The Guardian has recently voted Korcula in their top 5 Croatian Islands, recommending it as the best place for culture. So what makes this island such a cultural delight? My first thought was what is culture? Is the Guardian celebrating the art, music and architecture that fills the tiny medieval old town and echoes of its walls day and night, or the Korcula people’s way of life and traditions? I think it’s a nice blend of both.
Having lived close to London all my life it’s a change living on an island of only 17,000 people. I was struck by the way people here differentiate themselves from another village which may be only 4kms away from them! However there is an overall sense of pride of being a “Korculian”. From a young boy dreaming of taking part in the traditional knightly sword dance performed in his own town or village, to the retired fisherman lazing the afternoon away playing the “Croatian bowls” with friends, a bottle of beer in one hand, setting the world to rights!
So here’s my top Korcula Culture highlights, what would yours be?
1) Watching a performance of the gallant swordsmen performing in the Mostra, Kumpanija or Moreska. Young boys start training for these fast and furious sword dances at a very early age.
2) Wandering up and down the narrow allows of Korcula old town, retracing the steps of the wealthy Arneri family who lorded over the town during the 15th century. Marvelling at the architectural beauties such as St Mark’s cathedral, which still stands proud after so many years. Pondering the birth place of Marco Polo, was he Croatian, born here on Korcula, or was he indeed Italian? Listening to the voices of the a-cappella singers using the buildings around them as natural amplifiers.
3) Soaking up the atmosphere and spend some time chilling and people watching with the locals at one the many cafe bars on the island. No giant buckets of Starbucks frappe, super coffees here, macchiato or espresso is the bean of choice.
4) Join in the annual wine and olive harvesting in September-November. Families and friends join together and harvest the fruits which have been ripening under the sun’s rays all summer. Hard work but a rewarding experience, ending the day with a festive feast for all.
5) Watching the moving procession of the brotherhoods around Korcula old town during Easter or on Saint Theodore’s day (the patron saint of Korcula Town). Sons are born into one of the three fraternal groups, perhaps one day being chosen to carry the gigantic candles which burn brightly during the night procession.
6) Bagging an invite at a local’s house for grilled fish or meat, lamb cooked under the Peka or the fish stew Brodet, of course washed down with home-made fruit liquors and wine. People’s hospitality here is unbelievably and heart-warming. If you don’t manage an invite sample a traditional dish at one of the family run agro-tourism restaurants dotted over the island instead.
7) Packing up your snorkel, beach towel, sun tan lotion and plenty of water and hitting one of the many beautiful and secluded beaches. People in Korcula sure know how to relax!
Many people when thinking of culture probably think of high culture; fine arts, theatre, classical music, all of which Korcula can offer. However what I love is the unique culture of the people which makes this place one of the best places to chill out and unwind, amongst beautiful scenery, surrounded by fantastically clear waters. With September approaching fast, my favourite month here, it’s not too late to book yourself a fantastic apartment with sea-views and experience Korcula’s culture yourself.