Sunday, October 10, 2010

Island hopping, Croatian style

A two hour ferry ride to the island of Vis felt a whole lot shorter after meeting an English couple (Andy & Catherine) who were on their honeymoon. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to be the reserved type and we instantly hit it off, leaving us feeling like old friends by the time we arrived on the island. We invited them to join us the following night for a meal at a local restaurant called ‘Roki’s’, which had been recommended to us. We ate ‘Peka’, a traditional Croatian dish made with meat, vegetables, herbs and slow cooked in a cast iron pot over hot coals. The food couldn’t have been more perfectly cooked, with the meat melting in our mouths like butter and the whole dish so full of flavour. The restaurant also makes and sells their own wine, using grapes grown only on the island of Vis. We drank their white Bugava and their red Plavac, both of wish were uniquely delicious and different to any other wine we have tasted. Our conversation with Andy & Catherine went beyond the superficial and we laughed until we cried. At the end of the night, we exchanged details and were immediately convinced we had made another two life-long friends.

Enjoying 'peka' with our new friends

Vis is an incredibly beautiful island, with a lack of ‘touristy’ developments, which is exactly what we loved about it. We were instantly captivated by the small fishing village of Komiza, at the east end of the island, with its pebble beaches, lined with 17th and 18th century homes and it’s crystal emerald green waters. We were astounded when we managed to discover a small apartment right on the foreshore, with the water almost lapping at our front door, all for about AU$40 a night! Travelling outside of peak season definitely increases your bargaining power! Tony and Senka, our warm and generous hosts, were the best we could have asked for. Despite the considerable language barrier, we made use of all communication tools, including hand gestures and the usual charades. Tony kindly offered us some of his ‘catch of the day’ for lunch, which we watched him prepare and cook the traditional way – whole fish over hot coals with garlic, olive oil and rosemary. We sat at the water’s edge, in front of our apartment savouring every mouthful and counting our blessings as we reflected on the generosity of this beautiful couple.

Our apartment is the one on the far right :-)

Komiza beach

Tony cooking us up the fish on the coals

Perfect lunch with the perfect view

The landscape and atmosphere of Vis created the perfect setting for ultimate relaxation. In 4 days, a basic routine was quickly developed….nothing more than rising without any alarm to wake us, meandering over to the local bar about 200 metres away, drinking coffee while gazing out to the Adriatic for at least an hour, going for a leisurely drive around the island, eating and drinking some more….I’m sure you get the picture. To mix things up a bit, we hiked down to a secluded and extremely picturesque cove called 'Stiniva', where the points of two cliff faces curve in toward each other, allowing water to flow through the canal in the centre. I was ever so slightly ecstatic because I had been dying to swim in the clear, aqua waters but up until this point, it was a bit too chilly to take the plunge. This day however seemed just right, but the moment I removed my shoes and begun walking toward the water, I quickly discovered how much I despise pebble beaches!! Sure, they look incredible and they allow for the clear water, but they are bloody painful!! A vigorous foot massage gone horribly wrong is an appropriate way to describe it! In the end, I did venture into the water….but with shoes on….which was just plain wrong!


Amazing sunset at Komiza, Vis

We left Vis extremely reluctantly, especially with hosts who almost begged us to stay, but there were other islands we really wanted to visit and it wouldn’t be long until the weather would be getting much cooler. We visited the islands of Korcula and Mlijet, spending 3 nights on each, with not much more to report other than a whole lot more relaxation. Torrential storms on Korcula gave us both the opportunity to finish some really good books (Sal – ‘One Day, by David Nicholls’ and Tim – ‘The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life') and we enjoyed the down time as well as watching the lightning over the ocean from our front window. We discovered fig brandy, home made by our hosts, which was a little too delicious and it is probably just as well that we only bought one small bottle to take away. We also visited a local winery, where we tasted and bought two bottles of exceptional Croatian wine – grown, produced and sold only on the island. It was a pity we didn’t get to see Korcula under the sunshine because seeing and appreciating the beauty of a place is much harder through the rain.

By the time we arrived at the very untouched island of Mljet, we had no books to read and although the National Park was beautiful, we began feeling like we had done enough relaxation and boredom crept in. We amused ourselves with dodging big black beetles on the road, commentating (Tim) the activity of ants who were carrying away the various body parts of dead flies and hanging out with giant purple jelly fish and a beer drinking praying mantis. Yes….the product of having way too much time on your hands! Time for some more advanced brain stimulation!

One of the views of the Mljet coast

The beer drinking praying mantis....sweet!


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim and Sal

I am loving the travelogue of Croatia-it’s a place I knew very little about but can honestly say it now sounds very appealing. I sense that you two could be the Paul Hogans (‘throw a shrimp on the barbie and come on over to Oz’) of Croatia……throw a fish on the coals, grab a fig brandy and just relax…. I doubt that Croatia could find better ambassadors than you two.

Keep well.


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