Update: Check out the new This End Up Yoga site at www.thisendupyoga.com
My teachers Sandra and Marco sent me an email a few months ago asking if I wanted to Shantisit (watch their cocker spaniel Shanti) for the month of August. I said yes before I really knew any of the details. Free rent and the lure of the Croatian coastline seemed all the incentive I needed. This has turned out to be another one of those times, where through no planning on my part I have ended up at the perfect place at the perfect time.
Shanti spends his summers on the stunningly beautiful island of Hvar on the Dalmatian coast and so it is here that we are spending our days tanning, swimming, writing and napping. Hvar is a medieval city, a fort looms above and fortress wall still surround the main part of town. All of the old world charm is still here, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, gated entrances, but mixed with the ancient is the new, or more specifically the Nuevo Riche.
Hvar is a playground for super yachts and the Louis Vuitton beach bag-toting crowd. Everyone here is beautiful and beautifully clothed, assuming they are wearing clothes. I am surrounded by six foot-tall supermodel types and naked overly groomed men.
There is definite agenda each day you are on Hvar. It begins around noon when everyone hits the beach. They all seem to be entered into some kind of competitive tan-off and try as I might, my Arian roots are betraying me. I cannot hang with the naturally olive-skinned crowd when it comes to tanning. Clothing is very optional and tan lines are almost non-existent.
Late afternoon the crowds gravitate towards one of the beach-side discos for the first party of the day. From four until sunset the symphony of 80’s and 90’s techno pop is deafening. The Hvar vacationers are prepared for the transition from beach to dance club and they don bedazzled crepe cover ups and produce the latest shoe fashions, 4” heels or gladiator sandals, from their beach bags for the occasion. The transformation is mesmerizing and could give any Broadway quick-change artist a run for their money.
From sunset until 11pm I must assume that people nap and primp, because no one goes out to dinner before 10:30. Cocktail hour begins around midnight and the dance club built in the ruins of an old fortification opens around 2am.
Again, I cannot hang. I feel old when I try to meet up with some of the other yoga instructors for dinner and drinks. They take pity on the grandma of the group and opt for the Hvar equivalent of the early-bird special, eating at ten. We begin cocktail hour at 11 and by 12:30 I have turned into a pumpkin sneaking away to the flat and a warm bed complete with my handsome cocker spaniel date.
Even though I can’t keep the late night hours I have started sleeping in later and later. For most of my trip, regardless of time zone I woke up with the sun. Here, I often sleep until nine. I wake up, take Shanti for a walk, usually down to the water for a morning swim. Then I take advantage of having a kitchen at my disposal and make myself breakfast.
My afternoons are filled with tanning, exploring and writing. I have dedicated this month to writing a book proposal and so far I have been diligent, motivated and borderline obsessive in this endeavor.
My teachers have a yoga space here and most nights I go to it, sometimes to lead a class but most often to take one led by their new crop of yoga teaching trainees. Getting to live and practice in their space, their energy is inspiring for me and I am loving the time on my mat.
When I left France I made a statement that I would get to Croatia and get back to clean living, no cheese, no wine, no more bottomless espressos, back to my ‘normal’ asana and meditation routine, etc. No such luck.
Because I never bothered to research where I was spending August, I didn’t realize that I am on an island famous for its wine production and in a country whose national foods seem to mirror those of Italy and France: pasta, pizza, baguettes, formagio, gellato. And my beloved Italian-born teacher Marco of course has an Espresso machine in the flat, which I am powerless to walk past without firing up.
Never one to go against local customs I have been eating pizza most days and making nightly stops at the local wine bars. I am an international ambassador for good, if not necessarily the yogi ideal.
Hvar is a cultural haven as well as a hedonistic one. There are frequent outdoor concerts held in the sacristy of an ancient convent, I attended my first Sunday night, a jazz quintet. The Piazza is filled with musicians each night and local artisans set up kiosks featuring their paintings, hand made lace and lavender creations.
All in all it really is pretty much heaven. The town is dripping with European charm and entertaining locals, the water marvels the most beautiful blues I have ever seen and there are no bugs. I repeat… no bugs. In the ten days I have been here I have suffered not a single mosquito bite. I may never leave.
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