4 September 2018

Croatia Wrap-Up

The walled town of Korcula peeking around the point with the mainland mountains in the distance.
We were just shy of a month in Croatia which boasts 4,058 km on 1,185 islands, islets and reefs.  In our cruising guide the coast is divided into four large sections.  We skimmed through the single southernmost section, anchoring at ten islands and a tiny bit of mainland, and cruising by miles of beautiful, mountainous, largely undeveloped coastline.  
Churches were usually the most dominant of the any development on the mainland.  

One of the many wonderful aspects of these many walled towns we have visited is exploring their narrow lanes where the only traffic is on foot with the occasional hand-pushed cart.  Not an easy way to do business but superb for tourism.  Water is a hot commodity in these sun scorched, arid islands.  Note the collection system for air conditioning condensation.  

Flanking the main door of St. Mark's Cathedral, a primitive, squatting Eve - Adam is on the other side - holds up the proud Venetian lion.  

Croatian town planners seem to have got their waterfront development right.  The island towns all have a promenade that runs along the shore, often lined with cafes. Korcula's was ancient enough to have tall, broad aleppo pines offering great shade umbrellas.

Always wanting to get to the highest point, we had to climb the cathedral bell tower.

St. Peter - need I say more?

Ascending the tower with the bell-ringers platform below.

Although it is controversial, Korcula claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo and this rebuilt towered building his home at birth.  The town honours him with bars, restaurants, shops, hairdressers, all named after the famous son.

The views from the top are always worth the climb.

These are steps meant for skinny people with very small feet.  And the railing is a modern addition.  Those who serviced the bell were brave!

Beautiful Korcula.

Being in Croatia in July and August, high season, meant we shared it with a huge number of boats dominated by sailboats, at least 90% charters.  This gives a completely different flavour to our own cruising.  Instead of liveaboards who are often looking for company and are guaranteed to share a common interest with conversation to cover at least where have you been and where you are going, the crew of charter boats, of which we have often been in pre-Milly life, are on holiday.  The boats are most often packed with crew, move anchorages daily and keep to themselves with their own built in social life.  Unlike an anchorage full of cruisers, there is very little waving from boat to boat.  We did miss our community.  High season in Croatia means the anchorages near tourist centres are packed.  Like the BVI’s during high season, we had to make sure we were looking for a spot to anchor by noon.  

As we went north toward Split - but never actually making it there, sadly - the boats on the water with us became grander and more numerous.

Way to hot for yoga, now exercise in the incredibly clear water became a pleasure.
Our guidebook introduced Hvar town as Croatia's St. Tropez and the crowds had read the same book.  The harbour was packed with day-trip boats and ferries, boats like us looking for a spot to anchor, boats lining the town wall, boats on mooring balls tied together 10 to 15 deep.  Crazy!  We gave up and looked elsewhere.  Unfortunately, many others did the same.

Valet parking for the rental boat lot was packed early in the morning but empty by noon when the harbour and surrounding islands became a motorway.

About 9:30 a.m. and almost empty in Hvar main piazza and reportedly the largest in Dalmatia.  Local life in Croatia is on a definite rhythm, gradually beginning around 11:00, peaking for a big lunch at around 1or 2, prolonged siesta with gradual restart around 5 p.m. often marked by ice cream.   Dinner at 8 or 9 p.m.  We often worked in opposition, to escape the crowds.  The bell tower of the cathedral was quite beautiful with an increasing number of windows ascending toward the bells.

From the  13th century fortress overlooking the town of Hvar which housed the entire population during the years of threats of attack by Turkish fleets, overlooked a chain of small islands.  The closer islands were lined with boats of all sizes tied to trees and rocks all in a row.  We parked here to explore the town, crossing the busy channel by dinghy.  Harbour was a wild scene of boats best avoided.

A gardener with some lateral thinking had balanced inukshuks in the nook of all reachable branches of his small pine grove and put tiny snail shells over the ends of the leaves of his sentry plants.  A must-remember for future landlubbing days, whenever and wherever that might be.

Pondering the sea

The sailing club at Starigrad on Hvar island.  Simple and lovely.  The harbour was on an elongated narrow bay, making it feel more like a river.  

Starigrad.  A very sweet old town without the crowds, we loved it here.  

We tied up to the wall with a view from the cockpit of these row houses.  A promenade lined the harbour which became alive in the evening hours.  We were greatly entertained watching the strolling, sometimes strutting, humanity.
However, it is for good reason that land and sea tourists flock to Croatia for holiday.  The nature is stunning with miles and miles of hills and mountains overlapping in lighter and light shades of grey or mauve.  The sea is clear and blue and warm, and the villages are quaint and full of interesting history.  The people although slow to warm to yet another tourist, are evenutally friendly and kind.
The island of Vis, our last before heading across the Adriatic to Italy, was another favourite.  This large bay was bordered by two towns, Vis and Kut.  The outdoor theatre where we saw Mission Impossible was in the middle.  The mooring field was packed to overflowing.

We hiked up and over the mountains in a failed attempt to get to the other side of the island.  Gorgeous views.

A great bench at the peak of our hike.  We lost the trail shortly after and had to bushwhack through scrub guided by GPS to reconnect. 

Kut.  Croatian coastal towns were charming.

A submarine garage was one of the military leftovers from the Yugoslav era.  Lots of bunkers and a cave used by Tito post WWII were also featured on a highly advertised "military tour" which we didn't go on.

Highlights of our last two weeks in Croatia:

  • Watching the latest Mission Impossible at an outdoor theatre under a blanket of stars with the waves lapping at the wall that separated us from the sea, 
  • Exploring the walled town of Korcula (we have been in at least 20 walled towns this season but Korcula had a low-key feel and charm that was unique),
  • Learning how and becoming competent at tying ashore with anchor,
  • Hiking the island of Vis and stopping at a church in the shade where an American Croatian played the church bells by hand in the tower complete with crescendos, pianissimos and changing rhythms.  On expressing how impressed we were, he regaled us for an hour with his family and island history and drove us back to the town where Milly was waiting.  Experiences like that make the day extra special!
  • Exploring the increasingly deserted coves and channels of the small islands off the frenetically busy harbour of Hvar.
  • Tying up to the wall in Starigrad on the island of Hvar.  Enjoying dinner out and then watching the parade of locals and tourists walk by the boat from the cockpit.  Our entertainment was live that night!

Milly tied to shore, a topic for an upcoming blog.

The gaping hole in the far shore is the submarine hideout.

Final anchorage where Bora #2 hit us was Komiza, Vis.  Again charming.

The Monastery of St. Nicholas sits on a hill behind the village.

The run-down 16th and 17th century fisher-family's houses are picturesque.

Yet another chapel in the middle of nowhere at the peak of a mountain  where I could actually ring that bell.

Our Lady of the Pirates - story goes that pirates stole an image of Mary from the church. But their escape was foiled - the boat wouldn't move until they returned the image.

Did we love it?  The crowds and expense took a little bit of the shine off but on a shoulder season, yes, we would love to complete the coast.  So much to offer and explore.

No comments:

Post a Comment