Dalmatians: The people

Dalmatians? Many of you have heard of the famous 101 Dalmatians, but in reality, there are more than 101, a lot more, and if spend your holidays in Croatia, especially on the Dalmatian Coast, be sure that you will meet, see and hear them!

Croatian people are very proud of the land they come from, where their ancestors come from, of their origins and their culture. If you decide to spend your holidays in Croatia, sailing or just visiting the Dalmatian coast, be prepared to meet a unique population of the region, otherwise knows as the Dalmatians. Who are they? While they have very much in common, be ware of their differences, as the Dalmatians are very aware and proud of them too. What they certainly have in common, and you’ll notice almost immediately, is that without great effort they live a relaxed life and have a unique temperament; it’s in their blood. While traveling throughout the Dalmatian Coast, which is just as relaxed and unique as its inhabitants, you'll want to stay forever and will surely say: "I want to live here!!”

While you hear quarrelling in what might sound like Italian, it’s actually a specific Croatian dialect – Dalmatian; know that even the rest of the Croatian regions don’t really understand them. Of course, slang has a great influence in their speech the same as with all other nations, and if you choose to visit Split or Hvar, prepare yourself for a very unique accent. Because of migrations caused by the Turkish invasions, one dialect prevailed in Dalmatia and was pushed north towards Istria and Kvarner. Today it is a dialect only partially present in the Dalmatian towns and islands. The residents of Dubrovnik have always used one specific dialect while residents of other cities in the Dalmatian Coast used another.

During your holidays in Croatia take advantage and feel free to act and look like a Dalmatian. How to achieve this? Quite simply, with a few tricks, you’ll blend in to this part of the Croatian culture. After a very short time you will become like any other Dalmatian, expressing your love to the rocky landscape and islands, the figs, the olive oils and wines, or simply to the Adriatic Sea and all of its shades of blue.

If you want to become a real Dalmatian, the first word on top of the ‘must know’ list is definitely the word ‘Fjaka’, or, loosely translated, ‘relaxation’. ‘Fjaka’ is a way of life in Dalmatia, and something that cannot be learned easily. It is a mistake to think that ‘fjaka’ means laziness. Unlike laziness, ‘fjaka’ is a state of mind and body which all of mankind has tried to achieve. In countries like India, ‘fjaka’ is achieved by long-term starvation and meditation, while in Dalmatia, it’s just a gift of god. The second tip to make you a Dalmatian - use the word ‘pomalo’ or ‘take it easy’; because everything is ‘pomalo’ and time simply does not exist in this region. 'Pomalo' is also a word with which Dalmatians welcome each other, slowly raising a hand and saying 'pomalo'. Many use this greeting to send the message ‘take it easy’, as this is the way of life here. While visiting Hvar, Vis or taking a break in one of the Dalmatian cities such as Split, Zadar or Dubrovnik, you’ll notice that everyone lives and moves in slow motion and time has a completely different meaning for them. In the rest of Croatia there is a saying: "There’s a difference between real time and Dalmatian time” and you will notice this soon enough.

‘Ćakulati’ or ‘chit-chat’ – another word you will definitely hear during your holidays in Croatia. Life in Dalmatia is unthinkable without ‘ćakule’. It's a conversation that can last from 10 minutes up to 4 hours, and is difficult to predict too. You can ‘ćakulati’ while having a cup of coffee, at the bus stop, in the store or in the middle of the road. Therefore, when you find a Dalmatian friend, be sure to sit down for a cup of coffee and ‘ćakulajte’ to your heart's content. This will be the best indicator that you fit in the Dalmatian way of life.

If you choose to chit-chat over coffee you need to know that drinking coffee has a special place in Croatian culture. All Croats have a special skill of drinking one cup of coffee for a few hours, in the company of friends or companions, especially Dalmatians. Many tourists, who during the week and during working hours see full coffee shops, think that it is a national holiday; but no, this is just an ordinary working day in Dalmatia. And keep in mind that all everything we have mentioned so far would not be possible without the mandatory ‘cvike’ or sunglasses. Never ever go out without them! It doesn’t matter if it is raining outside or that the sun is not shining; sunglasses are an indispensable fashion accessory everyone in Dalmatia, regardless of gender and age, needs all day long.

And last but not least ‘marenda’ - a meal! Eat like the Dalmatians eat. What we usually call brunch, in Dalmatia they call ‘marenda’. It has a rich history and roots in the Dalmatian hinterland. Farmers always started their day with ‘marenda’ at six in the morning. It consisted of some dried figs, almonds, cheese and homemade brandy and was eaten before going to work in the fields or vineyards. They would return home to rest from 11:00 till 13:00, after which they would say a prayer, have some lunch and return to the fields ‘till dinner.

Today, ‘marenda’ is eaten in all of Dalmatia. A typical Dalmatian ‘marenda’ doesn’t have an exact time when it is consumed, but rather somewhere between 10am till 2pm. There’s no time limit too, so you can even have your ‘marenda’ late in the afternoon. Usually after ‘marenda’ you’ll need at least a 30-minute nap, to rest your eyes, as the Dalmatias would say, after any good meal, “fjaka” will hit you.

So what is the most important thing to do while visiting Croatia and the Dalmatian coast with its islands? Go to the local markets and get supplied with delicious domestic products and start the day with a Dalmatian ‘marenda’. Afterwards, enjoy doing what all Dalmatians do... surrender to ‘fjaka’, don’t wear a watch, forget that time exists, put on your ‘cvike’, walk slowly, have a little ‘čakula’ with coffee and enjoy yourself! Absorb the beauty around you and the blessings of the Dalmatian environment and people. Be what you just noticed you’ve always wanted to be……………a Dalmatian!

Published by Boba Komljen 02.04.2017.

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