My grandparents hand built this home in Zastražišće, stone by stone, the year my father was born. With the help of a magarac (donkey), my grandmother hauled these stones from the hillside as my grandfather pieced them together. They finished it a few years later and it served as the family home until the clan moved to the US in the late 60s.
Over the last 50 years, a constant exodus of residents has left this island village nearly deserted. At times, the quietness here is deafening. I hope the spirits of my ancestors are smiling to the sounds of children in the house once again.
During our three month stay in Croatia, we spent about half of our time here in the village.
I still find it crazy that we literally drove our van from my grandparents’ second hometown of San Pedro, California to their original hometown of Zastražišće, Hvar, Croatia. Across the US, across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship and then across the European continent.
All three kids sleeping in my grandparent’s bed.
A peek inside our well. Hello.
Fetching water was always a treat for my brother and me as kids. Looks like some things don’t really change. The little house behind them is the old kitchen before there was one in the main house.
We still put it in good use for BBQing meat and vegetables.
We failed locating the secret island cave on my family’s property during our first attempt thanks to the overgrown village trail nature has taken back. But with hand-drawn instructions from my cousin and a few kilometers of dirt roads, we found it on our second try.
Before walking in, we threw a few small rocks to ensure no wild island boars made a home inside. Then with flashlights in hand, we walked into the first chamber and took it all in. The kids used their knowledge from other cavern visits to identify formations and we even watched cave bats wake up and take flight inside.
After exploring, the kids completed a junior ranger book made by Ranger Jason of Bodeswell and were sworn in as the first ever “Zastražišće Cave Explorers”!
Luka’s memory journal entry from that day.
Every morning we try to make our way down this little path from our home to the bakery for some fresh bread.
Butter and jam on a fresh slice of bread is my very favorite thing to eat when I wake up here.
And every single walk to the bakery involves having the village dog, Rio, follow us home. Actually, sometimes he is here before we even wake up. He loves us and we love him.
This is the church that sits on the hillside in town, Svjeti Nikola (Saint Nicholas).
Going for a short hike up to the church with friends and with Rio the village pup.
Visiting the resting place of my great grandparents.
Back at the house, it was obvious that the garden needed some work. With my Nona Vinka’s failing health and passing this year, my family was unable to visit the village.
So we took upon ourselves to tend to the land. All of us of pitched in including our good friends Bodeswell. Gardening is one of the things I miss most in our nomadic lifestyle. And getting to do it here felt good. We couldn’t be with my Nona during her very last days so tending to her land felt healing.
This is my third visit here with kids in tow. Every time we visit, I get a photo of the kid(s) in this doorway overlooking the village.
They are more than willing to let me photograph them and letting me go down memory lane. Thanks, kids.
That green stool is one that my nona used to sit upon on this little balcony. I brought it up from the outdoor kitchen during our stay. Only felt right to do so.
And this is lichen. It’s all over the stone and concrete. The colors and patterns make me happy. And match my coffee.
Our stay in the village overlapped with olive harvest season.
My uncle, Barba Tiho, invited us to help him out on his land and we jumped at the chance.
Olive picking is a family effort. Pulling the olives off, letting them fall on top of the mesh laid under the trees, gathering them into buckets and eventually made into olive oil.
On his land, you will also find one of the oldest olive trees still alive. It’s said to be planted two thousand years ago.
Saying hello to the village donkey.
The girls were very happy she was a friendly donkey.
Down the road from the village is a little beach called Vela Stiniva. This is where we usually spend most of our summer days, either in the water or drinking beverages at Mate’s.
During our stay in the village, the weather was a little too chilly to swim.
But there was this one day in November that was sunny enough for a quick dip with wetsuits.
We brought the van down to Stiniva to make it easy for the the kids to change into dry clothes and have a place to lounge for the day.
Luka taking in the view.
A photo of the hallway of the home.
A photo of the lavender garden and our laundry.
This is Tarzan the cat. He was being bullied by a larger cat and needed some friendly faces.
Stuffed peppers and cabbage for dinner.
And after three months of visiting the village of Zastražišće, it was time to say goodbye.
We loaded up the van and Rio the village pup didn’t want to leave our side.
He knew this goodbye was going to be a goodbye for a long while.
Wish we could take you along, Rio. But you have a home and an owner.
And we will be back. We promise.
Until next time, Zastrażišće!!!
Here is video Dan put together during our stay here. Enjoy!!
Thanks for following along on our adventures,