grass, because a lawn mower wouldn’t be able to cope with the rocky and stony land.

Yet summer arrives, and the rain suddenly stops. Perhaps one last downpour in June but then you’re on the home straight. The wild flowers blossom and the grass stops growing, as the drought begins. Most things stay green until August, when a touch of brown takes over due to the stifling heat. Your fruit and vegetables need watering twice a day, and sometimes that’s not even enough as your tomatoes wilt the same way you do when it’s over 30 degrees. Meanwhile the wild is left to fend for itself.

Finally those end of summer storms arrive, deluges start again and the thunder rocks your house, scares the cattle and echoes through the mountain. The greenery gets a drink, and thinks about returning before autumn is in full flow.

The number plates are changing

Austrian car in Croatia
Image by Michael Freer

My usual drive sees me weave over the mountain, through Kaštela, past THAT junction at Solin and slowly into Split. Normally it is a sea of HR with the occasional BiH bobbing around. The traffic generally flows well, with rush hour really not throwing up traffic jams, moreover a slow trickle.

Then May comes, and a trickle of PL, D and SLO start to appear. By June, and especially the summer holidays, the HR plates are less than 50%, and you are shocked to see plates from GB, UA and I’ve even spotted the occasional USA.

What accompanies this flurry of foreign cars is actually a slower speed, as the roads are new and they adhere to the speed limit. Unfortunately in some cases this slower speed can be accompanied with a sudden turn or complete slowdown, as they attempt to navigate narrow streets, one-way systems and the rest of us locals.

Cicada symphony

When spring creeps in, so do the bugs and insects. Not the mosquitos yet, but things that hop and fly and go splat on your windscreen. But the one we all want to hear is the cicada.

It starts with the occasional song, but as the days grow longer and warmer, their song lasts minutes, then hours, then for some it seems the whole day.

The heat is up and their heat is on as they sing the song to woo the cicadettes. But as you approach them they suddenly go quiet, or one that didn’t get the memo chirps on. When the last thing at night and first thing in the morning you hear is the sound of the cicada, you know summer is in full swing.

Ice cream-covered hands

I think it’s safe to say that ice cream is fairly delicious. We all have our preferences of course, but few of us would turn down a bowl of ice cream with a piece of chocolate on top. Furthermore, most of our gelaterias and ice cream shops are open all year round.

The difference in the summer is the mess.

As parents buy their kids ice creams, even before they’ve paid, a sugary stream has already formed down the little one’s hand and arm. Quickly and decisively, the parent grabs it, mops up the mess, creates a perfect ice cream shape, much to the child’s annoyance who is staring at the delightful dessert.

Okay, okay, I know this may not be so unique to where we live, but the season of ice cream arm is long in Split and Dalmatia, and I always love to see the parents end up eating the equivalent of 2 ice creams by the end of this sport.

Compliments for my English

As someone who has lived here for a good amount of time now, and someone who likes to explore and walk and discover, I know my way round Split and surrounding towns fairly well. So when I see a lost tourist, turning their map or Google Maps around trying to make sense of it, I offer my help.

The instructions are fairly easy, straight on, left there, look out for this or that. Then I send them on their way.

Every year I get at least three, who look up at me, thank me for my help and tell me how great my English is. I modestly accept their praise, and keep to myself that I am in fact English and would hope to have perfected the language after quite a few years growing up and living in England!

Construction begins

I have to echo Sara here, because this drives us all up the wall, especially those who have to drive. I limit driving as much as I can, but you cannot avoid it sometimes, and then you’re caught behind the works that began in May or June.

This year, it’s a road between the highway and the turn off to Trogir and Kaštela. In what’s a normally very sleepy village – Plano, but in the summer turns into the through road for many tourists that drive here.

There’s been reports that they’re going to fix THAT Solin junction and the first slip road into Split, with plans finally drawn up. Now we’re just hoping it starts in October, when traffic dies down and the only people that remain know the roads and alternative routes very well.

If you’re reading this post in June 2022, and in fact the works have just begun, you’ll find me somewhere in that queue cursing.

Being a host

Vineyard in Dalmatia, Croatia
Image by Michael Freer

My favourite sign of summer is heading to the airport to welcome friends and family coming over.

Sometimes it’s a newbie, and I introduce them to the wonders of Diocletian’s palace, Marjan, an island or two, perhaps Krka or somewhere else, and let’s not forget rakija and ajvar.

Other times it’s a veteran, my dad’s been here 6 or 7 times now, so he gets to go further afar, to Bosnia, Dubrovnik, Plitvice.

Seeing these people you knew from one home, and introducing them to your ‘new’ home, and your new family, feeling if they get it, the “why you moved here” that you often get asked about it. Then seeing those moments where they’re at peace with the world, when they find their place in Split or the surrounding areas. When they say they want to come back next year, if things work out well.

That’s what summer is really about, dusting off the cobwebs, getting out the bathers, and spending quality time, in a stunning place with the people that mean most to you.

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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