Life and time are measured here by an unwritten system. New friends arrive from summer to summer, old acquaintances from arrival to departure. Those who have been away for so long will return again. They arrive with a clumsy blend of languages. The new sounds strange and the old is not yet forgotten.
People of the islands have always left in search of a better life. Sailors who could find neither bread or future left. Only the heart stayed. What they left behind is yours in trust. Leave part of your spirit and when they return they will be glad to know you have passed this way. And they do return more often and stay longer. The son, the bride, the children. Islanders by birth or marriage will always come home again. Mara as Mary, Stipe as Steve.
The islands live by the rhythm of the past, only taking what they need for a better future. Whatever civilization offers can only be secondary to the guardian angels who protect from the wind and the rain, the drought and disease. There are the cold statues, the black scarves and the fervent prayers for the seamen and fishermen who take neither pension nor rest. The sea is like a drug to them. They cannot resist. It is their fate.
Only when you sail with a fisherman do you appreciate that everything else is, for the moment, insignificant and distant. Far away are the sirens announcing disaster, never anything good.
Island living means everything is shared, but still everyone has something of their own. Noisy neighbours and the eternal struggle to fit into the rat race become less significant until only one desire remains, that the net is full. As always, neighbours share in your rich catch. That special island spirit is felt everywhere, from the dustiest wine-cellars to the most luxurious restaurants. It's equally strong in the city streets, near the fountain where everyone congregates.
There are lots of people and lots of wishes here. Many songs, hidden glances, new brides. Summers in the islands are particularly joyous. Old sea salts open their houses, and though many of them have seen better days, they still produce treasures brought from distant lands. Every landfall meant more dollars, more fabric, more discoveries. But with an island nation, the return of the fleet brings only temporary joy. Everyone knows the sails will soon be spread again. Distance calls even though the depths threaten. The laws of island life are fixed. Even the arrival of tourists, the modern nomads, can change them only slightly. It is the visitor who is changed.
The Croatian islands, separated from the mainland, have evolved their own distinctive culture. Their turbulent history has yielded great opportunities for theatrical productions, evenings of music and church festivals. The streets of island towns become animated in the summer. They are filled with the songs of island singers and feasts of fish and wine and laughter.
There is a special way of life on the Croatian islands, so different from the mainland, yet so well connected by planes, ships and ferries. You can play Robinson Crusoe here, exploring untouched nature or just each other. There are luxurious hotels and rich entertainment. There are safe ports and well equipped marinas. There is breathtaking beauty and heart-stopping emotion. Sail, dance or simply soak up the sun. There's seclusion when you want it and company when you need it. But most important of all is your own personal encounter with this beguiling land. It will happen. It will leave an indelible memory. It will become your personal keepsake.
[ Croatia - the country of a thousand islands ]