Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 4, 2017

Matko Domancic, 1966-2017

Matko's obituary notice, posted on a town wall in Hvar town

Matko’s obituary notice, posted on the town wall in Hvar

A wonderful man was laid to rest today in a 15thC graveyard high above the town of Hvar on the island of the same name.   I wish I had color photos of him, but even this simple black and white funeral notice, like all that are placed on town walls for locals to see, his wonderful, smiling face comes shining through.

I met him four or five years ago when I was trying to create DiscoverHvar, a newspaper for tourists. He ran a boat rental/scooter-bike-car rental service on the island along with his wife and kids, and became one of my first advertisers.

Matko's dream, finally realized last year, was a labor of love--a konoba hand-built from a rocky cove above Pribinja bat

Matko’s dream, finally realized last year, was a labor of love–a konoba hand-built from a rocky cove above Pribinja bay

He took me to Pribinja bay, a gorgeous, pristine refuge just 10 minutes from Hvar town up and over the back road that leads to the Amfora, Podstine and campgrounds on the “other side” of Hvar.  Over several years he and some friends had been whacking away at solid rock to create the perfect waterside konoba. Even though part of it looked like a mining site (the rock was not giving up easily) it was easy to share Matko’s excitement that this was going to be a very special place.

Each year he got more and more done, finally adding handmade tables and chairs and creative inspirations using driftwood and rudders re-purposed into railings and gates–clearly a labor of love.

Matko even build his own private road, dock and beach for guests and beach,

Matko even built a private road and dock for guests to come to the Arsenol by land or sea!

Last year the Arsenol finally opened and it was an instant success–just read some of the reviews on Trip Advisor!  As much as Matko loved to build with his bare hands and skipper his boats, he loved to cook–and then watch people enjoy eating!

Matko doing what he loves--grilling fabulous fish!

Like a gifted conductor urging his musicians to give their best, here’s a  photo of Matko grilling fish on his gorgeous hand-built grill–of course, the result was always music to our mouths!

He was hard man to miss in the summer.  His “spot” on Hvar’s waterfront Riva was just as you turned left to head up to where the catamarans docked.   Every day, sun up to sun down he and his crew would stand at their tiny booth offering tourists boat rentals and transfers.  His wife, Zdravka, had her own stand just opposite the town bus station, that rented scooters, cars and bikes.  But unlike Zdravka, who had a decent umbrella to keep her from getting fried, Matko got absolutely grilled.  By the time August came around he looked like someone from Senegal.  I mean, the guy was black!

What I remember most is sitting with him, one of his daughters, Matea, and Zdravka and talking about life, feasting on perfectly grilled fresh fish washed down with bottles of grasevina.  I would see them every summer and we’d usually have a simple meal. But it was always special because the intimacy we shared was so profound.  Didn’t matter what the subject–life, religion, sex, kids, politics–what a joy to share your thoughts with no worries about what the other person was thinking.

Although Matko could probably lift his weight in boulders, he was one of the most gentle of men I ever met.  And kind!  And thoughtful!  Genuinely glad to see you, happy to help.  And what a wonderful face–wide open and eager–with such a twinkle in his eyes, you’d think he was all mischief and not such a kind, generous man who loved what he was doing and had the passion to do it with pride and respect.

I have only been to one funeral in the 8 years I have lived in Croatia, so I knew a little of what to expect. But the crowd of people who stood in line to walk past the casket and embrace his family was a shock.  It took two hours for everyone in line to pass through–more than 1000 people for sure.  After the viewing, we all walked to the chapel and then to cemetery just beyond.  Such an ancient place, now caskets are all lowered under marble slabs to a crypt below.

Everyone was weeping–young people, old men, me.

Standing amidst a sea of flowers, not moving, a gentle rain started, crying for Matko along with the rest of us.

We will love him always and miss him forever!





  1. Rest In Peace, Matko

  2. I was there last year ..he was my brother in law best friend and buddy..I had the good fortune to attend dinner with the family as pictured..very very sad and feel a great loss.RIP.


    • Still sorely missed. Have seen Zdravka and one of his daughters several times since then and am going there next week. She is continuing his restaurant, which I think is great and has passed on his boat/rental business to colleagues, so the family is moving on and doing well, thank goodness!

  3. Sehr traurig was ich heute erfahren habe. Matko war ein wunderbarer Mensch!

    • Yes, he really is missed…I am still in contact with his wife and one of his daughters and they seem to be doing well despite the loss….continuing to operate the restaurant he loved so dearly.

  4. Thanks so much, Robert, for this well-written, eulogy-like article to remember Matko. We were here on vacation when the restaurant was first opened and Matko proudly showed us around. There was no menu yet and the whole concept was still developing. The following year was even better with great food, watching the soccer World Cup, and just talking with Matko about life and his ambitions. This year it was so said to get the news as we were looking forward to our regular hang out and Matko. May he Rest In Peace. Haslbeck Family, Berlin Germany.

    • Yes, a singular guy, still sorely missed. I will pass on your kind words to his wife, thanks for writing!

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