Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Roy & Kelly do Croatia....

....We got back from our summer holiday last Sunday afternoon, but it's taken me a little time to pull together this post. Largely because of the silly amounts of photos and videos I had to edit, but also simply working out just how to set it out. Where to start. In short, our trip was fantastic. That is because we found Croatia to be a beautiful country both naturally and architecturally, whilst (generally) it's people were also incredibly good natured.
We landed in Split and immediately hired a car to drive North East, three hours inland to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Despite the torrential rain, that simply wouldn't cease, (well, typically not until we began our return journey), we witnessed the most stunning natural beauty we'd ever seen. It was worth the rain, many times over.

Once dry, we made our way back to Split, dropped off the car and took the ferry over to the Island of Hvar, where we had accommodation booked for the following three nights. Hvar is famed for it's beauty, it's archeology, it's land full of lavender and the Adriatic-fringed pebble shores with crystal clear waters. In fact, we found the latter comment is true of every Croatian Island off the mainland coast. Stunning. We were soon reminded that it was high season, with Hvar Town bustling with life - from expensive boats and show ponies, to a cosmopolitan, alfresco cafe culture. It seemed more French Riviera than small Croatian Island. But this was no bad thing, as it prompted us to explore the island further. So we spent a day on our local beach, 'hidden' down a rocky path in a bay.

Next we took a day trip to various bays amongst the Pakleni Islands, where we were afforded more stunning views, waters and food, (courtesy of a fish supper aboard our tour boat).

We also took a trip to the local village beach of Milna, which away from the bustle, was the best we'd seen yet. Three nights in Hvar proved the perfect amount, so we decided to move on to Vis. This is a smaller Island, further out in to the Adriatic, that only became part of Croatia again in 1991 when Independence was gained. An annual summer festival celebrates the Battle of Vis, fought between the Austrian and Italian Navies in 1866, which Kelly and I stepped right in to. (The festival, not the battle, you understand).

The journey to Vis wasn't as straight forward as we'd hoped. We hadn't anticipated just how busy the lone ferry that week would be. We also hadn't bought tickets in advance. Our ongoing plans we only saved by corrupt guards that took money in hand and ushered us aboard. Phew. Once on the island, our preconception of easily finding accommodation was also shattered. The tourist information were clearly taking everyone, (ourselves included), for mugs by claiming only the local, characterless (and expensive), hotel had availability. And strangely, they took the cash. Hmm. We weren't amused, but at that time of night we had little option.

We decided not to stay in Vis Town after that and went online to secure a beautiful apartment on the other side of the island in Komiza. There we stayed for the rest of our holiday. But I made Kelly get there the hard way of course - by hiring bikes and cycling. Tough, but incredible. From here we took a day trip to the island of Bisevo and to the Blue Cave. This natural wonder is unbelievable. A deep blue refracts off the water as the sun hits it from outside, and fills the cave. Pictures simply can't do it justice.

Then we went to the opposite side of the island to a rare sandy (& pebbled) beach, Porat. On our penultimate day we decided to hire bikes again to cycle to an incredible bay, Svitnja. Like something from a movie set, it was simply too good to be true. We wiled away an afternoon in the clear water and sunning ourselves.

Our last day was spent on our local beach, a bit further round the island away from the port. Relaxed and hot, it was the perfect way to end. Our journey home proved to be quite amusing too, kind off. We got to bed after midnight and had to be up at 4am to start our journey. Unfortunately this precious need for sleep came on the most exuberant and boisterous night of the festival so far.

Our early bus turned in to the 'last bus home' for a host of local revellers. In turn, our ferry, (which we also paid a corrupt guard to get on to), became a zombie vessel as the said revellers realised they were tired after all! And then that was it really, holiday over.You may have noticed very little description of food, (to which you are normally accustomed to), but we ate and enjoyed too much to write about it all, (you'll see plenty of pictures in the slide show at the end).

Essentially though, there is doubtless an Italian influence, (Croatia's relatively near neighbours), which mixed with incredible local fresh fish, speciality sheep cheeses and good cuts of meat, makes for fantastic food. I was happy on that front, certainly. I would recommend Croatia to everyone, particularly the Dalmatian islands, my only suggestion being that you visit just out of high season, when it may be a little quieter, (although it proved no problem for us). A brilliant holiday and the first time I have relaxed and sunbathed that much in about eight years. Kelly, again? Yes please.

The slide show, (click to enlarge):

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