About People of Dalmatia
It has long been my wish to write something. I remember I enjoyed writing even when I was a kid. However, due to life circumstances, instead of a pen, I always ended up with something else in my hands to make a living, which is why I now feel a bit odd. I guess man`s got to start from somewhere, so let`s cut to the chase and see is it like riding a bicycle.
I like blogging and I think that speaking and writing are gifts which I am hoping not to waste. True, there is no smell and sound of paper and pencil, but there is still that primordial human desire for expression. Hopefully I won`t be a disgrace for the history of human writing and someone will read my blog.
I have pondered on what and how to write, but the best conclusion I came up with was to write about what I truly want in the manner in which I truly want, and not what is expected of me. This means you can forget about the popular list-titled posts like “10 Breathtaking locations”, or “12 Croatian hidden gems”, only to discover later that gems were discovered by thousands of people. These texts tend to look good and seem to be easier to read, but I don’t think they are something that I want.
For my first blog, I decided to write about myself, about us, the people of Croatia or, more precisely, of the Dalmatian region (which indisputably includes me as well). So, what`s the best way to present the man of this country? As a man rooted in its stone, a commoner or a refined citizen, a modest and hard-working peasant, a bigoted Vlach or a prominent artist?
Maybe this picture well depicts the harshness of life in Dalmatia through history, especially in times when life depended mainly on scanty soil and a few drops from the sky. The sun was never scarce here, thank God. I guess it is because of such harshness and scarcity that the Almighty has endowed this region with such rare beauty, forever ordaining Dalmatian man has to this landscape.
Picture curtesy of NOVENA d.o.o. - author Ervin Silić
I can say with certainty that there are a million miles between Dalmatian people then and now, but the devotion to and love for the homeland remained the same, if not stronger. No, this has nothing to do with any form of ideology or any determination in that sense, but is much simpler; every child loves its mother, right?
However, everything wasn’t coming up roses all the time. After a period of peace and harmony, the local man often suffered because of others’ imperialist aspirations or the simple and primitive need for survival, either of others or himself. However, sometimes it was even due to abundance. Yes, you read it correctly, due to abundance. Similar examples can be found everywhere, and here is no different. The legend has it that during the Ottoman conquest in the 16th century, one Turk staring at the rich field near a small town not far from Split said: “Too much for one, not enough for two.”
Large migrations took place in this area during the Ottoman influence, but talking about the migration in Dalmatia, it is maybe more important to mention that throughout the known history, its hinterland was in fact a basin that fed coastal cities with population.
In Split, the largest city on the Croatian coast, locals refer derogatively to the residents from the hinterland as “Vlaji” (Vlachs), and the residents of Split are called “Fetivi” (local vernacular for original inhabitants).
Image licensed by Ingram Image
Nevertheless, whether we like it or not, throughout history Split was inhabited by people who came straight from the hinterland and formed some of the oldest and most picturesque suburban architecture in Split (about which I will write more in my subsequent entries). Of course, there are more recent, modern and well-planned districts, but unfortunately, less picturesque architecture with loads of mutually disputing styles as well.
The Dalmatian people always lived off the land and animals, rocks and the sea, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, industrialization spread its tentacles to this region, especially during the post-war era of social-communism.
And so, slowly but surely, the Dalmatian man was gradually dragged from the soil of his ancestors with either a hammer or a rifle in his hands. Thus, after the war, casting away the pickaxe and fishhook, he followed everybody else to the factory. Today, these factories represent an example of insufficient planning.
One of earlier historians from that area noted in his book that long before the 1st war, during a dinner in Solin near Split, one commoner enthusiastically informed the vicar that a high delegation that will build large factories has arrived in their small village. Dropping the fork and knife from his hands, the vicar stammered: “This is the end of all that is good.”
Picture curtesy of Tomislav Veić
Today, people in Dalmatia slowly return to their origins. It is no longer shame to be a farmer as it generally was thirty or forty years ago. What out of need, what out of pure spite, people are cleaning their fathers’ lands and planting vines, olives and other Mediterranean cultures. At night, according to the good old tradition, contented they walk down to the tavern to share some food and wine with friends, spicing it all up with a song. It`s not a cliché, it`s rather like a revelation in these days overwhelmed with technology.
I think that this is a custom which perhaps distinguishes us the most from the more “advanced” cultures. That, and the “fjaka”, of course. “Fjaka” is a Zen-like state of mind, a kind of funny idleness that`s especially intensive when the southern wind blows. We don`t feel like doing anything then, not a single thing: not even lifting a finger, thinking, talking or writing. Come to think of it, till next time, fare well!