In the heart of Dalmatian coastline, nestled amidst rolling hills and embracing nature’s beauty, lies the captivating village of Zadvarje. Here, the past whispers through ancient stones and dances in the wind, painting a portrait of a community deeply rooted in its heritage. At the heart of this cherished legacy is the traditional county fair – a cherished event that not only reveres the village origins but weaves the very fabric of community spirit and togetherness of the whole county. The fair, taken under account of the written trace of archbishop Cupili, has over 300 year-old legacy.
I’s been a while since I visited this fair, under completely different circumstances. As winter is knocking on our doors, I took a chance last Tuesday to go there. Recently, we were surprised with a couple of strong Bura winds, otherwise our trademark wind, that usually activates in December, growing stronger and showing its best in March, so I was pleasantly surprised it started again just as I left.
Having Bura as our companion on very attractive road from Split to Zadvarje only gave me additional topic to write about. Since road goes across Vruja and Dubci pass, it set like fish in water.
The Bura Wind: A Force of Nature Unleashed
The Bura is no ordinary wind; it is a formidable and legendary force that descends from the mountainous heights of Velebit & Biokovo with a vigor that commands attention. Originating from the cold continental air masses of Eastern Europe, it gains strength as it funnels through the canyons and valleys, reaching its peak intensity as it descends towards the Adriatic coast. She is well-known all the way from Trieste, where it has her own museum, all the way to Dubrovnik.
After 100 meters, I changed my mind and decided to risk it a bit. Dancing with Bura is something not to be missed. Please lower your tone before playing this video.
Vruja, Bura and Dubci: Sculpting the Landscape
Vruja (or Vrilo) is a typical Croatian word for water source emerging from the groun, but here is used for this funnel-shaped coastal indentation next to the sea because of immense water sources in its bay. It is a protected natural area reserve, with an attractive limestone landscape, the attractiveness of which lies in its untouched gray harshness, while any construction and afforestation is excluded. It’s a place imbedded it local legends, myths and stories that were passed on through generations. Many writers have written about Vruja through history, from Constantinus Porphyrogenites and Alberto Fortis, to the modern day poets as Josip Pupačić.
With its rugged terrain and towering peaks, this coastal mountain chain acts as a natural guardian to the Bura wind. As this powerful force descends from the mountain slopes, it sculpts the landscape in its own way. The wind’s persistent gusts have shaped the rocks and cliffs over centuries, leaving behind a testament to the enduring dance between nature and the elements.
Despite its tempestuous nature, the Bura wind brings a unique blessing to the Biokovo region. Its arrival is often accompanied by clear skies and a refreshing crispness to the air. The wind sweeps away the coastal humidity, offering moments of clarity and breathtaking visibility that reveal the full grandeur of the central Dalmatian archipelago.
Speaking of the hinterland, I soon crossed to the other side, and with Bura suddenly disappearing, Zadvarje came into focus. It’s history is a living tale of fortitude and hardship, endurance and the embrace of tradition. Its story winds through time, back to epochs when the world moved slower, and connection between land and sea was not merely a choice, but a necessity.
Zadvarje got its name according to the old Indo-European and Slavic word dhwer or dveri, which meant a passage or a door, so the literally translated name to English would be Behind-passage (Za-behind, dvarje-passage)
A Celebration of Time: The Traditional County Fair
Amidst this living chronicle, Zadvarje’s traditional county fair stands as a beacon of timelessness. This weekly spectacle is a symphony of tradition and festivity, where villagers and wanderers alike gather to witness history come alive.
Artisans, carrying the torch of creativity from their forebears, present their masterpieces. Handwoven baskets tell tales of skilled hands and patient hours, while intricate textiles bear witness to generations of artistry.
Yet, the fair is not solely a feast for the eyes. It’s a banquet for the senses. Traditional Croatian delicacies grace the tables, each dish an ode to flavors handed down through time. The aroma of roasted meat, traditional stew, and the sweetness of fritters, evoke memories of ancestral kitchens, so we got kind of hungry from all of that.
But it’s more than just sights, sounds, and tastes. It’s an immersion into the soul of Zadvarje. Just following lunch, we hear folk singing breathing new life into the atmosphere, people turning heads, listening, smiling. So little is necessary swing our moods for the much better; a smile with a sincere tone does it best, making this fair a tapestry of human connections. It’s a time for people to rediscover the joy of shared laughter, for the young to learn their lineage’s tapestry, and for strangers to become friends under the spell of tradition.
Safeguarding material Treasures: Zadvarje’s Enduring Legacy
Yet, beyond the festivities, just above the fair, there is an old village with a fortress jutting above. I remember the time I was a boy when I went with my family to my aunt’s house, so I decided to take a look at it now and see the changes.
The architecture of the village nowadays originates from earlier 18th century and it offers excellent opportunity to see the local rural village layout that dictated the customs as well.
However, curiosities don’t end there. Due to its position on the eastern edge of the Cetina canyon, Zadvarje area features a couple of waterfalls and a hydroelectric power plant that was constructed during the Austro-Hungarian reign.
Walking back to the western side of the village, we spot a bell view point.
In a world that is ever-changing, where the old often bows to the new, Zadvarje, with its county fair, stands as a guardian of its essence. It’s a symphony that plays on, a bridge between generations that whispers of identity and belonging.
In the midst of progress, Zadvarje’s fair remains an ageless reminder – that by embracing the past, communities can forge a future that echoes the timeless melodies of tradition, connection, and the enduring bonds of humanity.