The start before the start

The story starts with the tribe of the Marsici living in and around the area of Prolozac and Imotski. After returning from working in the coal mines of Belgium in the 1930s, grandfather Marsic, a young man in his late 20s, decides to build a house in Prolozac Gornji, a mountain municipality in the Dalmatian hinterland, about 120km from Split and a 10 mins walk from the green (and back then non-existent border) to Bosnia-Hercegovina. To make his life easier they built the house into a hill slope, so one back wall and half of the two short side walls remain stabilized under the ground.

Stones were broken off in a nearby stone pit, hammered out in massive blocks, and individually carried on wooden stretchers, often by women. There the boulders would be hand hammered into tailor-made building blocks, not only turning them into perfect cuboids, but also giving them their characteristic texture on the outside.

Stone houses back then were constructed with basically two vertical stonewalls and a layer of rubble in between acting as insulation. Each of the walls is about 25cm in thickness so the final walls were between 55 and 60cm in diameter. The floors are built with wooden beams connecting the long sides of the rectangular ground area. Due to the little height people back then had in poor and frequently malnourished Southern Croatia, the floor height is only about 180cm – visible by the remains of the wooden beams in the two opposing walls.

The roof was in its first version traditionally built out of a wooden construction and stone tiles, again hand-hammered and carefully placed on the roof framework. The first stage of expansion was finished in 1938. The house was eventually finalized in the early in 1950s.

The house was built, as many houses in Southern Dalmatia, without an internal staircase and two entrances, one on the lower and one on the upper floor. Since its completion the house was used by the father’s side of my family. While the upper floor hosted the sleeping rooms, the ground floor inhabited a shared kitchen/ living room area as well as a small cellar-type room for the storage of smoked ham and vine.

After my father inherited it in the late 1980s, he started some reconstruction work himself. Given that he was a carpenter by training and worked in the construction business in Germany, he redid the structural foundations of the house: he grouted the entire house anew, stabilised the old stone walls with a concrete inner shell, built a new roof and, not least, a terrace.

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