The island of Hvar was launched into the tourism orbit in August 2011, when in a ‘happy’ state the English Prince Harry jumped into the shallow pool of a disco club in the town of Hvar. This was not the first time the British royal family had visited this island. The guest on the previous occasion, however, was the English monarch himself and the host town was that of Stari Grad or Paiz.
Exactly 75 years before the big jump of the young prince, on August 15th in 1936, the island was visited by King Edward VIII in the company of Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Unlike the young prince, the couple, being the most wanted persons in the world, was trying to flee the paparazzi. Upon entering the Split harbor, their boat performed a sudden maneuver, heading in a direction unknown to the reporters. We can show you the original—never published—photos of the most powerful man in crisis and the couple’s encounter with Stari Grad, provided their owner is in a good mood on the day of your visit. The great love of the then ruler of a third of the globe was a married woman TIME magazine had declared the personality of the year, although she was certainly not to the taste of the English royal court.
The English king was not particularly impressed by the locals, who commented in their island style while he was strolling leisurely in the company of his sweetheart along the seafront in Stari Grad: “What kind of a king is this whose pants are falling!” The moment when the monarch relaxed to lift his sliding trousers—a moment captured in a very rare photograph we happen to possess—was enough for him to be typecast in a role.
(Jacqueline Kennedy visited Stari Grad with her sister Lee Bouvier Radziwll;
Photo of two of them on JFK funeral source: http://www.firstladies.org)
In the Mediterranean, where everything is one big stage, nobody frankly gets a special treatment. Except perhaps in very rare, exceptional cases, such as when they kill your husband who was the leader of the free world and the most popular American president named John Kennedy. The world press was engaged in speculating about how the most famous widow of the day, the absolute style icon Jacqueline Kennedy, now spends her time and whether she is dressed in black. Eight months after the assassination, popular Jackie breaks out of seclusion and goes on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Her first stop is Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. During her visit, a military patrol boat was guarding the entrance to Stari Grad cove. Jackie visited Hektorovic’s summer mansion Tvrdalj, and then also did what she could not have done anywhere else in the world at that moment—she waterskied! Who knows, maybe for a moment she wanted to remain in a place that allows you to find peace within yourself. In today’s tourism jargon, this arrangement, for which various gurus and spiritual leaders charge enormous sums of money, is called a retreat, but Stari Grad has always offered it for free.
Here everything somehow heads in a lucky direction, it seems, offering a new beginning. King Edward abdicated for love and stayed with his Wallis until the end; Jackie snuggled down with the rich Greek ship owner Onassis and continued to work calmly on her style. We, on the other hand, mostly regret the fact that John Malkovich failed to buy a house here, when he visited Stari Grad and fell in love with the anonymity this town provides in abundance. As far as we are concerned, no other celebrity would be a more natural fit for the program going on here than good old John. For sure, there’s no other place where John Malkovich could continue being John Malkovich.
( Being John Malkovich, movie poster)
(originaly published in Paiz Times, December 2016)