We have visited the village of Zrnovo many times before. We have walked the trail to the nature park of Kocje and called in to Konoba Belin for some hearty food on various occasions. On several bike adventures we have explored the south beaches passing through the village to reach our final destination, stopping at the local shop in Postrana to pick up supplies.
However we’ve never really spent any actual time in Postrana. Postrana is one of the 4 hamlets that make up Zrnovo and its character is quite typical of the village. I recently had the opportunity to explore the hamlet with some other members of the newly formed “Korcula International Club”.
The walk had been arranged by Ante, a local man from Zrnovo. He has recently returned to his home village after living some time abroad. Ante arranges very popular walking tours around the village for French tourists. We were due to take a longer walk through the countryside of Zrnovo but after a month of beautiful sun, we had a weekend of rain!
Whilst waiting for the full group to arrive, Ante pointed out where he lived. Once home to 600 people, Postrana now has just 200 inhabitants. As a result there are many abandoned houses. There is reluctance for people to sell the old houses but there is a wider problem, common across the whole of Croatia. In the days where a written will was not required, property and land was bequeathed by word of mouth to everyone in the family (and extended family). Consequently it is quite normal for house ownership to reach double figures. For a house to be sold, every owner has to agree. Throughout the decades many Croatian people left the country to start new lives abroad. This makes it a challenge to track every owner down. It can also prompt a bitter war amongst owners, trying to get everyone to agree to sell the house.
We all couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic that this once thriving community now relies upon a small back-bone of people. But as Ante said, that is just life. Things change.
Up into the Hamlet
The streets in Postrana run both vertically and horizontally, making it easy to navigate throughout the hamlet. Each street is occupied by a number of houses, snuggled tightly side-by-side. There was a purpose to building the houses next to each other. It meant after the first house was built on each street, it became easier for the new resident to build their house. They would only need to build 3 walls, using the 4th wall already built by their neighbour. In the street in which Ante used to live there were 18 children! Mixed with the noise of the children playing in the street was also the noise of the animals. Many households kept a donkey to help with work in the fields, goats and chickens.
A Hidden Treasure
At the top of one street we made a visit to an ethnographic house. It accommodates a mismatch of items lovingly collected by the owner Pavel Sain. No-one in the group (except of course for Ante) knew this place existed. The owner doesn’t speak much English and the place doesn’t have exact opening hours, but if you’re in the area, definitely try to pop in.
As is customary in any Croatian household we were greeted with a selection of rakija (grape brandy), including a rose and carob flavour. I opted for the carob and it was delicious. We also snacked on local almonds, walnuts and dried figs. The figs were perfect as they retained some of their softness. As young children, locals used to fill their pockets with figs filled with an almond, which would last them as snacks throughout the day.
The downstairs is filled with various old machinery including a grape press, an olive oil press and an old still used to make rakija. The walls are lined with old faming tools as well as with a photograp of Pavel’s grandfather who fought during WW1. He tenderly showed us the “suitcase” and its contents his grandfather bought back from the war.
Heading upstairs we saw what would have been the living quarters. Pavel first shows us the water well at the entrance to the house and the outside table where his father as a child of 10, used to sit for meals. Inside there’s an array of period furniture and old household items including sewing machines, lamps, irons and lots of things I was clueless about! The beds made of hay made us feel very fortunate of modern mattresses! An interesting feature was the “toddler walker”. This was an unusual way to encourage young children to walk and to stop them running amok. In between two lengths of wood was a circular piece of wood that could slide up and down. The child would then be placed inside the circle. Not sure how happy child services would be with a design like this today!
A few metres from Pavel’s house is the local theatre. Built in the early 1900s, although it’s not much to look at, the theatre served as the entertainment hub for the whole community. At the time when electricity was limited to one light per household, when a dance was held at the theatre everyone had to turn it off so there was enough power for the party! Local people would also regularly put on shows here. Knowing how much Croatian’s love to sing, I could imagine the hall alive with music.
From the theatre we continued the walk past more beautiful old stone house to the parish church, Saint Roko. In front of the church performances of the symbolic sword dance Mostra are performed. Throughout the summer the dance is staged several times and we’d highly recommend you going to the village to watch it.
Time for Replenishment!
Although our walk was not strenuous, lunch was still deserved! We headed along the main road from Zrnovo before turning off down a trail to Koboba Maha. This is a family run restaurant surrounded by beautiful countryside. This year they stayed open, whereas they typically close after the summer. Good news for us! We also work with Maha in the summer when they run cooking classes for some of our guests.
Let me start by saying, I ate so much food!
Starting with an arrival drink on their pretty terrace we then moved inside to the cosy winter restaurant, next to the warming wood burning fire. The 4 courses then began as the group chatted about their reasons for re-locating to Korcula and how they spend their time on the island.
First course was a delicious pumpkin soup with my favourites, pogaca (puffed up fried bread) which were perfect to mop up the bowl. Next we moved on to the village speciality, Zrnovski Makaruni. Typically prepared with a beef sauce, on the menu this time was wild boar. Wild boar first arrived on the island some 30 years before, having swum across the channel from the Peljesac! We have never come across a boar on our walks (thankfully), despite all the warning sides around the island!
At this point I’d forgotten there was another savoury course to follow and greedily had a second helping of the pasta. As the plates were cleared, I looked around the table and noticed everyone else had kept hold of their knife and fork. Then I remembered the grilled meats and along they came! We were served incredibly tasty home-made sausage with a little spice, pork chops and steaks. The meats were accompanied by salad, home-made salsa, roasted peppers and broad bean puree. Finally we’d reached the dessert. Puff pastry filled with creamy custard. So much for trying to lose a few pounds before Christmas!
Have you visited Zrnovo? We definitely recommend you exploring the village when visiting Korcula Island.
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