Summer was just ending in the homeland, but a little warmth and sunshine were still needed. What better reason to go and explore the Dalmatian coast and islands of Croatia? Business class tickets in hand, a flight to Split was boarded on a Tuesday evening, ready for a week in the sun.
After dropping the bags off at Nirvana Rooms and Apartments (aptly named, quite an enjoyable place to stay right outside the old town), a couple hours were spent wandering around the narrow alleys of the old town, a Unesco heritage site. Local wines were tasted at La Bodega and Zinfandel, the latter of which was pleasant and cosy, before heading back to Nirvana for a good night’s sleep.
The morning began with breakfast at a bakery cafe by the seaside followed by delicious ice creams equalling or maybe even surpassing their Italian counterparts. So many flavors to choose from and such light and airy stuff!
The streets and alleys of the old town were transformed in the daylight into an outdoor mall, with tiny shops selling clothing, shoes, art, and naturally also souvenirs of all kinds. However, sightseeing was the plan for the next couple hours, not shopping. A friend had recommended climbing to the top of the bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Dominus for a lovely view over the city, but neglected to say that the climb up was somewhat daunting: narrow stairs with sometimes nothing on the outer side to prevent one from falling out of the tower, combined with strong winds. Yes, the view was nice, but not altogether sure if it was worth the terror of the staircase…
After surviving the tower and having gotten into the stair climbing mood, the travellers headed for Marjan hill to get another view of the city from a different angle. The sun was out and the temperature somewhere nearer 30 degrees, making the walk up the hill quite a feat. A cold beer was definitely in order once back down by the harbor.
It was then time to leave Split behind for a while and board a catamaran headed for the town of Hvar on the island of Hvar. A bit over an hour and the harbor of Hvar was reached, where the friendly and efficient Andro from Komazin Apartments was waiting. Light rain accompanied the arrival, but luckily the rest of the evening remained rainless and warm.
The evening began with a walk out to the western edge of town to visit the Vunetovo microbrewery, which makes 100 l batches that are apparently mainly gobbled up in Zagreb where the craft beer scene is booming. Only two beers were available for tasting in the quaint hillside terrace, a hefeweizen and a saison, but both were delicious and well worth the walk.
Hunger was creeping up on the travellers, so back to town and a seafood dinner at the very moderately priced and therefore quite crowded Marinero. Octopus salad and a mixed seafood and vegetable grill accompanied by local red wine were just divine.
For last drinks of the evening, The Top at Adriana Hotel was chosen. Flavorful but quite expensive drinks were enjoyed along with a view over the harbor before strolling back along the shore to the apartment.
There were quite a few activities available for the next day, but as the morning appeared cloudless and warm, it was decided that a day at the beach would be the best option. Then came the difficult choice of which beach? After some quick deliberation, a water taxi headed for Zdrilca bay in the Paklinski (Pakleni) islands was chosen, only costing 40 HKN per person roundtrip. 15 minutes later, a small cove was reached. A quick stroll along the path to Mlini beach ended with a decision to head back to the first cove, where colorful bean bags were rented (40 HKN apiece).
Five hours passed while lounging in the sun, taking dips once in a while in the refreshing turquoise waters and sipping a couple cold drinks from the Tri Grede restaurant. Total relaxation!
After a shower and some rest at the apartment, the sun was already setting when the trek up to the Spanjola fortress, dating back to the 13th century, was done. The town and harbor looked beautiful in the dusk, but the walk back down the hillside in the dark was a bit intimidating.
For the second evening in a row, a failed try was made to get a table at Dalmatino, claimed as the best restaurant in town. Luckily there is no lack of restaurants in Hvar. Dinner was finally had on the rooftop terrace of Konoba Luviji, where the service was friendly and the food abundant and flavorful, although the texture of the risotto was not exactly up to par.
It was time to say goodnight to Hvar, as the following morning would start bright and early with a catamaran ride further south to Dubrovnik.