Without Number

It can be tricky for non-locals to find a house on the island given its address, even with a good map. That’s because  street addresses here generally go along the lines of Bez Ime b.b. – meaning street without name and house without number (bez broja)! When ordering something, let’s say furniture, in a shop or online, that is what we put down for delivery. The crucial part of this operation is either that all your neighbours know exactly where you live and can point out your house, or in these modern times the delivery guys will phone you as they arrive in the village. You can then arrange to meet them at the bridge, the church, or whatever local landmark is appropriate.

Local folks generally know all the houses in the village by the family nicknames. That makes a lot of sense when the houses are built by a family, and transfer down the generations without ever being sold. Until now, of course, when the market has opened up to the purchase of houses by anyone, including foreigners. Our local post office knows exactly who you are and where your house is because you go in and introduce yourself. That’s probably why every village still has its own post office. It’s a very personal service, and you’re not just a number.

It’s been said of  Hvar that none of the streets have names, but all of the winds do! Now frankly it does make a big difference to your plans for the day to know there’s a bura blowing (think of a cold north-easterly). But does it really matter which street you live in? Is it part of the way we identify ourselves?

Just recently, the Croatian central government decreed that all houses should have a number, the idea being that it would be easier for them to collect taxes. Well, our local  council in Jelsa has absolutely no problem finding us with a bill, even when we’re out of the country! So it can’t be that. I’ve decided that the government’s numbering plan is most likely due to some new software package they bought. I could imagine that the database fields for house number and street would be required, and duplicates aren’t allowed, so the obvious thing is to adjust the country to fit! What a shame, though, to see creeping standardisation take over a perfectly good working system.