Yes, we are back and we can now personally vouch that cricket is indeed played in Croatia, and also, and more to the point, on the island of Vis…
We are still glowing after a wonderful and maybe slightly unusual holiday on Vis (pronounced Veez, as we soon discovered). Hoping not to turn into a complete holiday bore, I will gloss nostalgically over the beautiful island, the clearest blue seas we’ve ever seen, spotless lovely stone-slab beaches, delicious food, boat trips to otherwise inaccessible little beaches,even yoga under the pine trees… because actually, that is possibly what one can if reasonably lucky get elsewhere.
One of the more unusual things which made our time on Vis particularly special for us was the historical family link with the island, both naval and cricketing.
Vis played a signifiant role during the Napoleonic Wars when my great-great-uncle Sir William Hoste was based there as he – very successfully it must be said – fended off the French. Two hundred years later, the little island guarding the harbour in Vis Town is still called Hoste Island.He not only roundly defeated the French, he also introduced cricket… there is the Sir William Hoste Cricket Club, known locally as the Sir William Hoste Kriket Klub. This was a real draw for us, and we foster fond hopes of bringing a team of friends and Hoste-friendly relations to play a match here. It has been done before, see this article in the Daily Telegraph .
Incidentally, to digress for a moment, I am intrigued – Dorothy Burrows nee Hoste who organised it is also a great great niece of Sir William and therefore must be a cousin, but we have yet to discover each other and our respective branches of the family. Where are you?There’s a puzzle that needs an answer…
It would be wonderful if someone could solve this mystery for us.
Meanwhile, John and I actually attended the last match of the 2018 season! It was the day we arrived on Vis, and after a quick lunch Matko our delightful host drove us to the cricket club where a match was in full swing against the Tetherdown Trundlers, a side from Muswell Hill. I say ‘full swing’ but it isn’t Lords. The score board is an old wine barrel, there is a vineyard on the boundary and spare cricket equipment for the unprepared – boxes etc – hang in a plastic bag above the scorer’s head.
The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed and altogether charming. We were welcomed warmly and pressed to stay on for an after match celebratory dinner at Roki’s , the restaurant owned by Oliver Roki, one of the re-founders of the cricket club (I have to give the TripAdvisor link as the actual Roki’s website is all in Croatian, not surprisingly.)
We declined, knowing that supper would already be awaiting us where we were staying, but we did visit this very successful restaurant later in our stay for a delicious Octopus Peka, cooked for hours and hours over and under hot coals.
So, one of our hopes (the cricket club, not the octopus) was realised the day we arrived; the other soon after.
John had also been very keen to see, and photograph, a rare bird called Eleanora’s Falcon. It is named after a famous Sardinian queen, Eleanora, who outlawed hunting them in the 14C. Matko our host was also interested to photograph this bird and after several futile off-road trips we eventually saw several on the cliffs, while we were on a boat trip.
The sun was shining, the birds were wheeling overhead, the boat was bobbing up and down in the waves, Dino our boatman and I were excitedly pointing out every new sighting in every direction, and poor John was desperately trying to keep his lens steady and not fall overboard. Miraculously he did manage to get some acceptable shots.
As well as playing cricket, there is a lot more that’s a bit different, given Vis’s situation relatively far out in the Adriatic, and the fact that it is an island, and therefore just slightly distanced from some of the numerous conflicts and conquests mainland Croatia has endured.
During the last world war it was the only island not overrun by the Germans. In the cemetery we saw this moving tribute to the 40 Royal Marine Commandos, who had fought alongside President Tito and his Partisans.
Of course, over the centuries however it has been overrun by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians etc, all leaving architectural, language and cultural remains behind. We found Komiza, the very quaint second town on the island, particularly attractive and very atmospheric with many mediaeval buildings still in everyday use, and apparently its own quite unique dialect still in use by some locals.
Vis played a key role during the Napoleonic Wars, as we know, and also during the second World war when Marshall Tito used it as his base. Thereafter and until 1989 it remained a closed military base. It is only in the last nearly 30 years that a number of locals have returned and Vis has belatedly opened up as a possible tourist destination. That adds to its unspoilt charm.
Finally, two other things made it quite unusual for us. At our somewhat mature age we actually booked on an activity holiday! It suited us perfectly. We stayed with a small family run local company whose aim was to enable us to do all that we hoped to do, and more… They fed and watered us extremely generously, and provided all activities which in our case were somewhat gentler than mountain biking, scuba diving etc.
BUT, talking of activities, I must brag a bit: I did actually do yoga for an hour-and-a -half early every morning in the pine forest with the lovely Maja from Split, who looked like a golden wood nymph under the pine trees. She was very inspiring but sadly unable to work miracles and it was always quite a relief to walk back with her to the house for breakfast afterwards.
We loved our time on Vis, and hope to return; even better if we were able to return with some cricketers! If anyone does happen to be even vaguely interested, apparently a local company can provide information about fixture lists, accommodation etc.
And also how lovely if we could track down the other Hoste cousins…