Posted by: viewfromtheriva | July 30, 2012

Mrduja, a tug of war for an island in the Adriatic


The tiny island of Mrduja as seen from the deck of the Calypso–the Solta boats are already lined up on the left of the island.  Solta itself is behind, in the distance

Everyone who has taken a ferry, catamaran or sailboat to Brac, Hvar or Vis from Split has passed through the “Split Gates”–a narrow gut between Brac island and Solta island.  Just offshore from the Brac side is the tiny island of Mrduja.  No one lives there and except for a navigational tower and the remains of a fort, this hardscrabble piece of the Adriatic is as forgettable as day old bread.

But wait!  There’s the Mrduja Legend!  A ribald tale of intra island rivalry that has finally become an annual ritual.

The Brac boats line up on their side of Mrduja ready to “pull”

Simply put, to settle the centuries old question of who owns Mrduja, the islanders decided to have a tug of war.  Whoever pulled Mrduja closest to their island could claim it forever.

Well, the great day came but because there was no hemp rope to tie to each end of the island, the contestants decided to make their own using local vegetation.

When they finished and began their tug of war, the giant green rope stiffened, held and then suddenly snapped!

Well, since Brac is a bigger island than Solta, and more people were pulling from their side, the rope snapped on the Solta side.  But instead of falling backwards, for some strange reason the Solta pullers fell forward.

Thank goodness no one was hurt, because as everyone knows, people on Solta have such huge noses, when they fell flat on their face, their big honkers saved them!

Meanwhile back on Brac, they did fall backwards. But, as everyone also knows, people on Brac have such roomy bottoms, they were cushioned by their generous rumps!

And to this day, lots of people on Brac wear stitched britches and many people on Solta have wonderfully long noses.

Solta’s band playing up a storm for the locals on Milna, on Brac

So goes the Mrduja Legend, which was not really public until earlier this year when the Tourist Board of Solta did some digging and found the actual story tucked away in some church archive.  The legend was confirmed by the Tourist Board on Brac, so now the “tug of war” has a “back story” that maybe next year will become adopted by both sides:  Brac people will wear stuffed pants and Solta people will have fabulous fake noses!

This year, the Mrduja Pulling was celebrated on Saturday July 28 and I took the family to see it, joining several hundred others on the Calypso, a handsome wooden sailing yacht, and more than 300 boats of all sizes who surrounded the island for several hours waiting for the countdown.

Although Brac was officially declared the winner–which gets them bragging rights until next year’s Mrduja, it wasn’t exactly clear how they won other than the fact that they clearly had more boats!

The Tourist Boards of both islands are working hard to make this event a real Dalmatian attraction, much like film festivals, rock concerts and other events. With pre and post parties and locals selling handicrafts, olive oils, honey, wine and more, the two day event is one of those authentic island experiences that makes living here so special.

As a Solta kind of guy, I hope next year Solta wins and who knows, I may even be in one of those smaller boats hanging on to a hunk of rope ready to pull!

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