Stories of Podgora
from generation to generation, the stories of Podgora have entertained the
locals and frightened little children. Its heroes dwell in dark caves and pits,
hidden mountain springs and sinkholes. Fairies, brigands and bandits were a
favourite topic of evening gatherings. The stories of Podgora encapsulate all
the uniqueness, originality and wisdom of the people from Podgora. The stories
and legends were often inspired by nature, the sea and the mysterious mountain
of Biokovo. An endemic species of shellfish called Medora was found on its
cliffs, later serving as inspiration for the name of the hotel brand and the
hotel Medora Auri.
The story of the Biokovo fair
Legend has it that in ancient times, people had respect for nature and lived in harmony with its laws, made sacrifices to the gods of nature, hoping for a good yield of their crops. It is believed that fairies helped them in the fields, feeding cattle and chasing away evil spirits with their ringing laughter and singing. However, owing to their capricious nature, people eventually let the fairies down, the shepherds threw away their pipes, the dining stopped, guns fired and people waged war against one another. Therefore, the fairies withdrew into the stories and legends. According to some , the fairies still live, hidden in the mountains of Biokovo, Velebit, Mosor, Brist and Omiška Klisura. They wander the mountains, mesmerising people with their songs. The fairies are still guarding nature, but are becoming ever rarer, because people do not believe in them and increasingly urbanise the natural areas, forests, meadows and mountain.
However, as Biokovo was proclaimed protected natural park in 1981, some people believe that fairies can be encountered there, especially in the quiet summer evenings when the sun casts a crimson glow on the horizon.
The story of the Podgora shepherds
Sheep breeding was one of the most important
economic branches in Podgora until the 1970s.
The shepherds of Podgora would annually spend
ten months with their sheep on the scarce pastures of Biokovo, as sheep were important
for survival, provided the wool for clothing, as well as milk, butter and
cheese for food. In the settlement of Podglogovik on Biokovo, you can still see
buildings of traditional architecture from the period when sheep breeders had
their temporary dwellings there, which they used in the grazing season. Other than
stone houses, one can see stone walls cascading
down towards the sea, bordering the groves of olives, grapes, lemons,
oranges, tangerines, almonds, walnuts, figs and carob.
The story of the Podgora ice pickers
It may sound a bit strange but in the
Mediterranean area, to which Podgora belongs to, a new economic branch
developed at the beginning of the 20th century: ice picking. With the
development of tourism, the offer expanded and the first hotels and restaurants
had to be supplied with ice, but there were still no electricity and
refrigerators at the time. The demand encouraged a corresponding offer of ice,
which was luckily available on Biokovo at an altitude of over 1300 meters, permanently
frozen in deep pits and sinks. It was a rather dangerous undertaking that
primarily required strength, speed and skill,
because the ice was melting rapidly and the donkeys used for ice transport were
known to display whimsical behaviour.
The story of St.Vincent
St. Vincent is the patron saint of Podgora. Not many details of his life are known, other than that
he was a Roman soldier and chose to sacrifice his own life rather than betray
his conscience, character and loyalty to Christ the Saviour. The story begins in 1790, when Pope Pius VI donated the bones of
St. Vincent to Ivan Josip Pavlović, the Canon of Makarska. Following his death,
his brother Canon Don Grgur Pavlović gave the bones to his colleague Don Lovro Pavlinović from Podgora, seated in the
church of All Saints. This occurred in 1831 and the place has been the final
resting place of St. Vincent ever since.
Shortly thereafter, the locals of Podgora
accepted him as their patron saint and began to hold religious celebrations on
the day dedicated to him, the first Sunday after the Feast of the Assumption.
Pilgrims from Primorje, the Biokovo
hinterland and Herzegovina soon began arriving, and the feast grew larger. In 1900, Bishop Nakić decided that the Feast
of St. Vincent would last for three days and the custom has survived ever since.Today, the church of All Saints is culturally and
historically the most valuable church in Podgora,
and is one of the most monumental late baroque churches in Dalmatia.
The folk costumes of Podgora
Each woman in Podgora had an everyday gown and
another one for the feasts. Despite poverty, the women of Podgora had expensive
jewellery made from gold and coral, which was a form of savings for the most
difficult times, wars or natural disasters since jewellery can be easily and
quickly carried in cases of emergency. The costumes were layered, so that they could be adapted to
various occasions and ages. Both men and women wore leather peasant shoes, a
pair for the cold and windy weather and another one for the summertime.
The passage of luck
earthquake in 1962, a rocky arch covered with earth and trees stretched across
the road in the area of Sutikla, which
the locals called the “Passage of luck”. Unfortunately, this popular and recognisable symbol of Podgora collapsed in the
earthquake, but the “lucky road” that led below it remained in place. It is
still possible to walk along it and get that piece of luck. Old photographs of
Podgora show what this passage looked like, testifying to the unique natural
configuration that inspired the legend.
to the Passage of luck and the lucky road, there is an ancient tombstone or stella in Podgora, quite devastated by the
weather, depicting a Roman couple, with a still visible man's name written on
it: Felex, which means Lucky in English.
The Batoševo guvno
Before the 1962 earthquake and prior to the migration
of the Podgora population to the coastal area, in the afternoon hours people would gather around the guvno
(threshing floor) and recount current events after a
hard, laborious day in the field or at the sea. The guvno
is a popular term for a place that
was present in more or less all the villages of Dalmatia
and the Imotski
region. It is the central part of a village, round in shape, walled and paved
with stone. The locals would sit in a circle and talk, ganga
was often sung, the youngsters would
dance and the children jumped around, while the elderly made important
decisions for the village. Each village had at least one guvno –
or more depending on the village’s
size and population. Until the earthquake, the most important meeting place for
the whole of Podgora had been the Batoševo Guvno
or just Guvno
, a small plateau
with stone benches and a fountain in the middle of the village, which offered a
magnificent view of the open sea.
The legend of Tekla
Legend has it that Tekla
was a girl who died on a sailing ship, and her sad father did not want to consign
the body of his only daughter into the sea, as was supposed to be done
according to the custom of sailors. Sailing near Podgora, he saw a protruding
cape whose shape reminded him of a ship, and its fir trees looked like spars. He decided that this would be the final
resting place of his daughter and the grave of St. Tekla is considered first grave on the cape, which was named after
her, the Cape of St. Tekla.
Podgora abounds in springs of water that is clear, cold and excellent
for drinking. The exact number of springs and streams is not known, but it is
known that in the first half of the 20th century they ran as many as 24 water
mills. According to some sources, Podgora had more than 77 springs. The springs
of Smokvica and Kržanići are only part of a series of taps or sources of public water in Podgora, built in 1898 and
restored in 2015.
The story of the copper coins
There are many reminders of the Venetian rule
in Dalmatia, the prevailing ones being copper coins with the inscription Dalma
et Alba (used for Dalmatia and Albania). They were forged by the Venetians
in the 17th and 18th century for the area of Dalmatia and today’s Bay of Kotor.
Coins of one and two soldi (gazzetta) can be found even nowadays while
digging the earth or renovating houses. The name soldi has remained common
among people to this day as the local name for money.
The reason why it is still possible to find
such coins in the ground lies in the belief, which was preserved until the
middle of the 20th century, that a house being built would be durable, and its
occupiers lucky, if several copper coins were buried under the threshold.
Thanks to this custom, many Venetian soldi
and gazzette have been preserved
to this day.