Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Croatia's Own "Long Island"... 4,000 Miles From New York

Written by  Albert Anthony Jun 16, 2023

According to Google, New York and Croatia are just over 4,000 miles apart..yet they both have one thing in common: a place called Long Island!

In the case of New York City, that long island is full of suburbs, quaint beach towns and fishing just a train ride east from the big city. Croatia's long island, or "Dugi Otok", also once written as "Isola Lunga" in Italian, has all of that too.. except the suburbs and train.

It happens to also be the paternal ancestral home of local Croatian-American author Albert Anthony, who writes to The Dubrovnik Times this week from aboard the car ferry "Juraj Dalmatinac" on its way to the islands.


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Photo: Albert Anthony personal gallery - Quiet harbor in Savar, Dugi Otok

An Island Where Time Stands Still

After one arrives via ferry from Zadar on the mainland, your first stop on Dugi Otok is usually the tiny village of Brbinj. From there, your journey can take you past any number of centuries-old olive groves, stone houses, and various small villages off the main island road, even a farm that sells organic eggs.

"One bit of notable history is that the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph once visited this island in 1904, to tour the infamous cave called 'Strašna Peć', which is a tourist attraction. The first known census of island residents was around 1608 in the time of the Venetian rule, and today there are still people on Dugi Otok who can trace their last name back to that census," Albert Anthony explains.

Agrarian and Seafaring Roots

Due to its geography and location on the Adriatic Sea, the natives of Dugi Otok were for centuries involved with the type of agriculture that is suitable for this rocky, Mediterranean climate... mostly olives, grapes, citrus, and other crops. For a long time they tended to sheep and donkeys too. At the same time, there was always a tie to the sea, whether it was a fishing economy, or someone in the family going off on the big ships to work and explore the world.


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Photo: Albert Anthony personal gallery - quiet harbor in Dugi Otok

"Whether you are visiting Dugi Otok as a tourist or expat, live here all year, or a returnee from the diaspora, one thing that brings all of us together on this island is feeling a connection with the sea. In my case, it goes further than that.. having had a grandfather and several other relatives who were seafarers and naval types, even reaching the far shores of America on those big ships, some settling there and raising families in the Croatian diaspora," the author continues. "Even when in faraway lands like America, Canada, Australia.. they always kept photos and stories of the old country, as they called it, and told stories of their youth on Dugi Otok. They even kept many traditions alive in the new world, especially the cuisine and music."


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Photo: Albert Anthony personal gallery - aboard the car ferry "Juraj Dalmatinac" in the Zadar archipelago


Close to it All, Yet Far Away at the Same Time

It is just a roughly 1.5 hour ferry ride between Dugi Otok and Zadar. During summer season, there are even multiple trips every day, putting you in reach of the mainland with ease, where you can get to the airport, the bus to Zagreb, or the highway all the way down to Dubrovnik and beyond!

At the same time, the island is far away.. far from the hustle and bustle of Zadar's old city, its piazza, its cafe culture, its sports, and concerts.. and a world away from the capital of Zagreb. From a certain point on the western edge of the island, on a clear day you can even see Italy sometimes, off in the horizon.

"Ironically, in the industrial era of the 20th century many people from Dugi Otok ended up immigrating to New York's long island, and today their children and grandchildren live & work in that area, some returning back to visit the "original" long island here in the Adriatic," Albert Anthony mentions. "If you visit often enough, you will pick up the chakavian dialect of Croatian spoken on the islands."


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Photo: Albert Anthony personal gallery - one of Dugi Otok's harbors

A Nautical Paradise

There is no shortage of sailboats, speedboats, and even fishing vessels you can spot in the waters around Dugi Otok... which some could call a nautical paradise. You will also see professional and student divers here, doing group dives.

For the photo & video enthusiast, there is also no shortage of good camera spots.

"With the film industry constantly springing up on the Croatian coast every so often lately, I can certainly envision this island becoming a film set in the near future, and who knows.. perhaps we will watch some great films or shows taped right here, in the land where the sun & mountains meet the sea," the author reiterates.

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About the Contributor

Albert Anthony is the pen name of an American author with roots in coastal Croatia. He is currently a technical analyst & markets columnist for global financial portal Seeking Alpha, where he covers technology & financial stocks. In addition, he is an occasional contributor to The Dubrovnik Times and Total Croatia News.

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