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New Europe

Day Nine: Hvar

Igor Zivanovic 
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With Igor and the only two donkeys he could find on the island, in one of Hvar's deserted villages. The inhabitants have left to look for work, on the mainland or abroad.
Michael Palin - New EuropeBack at Igor's there seems little sign of the meal, or even a table. Glass in hand, the patron lights another cigarette. 'I hate smoking, but I love cigarettes.' He takes me across to a wall of photos. One shows an emaciated old man apparently being shaved in a public street.

He explains, with unusual warmth of feeling, that this is a man who had been given a day to live and was being given his last shave surrounded by all his friends and neighbours.

Our director looks at his watch and mutters something about lunch. Igor makes for the kitchen.

'Come and help me cook,' he shouts behind him, pausing only to point out a bumper sticker from Alaska that reads 'If It's Tourist Season, Why Can't We Shoot Them?'

An hour or so later we are treated to an excellent meal, served on red table mats with hammers and sickles in the corner. Artichoke risotto and polenta, made palatably creamy with butter and oil, freshly caught sardines and a peppery hot lamb stew with blitva.

'This is the food of my grandfather and my grandmother,' Igor announces with
deep satisfaction, before a familiar theme refuels his anger.

'Tourists! They breed unscrupulous people. People who give them food and take their money without any local people involved at all.' He tips another glass down.

'When McDonald's open here... ' He stops, grabs at an imaginary rope round his throat and yanks it upwards.

Back at the villa we're renting I take a dip in the clear, warm waters of a nearby bay. Only when I'm in the water do I become aware that almost every rock below me is covered with sea-urchins.

I swim carefully around and with some skill, though I say it myself, reach a jetty without once having to put a foot down. Am climbing out with a bit of a swagger when a gentle wave propels me forwards and my knee makes contact with a black pincushion.

It takes Basil and a razor blade almost half an hour to extract every single quill.
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One of Hvar's deserted villages. The inhabitants have left to look for work, on the mainland or abroad.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Nine: Hvar
  • Country/sea: Croatia
  • Place: Hvar
  • Book page no: 28

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  • Eating
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 3 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 6 
  • Pole to Pole