After Greece, we made our way north to the sunny seas of the Adriatic. Looking at a map, we figured it would be easy to make our way quickly and easily up to Croatia. But we were wrong. Little did we realise but there is no direct route from Athens to Dubrovnik, despite their close proximity! (And the admission that this was a well-worn travel path). We were looking at hours and days of bus rides, first to get us from Athens up to northern Greece, then to cross Albania, up through Montenegro, and skirt through Bosnia & Hercegovina before finally reaching Dubrovnik. Five countries, over three days, multiple border crossings, stress, hassle, lack of sleep, inability to book the whole journey in advance…. Well, we decided to throw in that idea and booked ourselves a relatively expensive, but simple, one hour flight to Dubrovnik. In the end, completely worth the outlay!
Croatia was an interesting country, with lots of Medieval history. We struggled to find delicious food; all restaurant menus seemed to follow the same, formulaic list of fried calamari, squid risotto, octopus salad and pizza. What I hasn’t realised before going there, was how Italian-influenced it was. I knew the two countries were close by, separated only by the Adriatic, but I didn’t realise the extent of Italian occupation and influence on Croatia’s food and culture.
What Croatia lacked in food, however, it more than made up for in nature and landscape. It was amazing. Verdant greenery, olive groves, wine making regions, crisp white beaches, and the most transparent, royal-blue seawater I have ever seen. I would advise anyone to go! Especially in summer. We arrived just outside summer and to our dismay, missed (by one day) a planned boat-journey that was heading up the coast. We didn’t have enough time to wait a week for the next one. Then the weather turned, and it began to rain. On Hvar, “The Sunniest Island in the Adriatic”, it poured. Non-stop. We were pitied on arrival at our hostel, as the owner told us “There really is nothing to do in Hvar when it’s raining.” So, our idyllic sail-Croatia-in-glorious-sunkissed-weather-while-eating-fresh-seafood-and-relishing-all-that-is-good-in-life didn’t really turn out as expected.
But that’s travel!
We left with a vow to return, hire a car and drive along the coast, camping at the many established campsites we witnessed along the way.
Our 12 day journey covered Dubrovnik-Korcula-Hvar-Split-Zadar-Zagreb.
These are some pictures from the coastal, island section of the itinerary:
It’s funny, but after travelling through Europe, I have distinct memories of countries in regards to their colour palettes. The colours that will forever remind me of Croatia are this ochre-orange of the tiled roofs, the creamy white of the stone buildings, and the dark green of the forests and window shutters.
On a tour, we heard a beautiful story about a soldier in World War II. On one of the last operations over the area, pilots were instructed to drop all of their bombs over Korcula, and completely destroy it (Dubrovnik had already been basically flattened). This pilot, upon flying over Korcula, found the island and it’s ancient town to be so beautiful that he abandoned his mission, and instructed the other pilots to NOT drop their bombs. With this one moment of human appreciation for beauty, he saved the little island from death and destruction. They know this story because he returned to the island decades later, and left a letter of confession in the hotel he had been staying in, before disappearing. The town has since been trying to find out the identity of this man, to whom they owe a great debt of gratitude. However, they have been unsuccessful; he remains a mystery.
All I can say is go there if you’re in the area!
We got a little boat to this nearby island, where you can just walk around until you find a secluded little spot to set up and enjoy. It was very serene. This was in stark contrast to the rest of Hvar, which is known for being a massive party island; the kind where clubs don’t start until 4am. The jetty filled up every day with luxury yachts, filled with well-to-do Spaniards and Russians and their model girlfriends, all set to get coked-up and party the night away.
Don’t know if I’d rush back there.
We hadn’t planned to come here, until speaking with some friends we made on our boat cruise in Turkey. They urged us to check it out, and we are so glad we did.
Recently dubbed Croatia’s ‘city of cool’, it had a definite youthful, exuberant vibe about it, probably owing to the fact that it is a University town. (The only downside to this – a lot of shit food; fast, greasy, sloppy, burger kind of offerings; great for a 3am feed but not for a civilized dinner date!)
So the main attractions here are the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. Both are designed by a local architect, and are incredible to behold. In this picture, people are sitting on the Sea Organ. There are a series of steps leading down to the water; each step has perforations cut out of the stone. When the water laps against these cut-outs, it creates a series of musical notes, sounding almost like sighs or whale calls. It sounds weird and cheesy but it was a beautiful, meditative spot, where people would just sit, watching over the water, taking it all in and contemplating life.