Saturday 20 June
After a great breakfast at Hotel Kazbek in Dubrovnik we took a bus to the old city.
This is the first actual city I have visited which is effectively a fort. Most such places seem to house castles. This place is indeed impressive with a still lived-in city completely surrounded by huge fortress walls built in the 1400s. We wandered around alleys and up steps and popped out through a hole in the wall to find a well-placed bar on rocks 20 plus meters above the clear green sea. The place is a maze with some alley’s leading to someone’s front door. There are lots of shops, restaurants and a couple of large churches.
Eventually some steps lead us up to the top of the fortress wall. The chick in the box, who was a little annoyed I had interrupted her phone conversation, took 200 locals of us before the guy outside the box would let us through. Tickets in hand we headed off around the wall. From every part of it you see different aspects of both the city within and surrounding suburbs. The wall zigzags back and forward, up and down. Surrounded on nearly three sides by water the views are really cool. It took us over an hour to walk the wall as there are just so many interesting things to see. At the east side away from the sea is the highest point above the now dry moat. A funny thing I noted. Most bell towers no longer have bell ringers but electrically operated knockers to strike the bells. These guys have done it a bit better with men shaped knockers who swing a hammer to strike the bells.
Next was supposed to be the cable car but the weather had closed it so we took a stroll back around the coast to the hotel where we spent the afternoon sorting pics and catching up.
Just before 5 we got a cab to Zator where a rubber dingy came to the wharf to pick us up. We headed out to the Queen of the Adriatic. Bugger me it was a bit bigger than I expected. The crew of this 27 meter yacht were a little surprised when only the two of us came aboard. Captain Ogi introduced us to the crew – Igor the steward, Bruno the chef, and Matea the physiotherapist/ masseuse. Stacked with more wine, beer and spirits than we could drink in a year we cruised on up the coast sipping (well maybe sculling) champagne. I really think we might just have to pick up a couple of hitchhikers to assist us. The crew are all over us in a great way. We can feel right from the start that they want us to have just the best time.
A light (by request) and very tasty dinner of prawns is served as we cruise into our mooring for the night off the island of Sipan. Here we sat up on the front deck watching the sun set before calling it a day.
Sunday 21 June
This morning we woke as the boat started around 7am. We cruised to the island of Mljet about four hours away. While we were cruising we had breakfast, Roger had his first massage and we generally caught up and relaxed. The countryside along the way is pretty consistently rugged hills covered with trees with granite showing near the top. We anchored in a lovely sheltered bay off the town of Polace, which has some old Roman ruins clearly visible from the boat.
Mljet is a long thin island which has two connected “salty lakes” – actually large coves that are nearly closed to the sea. One of the lakes has an island in it with an old Benedictine monastery and church. We tendered ashore and walked over the hill to one of the lakes where we caught a small boat to the island. The water in the lake is a beautiful turquoise green and very clear. At the top of the island are more Roman ruins and an old stable, complete with donkey.
We returned to our yacht for a HUGE lunch – I swear they are determined to have us leave this boat several kilos heavier. This required a necessary rest to digest before we did anything else. Eventually though, after laying about in the warm Mediterranean sun it was time to jump in for a swim. Roger managed a great dive off the bow!
Late afternoon we headed back to shore where we hired bicycles and rode around the lakes. This was a fairly gently ride except for the 1.5km climb each way to get over the hill. At least the climb got our blood pumping a bit. At the end of the lake we had to catch a water taxi across the opening to the sea. Roger and the boatman greatly enjoyed the bikini-clad scenery, which bent over at just the right moment.
Back to the Queen of the Adriatic again and it was my turn for a massage. It is such an amazing thing to be up on the bow of a beautiful boat in such a lovely, peaceful location enjoying a wonderfully relaxing massage! Truly bliss!
Another quiet evening enjoying the peace and quiet, the champagne, (for Roger a cigar or two) and the company… What more could we want?
Monday 22 June
A bright blue sky covered us as we headed north into a strong breeze and relatively calm seas. Around ten we moored of the town of Orebic at the end of the Peljesat peninsular. Just back from the sandy beach is a large hotel-like building. Bruno ran us carefully ashore as the water is quite shallow. We were met at the jetty by Ivo Cibilic, sales manager for the Korta Katarina winery. www.kortakatarinawinery.com
It turns out a US couple have brought what was a hotel and are restoring it. Behind it the have built a winery. When we said we were from NZ Ivo’s reply was “Nobilos from the island of Korcula -big competition. Today is a public holiday for anti-Fascist day, hence we are having a private sitting.
We are first taken to the cellar which has the latest vats and wine making equipment from Italy. Ivo explains how the process works: the red wine having to stay settled in the vats for a long time to draw its colour and flavour from the skins; the white a quicker process. Back upstairs we inspect the shop before being led to the restaurant with its orange brick arched ceilings. Built recently with obviously great skill, I am buggered if I know how they get all the bricks to stay up there. A table has been set, complete with antipasto platter, by the window offering a picturesque view over the bay.
Ivo presents with great enthusiasm and passion a white wine, Posip, which we taste with a tuna paté and bread. Next is their Rosé, accompanied with mussels and anchovies. Then comes a full-bodied red – Plavac Mali, accompanied with meat and vegetables. Ivo was born here and went off to study viticulture at university, returning here some years later. He explained how even as a child he drank one-finger of wine. One-finger means one finger of wine in a glass topped up with water.
Back on the boat I receive my daily massage from Matea as we motor the short distance to the island of Korcula. Pulling into a bay the anchor is dropped as we back into the rocky beach, lines tied to rocks each side of the stern to hold us at 90′ to the shore to make room for other boats in the small bay.
The dingy runs us around the corner into the village. On the point there is a fortress housing the old home town of Marco Polo. Back in the 1200s this was part of Italy and nearly every shop makes mention of Marco Polo and has touristy memorabilia for sale. A smaller version of the old city at Dubrovnik, this place is stunning.
Back on the boat we partake in our daily swim followed by Sylvia’s massage. Bruno prepares our steak dinner while on the rock behind us a woman lies naked enjoying the Mediterranean sun.
Tuesday 23 June
I woke as the engines started this morning after one of those long nights where every time I nearly got to sleep a mosquito buzzed past my ear. Never mind – it’s all part of the fun. We had a five hour cruise this morning to Hvar, a large island not too far from Split. The wind was relatively strong but most of the time was coming from straight behind us so it was fairly pleasant out on the forward deck and Roger and I lazed the time away (Roger enjoyed a massage) until we reached a less sheltered area and moved down to the table at the aft while the boat rocked and rolled her way to Hvar. Nothing too serious or unpleasant but definitely some motion.
We anchored off the main city of Hvar, which is now a tourist destination with lots of bars and nightclubs. Originally it was built as a fort in the 16th century to defend the interior of the island from marauding pirates and invaders, although there have been defences in this area since the first half of the 1st millenia BC and was the site of a Byzantine citadel in the 6th century AD. Houses and shops have only been built near the sea since the 1800’s.
We walked up to the fort and explored the towers and dungeons. The views from the fort, like from all the others we have seen were stunning, the deep blue and turquoise of the sea, contrasting with the white houses, orange roofs and vermillion bougainvillea . The prisons were particularly austere, small cells deep below the fort with a tiny window and a thin chimney for ventilation. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to have been imprisoned there.
We had decided we needed to have a bit of exercise to walk off some of the very tasty, but huge, meals that Bruno has been preparing for us. At 18 years old he is incredibly mature and has a wicked sense of humour. He seems to really understand flavour and last night prepared an amazing bruschetta, followed by the most incredible steak with gorgonzola sauce, all finished with chocolate fondants with vanilla ice-cream. From the town we had seen another fort higher up, this one built by Napoleon, now an observatory. We made our way through the bush behind the original fort down the slope to a small valley where we walked along a road until we came to the path up the hill. There were even better views from the top and it was great to have the opportunity to stretch our legs a bit although I found the heat somewhat challenging. It is interesting that Roger seems to be adjusting to the warmer temperatures better – he must have an incredibly efficient thermostat!
We made our way back down the road to the port where we were met by a guide who took us for a drive across the island to another wine tasting. We were both in awe of the hard work that has gone into this island. It is an incredibly stony place and all over the island the stones have been painstakingly cleared and piled up into small walls and terraces to clear land. This was originally planted with grapes but there was a parasite in the late 1800s that wiped most of the grapes out. Much of the country has now gone to scrub but there are parts where they still grow grapes, others where they have olive trees and in a few areas lavender. All needs to be planted and maintained by hand and the ground continually cleared of stones.
We arrived at the Dubokovic winery and had the opportunity to taste one rosé, two white, three red and one dessert wine. I think the only one we really liked was the dessert wine, Prosek, which means first kiss. We also sampled some local olive oil that is infused with different herb oils – rosemary, basil, sage and chilli.
Bruno met us at the port and took us back to our boat. It was my turn for a massage – incredibly relaxing after all the walking today – before dinner, luckily a much lighter affair tonight.
We are now about half way through our time away. When I look forward it seems short but when I reflect back it seems a very long time since we arrived in Norway. Regardless, we are having a wonderful time and I cannot remember feeling quite so relaxed.