The Longest Day Ends with a Sword Fight

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Croatia  , Hvar Island,
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Today felt like the longest day of my trip. The ferry for my next island stop, Korčula, didn't leave Hvar until 6pm. I slept in, but still needed to be out of my room by 11am, so that left seven hours to kill. Hvar town really wasn't all that big, so I had actually seen most of it the day before. I did do some wandering, there was a decent proportion of Venetian Gothic architecture, but mostly I sat around.

I sat at a cafe. I sat on the beach. I sat at a cafe on the town square. I sat at a cafe on the beach. I sat on the town square. I sat by the ferry dock. I sat on the ferry... I think that about covers it.

I'm not really good at just sitting around. Usually I'd read, but the only book I've got is my guidebook because books are heavy and I wanted to save weight. If I were planning a similar trip in the future, I think I would give more days for the island stay and do some excursions. I didn't really have the option of going anywhere, there was something called the Blue and Green caves that sounded cool, because I never had an entire day in Hvar.

Finally the ferry came and I made it to Korčula around 8pm. Finding my hotel was, thankfully, easy. Getting to the island in the evening was actually a plus because it wasn't as hot so dragging my bags around wasn't as much of a pain as in Hvar. Also, the hotel wasn't on top of a hill. It was around 8:30pm when I made it to my room, and I decided to go back into town and investigate getting Moreška tickets.

Moreška was a traditional sword dance that may have originated in medieval Spain and proliferated throughout Europe with many regional variations, most of which died off eventually. According to the tourist info, Korčula was the only place where essentially the original form, with each fighter dancing with two swords, was performed. Of the things I read about in my guidebook, it was probably the one that stood out as what I most wanted to see. Usually, I'd read about something and say "that sounds neat", then promptly forget about it when I moved on to planning the next town. The Moreška was one that stuck in my head.

Probably, part of it was the fact the performance was on an island, and it was only done once a week, so I had to be there on the correct day. There was no hopping in my car and back-tracking if I missed it. I had carefully timed my visit to Korčula so I'd be there on Thursday night, which was when my guidebook said the performance would be.

So I was standing in my hotel room late Wednesday night, and I decided to go back into town on the off chance one of the tourist agencies was still open and I could get Moreška tickets for the next day. I had passed a couple of advertisements on the way to my hotel, so I quickly made it to a tourist office selling the tickets and found out my guidebook was wrong yet again. Thanks Lonely Planet Croatia. The Moreška was on Wednesday, not Thursday. I had tried to find confirmation on the internet, but couldn't find any information about times so the guidebook was all I had to go with.

Fortunately, there were still ten minutes before the show started, so I was able to buy my ticket and see the performance. At first, it was more dance than sword. There were a few speaking interludes in Croatian, but I was pretty sure the plot was the Black King wanted to marry the Red King's daughter but the daughter didn't want to, so the two armies fought.

The performance was a series of dances with a lot of jumping and sword striking separated by short interludes where the two armies walked in a circle. All of it was accompanied by music, but the ringing of the clashing swords dominated the fight segments. I noticed during the breaks, one member of each army would rotate out and watch from the sidelines. I'm not sure of the reason, but after the show they left a few swords for the audience to play with and two of them were definitely broken. Perhaps the substitutions were part of an equipment exchange.

They dancers were certainly going at it in the fight segments. It wasn't unusual to see sparks flying when two swords made contact. It reminded me of a bunch of synchronized stick fighting forms. The participants were all very intense, and most looked pretty tired when they were done.

In the end, the Red Army won... And it turned out my initial guess was wrong. Despite the ages of the participants, the woman was definitely not the Red King's daughter. I really enjoyed the show, and it was shame they don't do it more often, but it did look very tiring and a little dangerous. I could understand the dancers wanting a few days off between performances, especially since they probably have day jobs.

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