Fashion, Hot Showers and Hair Dryers: A Month at the Palagruza Lighthouse

By 10 July 2018

July 10, 2018 - Continuing her look at a romantic month living on the remote island of Palagruza with the lighthouse keeper, this week Carmen muses on the fashion accessories of a sophisticated Sydney girl meeting the realities of harsh winter Croatian islet living. To read the first in the series, click here.

As I mentioned at the start, my plan for 2011 was EVERLASTING SUMMER. Croatian summer, to superyacht job- sailing the seas and chasing the sun foreveeeeeeerrrrrr (ok not really, but I’d counted on a year at least).

Yet here I was, preparing to face the dead of Winter on a remote, uninhabited island, Palagruza.

To say I was grossly underprepared was an understatement. The closest I had to ‘warm’ clothes, were a couple of pairs of tights and a denim jacket. The rest was all sandals, bikinis, dresses and denim shorts.

I frantically searched the 1960’s wardrobes of my home in Korcula and rustled up 1 x oversized, brown ‘dad’ jumper, a pair of his tracksuit pants and 1 x bright red jumper, which still boasted the ‘Woolworths’ supermarket label on the chest. My uncle’s old work uniform from Sydney.

It’ll do. But it wasn’t enough.

So, Ivo’s mum comes to the rescue. In case I needed reminding, she politely reiterated the fact that this was no place for glamour, as she handed over her stash of ‘polje’ (field) clothes. Just the ticket to keep me warm and healthy.

I obeyed and appreciatively accepted the goods, thick iron capped work boots and all.


No Carmen. No, you will not need your blue suede boots or that dress on Palagruza.


Yes, you heard me. Now wipe that smirk off your face. No jewelry and trinkets either.

Cool. I was used to having fun with my wardrobe and appearance in Sydney, so this was just another experimental chapter in my fashion diaries.

Luckily, Mum had prepared me well for this day. Remember the hand me down Tonka Truck jumper? Yeah. It wasn’t an isolated incident.


Left: Pretty sure this entire outfit was intended for small boys. But that’s me, and I’m wearing it.

Right: Another hand me down jumper from my brothers. But I had a basket of oranges and a velvet hat, so it's all cool.

Bags now packed with the ‘best of the 80’s collection’ of jumpers, we were ready to set off into the sunset! (…the windy, cloudy, cloudy sunset)- Palagruza bound.

Yeah my wardrobe wasn’t impressive, but hey, all good.

After all, it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it that counts. And I was armed with my hair dryer and products, so not even my uncle’s Woolworth’s jumper could take away from the impact of freshly blow dried hair.


But WAIT. You’re suuuuuuuure, absolutely sure, I won’t even need THIS dress on Palagruza? The scrunchie maybe!? 

Within approximately 3 minutes of arriving at the lighthouse, my dreams of smooth straight hair were completely shattered, as Ivo explained a few house rules.

It went a little something like this.

Ivo: ‘No, you can’t shower every day. Water is precious here and we can’t afford to waste it.’ Carmen: ‘But…but….’

Ivo: ‘No Carmen, every second day will do you here’.

Carmen: ‘Ok cool. I guess washing and blow drying my hair every second day will be fine. The Bura wind outside will keep it straight in between that.’

Ivo: ‘No Carmen, you can’t blow dry your hair every second day. The hair dryer uses approximately fifty thousand million kilowatts of power, and our generator only stores about sixty thousand million kilowatts of power. Depending on how much sun we get.’

Carmen: ‘Ok cool. Can I at least go have my first shower now then? That boat ride got me all crusty and salty.’

Ivo: ‘No Carmen. In order for one to shower in winter, one requires hot water.

Hot water requires approximately forty thousand million kilowatts of power, and therefore, the hot water boiler is permanently switched off.

One must plan for a shower approximately 5 hours in advance, in order for us to check said power generator, for said requirement of energy, and allow sufficient time for said water boiler to warm up.’

Carmen: ‘Oh….. k k cool. Where’s my reindeer sweater? I’m going to bed.’


Ahhh there it is. Yes my donkey friend- it’s a great sweater isn’t it?

Cool. Blow dried hair dreams out the window, I woke up the next morning and fished out a few fresh-faced essentials. As I go to apply a slither of mascara, Ivo comes in and starts laughing. ‘Ma sto ce ti to?’ (translated roughly as ummm seriously?).

Me (in my head): ‘Oh excuse me, I was just trying to salvage my last piece of dignity as I sit here on day two of no shower, with fuzzy hair, wearing your mother’s sweater and oversized tracksuit pants.’

Ughhhh. Actually, he was right. I then resolved myself to the fact there really was no point. Just surrender to Palagruza Carmen, really, no-one cares.

Going from a job in Sydney where it was basically a prerequisite to always look your best, and from holidays in Croatia where you had to look at least OK at all times, (just in case anyone whipped out their camera for holiday snaps), it was actually kind of liberating to put this habit to bed. No fashion, no beauty, just pure, practical comfort.

Life went on.

Beauty was now out the window, but still- we all love a good, hot shower. Especially in winter, and especially on special days like Christmas.

You may remember, that I mentioned sulking on the steps of the lighthouse on Christmas day. Yes our lunch was modest, but it wasn’t really that which had set me off.

Having resigned myself to unexpectedly spending an extra week, and Christmas day on Palagruza, I’d tried to make the most of it in the days before.

I went and foraged the shrubs for a branch, (makeshift Christmas tree… remember I said I love Christmas, the decorations and all? Well not even the Bura would stop me from having this). I found a dried starfish, which would top this tree, and cut some shapes out of paper as decorations.

I proudly positioned my creation in the kitchen, it was a masterpiece of resourcefulness and ingenuity (at least I thought so).

Come Christmas Eve, while the signal allowed, I watched what I could of Croatian Christmas carols on TV. The festive spirit was well and truly alive on Palagruza!

Having never being a girl to care about presents anyway, and knowing full well we had none to give, I asked Ivo for the one thing I really wanted on Christmas day. To wake up to a GLORIOUS, HOT SHOWER.

‘Of course!’ he said. ‘No worries!’ he said.

I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. ** What. A. Treat. **

Christmas morning comes, I wake up, and excitedly go straight to the bathroom to enjoy the sacred solace of a hot shower.

I turn on the water and quickly let out a SHRILL scream that could probably be heard in Sydney.


The water was FREEZING. Ice, cold freeeeeeeeeezing. Blessed Ivo had forgotten to turn on the hot water generator.

Tagged under: palagruza