Wednesday 24 June
We had anchored for the night off an island opposite Hvar in the lee of an approaching storm. Around eight we headed up the coast of the Hvar island. The sea was quite lumpy – Bruno the chef came up from the galley looking a little pale and sat out the ride in the saloon with the rest of the crew. Ogi the skipper paid attention to the sea in front as visibility was limited. An hour or two later we rounded the point into the Starogradski Zaljev, the inlet to Stari Grad. Stari Grad is apparently the oldest city in Europe – settled by the Greeks in 300BC.
Tying up at a jetty just outside the now town, alongside the Hotel Arkada – originally built in the 70’s under the Tito regime. Apparently all rooms of equal size so the commoner could stay alongside the general and enjoy the same comforts. Abandoned in recent years it has now been bought and is being renovated by a hotel company.
We enjoyed a late breakfast before a ten minute stroll into the town revealed the prettiest town we have seen in Croatia. Very old two and three storey buildings adorn small quaint cobbled alleys. We collected a walking map from the rather uninterested guy at the information centre. Heading up the hill on a track that is supposed to meet the walking track we come to a gate by a cell-phone tower. After some persuasion Sylvia agrees we need to duck through the holey, barbed-wire fence to find the walking track on the map. Through the fence on the other side we strike dense bush full of sharp vines. Abandoning the attempt to get to the tourist track we stroll back to the town. Mapping is not one of their strong points around here.
Back at the boat Sylvia enjoys her massage as I chat to the crew over a nice bubbly. The weather is now fine as another day in paradise draws to a close, but not before an enjoyable dinner with the crew. Eighteen year old Bruno learnt to cook over the internet and really knows how to put together a great feed.
Thursday 25 June
We were up bright and early this morning as we had planned to catch the 8am bus back to Hvar town to meet up with friends Steve and Karen and their three children. We had originally hoped Steve and Karen would be able to join us for the full cruise portion of our trip but they were unable to organise babysitters. They decided to come to Croatia (Korcula) anyway and with a bit of wrangling and some great help from Captain Ogi we had arranged to meet them in Hvar this morning (they were up even earlier, catching the ferry from Korcula) and have them join us for the remainder of the trip through to Split.
When we arrived at the bus stop a very entrepreneurial taxi driver was touting rides for the same cost as the bus so we hitched a ride with him and a young couple from Washington State, thinking we’d arrive good and early. The detail in the ferry timetables here is about as good as the detail in maps and as it turned out the ferry had docked an hour earlier than on the schedule so they were waiting for us anyway. No matter, we enjoyed catching up over coffees, cocoas and pancakes for the boys, before they all walked up to look at the Hvar fortress while Roger and I minded the bags. We then jumped in another taxi back to Stari Grad where two of the boys and I took the first dinghy back to the boat while the others explored a bit of the old city, meeting us back at Queen of the Adriatic about 30 minutes later.
All aboard, rooms sorted out and we headed to the island of Solta about a 2-hour cruise. Solta is a small island off the coast of Split. We moored in a wee bay and caught the dinghy to a small café for a late lunch before sailing around to another bay where we were able to dock for the night, tied up next to a few other boats. It was good timing, our first night at dock as we ran out of water just after arriving so could fill up easily.
Bruno took several of us in the dinghy to a small bay where we swam, then back to the boat for some sun-bathing and general relaxing (my turn for a massage) before dinner. Tonight Igor had arranged a wine tasting with dinner but things don’t always go as planned. Poor Bruno had been planning an octopus dish but had significant challenges with the oven so the main course kept being delayed. In the end we had four courses, each with a different wine from Istria… a delicious shrimp cocktail, a cheese and cold meat platter, ice-cream sundaes, and then a fantastic octopus stew – an unusual order I know but the octopus was well worth waiting for. The wines were pretty good too. A local band was even covering some good songs in a bar across the bay providing some atmosphere for the evening.
Friday 26 June
Setting of from the island of Solta we headed east to the island of Brac. Bruno cracked out a great breakfast for the now seven of us. Mid-morning we rounded a headland into Bobovisca on the island of Brac – a small, but deep, bay surrounded by hills where the stone stackers have been at work over many decades on the now mostly defunct vineyards. I know I have mentioned these before but I am still staggered by these rows and rows or sometimes piles and piles of stones lifted and stacked to expose a bit of soil to plant a few vines.
We took the dinghy to the south side of the bay where a path begins running around the inlet in front of the pretty orange and white houses. Of the hundred plus houses in this bay only around ten people live here all year. As with most villages on these islands they have holiday homes. At the back of the bay we found a narrow lane heading up hill. The clanging of a bell revealed a donkey and its newborn foal. The top of the lane reveals a large old church and a few houses and other buildings. We headed north along a narrow but two lane road with great views over the bay and out to sea and came to a ridge overlooking the town of Lozisca. It has a tall bell tower which sparks up as we are admiring the beauty of this orange and white town. The three bells chime away for the best part of 15 minutes. Asking a local also admiring the view I am informed that this happens every noon. With interest we noted that some of the roofs in this town were covered with a slate-like rock much thicker than slate.
The road eventually guided us back to the bay where we found a summer cafe and enjoyed a chat in the shade. Back on the boat we all enjoyed a swim. Sylvia met the challenge of leaping the three plus meters from the bow sprit into the clear blue sea.
Good friends Steve, Karen and their 3 boys have been living in the south of France for the year so. Through some great timing we are really lucky to have them join us. Karen a journo by trade writes a really great blog called Cat in My Throat. www.catinmythroat.com
Prior to dinner Igor takes us through an olive oil tasting. Four oils are presented to us in shot glasses. Never having drunk olive oil before it was an interesting experience. One from Italy three from Croatia they varied from mellow to spicy.
Bruno impressed us again by serving up a BBQ which included Cevapcici sausages – slightly spicy and I think made from lamb they were a great treat. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and chatting. Steve and I were last to retire having solved a few of the world’s problems over some rather nice red wine.
Saturday 27 June
After seven glorious nights our time on Queen of the Adriatic has come to an end. This morning we docked at Split and had to say goodbye to Ogi, Bruno, Igor, Matea and the boat. Steve, Karen and family had to catch the ferry back to Korcula and Roger and I had a rental car to sort out so it was farewells all around.
After arranging the car and stowing our luggage Roger and I wandered around the old city of Split. Whilst not as clean as Stari Grad I was impressed with the old cathedral, bell tower, baptistery and the remains of the palace and city walls, some dating back to the 4th century. I always love wandering the narrow cobbled streets, finding cafes and bars tucked away into corners and never knowing what we might bump into. In one old ruin that had fantastic acoustics we came across an amazing a Capella group singing in a bid to sell a few CD’s.
After a quick gelato stop it was time to drive to Plitvice Lakes, about a 3-hour drive. Inland Croatia doesn’t look that different from the coast around this area with lots of low scrub and hills with granite/limestone poking out the top. Closer to the Plitvice Lakes area the mountains got higher with more interesting rock formations and the trees got taller and denser. By the look of the road signs there are lots of deer and even bear around but no sign of any yet.
We checked into our apartment hotel in the small village of Seliste Dreznicko and spent the late afternoon, relaxing, catching up and reviewing maps etc in preparation for our visit to the National Park tomorrow.