Summer is a magical time to be in Croatia. The beaches, sea, sun, and tiny charming villages prompt people from around the world to travel here just to see and experience it.
For those that live here, we are here for the full transition from winter to spring to summer. Around early to mid-June, we all have moments when we hear, see, or smell something that makes us think “Ah, summer is here.”
Sometimes “Ah, summer is here” translates to “Oh! Yes! Awesome! Summer is here! Hooray!! I’m so excited!” and sometimes it’s more like “Shit! Fuck! Dammit! Summer is HERE. UGH. Kill me now.”
Many of these signs of summer overlap from person to person, but some are very personal. Now, I’d like to turn it over to Kelly Parslow to share what summer is like living on the island of Brač in Dalmatia.
Take it away, Kelly!
Da li se kupaš?
You know it’s summer on Brač when friends and neighbours start taking an avid interest in your swimming habits. You run into an acquaintance and after saying hello, the first thing they ask is “da li se kupaš” (or some variation) meaning roughly “are you swimming?”. Then you will exchange details of where, when and how long you are swimming, general water conditions, temperature, etc.
Swimming in the sea is an integral part of life on any Dalmatian island, as a refuge from the heat and for one’s general health and well being, so asking if you are swimming is another way of asking if you are living well.
From autumn through to spring, Brač is battered by the famous winds bura and jugo. In summer, these are replaced by the glorious maestral. It is a pleasant wind which blows from the sea to the land, cooling the air and refreshing those lucky enough to be seaside on Brač.
Maestral can pick up strength in the afternoon, making swimming a bumpy experience and delighting the windsurfers off Bol. The maestral is the reason that the coast of Brač is the perfect place to be in summer.
Luftići (aka floats)
I am lucky enough to live on one of Brač’s many stunning bays and there is a particular transformation at the start of summer that I love to see. For most of the year, the buoys are occupied by wooden fishing boats. Then come June they are replaced, one by one, by a brightly-coloured menagerie of luftići.
Neon pink flamingos, rainbow-maned unicorns, pizza slices, watermelons. I love browsing the sun-bleached boxes outside every seasonal shop on the island, looking out for the new designs of the season. Luftići are not without their dark side however.
Every year some hapless tourist is bobbing around on their luftić when a gust of wind blows them out to sea on a course for Italy! They are always rescued by a passing yacht and learn a valuable lesson about Croatian wind. The eminent Croatian rescue service HGSS releases a wry warning to tourists at the start of every season, along the lines of…beware of using luftići on windy days.
If you do, make sure sure to take your passports so the Italian Coast Guard doesn’t mistake you for refugees!
If you drive anywhere on Brač in summer there is a good chance you will encounter a perplexing sight. A long column of apparently normal people, dressed in lycra, cycling up and down the steep hills of Brač under the blazing midday sun. It may seem like some particularly cruel kind of punishment but in fact they are doing this voluntarily. And they pay for the privilege! This is a cycling cruise.
Tourists travel on a nice big boat, hopping from island to island (sounds good so far, right?) where they head inland for some sightseeing by bike. It must take immense character and fitness to do such a thing in 30+ temperatures as I pass them in my air-conditioned car with a mixture of pity and admiration.
Living on an island means that you become very familiar with the trajekt, the car ferry which connects you to the mainland. Through most of the year, traveling on the trajekt is a relaxing experience. Never busy, you get to know the individual ferries and everyone has their favourite (the Marjan has wifi!).
You get to know the workers and the frequent passengers. Delivery drivers and construction workers nap stretched out on banquettes, families play cards and eat homemade snacks (the only thing any local buys onboard is coffee!), everyone ignoring the stunning but familiar views through the salt-splashed windows.
Then some day, usually June, you arrive at the port to find an unusually long line of cars waiting to board and you doubt whether your car will make it onto the next scheduled ferry. It is summer and it will only get busier from here. Summer means only taking your car to Split in the direst emergency and definitely not on the weekend when most tourists either leave or arrive.
In the height of the season even firefighters are brought in to corral the waiting cars. The guy taking your ticket no longer has time for chitchat, your usual seat is taken by someone drinking a cocktail (that they bought onboard!) and the top deck is filled with sun-kissed faces amazed and excited by the incredible scenery.
Konoba Kapetanovo Lozje opens
On the road from Milna to the nearby bays of Osibova and Lućica lies my absolute favourite part of summer on Brač. This konoba is really just a handful of wooden tables and a huge traditional stone oven, open in the evenings from June to September. As the name suggests (Kapetanovo lozje means Captain’s vineyard) it is owned by the captain of Milna’s famous harbour.
If you are lucky he will be there to serve you, but if not it will be his son who also most likely caught your fish or octopus freshly that morning. The tables are surrounded by the olive trees which supply the oil you are eating, the vineyards which produce the wine you are drinking, and the sheep which provide the excellent lamb you are hopefully eating!
While you eat, the sun slowly sets and everything is illuminated by golden evening light, making for a truly magical experience.
Life on Brač still follows traditional rhythms in many places outside the tourist centres, which means in summer some businesses close for a few hours in the hottest part of the afternoon so workers can enjoy a big lunch and a nap. Some will open again in the cooler early evening, some won’t bother. This seems the only sensible way to deal with the summer heat and I embrace it!
The legendary Dalmatian state of fjaka hits hard on Brač in the afternoon and it seems foolish to fight it. So find a shady spot, preferably by the sea, kick back and give in to that lazy feeling.
Gundej (aka Green June Beetle)
You are outside enjoying nature and the warm weather when you hear a menacing buzz heading towards you. You look around expecting a giant wasp or some other horror when it hits you. Literally. About the size of a thumb nail with an iridescent green carapace, the gundej sounds and flies like a drone piloted by a drunk toddler.
Out of nowhere, a gundej will crash into you, then fall to the ground on its back, where it will inevitably die because it is incapable of flipping itself over. Or it will kamikaze straight into your hair and get hopelessly entangled while you wonder how this lumbering idiot of the insect world defied all the principles of natural selection to come back year after year.
Eventually you will develop an affection for the gundej, because it isn’t, as you first feared, a giant wasp, and because its appearance is a sure sign that summer has arrived on Brač.
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