Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes


November 7, 2014

Discover Croatia: Adventures in Olive Picking

Each Friday my little sister Lisa brings a tale from her adventures in New Zealand or abroad to the blog.  This week it’s a lovely post about Olive Picking in Croatia so without further ado…

I should point out now I had a few peculiar quirks growing up. As a child when other girls had their My Little Ponies and dreamed of horses I had a donkey, and his name was Gus. I dreamed of living in a village, no towns, cities or metropolis’ for me…and I wanted to be an olive picker.

Do we sense a theme here?

OK so my dream village had horse drawn carts, dancing cossacks and was in 1930s Poland. But on turning up in my Grandfathers Dalmatian village for the first time I found it would definately do. Right on the water, perfect!

olive 1

So earlier in the summer when I found out when olive picking was going to take place I hoped and prayed I would get to stay an extra month and fulfill a childhood dream (OK, so I was seventeen when I told the guidance counsellor I wanted to be an olive picker – you can imagine her face). With time off given and plane tickets changed now came the fun bit.

I was taken one Sunday evening for inspiration (not that I needed any) to the Uljara in Igrane which is where olives are made into oil. It seemed to be the domain of men with local men milling around outside and more in the warmth of the factory checking on the first olives of the season and the percentage of oil produced. For the rest of my stay this would be the main topic of conversation between people. I was like a kid in a candy shop watching all the machines whizzing and sending thousands of olives along the production line. I couldn’t wait till it was my turn.

I was given my first olive picking test on the large olive tree that had shaded me during the spring and summer. I had my basket in hand and headed for the first heavily laden branch, so far so good. And then I dropped one…oh no, and so began my first lesson that for each olive I dropped in the puddle of dirty water it is one less drop of olive oil, jeez talk about guilt trip. I didn’t stop picking until it was dark outside and my aunt had to call me in. I had had my first taste of honest to goodness olive picking and I was hooked.

olive 2

The next day on my morning walk along the road to the next village I watched as people picked the olives: climbing trees, with ladders, tarpaulins laid out. The methods were numerous and the productivity immense. My aunt and I went up into the mountain to begin on the groves there with baskets, shears and bags in hand. The joy of clearing a branch is probably only felt by me, but I was in seventh heaven. The mountain was alive with activity and I watched as cars with roofs laden with bags of olives were driven back down the mountain road.

On the first weekend of the harvest my aunt and I were joined by my cousins as we made our way to the highest of their groves on the mountain to pick some more. I was given two chocolate donuts that morning to fuel me up and we were off amid the sounds of the hunters guns as they attempted to find more wild pigs on the mountain. After a good couple of hours picking we set up for our BBQ lunch on the mountain to fuel up for the afternoon ahead.

olive 6

Once back home my cousin made a call to his friend at the factory to see when they had a free slot when lo and behold they could fit us in that very night. Hurriedly we got our olives into bags and waited for someone to come and pick them up before following in the car behind. There was still a queue at the Uljara so we made our way to a local cafe bar, where the hunters who had spent the day on the mountain were singing and celebrating, for a drink.

We then got the call to say our olives were up and off we went to see them get loaded up and off they go. The whirring and whizzing of the machine was brilliant fun to watch and when the oil started to trickle out it was extreme happiness, I couldn’t stop smiling. Once finished we headed back home to show my aunt the spoils and to get the verdict.

olive 4

I was addicted to this olive picking game and I was already counting down to the next harvest. If only I could pick olives all year long…Bliss!

Traditionally the olive harvest starts the weekend after All Saints Day (November 1) but dates can vary. If you don’t have Dalmatian relatives to olive pick with fear not, Goli + Bosi Design Hostel in Split offers olive tours through the year and you could always go on a WWOOFing holiday

And in case you needed any more incentive to how awesome olive picking in Croatia is check out these early winter Dalmatian sunsets…

olive 5

You can follow more of Lisa’s adventures on twitterInstagram or Pinterest


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