Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Total Split Discovers Brac: The Olive Oil Museum in Skrip

Before I moved to Dalmatia, I probably used about a litre of olive oil a decade, and I am not even sure that I could have identified in olive tree, so poor was my knowledge about a product which has become central to my life in Dalmatia over the past decade. It was something I was pondering as I was enjoying the latest use of this essential healthy ingredient of the Dalmatian lifestyle - an excellent Brac massage consisting of olive oil at the outstanding Thalassa Wellness Spa in Bol.

How things change! The annual family olive harvest in late October/early November is a time when whole communities come together, and busy chief executives from Zagreb return to the family field for the collecting of the olives. I have more conversations about olives than football these days. And now that olive oil is an integral part of the diet, I wonder how I survived in my pre-Dalmatian existence. 

And so I was delighted to learn on the island of Brac that there was an olive oil museum in Skrip, the oldest settlement on the island, which opened in 2013. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but whatever it was, my expectations were far exceeded by a fascinating tour of one of the finest traditional Dalmatian attractions it has been my privilege to visit during my time here. 

Founded in 1864, the family mill serviced the local community using very traditional methods for almost a century, before the opening of a more sophisticated and quicker mill opened nearby in 1963, bringing to an end the tradition of milling in this family house in Skrip.

While technology was responsible for killing this business, it was somewhat ironic perhaps that some 50 years later, the preservation of traditional methods was the catalyst for the revival of the mill's fortunes, as it reinvented itself as an olive oil museum, showcasing the old traditional production methods with a seemingly endless supply of authentic and original artefacts. 

The museum is small, cosy and full of atmosphere, and our excellent quide took us through the various stages of production, starting with the weighing of the olives once they arrived by donkey. 

Having been weighed, they were placed in this stone circular container where they were washed. Brac used to have a staggering 3 million olive trees. 

And for an excellent visual effect, a local artist has captured the various stages of production on the walls of the museum.  

Next up was the central mill where the olive were crushed. A wonderful modern addition were these wire figures, which helps with the visualisation of the process. The figures were actually part of an exhibition by a local artist in Supetar, which were then rescued and put to better use in Skrip. 

And if you think that this is not an attraction for the little ones, think again - our kids were fascinated by the whole thing.  

The crushed mush was then moved across for futher pressing and oil extraction in bags made from rope, which resulted in the original virgin press, which produced a yield of approximately 10%. 

These were then stored in pig skins.

Donkeys were employed in this work, and there was a donkey feeding station in the middle of the room.  

The quality of preservation of the old production tools was extremely impressive.  

After the first press, water was then heated and carried over in the manner portrayed in the picture above, from where it was added to the remaining mush, resulting in an extra 2% of oil being extracted. The oil sat on top of the water and was scooped off, slightly inferior quality to the first virgin press, but the maximum was extracted.

While the method of production was an education, it was the little stories which put the icing on the cake. What looked like a military helmet was on display by the press, which looked a little odd until the reason was explained. During World War II, where the family lost two of their children in the conflict, an Italian soldier was a prisoner in Skrip for three years. He was passionate about olives and knew how to make the rope bags. A friendship ensued, despite the war, culminating in a family member from Skrip attending a wedding in Italy a few years later. While some prisoners were killed, others were kept alive to work, as there was a lack of local manpower due to the war. The Italian soldier's helmet is a reminder of this little piece of history. 

The living quarters on the first floor included another excellent photo exhibition by a local artist. This place was breathing the traditional Dalmatian life in a way I have rarely seen in the region.  

Including the roof, which has been lovingly restored in the traditional and original stone. The owner explained that he had three problems with the authentic restoration of the roof. Firstly, it was almost impossible to find craftsmen in the modern era who could do the job. When they did, most of them were too old to do the job, but finally a local craftsmen from a younger generation was found and put to work. And finally, the roof is not fully waterproof, as it was also not back them. Total authenticity.   

And so to the tasting, which included the outstanding olive oil of course, as well as some fabulous homemade specialities such as pate with local products mixed with green and black olives. Delicious. 

A visit to the olive oil museum alone made the journey to Skrip more than worthwhile, but there is of course plenty more to this spectacular inland village, with its centuries of history, most notably the island of Brac museum, but I was more interested in visiting the home of oil museum owner Kruno Cukrov, where he showed me his plans for restoring another historic building to its former glory. But that is another story...

I really hope that this project gets maximum support, as the painstaking (and expensive) renovation is matched by the quality of the product - a window into a way of life in Dalmatia that will educate even local children. Just as Miki Bratanic's Konoba in Vrbanj has achieved status of national cultural heritage, so too should this olive oil museum. 

Thank you Kruno and family, both for your hospitality and for preserving an important Dalmatian tradition for future generations.

To learn more about the Olive Oil Museum in Skrip (and to book - it is open from 09:00 to 17:00 daily in season, but please phone to check), visit the official website here (available in English and Croatian). 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day Trips from Split: 5 Things Not to Miss on the Island of Brac

Given its size, proximity and regular ferry schedule to Supetar, Brac is arguably the most accessible island for a day trip from Split, and the pleasant one-hour ferry transfer should be seen as part of the experience. It is an island of culture, tradition, beaches, beauty and adventure, with plenty to entice the visitor from the mainland. Here are five highlights, all of which can be enoyed on a day trip from Split:

1. Zlatni Rat beach, Bol


Arguably the most famous beach in all Croatia, Zlatni Rat (or Golden Horn) is one of the top attractions in Dalmatia. Situated on the edge of the tourist town of Bol on the southern shores of Brac, the shifting tides move the beach left and right, and it is popular family resort, as well as the base for activity sports such as wind surfing. There is a daily catamaran from Split to Jelsa via Bol at 16:00 (16:30 on a Friday), or the beach can be reached by ferry to Supetar and onward bus connection. Please contact us for private transfers. 

2. Blaca Monastery


One of the most impressive complexes in Dalmatia and testament to the determination and dedication of the monks of the  16th century, Blaca monastery is well worth the hike, both for the incredible views and the sense of achievement of human endeavour. Founded in 1551 following more Ottoman attacks, Blaca was also an agricultural community, producing wine, honey and other local specialities.

In addition to the orginal construction, there is also a world-famous observatory, museum and library. Contact us to arrange tours to Blaca at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

3. Dragon's Cave


Another fascinating insight into centuries-old monastic life is located close to the village of Murvica, about 7km from Bol. Zmajeva spilja (the Dragon's Cave) takes its name from the relief of a dragon in it, and its main purpose was a a temple and home to the Glagolitic priests from the 16th century on.

The cave is some 20m long and divided into four halls, including the Chapel of our Lady in the first hall.  There are several carvings into the mountainside, including Madonn, the moon and dragons, which scientists have attempted to explain. A common theory is that they are linked to parts of Slavic mythology and Christian iconography.

A visit to Dragon's Cave is possible only with the guide - please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange.

4. Dol with Vitalac

A rare treat! Found only on Brac and one more village on Crete, vitalac takes lamb' s offal (liver, heart, lungs) skewered and wrapped. After turning on live coals, the sticks are wrapped in lamb's intestines and then turned for another hour. Vitalac is then cut and eaten while the diners wait for the whole lamb to be baked. Wine and drinks included.

The journey begins from Split harbor and continues across the hills of Brac Island to tiny Skrip village where guests get introduced to history of the island and its traditions. Next stop is picturesque and wonderfully preserved Dol village where our cooking class takes place. The cooking class of vitalac also combines the lamb cooking traditions of Brac island.

The program is offered from Split area in May, June and September, from 100 euro per person (groups size between 1 and 8).

 5. Brac stone and the Pucisca stone masonry school

Brac stone is famous throughout the world, with its most famous location being part of the White House in Washington. It is also to be found in other public buildings around the world, such as Liverpool Cathedral in the UK.

Stone masonry is a highly skilled art, and one much prized in Dalmatia, where constuction from stone is an essential part of the culture. The Pucisca stone masonry school is an important centre of learning and craftsmanship of this very important art form. 

For more information on transfers and organised tours to these destinations, contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bol Beyond Zlatni Rat: A Phenomenal Brac Family Destination

 With arguably the most iconic picture promoting Croatia its main attraction, does the Brac town of Bol have anything to offer beyond Zlatni Rat beach? TCN spent a family weekend investigating.