Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.
Sun, sea, winding medieval alleyways and courtyards, chocolate almond cake and ice-cream… throw into the mix a greatly missed little brother and sister-in-law and you have all the ingredients for a perfect summer holiday in the Adriatic 🙂
Having said that, as far as reaching the inconveniently located island of Korcula is concerned, for once I would have to disagree that the best of life is about the journey and not the ultimate destination.
Frankly, the journey to Korcula is more a test of endurance than something to be relished, savoured or enjoyed. After an obscenely early morning flight from London Gatwick to Split on the Dalmatian coast, I got chatting by chance with someone in the immigation hall who convinced me (against my better judgement) that it was easier to hop on the bus, from the airport to the ferry port, than get a cab at 4 times the price.
We wandered from one bus to the next in search of the correct vehicle to deliver us to the port in Split for our ferry to Korcula, threw our luggage into the trunk hoping it stayed there in the midst of the general airport chaos and people and sat down in the very lightly air-conditioned interior and waited. As we continued to wait, the bus got more and more steamy as it gradually filled up with equally smelly and sweaty tourists. Once it got moving things didn’t improve much.
An allegedly 30 minute ride took closer to 75 as the traffic ground to a halt in Split. Poor Geoff was on the sunny side of the torture chamber and was fainting with the heat, Paul and Katie spent almost the entire journey trying to point the totally ineffective air vent in their direction and I spent the journey riddled with guilt that I’d taken any notice of the idiot in the immigration line… especially as his sticky infant was deposited in the seat next to me and he spent his time kicking me with his grimy trainers out of sheer and utter boredom. Not a journey to be repeated.
Once we arrived, the port was more chaotic than a Moroccan market. We dragged our copious numbers of bags and suitcases along the cobbled waterfront with thousands of other tourists each in search of their own ferries to the various islands. Eventually we gave up hauling them through the melee and offloaded them into a totally insecure baggage deposit kiosk and keeled over in the nearest bar near starvation and dehydration 😉
The 3½ hour ferry ride from Split to Korcula stopping en route in Vis and Hvar (the latter of which looked sufficiently appealing for me to add it to the list of future potential Croatian destinations – if we can ever face the journey again) was tediously uneventful save for more woefully inadequate air conditioning, general overcrowding, inedible food options (luckily Paul and Katie had stocked up on some dodgy looking candy and Geoff and I had a squashed banana to share) and a very loud German tourist who woke Paul and Katie up from their slumbers to demand the seat in between them despite various other surrounding options available to him. He complained vociferously that they had stored their luggage in the seat (as had we in between our own respective seats) and thereafter engaged in a minor spat with Geoff who came to their defence. Geoff told the odious man that we had no intention of abandoning our priceless belongings at the other end of the ferry to the whims of the ferry staff and the possible light-fingered attentions of some of our seedier looking fellow tourists. Ironically, we spotted said German tourist an hour or so later by the luggage storage area (where we had just enjoyed the delights of the over-filled and unflushable toilets); he was clambering in his hiking boots on top of a pile of suitcases to reach his rucksack on the top storage shelf level. Yet more confirmation that clinging on to your luggage on a Croatian ferry is the only sensible way to ensure it arrives in 1 undamaged and untrammelled piece even if it does raise the ire of ones fellow passengers.
Upon arrival we were thoroughly robbed by a cab driver who drove us the 3 or 4 miles to the villa along the coast – and that pretty much set the scene for the rest of our week on the island! To say prices have risen somewhat since we were last in Dubrovnik is somewhat of an understatement. It seems that there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of Croatia – largely owing to an influx of wealthy Russian tourists, the impact of which is that the country is now significantly less good value than previously. Food, cabs, coffee (vital for 3 out of 4 of us to successfully start any vacation day with a caffeine fueled spring in our step) and alcohol (equally vital to 1 out of the 4 of us as soon as the sun is over the yardarm… no prizes for guessing who that might be!) are noticeably pricey.
I fear Geoff is still having palpitations at the cost of the rental car for 5 days as, with hindsight, it might have been more cost effective to buy the car and sell it at the ferry port at the end of the trip.
Luckily, the island is very pretty, the medieval town of Korcula Old Town is spectacular albeit bijou, the island is dotted with the occasional passable coffee shop, the odd bakery of note (Vela Luka having the best chocolate croissants by far… so good I managed 3 in one day 😉 ) and a spectacular coastline with crystal clear turquoise and ultramarine waters lapping the shores. The warm waters were apparently too icy cold for Geoff to enjoy (save at a safe distance) but Katie and I could barely resist throwing ourselves into the water at every opportunity when we could offload Geoff and my brother into a suitably located bar or deposit them under the shade of a large tree with a water view. And of course, my version of a quick cooling dip is entirely different to that of my sister-in-law who is a professional swimmer and has previously swum the truly icy waters of the English Channel between England and France. Barely had I managed to hobble across the large and painful rocks and pebbles underfoot (which characterize pretty much every beach on the island) before delicately dunking myself into the water for a float before Katie was already powering across the bay and out into the open waters of the Adriatic observed by my cautiously caring brother through his binoculars to make sure she came to no harm.
The highlight of the island vacation was intended to be renting a speedboat from Vela Luka to visit the island of Proizd. It took me quite some time to find anyone on Korcula willing to rent us a boat despite Geoff’s decades of driving speedboats and Paul’s experience of sailing single-handed across the Atlantic. The problem is that you now require a Croatian boat license to rent a boat. Obviously, not many tourists coming to the islands for a week-long vacation are going to have a handy Croatian boat license. As an alternative, we were offered several very overpriced skippers for the day but the boys weren’t tempted by that option.
Eventually, and somewhat by luck, I found a company whose palms could be greased for the right price to rent us a fishing boat without the requisite paperwork. We were warned that if the police caught us we would face a hefty fine (still cheaper than renting a skipper for the day) but that the chances of that were about zero. We decided to take the risk and paid an arm and a leg for a barely seaworthy, filthy old fishing boat with wafer thin cushions, a bimini sunshade which I thought might actually rip off if we reached a great enough speed and a rusty ladder hanging off the back for our descent and ascent into and out of the waters.
No need to worry about the speed issue, it transpired! Pulling out of the harbor it didn’t take Captain Geoff long to discover that the boat owner had screwed a piece of wood onto the accelerator preventing any speed greater than about 10 miles per hour. Thankfully we had the boat for the day as it was an unexpectedly slow and sedate ride out to the island 😉
Proizd had the most spectacular water of the trip. Crystal clear to the seabed some 30 feet below the boat as we bobbed about in the bays and the location of the only beach in the vicinity with smooth white pebbles. Frankly, the beaches of Korcula leave a lot to be desired – whilst the water is lovely some of the more well-known and popular beaches are quite unappealing. A couple of famous ones on the south coast (Zitna and Pupnatska Luka) were quite literally littered with cigarette butts and pieces of broken plastic.
The northern coast around Račišće, Samograd beach, Vaja beach was by far the most attractive and less populated than the southern and eastern beaches and, just by chance, the beach outside of the villa in Medvinjak ticked enough boxes to float aimlessly in its waters a couple of times.
Naturally Katie took to the high seas on more than one occasion swimming from the villa to the old town and back. I think that we were all quietly impressed (in the understated way of the English) that she almost beat us swimming back from the old town harbor to the villa as we raced in the rental car winding up through the hills from the old town to Medvinjak village 🙂
Our week passed in a haze of aimless milling in various cafes under the shade of the trees along the city walls; wandering the alleyways of the bijou old town; the general overconsumption of fish delicacies and ice-cream; pottering via mountain passes through villages and towns punctuated by yet more aimless milling; and absorbing the rays of the sun and the laid-back (horizontal) lifestyle of the fishing villages and restaurants outside of Korcula Old Town.
All too soon the week was over and we were faced with enduring the awful return journey on the 3½ hour sweaty, smelly ferry back to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Split which was sweltering in a heatwave touching 40C (over 100F). In a weak moment on the ferry, as we melted into the seats and the whiff of backpackers body odour nearly got the better of me I called a family conference. I suggested to anyone who wished to bail out that we could get the return flight to Gatwick the following day instead of enduring the searing heat in a claustrophobic city in 100F. Not like me to bail out of a trip but I fear the clogged ferry toilets and the roiling of my stomach in the almost entirely un air-conditioned ferry was getting the better of my adventurous spirit.
Thankfully, the braver of our group refused to bail out and despite the searing temperatures across southern and eastern europe for the duration of our 3 days in Split we survived! If I’m honest, we had a thoroughly lovely time exploring the medieval city in between frequently darting into air conditioned bars and coffee shops, we re-fuelled at ice-cream vendors and retired frequently to the apartment which was very conveniently located right in the centre of the Diocletian’s Palace. Split is beautiful: stunning architecture, narrow alleyways, courtyards dotted with bars and restaurants and everyone who is anyone heads out to the Riva – the waterfront promenade – every evening to stroll past the yachts and cruise ships or pick a prime people-watching spot at one of the tables from an endless selection of bars and cafes.
We had a fabulous holiday visiting Croatia but most of all we had a fabulous time with my brother and sister-in-law. Once they’ve recovered perhaps we can do it all again another year on another island in the gorgeous Adriatic 🙂