The village of Kostanje is the home of the family Basic (pr. Basich) There are 5 brothers and one sister belonging to this family. Our friend Yure is one of those brothers, and he left Kostanje as a young man, meeting up with my late husband, Branko, in the refugee camps of Italy in 1960. They departed from Communist Yugoslavia, and travelled to far away Australia, starting a new life in the ‘land of opportunity’. While Branko became a successful and well-known restaurateur on the Gold Coast, Yure found an equally successful career with TAA, Trans Australian Airlines and then Qantas. Today in retirement after receiving the Golden Handshake, Yure spends his time between Brisbane and his village in the Dalmatian hinterland. A place he loves to be.
In the month of October, I spent the day with Jure, his Swedish partner Marete, and his brothers and their families in their village of Kostanje, a one hour drive from Split into the limestone mountains up behind the seaside town of Omis. These may not be the wealthiest people in the world but they are extremely rich in hospitality and generosity, welcoming friends with open arms, warm smiles and firm shake of the hand, and kisses on both cheeks.
The children of the Basic Family are delightful…I enjoyed their company and all of their stories. “Do you want to see something?” they asked. I was taken across the road and shown their ‘cubby house’ which happened to be a 300 year old stone fort, built at the time of the Turkish invasion, and doubled up as a place where the local priest held Mass in secret.
They showed me the attic, and down below where the goats are housed, sharing with some well-fed free-range chickens!
The 300 year old fort stands overlooking the valley of Kostanje Polje (fields)
The specialty of the villages of the Dalmatian Hinterland are the suckling pigs and lambs roasted slowly on the spit, plus homemade prsut, (prosciutto) cheeses, excellent; very pure honey, and a large round pastry filled with very young spinach and olive oil and garlic, baked in an open fired oven, and called soparnik. Sliced into wedges and served with a great glass of local red..SUPERB!
I was fascinated by the smile and lovely nature of young Mirijana….
and the beautiful Nikolina…her Dad was the first young man from Kostanje to join the Croatian defenders during the recent Homeland War 1991-1995. A very polite young lady who loves reading books, so much so that her Dad said, ” Nikolina, if you want to continue reading your book, please sit in the lounge, or stay at the table with us and take part in our conversation.” Nikolina politely chose to stay….
One of Yure’s nephews, is a fine young man called Ivica. He is a policeman that Croatia can be proud of, recently married, (lucky girl) also spending a lot of time involved with his Klapa singing group PASIKA. Apart from singing in their local church on Sunday mornings, the group are now becoming popular throughout Dalmatia and have recorded a number of CDs. Both Ivica and his younger brother Ante (Anthony) have the most beautiful smiles. It was a pleasure to be in their company at their parents home for Sunday lunch. Nikolina’s Dad is also a member of Klapa Pasika.
Another of Yure’s brothers, Roko, made me feel very much part of the family, insisting I try a little of everything on the table. There is not a chance to cry an elegant sufficiency, as lashings of potatoes, homemade sauerkraut, roasted peppers, and slowly roasted lamb were heaped upon my plate, with Roko searching for the ultimate selection of tender meat and replacing the piece I had previously chosen, then spooning the pan juices over and while passing Maria’s freshly baked bread…and this is after the bowl of beef soup, and platters of local cheese and prsut as starters!
Ready for winter warmth…..
As I drove home, back to Split, I thought about this family, so unpretentious, so giving of themselves, living a simple life, yet filled with rich extended family bonds and traditions, and family celebrations. Late October and November is the time of year when the olives are picked and olive oil pressed…you can be sure that many hands make light work.
Please click on link below to enjoy a video of KLAPA PASIKA from Kostanje. Ivica is the lead singer, and Nikolina’s Dad is also a member of this popular group. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHjcLH-buso