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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lavanderman, sipping grappa, hearing Hektorovic

Lavanderman is a Croatian superhero who enjoys the pleasures of life.

We were welcomed to this tiny bar/restaurant with tastes of grappa in a dozen flavors

Lavender is sold everywhere on Hvar and its scent follows folks. 
Perhaps it was the grappa.
One night on the island of Hvar it came to me. Although I'm the wrong gender, for Halloween, I’d like to go as either Peter Hektorovic or as Lavanderman.
As in most Catholic countries, Halloween is not observed in Croatia with costumes and trick or treating.
But Croatians among our readers may know Hektorovic, the national poet of Croatia who lived around the time of Shakespeare and wrote about his life and times in a style resembling that of a script.
Those of us aboard the Romanca visited his 16th century home in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. Hektorovic directed its construction over 40 years and had truisms inscribed in the stone in various places. His outhouse-like toilet was indoors, not far from a door, and above it in Croatian he had inscribed “Know what you are and be proud.”
We heard a partial reading of one of his works, the story of a three-day trip taken by a fisherman in the same town. It was eloquent and insightful. What’s more, it was the first-ever travel writing in Croatia, so perhaps it’s understandable why Hektorovic is a man close to my heart. Hear an excerpt on the video linked to  this blog.
Lavanderman is something else again.
He’s a superhero, Croatia style, a cartoon character attired in a skin tight suit of lavender, complete with a cape and a white Vespa. He carries a sprig of the fragrant herb that grows everywhere and in the storyline he's unable to leave the island.
When our ship first docked in Hvar city, on the other side of the same island, the fragrance of lavender drifted out to us before we even stepped ashore. It’s grown everywhere and processed by the islanders into sachets, oils, potions, skin creams and even grappa. Stands all along the harbor sell it and its fragrance follows you while on Hvar.
Lavanderman himself is a play on words since lavander is the mixture of wine and water that’s drunk by many. The artist who draws Lavanderman has turned the graphic comic book into a collectible, creating one each year.
Our guide Josko Zovic took us to Jurin Podrum, a small restaurant operated by a friend who brought out a dozen varieties of grappa for us to try. As she poured them for our table, the four of us heard about Lavandar man — who must be seen to be believed. Our hostess served small glasses of grappas flavored by plum, lavender, green tea, peach and a few other flavors along with glasses of water.  We each were given a straw to insert into the liquid. Placing an index finger over the top of the straw, we were able to create a vacuum to suck up small amounts of each grappa for tastes, rinsing our straws between flavors.
Many know that grappa is a high alcohol eau de vie distilled from grape skins and seeds left in the wine press after the juice is removed to make wine. This fiery distillation comes in many styles and flavors and we were able to sample a few of them.
It was quite a night.
Click here to see Lavanderman, grappa sips 

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