Digital Nomads Discover Remnants of Famous Jelsa Bench Tourism

By 1 November 2021
Digital Nomads Discover Remnants of Famous Jelsa Bench Tourism
Vedran Segvic

November 1, 2021 - The Jelsa bench is probably the most famous in all Dalmatia, very much on the digital nomad trail, but sadly a shadow of what it once was. 

A Dalmatian friend in luxury tourism once described the moment he understood his market and the opportunity completely. 

In an olive grove and an olive oil tasting and lunch for wealthy New York clients, one of them marvelled at the fresh lemons on a nearby tree.

"Do you think I might pick one of those lemons," he asked my friend after he noticed my friend watching him. A lemon was plucked from the tree.

"You know," said the rich New Yorker at the end of the week, "the highlight of this excellent trip was picking that lemon. Living in New York, I just never had the experience of picking a lemon from a tree before."

Simple pleasures, taken for granted by locals, which cost nothing. Croatia, your safe, authentic lifestyle destination. 


I feel the same way about the (now) famous Jelsa bench. 

The original Google, the island Wikipedia, call them what you will, but the local male elders of a certain age, and at a certain time of day, would convene on the bench each day to put the world to rights. And not just in Jelsa, but most Dalmatian towns and villages. 

It was an authentic way of life, and one which was admired by many tourists. Life on the bench, a symbol of Croatia, your safe, authentic lifestyle destination. 


After only 13 years living on Hvar, the unthinkable happened - an invitation from the village elders to sit with them on the bench! This was kind of a big deal, and many locals were shocked that I had received the invitation so soon after my arrival in Jelsa. For 13 years is the blink of an eye in bench years. 

I had perhaps been a little obsessive about the Jelsa bench over the years, monitoring its incredible versatility and international appeal. 


Czech models used the bench occupants as background models in their Hvar photo shoots.


Australian bloggers travelled to Jelsa to take selfies on the hallowed bench. 


Bands jetted in from California to play live concerts on the bench. 


Others travelled on holiday from Sydney, and then took the ferry to Hvar for the sole purpose of sitting on the Jelsa bench. 


My most creative moments came when I sat alone on the bench, harnessing the aura of the collective IQ of its regulars.

And then one day, the bench was tossed aside in the name of progress. A concession was given to a company to open a restaurant in the Gradska Kavana behind the bench, and the outside space the bench had sat on for generations was given to the restaurant as part of its outside space. It was a concession which led the mayor to announce he was suing me in a public meeting in Vrboska, as you can see above. I am still waiting for the promised lawsuit some three years later.


But the Jelsa Bench in exile continued to make the news, featuring as the lead story in the national media about The Jelsa Phenomenon, showcasing the influential people who hailed from Jelsa. These included the current Prime Minister, Health Minister, and Head of the Supreme Court. But the lead photo in the newspaper? The academic colossus of the bench in exile. 


An American digital nomad friend arrived in Jelsa last night. Among many other things, he confessed to being a little intrigued by the Jelsa bench, promising to find out the latest, as well as sending back a selfie. 

And what a disappointment, as what passes as the Jelsa bench these days is just a shadow of its former self, as well as being located now on the road. 


The weather-beaten bench on the road is a far cry from its previous majestic position looking out to sea. That previous majestic position is now occupied by th restaurant  


A fence has been erected, with the bench very much on the outside on the street below. 

The Jelsa bench in exile will have to adapt, but it is a shadow of its former glory. 


To learn more about Jelsa tourism beyond the bench, visit the TC Jelsa in a Page guide.