Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Ways to Discover Stari Grad

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May 20, 2020 – Tourism is on hold, but most of us have plenty of time. So let’s look at the virtual resources available to explore Croatia virtually. We continue our new Virtual Croatia series with the tools to discover Stari Grad on Hvar.

A few weeks ago I wrote that being a tourism blogger in the corona era was about as useful as being a cocktail barman in Saudi Arabia. I feel less useless now, a few weeks later, and I am encouraged by the number of Croatian tourism businesses who are contacting us wanting to start thinking of promoting post-corona tourism. 

One of the challenges of writing about tourism at the moment is that there is nothing positive to write about. With people confined to their homes and tourism in Croatia currently not possible, many have decided to go into hibernation until it is all over. 

I think that this is a mistake, and I have greatly enjoyed the TCN series by Zoran Pejovic of Paradox Hospitality on thinking ahead to tourism in a post-corona world.  You can find Zoran’s articles here.

Way back on March 14 – several lifetimes ago – I published an article called Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Ways to Discover . The way I saw things, now was an OUTSTANDING opportunity for tourism promotion. People have time, they yearn for their freedom and former lives, so give them the tools to thoroughly research and enjoy your destinations, and you will have then longing to be there. And when they do come, they will have a deeper understanding of the destination due to their research. 

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South Africa and Portugal were the first to do their post-corona tourism promotion videos several weeks ago (Post-Corona Tourism Planning: Lessons from South Africa and Portugal), a trick which has been followed by tourism countries, the latest being Croatia with the national tourist board campaign, #CroatiaLongDistanceLove, going live yesterday.

But while these campaigns create longing and market presence, they don’t really educate. People now have time to really get into destinations. And dreams of escape to somewhere more exotic are high on the list of priorities of many. 

So TCN has decided to help with that education with a new series called Virtual Croatia, where we will be helping you discover many of Croatia’s destinations with all the best virtual tools available on your self-isolating sofa at home. 

We started last week with Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Tools to Discover Hvar.

After this, we put our a press release (which you can read here in English and Croatian) offering a free article to any local tourist board in Croatia who would like the free promotion in our Virtual Croatia series. 

The Sinj Tourist Board was the first to respond, and now you can see just how rich the tourism offer is in this proud Alka town – your virtual tools to Discover Sinj. This was followed by DIscover Opatija, Discover Brela, Discover Rogoznica, Discover Klis, Discover  and Discover Omis.

Next up, Jaksa Damjanic from the Stari Grad Tourist Board, who sent me some virtual tools to help us discover Stari Grad. 

Let’s begin! 

Welcome to Stari Grad, Home to 2,400 Years of Tradition of Creating New Experiences

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Released just a few days ago, 

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Remember Pharrell Williams? Be Happy, Stari Grad style.

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Discover the old town and the secrets of 2,400 years. 

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Stari Grad from the air.

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A spectacular birds eye view. 

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The relaxed evening atmosphere. 

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A one-hour national television discovery of Stari Grad and some of its most lovable characters. 

A Small Place with a Famous Heritage

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Stari Grad is perhaps best known in the minds of a sizable chunk of the population of former Yugoslavia as the location for the VERY popular show Malo Misto (Little Place), which characterised and satirised life in a small town in Dalmatia. Even with my limited ability to pick up the words of the actors, I find it wonderfully funny, and Stari Grad looks glorious. A sample episode is above.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Sail Back to Ancient Roots

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Every travelled 5,000 years of UNESCO heritage in just 90 seconds? Fasten your seatbelts. 

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Learn more about the Stari Grad Plain with this reconstruction of how life was in the time of the Ancient Greeks. 

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From Faros to Paros. And in 2003, a rather unusual expedition was organised to retrace the steps of the Ancient Greeks all those years ago – a voyage in a traditional sailboat, from ‘Faros to Paros’, Faros being the name the Greeks gave to what is today Stari Grad, close as it sounded to their native island of Paros. The voyage included taking gifts including vines and olive trees which had brought som much prosperity and goodness to the residents of Hvar, and which had originally come from Paros in 384 BC. There is a documentary on the journey (in Croatian) which you can watch here. 

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It may not evoke comparisons with London Heathrow, but Stari Grad even has its own airport, located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to cultural considerations, the airport cannot be upgraded or expanded, but it does serve as a useful and convenient point for small aircraft and helicopters (the airstrip can accommodate planes of maximum six passengers), as well as providing a summer base for Hvar’s popular sky-diving offer. 

5 UNESCO Heritages in 1 Town, More than Any Island in the World

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No other island in the world has 4 UNESCO heritages. The town of Stari Grad has 5. The official video of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain. 

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The Diet was inscribed at intangible UNESCO heritage in 2013. 

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The 500-year-old Za Krizen procession (Behind the Cross) includes the village of Vrbanj, which is in the Stari Grad administrative district. 

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And one cannot leave Dalmatia without some unforgettable Dalmatian klapa. 

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The art of dry-stone walling is a rare skill, and one which has also achieved UNESCO status.

Discover Stari Grad, Where Wine and Song Meet

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Stari Grad is fabulous, with something for everyone. A place where music and wine collide in different forms.  The Jazz and  Wine festival. 

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 Dani u vali – Days in the Bay. 

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 The Hvar Wine Association hosts wonderful evenings of wine tasting and song in the picturesque squares in the old town. 

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And a little wine always brings a little impromptu song. 

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For such a small town (the permanent population was less than 1800 at the last census), Stari Grad has an incredibly vibrant cultural scene. In addition to several excellent museums, two theatres (and two fabulous amateur theatre groups) and a host of other cultural activities, the male voices of Stari Grad are known throughout the land, and if you ever get the chance to hear the Faros Kantaduri, don’t miss them. For a taster, check them out in the video above. 

One of the world’s most challenging swims, and other activities

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Stari Grad is home to one of the most challenging swimming races in the world, an annual event in August which attracts some of the globe’s finest swimmers, including Olympic gold medal winners. Started in 1974, the Faros Marathon is a 16km race in the open sea, starting and finishing in the town’s harbour, from where competitors race to the tip of the Kabal Peninsula at the top of the Stari Grad Bay – some 8km away – and back. A phenomenal physical effort for the increasingly field, where the winner has yet to break three hours. Check out the race in the video above. 

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Also home to the start of the slightly less challenging Hvar Half Marathon, which takes place in August every year to Hvar Town along the old road. Surely one of the most beautiful races in Europe. 

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Biking heaven. 

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MTB heaven too. 

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Sail Croatia loves Stari Grad.

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And if you are into Stari Grad, with its new marina, here is some useful advice. 

Of sunsets and plima 

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Some of the most beautiful sunsets in Dalmatia. But beware… 

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Ah, the deep Stari Grad Bay. It caused considerable distress to a poor dolphin, who inadvertantly swam into the harbour in 2005, and could not figure a way out for three days until expert help pointed the poor creature in the right drection. A scarier prospect for local residents is the ‘plima’, a raising of the water level cauased by particular climatic conditions and such a deep bay, which results in rapid rising of the water level. It is quite a spectacle to watch, as long as you are not a waterfront home owner. Check out the video above. 

Local traditions, art and food

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Starogrojski paprenjok is an original souvenir made as a homage to a traditional biscuit which the women and girls of Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar have lovingly prepared since 1167 for their sons and husbands, packing them in sailor’s chests before their loved ones’ departure on long and faraway journeys.

These cakes are prepared according to a carefully preserved recipe of the old island women and have retained the traditional shapes of amphora, fish, heart, clover and other imaginative forms lined with sweet stripes and playful dots.

The earliest mention of the famous cake from Stari Grad, Starogrojski paprenjok, was left by Petar Hektorović, in his famous poem, ‘Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje’, from 1556. The work is a description of a three-day trip from Stari Grad to the island of Šolta and back. In it, the poet Petar Hektorović sailed in the company of two fishermen, Paskoje and Nikola. They took with them: good wine muškatil, sweet wine (prošek), turta (cake), honeycomb, kaškaval cheese, fruit and paprenakov.

The main ingredient for paprenjok is honey. In the castle, that is, in the flaunting park, the Hektorović family cultivated poultry, silkworms and bees.

Hektorović’s farmers cultivated wheat in the fertile Stari Grad fields; they milled it in the mill located in Tvrdalj. Another important ingredient was also olive oil. The Hektorović family’s olive groves were located in the southern part of the town.

To prepare a paprenjok they also needed prošek. Prošek was made from good quality grapes in the tavern in Tvrdalj.
The only thing which could not be cultivated in Tvrdalj were the aromatic herbs – cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs.

But in that period they were easily obtained, as the port of Stari Grad was located on the route between Venice, and the numerous Mediterranean ports with which trade took place.

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Stari Grad even had its own honey festival at one point, and I understand that there are plans to resurrect its honey heritage this year.  

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 Never eaten a dormouse? Don’t miss the Puhijada edible dormouse festival in Dol. 

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One of the great attractions of Stari Grad are its quaint streets, which are lined with art galleries and boutique shops, selling authentic local products. Some of the artists are quite unique. Meet Fantazam. 

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Home to no less than two amateur theatre groups. 

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Mali Grad Faros – a wonderful initiative for the little ones.

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And the magical night of Sv. Nikola in December is accompanied with the traditional burning of a boat.

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And where else to go for the biggest live snake exhibition in Europe? 

Stari Grad, the secret of a happy and healthy life – 104 years and still mending fishing nets.

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Stari Grad has its own celebrities, including this man, who has seen them come and seen them go. Andrija Petric Muse is one of the icons of Hvar, a quiet unassuming man who can be seen most days oppostite Pizzeria Marko mending nets, as he has done for generations. An avid smoker for more than 80 years, he celebrated his 104th birthday this year. A survivor of the Spanish Flu AND corona, life of Croatia’s premier island with its healthy climate and UNESCO Mediterranean Diet must have played a small part. 

A wonderful town.

Official Stari Grad Tourist Board Website & 25 Things to Know about Stari Grad

Discover Stari Grad via the official tourist board website.

Learn more about Stari Grad with the TCN feature article, Stari Grad: 25 Things to Know about Croatia’s 2017 European Best Destinations Nominee.

THIS. IS. STARI GRAD. When can we expect your visit? 

To discover more of virtual Croatia, you can follow this series in our dedicated section, Virtual Croatia. 

If you are a local tourist board in Croatia and would like your destination featured in this series for free, please contact us at [email protected] Subject Virtual Croatia (and destination name)

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