Wineries and Moreska dances

Monday in Korčula 

Breakfast on the restaurant balcony in the shade overlooking the peninsula, is something to look forward to on these languid balmy mornings. There is no rush, the pick up today is not till later in the morning. Dushan arrives with his minivan promptly on time and drives us inland to taste some of the island’s finest produce. He gives us a brief history of the island and the demographics. 

Korčula is one of the largest and greenest islands of the Adriatic coast. With a population of 18000 the main income comes from agriculture, tourism and the two shipping yards which make small cruise ships. There is one hospital with a helipad to airlift sicker patients to the mainland and a police station. There are good schools but no colleges for which the students need to go elsewhere. As we travel Inland the landscape is pretty much like what we saw during our trip to Poreč last year. There are no mountains, only hills in Korčula. To become a mountain the peak has to be higher than 1000 feet. The main trees are cypress, pine and Mediterranean oaks. Fruits grown here are pomegranates and grapes. 

Dotted around the countryside are small villages with a strong community sense. Each household helping each other out with the farming and suchlike. The journey takes us through vineyards and olive groves and our first stop is at a beekeeper’s farm. The jovial owner takes us through the process of beekeeping and how he extracts the honey from the honeycombs. He tells us that the bees seal the honey on the combs with wax to prevent water from getting into it. If the female bees get drunk on fermented fruit and return to the colonies, they are given a warning and if they repeat the offence again they are killed. There are no second chances. We taste three different types of honey depending on which plants the bees get their nectar from, mandarin, sage and forest each with their own distinct taste. Everything is produced organically. He also produces olive oil. 

The second and third stops are at wineries from where we taste wine from the posip and grk grapes. Most of the wine produced are sold or consumed here and hardly imported. They are mainly family run businesses which have been handed down the generations. One of the owners explained how freak weather conditions can completely wipe out a year’s work in a couple of days like a hailstorm or frost at the wrong time of the year. The final stop is at a restaurant in the Old Town where we get to sample two more types of wine before being served lunch. The waiters are looking a little bit worse for wear after working the previous night shift. The discotheque was situated just below this restaurant and it was after all the biggest night in the Korčula calendar. 

In the evening I am frantically trying to prise the mussels from its shell. I am not normally keen on mussels but this is delicious. A Croatian band is entertaining the diners with live music. The evening should have ended here but tonight there is something else we need to do. Twice a week in the Old Town the Moreška dancers take to the stage to perform their war dance. A dance which seem to have originated in Spain and reached here in the 16th century. The dance has survived the centuries in Korcula whereas it has disappeared from the rest of the world. 

The dance stage is set within the walls of the fortress giving it a medieval atmosphere. Women in traditional costume sing classical songs and then join the live orchestra. The main characters come on stage. Predictably the storyline is two Kings fighting over a maiden. There is little dialect but the maiden falters and stumbles over her few words. The soldiers join their Kings and fighting breaks out. Swords clash, sparks fly, the men jump, twirl and sweat buckets under their heavy costumes. In the end good overcomes the bad and the rightful King gets his maiden. It was a colourful end to an enlightening day. 

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