Gourmet Tourism Croatia: Simple Pleasures on Brač Island

By 7 November 2017

It’s the simple pleasures in life and the genuine encounters which we remember the most; this is exactly the kind of experience Brač Excursions and Explore Brač offer.

On Saturday 4th November we went on a private, customised tour with Brač Excursions which took us to island Šolta for a Robinson Crusoe style experience, where we caught, cleaned and cooked our own lunch. There was far too much for me to write, so I broke the day up into two parts – read about the first half of the day here.

Continuing on our adventure… we boarded the boat after lunch and made our way to the south side of island Brač to Smrka Bay. Along the way Antonija and Dijana told us pieces of history and fun tidbits of information; as we pulled into the bay they pointed out an old Military tunnel left over from the Former Yugoslavia. And, once again, I discovered something new; I have been to the Military tunnels on island Vis but didn't know there were also some on Brač.

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Nowadays, the Military tunnel is a safe haven for fishermen's boats and it also looks like it doubles as an escape from their wives...

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The bay was pristine and completely empty, on the opposite side of the bay from the Military tunnel, stood an imposing pink house which looked as if it was the sole guardian of the bay, the whole scene was very surreal. As we pulled up to the small dock in front of the house, I could see that my first impressions were wrong, the bay wasn't empty and the house wasn't the sole guardian, in the window appeared a smiling face waving to us.

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We were warmly greeted on the dock by Andrea and Ivo Tomas who ushered us to yet another table overlooking the most gorgeous, peaceful scene. There was already a selection of homemade liqueurs on the table and a curious pink bottle which captured my attention – “Kadulja”, wild sage concentrate which you mix with water to make juice; another first and it was quite a pleasant surprise.

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It didn’t take long for the table to fill: sundried tomatoes and capers, eggplant pate, cheese and pancetta, fresh cherry tomatoes and capsicums, olives… a humble table from the outset but everything was homegrown, homemade and bursting with flavour. And, when I say “humble”, I say it in the most endearing way possible because I believe gastronomy and tourist experiences don’t always need to come with all the bells and whistles; throughout all of my travels, it is moments like these which always stay with me.

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Next came their domače wine made from Pošip and Plavac Mali, followed by traditional sweets kroštule and krokanti with prošek (sweet wine) to match. What I loved about the setting is that it encouraged relaxed conversation, while we were sitting and enjoying, Andrea and Ivo told us about their family – how their Uncle lived in the house for 40 years, then it was abandoned for many years before they took it over, how Ivo's grandfather and grandmother came from Smrka village and his grandmother was one of the last pupils to go to school at the Blaca Monastery.

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A word about the Blaca Monastery and Hermitage: the Blaca Monastery was built in 1551 by two monks of the Croatian Glagolitic Order and grew in estate and community over the years; it flourished in the 18th Century by which time they were producing wine, olive oil, honey and much more, this was traded to passing ships. Another point worthy of note is the library which the monks collected and retained over the years, with more than 11,000 books and a telescope which is said to be the 3rd most powerful in Croatia. The Monastery also had a school for the children of the surrounding villages right up until 1963 when the last Father died – Niko Miličević Jr.


Credit: Adriaticdmc.hr

Andrea explained how Ivo's grandmother was one of the last to attend school there and that she would walk to Blaca (around 7 km) with a log of wood every day – because this was the tuition, school was essentially free but children had to bring one log with them every day to help heat the Monastery. What a story!

Ivo and Andrea went on to explain that eventually, their grandparents moved out of the village to Milna, she said they basically left everything as it was, even clothes and crockery are still in their house! They don’t often return because unlike visiting this peaceful area of Brač, they lived in this isolation, working the land, raising their children… it represented harder times for them, rather than fond memories.


Credit: Robyn Vulinovich, Andrea and Ivo Tomas

But, it seems life is coming full circle as Ivo and Andrea, while living in Milna, find themselves spending more and more time in Smrka. After a small tour around their house, complete with an outside shower and toilet, one look at the view from their bedroom window and I completely understood; a return to simplicity is what so many crave these days.

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So, this is the experience that Andrea and Ivo give to their guests, they have a company called Explore Brač where they offer unique tours to explore the history, heritage and gastronomy of the island Brač; from visiting the Blaca Monastery, to the olive oil museum in Škrip, the highest point on Vidova Gora and you can bet there is wine and food sprinkled throughout. Then, as the ‘piece de resistance’, they bring guests back to their house in Smrka bay to swim, watch the sunset, laugh, eat, drink and be merry.

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Full view from the bedroom window...

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I felt very humbled to be hearing stories from our hosts’ lives and sitting in the company of such warm genuine people; this goes for the team from Brač Excursions too and, aren’t you curious as to why one tour company would bring us to another? Well, Brač Excursions believe in collaboration, they often bring guests by boat to Ivo and Andrea.

Antonija and Dijana: “we want to give our guests the best experience and for them to see a full, rich picture, this is why we cooperate with others because they bring another layer to the story and the guests leave with the best possible experience.”

This tells me everything about the kind of people they are and how they do business.

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As the sun began to set, we traded our boat for a jeep, so we could gain another perspective of the island. The ladies explained that we were meant to go to the Monastery and olive oil museum as well but the days are a little shorter in winter and, more importantly, they didn’t want to rush anything as it really was the perfect atmosphere – which was absolutely fine by us and gives us another excuse to come back.

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The view over the island and Adriatic was simply breathtaking…

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Arriving back in Milna, we boarded the Colnago one last time to make our way back to Split.

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Throughout the entire day, Antonija and Dijana were such wonderful hosts, telling us all about the history of the destinations and traditions. This is something I need to specifically point out – not all tour companies do this, I have been on a tour where the ‘guide’ simply dropped people in a new destination and told them next-to-nothing besides “be back here in hour”. Which is a real shame when people are visiting a destination for the first time; I know a decent amount of history about Dalmatia but still learned a lot. But it wasn’t just facts and figures, throughout the day, everyone shared personal stories from their lives or families growing up; from an outsider, this was really touching and added so much depth to the experience.

Overall, it was truly a wonderful day, from coffee in Maslinica, catching and cooking our own lunch in Šešula bay to sitting in the company of new friends, drinking wine, eating homemade products and finally, watching the sunset over the Adriatic from the vantage point of a jeep…

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Genuine experience? Gastro Tourism? This is it.

I cannot speak highly enough about the entire day and everyone we met. I am going to finish with Maksi’s words (the owner of Brač Excursions) when I complimented him on the tour but in particular, his team all he said was:

“It is the people who are the most important in anything you do.”

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Left to Right: Vedran, Dijana, Maksi, Antonija and Igor

I couldn’t agree more.

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If you want to learn more about Brač Excursions visit their official page here or visit Explore Brač here.


Unless stated, all photos by Tash Pericic