I have just returned from a wonderful holiday in the UK and Croatia, and yes, it’s nice to be home BUT……..
I am missing the Adriatic Sea. I am missing daily backgammon challenges with my gorgeous nieces and dad. I am missing the wine, cheese and the carefree abandon of Dalmatian life. Dalmatia is a region located in the south of Croatia. It includes hundreds of Croatian Islands such as Hvar, Vis, Brac and Korcula and is often referred to as the Dalmatian Coast.
I feel incredibly blessed that I get to holiday with my family and even more blessed that we all like each other enough to have a fabulous time. I have had people ask me over the years “How on earth can you stand to spend your holidays with your family?”. My answer is “I dig them!” so that makes it pretty easy.
But it’s all over for another year and it’s time to pick up everything I put down in the week before I left. Admittedly, that is taking more energy than usual but I think that’s because I very much slipped into the Croatian way of life. More specifically – the Dalmatian way of life. I noticed that Dalmatians, without trying, live a quality life – the kind of life the western world dreams of. There is a simplicity and appreciation to it that is so hugely attractive to me!
Like many Mediterranean regions, Dalmatia has some simple philosophies that promote pleasure, presence, and indulgence.
We were blessed to be taught three of these by our Croatian friend, Teo. Teo was our tour director and he had incredible knowledge of Croatian history, geography, culture and psychology. Every day as we sat down for lunch, Teo would share a new word with us that he insisted we practise that afternoon.
Being a family of high achievers, of course we took that instruction very seriously 🙂
The first word we learnt was fjaka, pronounced “fee-ark-ka”.
“Fjaking” is something that many Dalmatians live by! There is no English word to translate it into, but essentially it is a state of total relaxation and non-movement. Fjaka has been confused with laziness, but Teo was very clear that it is a state of mind, not a state of body. It is generally linked to the hot summer days when the temperature and food slow the people down and they drift into a calm and highly relaxed state.
The Croatian poet Jakša Fiamengo said that fjaka is a specific state of mind and body. “It is like a faint unconsciousness,” he wrote, “a state beyond the self or – if you will – deeply inside the self, a special kind of general immobility, drowsiness and numbness, a weariness and indifference towards all important and ancillary needs, a lethargic stupor and general passivity on the journey to overall nothingness. The sense of time becomes lost, and its very inertness and languor give the impression of a lightweight instant. More precisely: it’s half somewhere and half nowhere, always somehow in between.”
My family loved fjaking and even though we practised every afternoon, I believe we still have a long way to go to get it up to Croatian standards!
The next word of the day that really struck a chord was pomalo.
Teo described pomalo as “no time”. He insisted that we all take our watches off and just let the days roll on by. For many of us, this was challenging! Even though we are on holidays, the time-orientated way we live is so ingrained that simply letting go of time is almost like letting go of breathing!
The description of the word pomalo cannot be found in any Croatian dictionary, as it is proper Dalmatian dialect. With some of my own research, I discovered that literally speaking, pomalo means “to take it easy; to relax; no stress; but also slowly; slow down; and no worries….”
This is a word we all need to start living in our busy and fast paced lives!
Pomalo truly does represent the coastal and island lifestyle and the general state of mind of Dalmatians. We met an amazing man called Antonio on the island of Korcula who shared the southern Croatian way of life with us. In a nutshell, it is about family, connection, meaningful moments, and an abundant yet simple life. Antonio works 16 hour days for six months of the year then rests and spends quality time with his loved ones for the other six months. This is common in Dalmatia and seems to work incredibly well in keeping the people relaxed, happy and balanced.
The third word I loved was Ćakula, pronounced“cha-kula”.
Ćakula means to have a chat, and in Dalmatia there is always an opportunity and time for Ćakula! This is more a way of life than an activity and again, it relates to how the Dalmatians approach life with a relaxed yet connected philosophy.
Ćakula has various meanings – it can either be small talk, chitchat, or gossip. In Dalmatia the word ćakula combines all these meanings into one. Ćakula can last for 5 minutes or 3 hours and can be informative, useless, funny, dull, or highly compelling, and most times it is all of these at once. The content is not really important, it’s more the act of chit chatting and passing the time.
Ćakula can be conducted anywhere – at the bus stop, buying fruit at the morning market, or in the middle of the street, but most commonly ćakula is done over coffee at a café. The cafe lifestyle is everywhere in Dalmatia and I loved seeing groups of older men and younger people all whiling away their time over coffee and ćakula.
So now that I’m back home, I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep my newfound Croatian habits. I am such a passionate traveller and I realise that it’s the learning from other cultures that I love so much. I believe we are truly blessed to be here in Australia, but I do feel we have some valuable lessons to learn from not only our Croatian friends – but many other cultures around the world.