Sunday, 28 July 2019

Celebrity Hvar Lavender: 'Bosnian Lady Di' Sanela Jenkins with Asher Monroe

July 28, 2019 - The lavender fields of Hvar are a very egalitarian place, from local pickers to celebrities from California, as Sanela Jenkins and Asher Monroe helped Jadran Lazic with his 2019 crop.

As I have written several times before, one of the things I most love about Hvar is its egalitarian nature. It doesn't matter who you are you come from, we are all here to relax and enjoy. Having worked hard to establish myself as the leading British blogger at Cafe Splendid in the third largest town on Hvar, for example, it was a little disheartening to learn that after all these years, I was only the second-biggest British blogger in the cafe, as BBC Chief Football Correspondent Phil McNulty also uses the Splendid while on holiday, and actually does his annual Premier League predictions in the cafe each year. Phil and I have become friends and regularly have a good chat about football.  

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And so too with celebrity photographer, Jadran Lazic, who manages to divide his celebrity lifestyle in LA with life in his native Split, Zavala and his beloved lavender fields on top of the island, where I have assisted him in each of the seven lavender harvests since 2013. 

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The man who brought Jodie Foster to Hvar back in 1978 has had many celebrity visitors to his house in Zavala over the years, but none had thus far made it to the lavender harvest. 

That changed this year as Jadran's special guest at the opening of his photo exhibition in Split 2 weeks ago, Sanela Diana Jenkins, was among the 20 workers who were given their sickles and put to work.  


Sanela is often called the 'Bosnian Lady Di' for her philanthropic work in her native Bosnia through the Sanela Diana Jenkins Foundation for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Memory of Irnis Ćatić. Jenkins fled during the war before forging a hugely successful career, which is now based in California. 

In 2009, she launched the Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project—the first endowed program on international justice and human rights at any law school in the western United States.

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She works with the faculty to advance human-rights causes around the world, including bringing war criminals to justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina and addressing human trafficking issues in the Congo.

Sanela was accompanied to the harvest by her dog Pearl. 

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And pop star partner Asher Monroe (who later performed live at Carpe Diem) was ready for action after the obligatory selfies. 

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A gorgeous setting in an aromatic field, taking part in a timeless Dalmatian tradition.  

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Sickles are quite sharp, and I managed to draw blood from my shin while harvesting. Asher was a little less fortunate as he had one of the brand new and extra sharp sickles. He sliced his finger and was taken down to the local village of Humac, where some local rakija and bandage fixed him up in no time. And his subsequent performance at Carpe Diem was apparently magnificent. 

A lovely day all round, and with Sanela counting the likes of George Clooney, Sean Penn and Elton John among her close friends, I wonder who will be at next year's harvest?

For a full report on the 2019 harvest, including videos of the workers singing traditional songs in the fields, the preparation of the grill afterwards, and the distilling of the lavender oil, check out the comprehensive TCN report

Friday, 19 July 2019

What Happens at a Lavender Harvest? A Step by Step Guide on Hvar

July 19, 2019 - What actually happens at a lavender harvest? A step by step guide of one of the finest and most aromatic parts of Dalmatian culture. 

There is a lot written about 'authentic tourism experiences.' Authentic is a buzzword that is cast around as a means of indicating something quality, local and traditional. Most have very little to do with authenticity, and as Croatia goes down its insane route of numbers, numbers, numbers, apartments, apartments, apartments, the very thing that makes Dalmatia so special is being lost - perhaps forever. 

But there are exceptions, thankfully, and arguably the most authentic tourist experience I have ever had - in any country - took place recently on the top of Hvar for this, my seventh year. 


When not busy snapping the likes of David Bowie, or bringing Jodie Foster to visit Hvar from his home in L.A., celebrity photographer Jadran Lazic can be found on top of the island in his beloved fields of lavender. Jadran kindly invited me to his first ever harvest back in 2013, as just three of us harvested the small bushes for the first time. Since then, his lavender has grown majestically, and it has been part of my annual calendar since then to rise at 04:30 and join him for this most beautiful and authentic experiences. 

For those who want to learn what a truly authentic experience is like, I decided to document the whole process this year. 


With about 20 pickers these days, a few more sickles were required that that first year. No hammers, so anyone who thinks that harvesting lavender is a Communist conspiracy - relax. 

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And, as you can see from the lead photo, the pickers had company on their sickles.  This is golden Bogomoljka, or praying mantis. Bogomoljka is also the term used for a girl from the eastern Hvar village of Bogomolje. And, I was told yesterday, apparently also for a woman who goes to church frequently. I am not sure which is the most dangerous. 

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And so to the fields. I will concede that the chilled Lasko while I worked was not so authentic, but every fat pink keyboard warrior has his price. 


The team was made up of Jadran's friends and family, including three generations of the women in his life - Mum (aged 87), wife and daughter. 

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There were five kids aged 10 to 13, getting a chance to experience a tradition of their grandparents. One had even come from Russia. 

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The Mediterranean as It Once Was. Absolutely blissful. 

Time for me to hand over to the experts. Here is Jadran introducing his field and demonstrating how to harvest lavender. 

The undoubted star of the lavender harvest is Jurica from Vrisknik. Not only was he the best at harvesting, but his fresh lamb was the perfect reward after a couple of hours in the field. In the video above, Jurica explains how his lavender picking career started at the age of nine.  

And then, spontaneously, the music started. Workers in the field, singing their traditional Dalmatian tunes. Mesmerising.  

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Harvesting lavender is thirsty work, and it is thankfully a Zuja-free zone - we are talking about authenticity after all...  

Jurica and Dinko - stars in the field - turned their attention to feeding the weary workers. We need more sea salt, Jadran!

And after the simple but delicious meal of lamb, salad and bread, time for some wine and song to accompany the setting sun (this year's harvest was done in the early evening for the first time). And what better tune than "Eyes the Colour of Lavender." 

Our work was done, but Jadran had more the next day, taking the lavender bags to be distilled into oil in nearby Humac. I have never seen him work so hard...

And the results of our labour, just over four litres this year.  

It is done as a labour of love, and I did smile when this Split boy tells me that every night in L.A. he puts a couple of drops of lavender oil on his pillow, and he sleeps like a baby dreaming of his beloved Dalmatia. 


This is how the fields of Hvar looked as recently as 1985. Imagine what an authentic tourist experience it could be if it looked like that again.

Our lavender harvest was not quite so authentic, however, for there were no donkeys involved. Take a look at this incredible 1970 video of the lavender harvest as it once was

And could be again. 


Saturday, 13 July 2019

Dalmatia as It Once Was: Harvesting Lavender on Hvar in 1970 (VIDEO)

July 13, 2019 - June and July are the months of lavender harvesting in Dalmatia - a gorgeous 1970 video showing how it was done 50 years ago.

Lavender fields in bloom are one of the most beautiful sights that Nature has bestowed upon us, as well as one of the most aromatic experiences. 

Hvar is often known as the lavender island, and at one point it was the 8th biggest producer in the world. The photo above is taken, we believe, around 1985. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Sadly, emigration and forest fires have severely diminished Hvar's lavender fields over the years, and while there is still some to be found, it is sadly just a fraction of what it once was. The village of Velo Grablje, near Hvar Town, celebrates the traditions of lavender each year with its own Lavender Festival. 

A wonderful 1970 video has surfaced - extremely well edited for the time - of the lavender harvest on Hvar, complete with plenty of donkey action. A really lovely snapshot of this most traditional aspect of Hvar life.  

Fifty years later, and lavender harvesting continues. Another excellent video of the 2018 harvest on the top of the island, courtesy of Jadran Lazic, with drone footage by Jaksa Kusmicic and editing by Miranda Milicic Bradbury. It is very hot work, and the 6am start is essential. 

To learn more about the island, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Programme for Hvar Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje Announced

June 11, 2019 - It is the most aromatic month of the year to visit Hvar, and what better occasion than the 11th Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje?

Hvar is an island blessed with a multitude of treasures like no other. The most UNESCO heritage in the world, the oldest public theatre in Europe, the most island sun in Europe to name but three. 

And lavender. 

While there is sadly nowhere near as much lavender on Hvar these days due to various factors including fire and emigration, the months of June and early July are a joy to behold. 

Nowhere is this more so than on the old road from Stari Grad to Hvar Town, where the must abundant and accessible lavender fields can be found. 


The small and picturesque village of Velo Grablje is the heart of the Hvar lavender story. Once the centre of lavender production for the whole of Dalmatia, emigration hit Velo Grablje very hard, and the permanent population was just five over a decade ago. There has been an impressive revival since then, as local association Pjover has breathed life into the village with its mission to focus on the heritage and traditions of Velo Grablje. 

By far the biggest event of the year in the village is the annual lavender festival which takes place each June. This year's event will take place on June 28-29, and the programme has just been released.


It is a lovely time to visit Velo Grablje and learn more about the traditions of Dalmatia. 

You can even take part in the harvesting of lavender, and then follow the whole process through to the distilling and production of lavender oil in the old traditional manner. 

Harvesting lavender is hard work. Take a look at how it is done on the top of the island in the fields of celebrity paparazzi, Jadran Lazic, below.

To learn more about the island, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page.




Sunday, 2 June 2019

Aromatic June: Hvar Lavender Fields and a Velo Grablje Festival

June 2, 2019 - Welcome to June, the most aromatic month on the lavender island of Hvar, which will celebrate its 11th Hvar Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje next month.

One of the many natural delights of a summer on Hvar is getting out into the fields of the surrounding inland villages in late June and early July. Apart from the picturesque views, sunshine and natural beauty, this is the time of year when one of the island's best-known harvests taken place. 


Like many Brits, my knowledge of lavender harvesting was less than zero before I moved to Hvar, but it did not take me long to learn more about this wonderful aromatic treasure. 

Driving the old road from Stari Grad to Hvar Town in late June is a delight, and it is not uncommon to find cars abandoned at the side of the road as drivers and passengers head into the fields to take photos next to the aromatic bushes. 


In truth, the lavender fields today are just a fraction of what they were in their heyday. Emigration and fire have sadly depleted the number of fields one can visit. 

There are signs of rebirth, however. My friend Jadran Lazic, for example, has replanted 300 lavender bushes on top of the island on his estate, and it has become an annual tradition for me to get up at 04:30 each year to help out with the early morning harvesting. The fields look divine pre-harvest.  


The centre of the Hvar lavender story, however, is the village of Velo Grablje, a few kilomotres from Hvar Town on the old road. Once the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, Velo Grablje was hit hard by emigration, and its population dwindled to just five people over a decade ago. 


Since then the village's fortunes have changed for the better. A group of enthusiastic young locals with family ties to the village founded an association called Pjover, whose stated intentions were to resurrect the traditions and heritage of Velo Grablje. The highlight of this was an annual lavender festival, which will this year take place on June 28-29, for the 11th consecutive year. 

Far from being a dead village of over a decade ago, the population of Velo Grablje has grown from 5 to 14 at last count, and there is an excellent restaurant (Zbondini) and even a winter pub which is popular with many from Hvar Town. 


The lavender festival is a popular celebration of all things lavender, including harvesting the oil. There is a chance for tourist participation, something which I took advantage of a few years ago after I was invited to jump on top of the bunches of harvested lavender in the steel vat in order to compress them. My feet smelled of lavender for days. 

Of course, for the real lavender experience, you can't quite beat joining the harvest itself. Why do they start so early? It is hard physical work, and the summer heat arrives quickly, and it is already too hot by 07:30. Check out the harvest in the video of Jadran's field a couple of years ago above, then spare a thought for previous generations who did not have the benefit of roads and air conditioning when planning the harvest. 

To learn more about Hvar, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Harvesting Lavender with Jadran Lazic at 6am on Hvar: Aromatic Paradise

July 6, 2018 - It is lavender season on the island of Hvar, and an early start for TCN to go work in the lavender fields of celebrated paparazzi, Jadran Lazic. 

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Aromatic Hvar: 10th Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje Next Week

The 10th Hvar Lavender Festival will take place next weekend, starting on June 28, 2018.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Lavender on Hvar: A Video Report of the 2017 Harvest at 6am on Top of the Island

Hvar is known as the Lavender Island. A video report on the recent lavender harvest on July 21, 2017. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

6am on Hvar, Harvesting Lavender with Jadran Lazic: Stunning!

The island of Hvar is famous for many things, including its lavender. An early start for TCN on July 6, 2017, as we lend a hand with celebrated photographer Jadran Lazic for the most aromatic activity of all - the annual lavender harvest.

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