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Croatian Island-Hop

It is about 6pm, the sun is beginning to set, and it has been another day with faultless blue skies.  Our room looks out over a small harbour packed with boats rocking ever so slightly on the calm crystal clear blue water. To our left are the more expensive motor launches, with the expensive moorings right along side the promenade. They hail from as far apart as the U.S, London and a spattering from the French Rivera. To our right is the ferry dock where another large passenger vessel has just docked bringing bewildered guests to this resort island, smiles on their faces, towels in their hands, ready to relax, suntan and have fun. Welcome to the island of Hvar, situated in the Central Dalmatian region of Croatia about an hour or so by fast ferry from Split, the nearest big city on the mainland coast or about 4 hours by fast ferry from the west coast of Italy.

To our left in a waterside bar the baseline kicks in, it is around 6 and Carpe Diem (Seize the day in Latin yes, you remember Dead Poets Society!) is already packed to the rafters.  This bar is an attraction in itself! As another ferry comes to drop new passengers to the island right off outside the volume gets turned up a notch and the shouting and whistling begins!  There is quite a large outside foyer which is absolutely jumping.  Beautiful people abound in nothing but bikinis and tiny swimmers, tight tanned bodies, designer label swimwear, Gucci sunglasses.  This funky set groove with the £5 Pina Coladas to the funkadelic sounds produced from the DJ console overlooking this sea of beauty. A crowd of onlookers’ forms outside, mums, dads, small kids and the elderly wondering what has happened to their idyllic summer getaway.  The party has started, it is Saturday night with a perfect setting and alcohol a plenty it is surely going to be one to remember.
This could well be the new Ibiza, the place to be seen this summer, models, beefy guys, even your old rich Italian fashion designer types, they are all here to be seen and groove the night away! The heavy drink price in a land which is generally pretty cheap says it all.  Hvar and Croatia in general are on the cusp of a tourist invasion and the locals are loving every minute of the big spending Italians, French, Germans and English, finally getting a chance to put their torrid war torn past behind them and create an existence for themselves on the back of the sun, some incredibly blue water and a laid back vibe which in my eyes was pretty unbeatable.

My partner and I spent 9 days in Croatia, island hopping up the Dalmatian coast. There is such diversity in the things to see and do; it is so much more than simply a lazy summer break.  The old world charm of Dubrovnik, walking around the walls of the old city admiring the intricate cobbled streets, or the patchwork orange roofs.  A city bombed by the Serbs less than ten years before now back to it’s best and thronged with people from all the European nations. A short ferry trip from Dubrovnik is the island of Lokrum.  It is a nature reserve and we spent the day sunning on a secluded cove not bothered by anyone except the fisherman passing in their lonely dinghies.  No noise from cars, nothing but the sun and the clear blue sea, so transparent, a snorkelling paradise. 

We independently travelled up the coast, staying where we chose to, with nothing booked just relying on the locals at each port of call who meet you at the bus or ferry stop and offer you accommodation at their home. The price is reasonable, about £10 per night, it isn’t the lap of luxury but the people are friendly, the rooms are clean and private and they are all located in the middle of the action basically walking distance from everything. Sometimes the Croats are a bit too friendly; we stayed with an elderly couple on the island of Korcula right in the heart of the old town which dates near on to the dark ages.  The locals will tell you it is where Marco Polo was born and raised.  His house was less than 100m from where we stayed.  It is a beautiful old town, with winding streets lined with pizzerias and seafood restaurants, bars that overlook a glimmering sea, tradition, history, romance all into one. The couple we stayed with might be deemed “those that never sleep”  It just seemed they were always awake seeing us off for a 5am to catch an early ferry, or waiting by the kitchen table stooped over a large bottle of Croatia’s cheapest red to greet us when we got in from a night out.  Always there with a greeting and a 5 minute ramble in Croatian that either my partner or I failed to comprehend.  I learnt quickly that in my attempt to make a good impression on our hosts I would attempt to put into practice some of the Croatian I learned growing up in the suburbs of Perth and running a pizza shop for far too long.  Unfortunately most of the words I learned might have got me beaten up but I did manage to remember the obligatory “how are you” etc… Anyway the old fellow thought I was fluent so he just rambled on assuming I understood the whole lot.  Every time we crossed his path “Mr Daniel, Mr Daniel……”  Really a small price to pay for the location and price of his home, and his wife was a cracker wearing the same leopard skin dress for the three days we were there!

Croatia for us was really all about the sun and getting away from the London rat race which we managed to do in the National Park on the Island on Mjlet.  My partner and I took a tour to get there which was quite overpriced but it was our only option.  The guide was pretty awful, so much so that we just walked off during the middle of her ramble about an old Franciscan monastery, but the remainder of the island is amazing.  Once again no cars to be seen, you hike your way through to two inland lakes in the middle of the island.  We took a kayak and paddled around the cool clear lakes in the blistering sun, found our rocky outcrop and whiled the day away with nothing but the sound of the crickets and then water lightly lapping on the rocks at our feet.  In a word bliss, and I still have the tan to prove it. 

Croatia, get in quick before it becomes “sold out” like so many other sunny European destinations, some might say it already has but if you look there are still plenty of places to get away from it all and enjoy what this beautiful coast line has to offer.  We are back in London enjoying the remaining school holidays not doing nearly enough training for the 42 kilometre “challenge” that awaits me on the streets of Helsinki in less than two weeks.  Stay tuned for the injury report!

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