Island News

How to Coordinate a Miniature Family Reunion at the Bay of Ždrilca

By 30 July 2017

From California and New York to Croatia, my big, fat Croatian-American family gathers for a mini family reunion at the bay of Ždrilca. 

One of the hardest things about moving abroad is leaving many of your friends and family behind. One of the greatest things about moving abroad, especially to a place everyone wants to visit, is that they do just that - visit.

Such is the story of my big, fat Croatian-American family. 

While I was living in the states, we always traveled to Croatia together in the summer, spending time going here, there, and everywhere around Dalmatia. Now that my immediate family has moved to Split, we always look forward to a summer full of guests, and, as expected, plenty of family visits. 

This summer has been an especially crazy one. Visits from friends have overlapped with visits from cousins, and a “no vacancy” sign has been plastered on my house since before the summer season began. The next group of guests would be my aunt, uncle, and second cousin who arrived to Split from California one week ago. 

My uncle and aunt have been coming to Croatia from California every summer, without fail, for over 30 years. Although my uncle (and of course my father) was born in Croatia, my grandparents left Split with the family in search of the Big Apple while they were both young. Nonetheless, my family’s rich Croatian culture and history have pumped through our veins throughout the years, and because of that, Croatia as a destination has never been too far out of sight.

My aunt, uncle, and cousin would spend an evening with us in Split before they left for Hvar where they spend their Croatian summers. Just a few days after we saw them off, my great aunt and uncle (the aunt to my uncle and father) would call to say they were coming to Split from Lika for the weekend. While the two of them reside in New York but spend their summer months in Croatia, we immediately thought, "this is the first time we would all be in Dalmatia together in years."

We quickly decided that we would meet my aunt and uncle on Hvar because my first cousin, who I hadn’t seen since I left America (and my parents even longer) would be arriving the night before with his girlfriend and work colleagues - adding another bit to the family bunch. 

My uncle, who knows Hvar like the back of his hand, was left to coordinate the day. My great aunt and uncle, father, mother, and I were only responsible for making the 9:45 catamaran from Split to ensure we had a full day ahead. And off we went on a Saturday morning at 9:45 to meet the rest of the Rogulj clan.

We arrived around 11:00 to a full Hvar town, quickly making our way through the swarms of tourists to the apartment my uncle has rented in the town for the last 30 years. There we sat for coffee, cheese, and rosé while we discussed the game plan. “Why don’t we do Ždrilca?” my uncle said, and without contemplation, we set off to the taxi boats at the Riva.

For as long as I have been coming to Hvar in the summer, the bay of Ždrilca is one place I have never visited. Sure, I have done the Pakleni Islands to death, it seemed. Jerolim and Stipanska (before Carpe Diem beach was around) were my favorite go-to’s, and Sveti Klement somehow always took priority. But today we would visit Ždrilca, and for a 40 HRK return trip boat ride, we would be there in 10 minutes.

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Ždrilca instantly reminded me of the Blue Lagoon in the bay of Krknjaši near Trogir, one of my favorite swimming spots. The water screamed 50 shades of blue and its calmness was more inviting than ever. The crowds were mild, the cicadas were buzzing, and the perfect summer breeze was felt in the air. Today would be a good day.

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After renting as many chairs as we could, we combined our beach mats and towels to create the Rogulj commune on the pebbled beach. We swam, we drank, and we chatted under the hot Dalmatian sun. The sea, which was a bit chilly compared to Split, was delightful, and no more than ten people swam at a time. 

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Particularly useful at Ždrilca were the mats for easy access into the water. Although the pebbles were not so rough on the feet, for the older few in our group this was a lifesaver. Also helpful? Not the faintest bit of loud music. Bean bags were also available to rent, and a massage tent tempted those looking for even more leisure. We were in paradise. 

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After a few hours of swimming and sunning, we would sit for lunch at Tri Grede, one of three restaurants at Ždrilca. After my uncle, who was no stranger to the menu, gave us his top suggestions, we would order a mix of meat and seafood dishes. Čevaps, pork chops, black risotto, mussels with buzara, octopus salad, and seafood pasta would have us in a food coma for hours as we sat back and enjoyed the restaurant’s house wine and a world of conversation. 

A swim and a nap after lunch would have us camped at Ždrilca until 18:00 when we would take one of the last taxi boats back to Hvar town. A perfect day on the island? I cannot think of anything better. 

Back to Hvar town before 19:00, half of us would head to Stari Grad, the other half would stay in Hvar town, and I would head back to Split to catch the Croatian men’s water polo team become world champions.

We were relaxed, full of food and love, and parted ways feeling as though the thousands of miles between us didn't exist. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and a day at Ždrilca is the perfect way to spend the day with the ones you love. 

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Four generations of Rogulj's for lunch

A miniature family reunion success? Yes. 

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