Did you ever have one of those days that you stop and say, “This might be the best day of my life. I am living in one of the best days of my life right now.” That happened in Hvar.
Getting to Croatia from Plitvice Lakes was interesting because we drove for two hours to Split, and then had a two-hour ferry ride over to Hvar. The drive through Croatia is spectacular. We read that the roads in Croatia are very driveable, and we found that to be the case. The freeways seem brand new and run straight through mountains via tunnels and across outrageously beautiful topography. Rolling hills and forests and abandoned buildings zoomed past us as we played The xx on our radio.
We got to the ferry and drove our car right up on that ship because we were bringing her over to Hvar also. This is super cool that we got to bring our car, but it turns out we never used it once while on Hvar. We rented a boat instead and cruised the islands that way.
Before I get to that, I want to talk about Airbnb. We have not stayed in Airbnbs. But, in researching hotels for the different countries we were staying in, I thought I would check out the Airbnb app to see what was available. I was pleasantly surprised to find amazing places in great locations for a quarter of the price of a hotel in the area. For example, we stayed at this great apartment steps up from the water in Hvar for $60 a night. The restaurant tips and sightseeing suggestions from the owner of the apartment were free – like our own mini concierge.
Hvar isn’t what I was expecting. Hvar is considered the party island of the Croatian islands, with a legitimate town and nightlife. What I found Hvar was that it was alive and energetic without being loud and overwhelming. That being said, it was obvious right away that Hvar was THE spot for young British men having bachelor parties. They were always loud and up to some shenanigans, and, fortunately it was more amusing than obnoxious.
I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with the Croatian islands. They seem to be stuck back in time a hundred years, as you would imagine some of the towns on the Italian Riviera used to be before tourism came in and made them a little less special.
Chris’s new found love for driving boats came in handy. We had islands to explore, so we made friends with a
very hot really sweet Croatian dude named Mario who rented us a boat. We didn’t sign any papers. We didn’t give him a credit card deposit. He simply tossed us the keys and wished us luck. “See you when the sun sets,” he said.
We took our boat and cruised the Adriatic, in and out of small islands and landed in the cove of an island called Palmizana. I have never seen anything so beautiful and perfect as this cove.
We were immediately greeted by a very energetic Croat who we called the mayor of Palmizana, but he was really the island masseur. He led our boat into its parking spot and very emphatically insisted we dine at Laganini Seafood, which he said has the best fish anywhere around. The chefs get their fish that day from fishermen; they catch their langoustines, clams, oysters, shrimp, lobster and all kinds of fish I haven’t heard of, and they cook it for you when you come sit at their restaurant on the sea.
Our server presented us with two cigarettes and a matchbox because, hey, why not? Everyone in Croatia smokes. So when in Rome . . . Chris lit up his cigarette and smoked it right there in the restaurant like everyone else does in Croatia. We shared a bottle of delicious Croatian white wine and ate langoustines and clams and pasta. We never even ordered clams and pasta. Best lunch we’ve ever had, with the best view we’ve ever seen.
We were driving our boat around the other side of a island to get to a hidden winery, but the day was very windy and the water was choppy. Our little boat was flying over waves that seemed to big and then I got scared. I thought about Mark Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm and imagined the biggest wave ever to form in the ocean and it was headed toward our boat.
Chris turned the boat around and we headed back from whence we came. We pulled into a bay and there was a dock waiting for us and a homemade sign that said, “The FisherMan’s House and Pension Tonci.”
We were once again all by ourselves. But the good news is that this was the small island that we thought had the winery and apparently now it was a fish house as well. We took a small path carved out between wild chaparral; aloe vera, cactus, olive orchards, vineyards, various dry shrubs. The path wound through the chaparral about half a mile with the ocean peeking in from one side. We landed at what appeared to be someone’s home. It was awkward. And older woman came out from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron and she looked thoroughly confused about why we were there.
“Hello, do you make wine?” Chris said.
“Wine?” She said.
“Are you selling wine?” Chris said.
“We have wine,” she said.
It went on and on like this for awhile until I wanted to run away. Then a lovely young woman emerged from one of the small houses and she said in a nice accent, “Hello! How can I help you?”
You see, this is the thing about certain parts of Croatia; you consistently feel like you have stumbled onto your own private island, or onto your own private beach, or you are out on the vast open sea all by yourselves.
We went to the upper deck with our wine to get a better view of this spectacular olive orchard and met a couple from Manhattan. We had such a nice time talking with them and going over our itineraries. We all agreed that Croatia is simply unbelievable and untouched and we all felt very lucky to be there visiting during a time when it was still authentic. We all laughed together about how we rented boats without any credit card deposits or signed waivers, no one-hour lessons on how to safely and properly use the boats. Why would you worry about such petty things when you live in such a beautiful, laid back land? Perhaps it is because they have been through a recent, bloody war, which made them realize they have better things to worry about than boat waivers.
After Hvar, we were off to the old city of Split, the most toursity of all places we visited.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.