Kava Café, a modern coffee bar in New York City, was the setting where Miki Bratanić told his tale of the Croatian konoba, from both a historical perspective and from his own personal experience during his American tour.
The event attracted many Croats and their American friends. Among them was Katherine Rock, an accountant from New Jersey, who is from Croatian descent on the paternal side of her family.
Miki’s stories about Croatia, which included elements about Dalmatian history, cultural heritage, songs, wine, and the way of living through the example of the konoba, or traditional wine cellar, and more specifically about the Bratanić family’s konoba.
Following the presentation, personal introductions were made with the opportunity to exchange more information about the allure of the Croatian culture, tradition and customs.
The discussion further piqued Katherine’s interest in her ancestry. She knew that her lineage was Croatian, but she had not delved too deeply into exploring her heritage up to this point.
During the evening Miki eloquently spoke about his country and enlightened the audience on the benefits of living in Croatia and in particular he described how the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle is enjoyed.
This included a description of Dalmatian cuisine and the historical convention that slowly savouring food with a glass of good wine surrounded by friends in a konoba is a recipe for a long and healthy life. Additionally, Miki waxed lyrical about the fact that the UNESCO heritage of Dalmatian a capella singing originated in the konoba and he spoke about the national pride of Croatians in general.
Miki delved more deeply into his ancestry and spoke passionately about the Bratanić family’s vineyard and konoba which are located on the UNESCO world heritage site of Stari Grad Plain in the village of Vrbanj on the island of Hvar. This cultural landscape was first colonized by Ionian Greeks in the 4th century BC. The original agricultural activity of this fertile plain, mainly centering on grapes and olives, has been maintained since Greek times.
Miki spoke with great pride about the fact that his family’s konoba holds the status of “Croatian protected cultural heritage”. Just beside the konoba there is a house where Matij Ivanić was born, the leader of a well known revolt in 1510, which resulted in democracy allowing every man to be a part of the Hvar council.
The evening provoked Katherine to think further about Croatia as a place to spend more time. Her love for Croatia began when she vacationed there over the past six years with her sister and brother-in-law, chartering boats and twice visiting The Radej Island Conscious Living Retreat. While at the retreat, she was enlightened about the need to promote sustainability within Croatia and ultimately became business partners with the owner of the retreat, Irena Ateljević, an acclaimed academic and researcher.
Eventually Katherine invested in a historic building in the Dalmatian city of Šibenik, near the seaside in the center of this beautiful old town.
The purchase of the building enabled Irena and her daughter Tina to fulfil their vision of opening the Šibenik Hub for Ecology which currently includes SHE Bistro, a bio vegetarian restaurant and roof-top bar and a yoga studio/center for learning. The day-to-day operation of the business is run by the local partners, but Katherine plans to spend more time in her beloved Croatia in the near future.
It was a major decision for her to invest in Croatia, but Miki’s presentation at the Kava Café in New York helped to influence her.
This highlights how relaying the positive aspects of one’s country can help to draw in investors, which in turn provides new work opportunities for locals and results in positive tourist reviews.
Miki and Katherine ran into each other by coincidence in Split recently, three years after his presentation in New York, which caused great surprise and excitement for both of them.
This article is the result of that coincidence… if coincidence exists at all…