After spending a few days in the capital of Croatia we then started our journey south to explore the Dalmatian coast from Split to Dubrovnik. We spent three nights in Split before getting on a Sail Croatia cruise that navigated some of the beautiful Croatian islands. We then spent three nights in the old town of Dubrovnik which was very enjoyable.
Croatia as a whole exceeded our expectations – in general the people were friendly, the food was good – we had some exceptional meals and the towns / villages were gorgeous. The ocean was next level – I have never been swimming in such crystal clear waters.
All in all we were in Croatia for 16 nights which really gave us a chance to get to know the country. The history of the country and the region is fascinating and I was especially moved by the recent history that saw Croatia fighting for independence. I finished reading “Goodbye Sarajevo” part way through our Sail Croatia trip. This is an amazing story and I felt very endeared to some of the local people that I talked to about what it was like for them and their families. Spoiler alert – there is a NZ connection in the book which made the story all the more special.
We booked the Sail Croatia trip on friends recommendations rather than doing a lot of research ourselves. The trip was great but just a few things to note if you are considering booking one yourselves. We found the days were very structured and probably for good reason – breakfast time was usually between 8am and 9am, there would be a swim stop sometime between 10am and 12pm, lunch was usually at 12.30pm and we would dock between 2pm and 4pm. If you had organised an excursion on the island you were docking on you would not usually have a great deal of time to explore the old towns which were all amazing.
The docking times were dictated by the Port Authorities in each Port so there was no ability to go ashore any earlier. Quite often we were moored up just outside the port for a couple of hours and although it was nice just lazing around on the boat it would have been nice to have the option to go ashore earlier and explore.
There was nothing wrong with the food on board but the three course lunch which sometimes included a soup starter wasn’t really appropriate for the beautiful Mediterranean conditions we were enjoying – a buffet lunch with nice breads, cold meats, cheeses and fruit would have been so much more enjoyable. I know this is a first world problem but just something to note if you are considering booking a Sail Croatia trip.
The boat was owned by the Captain who provided the crew including the chef and bar staff. Sail Croatia then have a representative / tour guide on board. We felt at times there was a bit of a disconnect between the two parties and our lovely tour guide, Ana, had to work very hard to keep us happy and informed on a timely basis. The captain and the crew didn’t really engage with us – I had read somewhere that the Croatians casual nature can be misconstrued as rude when that is not their intention.
There were 36 guests on the boat – 5 Brits, 29 Aussies and 2 Kiwis (us). There were a few groups of friends travelling together but everyone got on well and we enjoyed everyone’s company. We were travelling with our friends from London, Denise and Gary, which was fantastic – it was great to be able to spend so much time together given we live at opposite ends of the earth.
There appear to be a lot of options re getting around the Croatian Islands and if you wanted a bit more flexibility you might want to consider chartering a smaller boat with a group of friends with a skipper or you could of course sail yourselves 😮.
We spent three nights in Split and had two full days to explore. We stayed about 15 minutes walk above the old town so it was a good workout going backwards and forwards to the old town. We felt toured out so we spent the two days exploring Split at our own pace. The old town started off as the palace built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and slowly grew into a town over the centuries that followed. It is an incredible place which so many alleyways and steps connecting it all up. We went round in circles a few times trying to find something we had seen previously. Just out from the old town walls is the Port which is a very lively place with bars, restaurants, boats, ferries and lots of people.
We found some lovely little eating places and I was impressed with the variety and healthy eating options. Some places worth a visit included:
4 Coffee Soul Food – a little hole in the wall that did great coffee
D16 Coffee – a quaint little cafe that again did fantastic coffee, cookies and chia seed puddings (might not appeal to all but this is my idea of heaven)
Portofino – we didn’t manage to get in here as it was fully booked but it looked great
Kitchen 5 – they had a small menu but what they did was delicious. Steve had the Veal Confit and went into a trance like state saying he didn’t want the meal to end. I had the purple risotto and I too was in heaven.
Muma & Pjaceta – they had some great healthy options including smoothies and Buddha bowls. They were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had a very relaxed vibe.
Daddy Cool – a vegetarian place that used falafels as the main ingredient in their offerings
The parking in the streets above the old town where we stayed was non existent so they park up on the footpaths which means you have to walk on the roads. The streets are narrow too so there is a lot of manoeuvring if you meet a car coming the other way 😳.
The history of Split…..
The history of Split is over-flowingly rich and turbulent to fit in just a couple of sentences. Although the Split area was earlier inhabited by the Greek colonies, Emperor Diocletian should be considered its first citizen and founder, starting his lavish villa of around 300 square meters near the great city of Salona in 293 AD, only to retire from the Roman throne within its walls after building it for ten years.
Turbulent centuries that followed turned the villa into a city, conceived by the fugitive inhabitants of Salona who fled from the Avars and Slavs. Many authorities changed hands in the city which, in the years to come, grew beyond the Palace walls, from the Croatian Kings in the 10th century, through the Hungarian and Venetian administration, to the French rulers and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Modern age and the 20th century “moved” Split from the kingdom of Yugoslavia, through tragic, yet heroic times of the Italian and German occupation during the Second World War when Split was one of the centres of anti-fascist resistance, to the Socialist Yugoslavia and the present period of the free and independent Croatia, member of the European Union.
Diocletian Palace and the entire historical core of Split have been on the World Heritage UNESCO list ever since 1979, and not only for the extraordinary preservation of the Palace, but also because the Palace and its city (or the city and its Palace, if you like) continue to live a full life.
Diocletian Palace is one of the best preserved monuments of the Roman architecture in the world. The Emperor’s Palace was built as a combination of a luxury villa – summer house and a Roman military camp (castrum), divided into four parts with two main streets. Southern part of the Palace was, in this scheme, intended for the Emperor’s apartment and appropriate governmental and religious ceremonies, while the north part was for the Imperial guard – the military, servants, storage etc. The Palace is a rectangular building (approximately 215 x 180 meters) with four large towers at the corners, doors on each of the four sides and four small towers on the walls. The lower part of the walls has no openings, while the upper floor is open with a monumental porch on the south and halls with grand arch windows on the other three sides. Over the centuries the Palace inhabitants, and later also the citizens of Split adapted parts of the palace for their own requirements, thus the inside buildings as well as the exterior walls with the towers significantly changed the original appearance, but the outlines of the Imperial Palace are still very visible.
All historical layers from the old Rome, middle ages till today are still visible and alive in this structure. A walk through the ancient city takes you through time, along the great examples of ancient architecture like Peristyle, the middle aged Romanesque Church and Gothic Palace, Renaissance portals of the noblemen’s houses, Baroque facades and modern architecture superbly merged in the rich heritage.
Such stratification is mirrored in everyday life of Split. Local inhabitants sit in the same cafes, restaurants, shop in the same stores as tourists, giving them the impression that, by arriving to Split, they became a part of the city and its rhythm. The vegetable market and the fish market represent the centre of each family’s life in Split, just as the entire social life of this city of 200,000 reflects on the Riva (waterfront), where every guest should endeavour to have his coffee alongside noisy, temperamental folk of Split.
Split is much more than glorious architectural scenery. Split is also a venue for excellent gourmet and vine experiences, numerous cultural happenings like film and theatre festivals, exhibitions, excellent museums and concerts, a city which offers eclectic modes of entertainment starting with numerous clubs and bars, through street festivals to events such as Ultra Europe Festival visited each year by up to 100,000 young people from around one hundred countries of the world. Split with its sport results is something only a handful of cities of similar size around the world can boast about as it is the home of a dozen Olympic medal winners as well as other sports medals.
When you tire of the city bustle, there’s Marjan, hill symbol over the city, with its forest, jogging trails, mountain climbing and biking, recreational terrains, but also the ancient churches where the late citizens of Split sought spiritual peace. Also very unusual to find in a city the size of Split are the numerous beaches with extraordinarily clean sea, from the well known Bačvice to the stone secluded oases’ all around Marjan.
After all that’s said are you at all surprised that citizens of Split have a saying “There is no place like Split”?
Just outside the Palace walls is a statue of Gregory of Nin who was a medieval Croatian bishop who strongly opposed the Pope and official circles of the Church and introduced the national language in the religious services after the Great Assembly in 926, according to traditional Croatian historiography. Until that time, services were held only in Latin (being under the jurisdiction of Roman influence before the Great Schism), not being understandable to a majority of the population. Not only was this important for Croatian language and culture, but it also made Christianity stronger within the Croatian kingdom.
The statue was erected in September 1929 in the Peristyle of Diocletian’s Palace and can be seen in postcards of the pre-World War II period. In 1941, the statue was moved outside the city by Italian occupying forces. In 1954, it was re-erected in a different location, to the north of the Palace and Old Town of Split, just outside the Golden Gate, where it currently sits. A major restoration of the monument took place between 2013 and 2015.
The 8.5-metre (28 ft) tall statue is a heavily trafficked tourist site in the town – rubbing the statue’s toe is said to bring good luck. The toe has been worn smooth and shiny as a result.
On Saturday the 1st of September we boarded Aurora, the boat that would be our home for the next seven nights. We had our golf clubs in tow still and I was a bit concerned that we would have to sleep with them if there wasn’t much space in our cabin. I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious the cabin was – the golf clubs fitted nicely under the bed.
We set sail for Makarska which is a port on the mainland – we had never heard of this place but it turned out to be quite a vibrant port. We didn’t dock until about 7pm so it was a quick change and out for dinner at Bounty Steakhouse.
The city of Makarska grew around a natural harbor protected by a picturesque peninsula of Sveti Petar (St. Peter) and the cape Osejava. In the past it provided protection and safe harbor during stormy weather to sailors, pirates and merchants, and nowadays it does the same for yachts, sailing boats and tourist ships. This contributed to its development into a trading port, especially during the Ottoman and Venetian occupation. Today, there is a ferry line which runs a few times a day from Makarska to Sumartin on the island Brač. Makarska has a population of 15,000 and is one of the most famous tourist destinations on the Croatian coast, attractive for its nature and good climate, rich in tourist attractions and full of hospitable hosts.
On Sunday we headed for the island of Hvar which is the fourth most populated of the Croatian Islands. There are about 1,246 islands but only about 45 are inhabited. We were going to have two nights on Hvar – one in Stari Grad and one in Hvar town itself. Stari Grad was a sleepy little village (it was Sunday so that also added to the sleepy feel) but one of my favorite on the trip. We had a wander around and discovered these lovely little alleys and squares.
We had a wine tasting organised at one of the local, family owned and operated vineyards called Hora. All but one of the people on our boat took up the wine tasting option and it was a great way to break the ice and get to know our fellow passengers and tour guide, Ana, a little better.
The guy doing the tasting was quite informative and we tasted two white wines, a rose and a red. I enjoyed the first of the whites and the red the best. They also provided the most delicious bread and home grown and pressed olive oils. We also sampled some local cheese and salami 👌🏼.
Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed the wines so Steve negotiated an additional two hours there (there is always that one person 😂) which Ana and the rest of the group were happy with. We purchased some bottles of wine, continued enjoying the ambience of the location and had a wander around the property. They also grew lavender and made various lavender products.
After getting back to the port we went and had dinner at the Fig Restaurant – I had looked at the restaurant online and it sounded lovely. They didn’t take reservations so there was a chance we may have to wait for a table. Gary said he would charm his way in 😉 but there was no need – we got a table straight away. The food was amazing. We had Flatbreads to start and they had the most delicious topping combinations – I’m drooling writing about them – take me back right now ☺️. The restaurant is tucked back from the water in one of the squares. Mark & Ange from Melbourne joined us for dinner and it turned out the owner of the restaurant, Rob, was from Melbourne although he had been born in Croatia and had only recently moved back. What a lovely guy – we enjoyed chatting to him very much and he gave us some good onward recommendations.
When we returned to the waterfront it was quite lively with people in the bars. A storm was brewing and we had the most spectacular lightening display. We decided to head back to the boat before the skies opened up – we got about two thirds of the way back before the rain came down. It was quite an amusing sight watching the people in front of us start to run in waves as the rain swept the promenade. We took cover until it eased off and managed not to get too wet getting back to the boat.
Lightening at 11pm illuminating the harbour
The next morning we headed for Hvar which is on the other side of the island. We had to get a water taxi into the port about 4pm as they don’t allow the boats to dock until 9pm at night. Ana took us for a walk to the citadel which was first built in the 6th century to see the views over the port which were fantastic.
Gary had been stung by a wasp the day before and his arm had become quite red and swollen so he took a trip to the Doctors. A jab in the bum and some antibiotics and he was on the mend. The wasps proved to be quite a problem in a lot of the ports and in talking to one of the locals this was not a normal occurrence – the wasps had just started making a nuisance of themselves this summer – good timing guys 😬.
We had booked dinner at Dalmintinos which sounded good on TripAdvisor and came highly recommended by Rob from the Fig Restaurant. I couldn’t book a table but was able to go on the wait list. We bumped into Lee and Colin from NZ again and had a drink with them before dinner. We enjoyed our meal and the service was fantastic. We then had a wander around Hvar which was a very happening place. It has become the new Ibiza for the young Brits and they were everywhere heading to the nightclubs. We had a demure night cap before calling it a night about midnight.
Hvar is approximately 68 km (42.25 mi) long, with a high east-west ridge of Mesozoic limestone and dolomite, the island of Hvar is unusual in the area for having a large fertile coastal plain, and fresh water springs. Its hillsides are covered in pine forests, with vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields in the agricultural areas. The climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm summers with many hours of sunshine. The island has about 11,000 residents.
Hvar’s location at the center of the Adriatic sailing routes has long made this island an important base for commanding trade up and down the Adriatic, across to Italy and throughout the wider Mediterranean. It has been inhabited since pre-historic times, originally by a Neolithic people whose distinctive pottery gave rise to the term Hvar culture, and later by the Illyrians. The ancient Greeks founded the colony of Pharos in 384 BC on the site of today’s Stari Grad, making it one of the oldest towns in Europe. They were also responsible for setting out the agricultural field divisions of the Stari Grad Plain, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In medieval times, Hvar (city) rose to importance within the Venetian Empire as a major naval base. Prosperity brought culture and the arts, with one of the first public theatres in Europe, nobles’ palaces and many fine communal buildings.
The 16th century was an unsettled time, with the Hvar Rebellion, coastal raids by pirates and the Ottoman army from the mainland, resulting in some unusual fortified buildings on the northern shore to protect the local population. After a brief time under Napoleonic rule, the island became part of the Austrian Empire, a more peaceful and prosperous time. On the coast, harbours were expanded, quays built, fishing and boat building businesses grew. At the same time, the island’s wine exports increased, along with lavender and rosemary production for the French perfume industry. However, this prosperity did not continue into the 20th century as wooden sailing boats went out of fashion, and the phylloxera blight hit wine production. Many islanders left to make a new life elsewhere.
One industry, tourism, has however continued to grow and is now a significant contributor to the island’s economy. The formation of The Hygienic Association of Hvar in 1868 for the assistance of visitors to the island has been instrumental in developing an infrastructure of hotels, apartments, restaurants, marinas, museums, galleries and cafes. Today, the island of Hvar is a popular destination, consistently listed in the top 10 islands by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
The next day we sailed to the island of Vis. We anchored just out of the port about 11am and enjoyed a swim – the conditions were idyllic. I just can’t get over how turquoise and clear the water is. After lunch we docked and had a couple of hours to explore before our tour of the island.
Vis is the farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland with a population of 3,617 in 2011. The island’s two largest settlements are the town of Vis on the island’s eastern side (the settlement for which the island was originally named) and Komiža on its western coast.
Once known for its thriving fishing industry in the late 19th and early 20th century, the main present-day industries on the island are agriculture and tourism. Vis town and Komiža are also seats of separate administrative municipalities which cover the entire island and nearby islets, which are both part of Split-Dalmatia County. In 2017 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was filmed on location on Vis.
We had chosen to do the military tour of the island. We were met by our guides Goran and Slavin in a couple of old land rovers which are not known for their spacious interior but it was fun all the same. Goran and Slavin had some military experience and apparently Goran had been a well known journalist in Zagreb. Ana spoke very highly of him and said she was inspired by what he was doing in Vis and his passion for the island. This passion certainly came through during the tour – both Goran and Slavin also had a good sense of humour.
Vis was isolated from the outside world from 1940 until 1991 when Croatia became independent. It was used as a military base with 20 kilometres of underground tunnels, mines, caves and storage facilities. Vis was intensively fortified from the early 19th century, first by UK, then by Austro-Hungarian Empire, Greeks, Romans, Venetians and everybody else who controlled the island.
During World War II, Vis was at one point the main hideout of Josip Broz Tito, the leader of the Yugoslav partizans. Realizing the strategic importance of the island and the usefulness of its many caves and coves from his years there fighting the Germans, Tito kept a tight grip on Vis, making it one of the main naval bases of the Yugoslav People’s Army. This effectively turned the entire island into a closed military zone, out of bounds for both Yugoslav civilians from the mainland, and foreigners. Many areas were prohibited even to the island’s residents. Preparing for war with Vis as the front-line, the Yugoslav navy burrowed and excavated for decades, turning the island into a maze of caves, underground tunnels, bunkers and submarine hideouts.
For 50 years, the island followed a policy of isolation and was inaccessible to tourists. When the Yugoslav army left the island in 1992 Vis was left as a ghost town of former army barracks which serve as a haunting reminder in the minds of Vis residents. Stranded in this remote outpost among a population that resented their presence, the Yugoslav Navy left peacefully almost overnight, leaving behind empty barracks, caves and tunnels they had tended for almost half a century.
The labyrinth of tunnels and even a submarine cave were actually built in the 1950’s which was after World War II and were never used in an actual battle. They were only ever used for training exercises. Tito was paranoid and ruled by putting fear into the people that no one was to be trusted and they must always be prepared to protect themselves.
Our first stop was on Vis was Fort George (named after King George III) where Goran explained the history of the region and the island using some great stories and analogies. He spent a bit of time talking about Yugoslavia and the subsequent war of independence. I must say I have been quite captivated by these recent events in history and I managed to find a simplified version which attempts to explain the reasoning behind it. For anyone else that is interested here is the link https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/understanding-yugoslavia
Fort George was built by the British when the Austrian Imperial authority in the region was ceded to the French as a part of a humiliating peace settlement dictated by Napoleon. Fearing Napoleon would turn the Adriatic into a French lake, with free rein to launch warships from the Venetian Arsenal and expand his empire further into Europe, the Royal Navy was sent to the Adriatic with a regiment of foot and detachment of artillery to prevent Napoleon’s ambitions coming to fruition.
The British had used the island of Vis for its fresh water and safe anchorage for a number of years prior to committing defences to the island. In 1811 the French successfully raided the bay of Vis inflicting damage to the town and destroying numerous merchant vessels. It was hence decided that the bay of Vis needed protection from further such attacks. Initial defences were built on Host Island in the middle of the harbour, consisting of two 18 pound guns in a stone fortification.
In 1812 Fort George was begun after the British Governor, Colonel Robertson, decided that the harbour needed greater protection. The defences were completed by late 1813 and two years later were handed to the Austrians, who had begun reclaiming control of their Adriatic territories following decline and eventual fall of Napoleonic forces in the region.
Goran then told us about the Battle of Lissa (sometimes called Battle of Vis) that took place on 20 July 1866 in the Adriatic Sea near the Dalmatian island of Lissa (“Vis” in Croatian) and was a decisive victory for an outnumbered Austrian Empire force over a numerically superior Italian force. It was the first major sea battle between ironclads and one of the last to involve deliberate ramming.
The Italian navy fired roughly 1450 shots during the engagement, but failed to sink any Austrian ship while losing two ironclads. One of the main reasons for this poor performance was internal rivalry between the Italian fleet commanders: for example, Italian Vice Admiral Albini, with his ships, did not engage the enemy during the battle. The engagement was made up of several small battles: the main battle was between seven Austrian and four Italian ironclads and showed the ability of Austrian commander Tegetthoff to divide his more numerous opponents and then destroy the isolated ironclads.
There are many shipwrecks around the island of Vis making it a great place to dive.
When we entered Fort George Goran pointed out a caper plant growing from the walls. Vis has a large number of herbs growing in the wild which Slavin pointed out on our jaunt around Vis – wild garlic, lavender, thyme.
We then went to visit the tunnels and submarine cave. Slavin explained that after the submarine cave was built they discovered the water wasn’t deep enough to submerge the submarines in anyway so they had to submerge in the open – this wasn’t going to be particularly useful if the enemy were spying on them. They had made these big camouflage nets that hung from the entrance though so if an enemy plane happened to fly over they wouldn’t know the cave was there. In theory the creation of these tunnels and the cave were very clever – it was just a shame that they cost a lot of money and were really built out of one man’s paranoia.
Our next stop was the memorial to the British RAF pilots who had used the island of Vis as a refuelling stop in World War II. There is an airstrip on the island located very strategically in a valley. The runway was not very long though and tailed off to the right at the end. There were a lot of casualties here. There are apparently about 30 planes located off the coast of the island which are amazing dive spots.
The most recent discovery occurred in March 2010 when the remains of a heavy B24 bomber also known as the Liberator were discovered in the sea close to the southern part of the island. The plane was found in the open sea, around 500 metres from the islets close to the southern part of Vis, on an underwater cliff, at a depth of just 39 metres.
There is also an intact B17 lying on the sand as if it had just landed, and it seems as if it was still standing on its wheels! Divers have reported that it is resting on the sand, while the port wingtip is several meters above the sandy bottom. The wreck lies in 72m deep and only about 100-150m from the shore of Vis island.
The runway on the island was abandoned a couple of years ago but they are trying to resurrect it. Meanwhile the sheep are having a field day.
Not far from the runway is a cricket wicket which came about due to the discovery of a letter one of the British Captain’s wrote to his mother in 1809.
“We have established a cricket club at this wretched place, and when we do get anchored for a few hours, it passes away an hour very well.”
Captain William Hoste was a former shipboy of Lord Nelson himself, a distinguished naval commander who was on his way to a knighthood and was rather more used to sinking Napoleon’s warships than guarding a small island in the Mediterranean (around 200 ships were captured or resting at the bottom of the sea on his account). His six-year posting on Vis was not entirely to his liking – after all, it was hot, isolated and Englishmen of his time were never terribly comfortable away from home; it was 1809, and air-conditioning, ice-cream, the aqualung and sun-lotion were all discoveries that lay many years into the future. Instead, they turned to that most English of pastimes – cricket!
There’s some doubt as to whether the Captain ever actually played the game – he appears to have been a specialist fielder much like other more recent English recruits to the club – but he gave it his blessing and over the years the island became used to the sound of leather on willow. Captain Hoste would later distinguish himself further during the 1811 “Battle of Issa”, overcoming significantly larger French forces.
When the British departed, the cricket club was disbanded and ought to have become little more than an interesting footnote in the island’s history – but the story wasn’t quite over yet…
The rebirth actually started with Nik Roki. Nik was born on Vis but emigrated to Melbourne in the 50s when he was just fifteen years old. It was a time when Australia was in need of foreign workers and actively encouraged immigration (how times change!) – Nik was one of thousands who made the journey and settled quickly into their new way of life. This, of course, soon included a fascination with the game of cricket, a sport that Nik initially found extremely confusing. After spending several years in Australia, in the process moving across the country to Perth, Nik had seen enough of the game to become a complete convert – and like any good “Australian” passed on his enthusiasm to his son, Oliver. It was with some surprise, then, that twenty years after returning to Vis to set up his wine-making business with his wife Valerie they discovered that the island had a secret cricket history of its own.
“In 2002 I found a letter in Tom Pocock’s book, Remember Nelson, where he talked about the club,” says Oliver Roki “I thought it would be a great idea for tourism if we started up the club again, so we did. After all, I started up a restaurant without knowing how to cook – why not start up a cricket club even if you don’t know how to play?” (both Oliver’s cooking and medium pacers have improved hugely since).
Did they have a pitch? No. Did they have numbers enough for a decent game? Not really – all they really had was some very basic plastic training equipment but this was enough to improvise their way around the game, playing wherever and whenever the occasion allowed. With a keen eye for publicity, Oliver had already managed to get the revived club into the local press – they even managed to get a professional cricket coach to come over and give them a few pointers. The Sir William Hoste Cricket Club was on its way. The island’s helipad became the club’s unofficial pitch (“great if there are any injuries during the game!”), and after the St Radegund pub in Cambridge had donated some proper kit for them to use, they were ready (almost) for their first match.
These days the Vis cricket club has around thirty adult members and almost as many in the junior ranks, the only cricket club in Croatia to have a dedicated youth set-up. They are also the only club side with a policy of selecting home-grown players, mostly out of necessity; the majority of Croatian-Australian “retournees” settle in either Zagreb or Split for professional reasons and join the clubs there. This leaves Vis to pick their side from islanders and the occasional lost Englishman. Given their disappointing showing in annual Hrvatski Kriket Kup competition (only once have they not finished bottom) they could probably do with a few more Australians…
We drove up towards the highest point on the island but stopped just below it to watch the sun set over Komiza. The highest point actually has the only remaining active military base on it. When the island was an isolated military base there were about 5000 soliders on it – today there are 5.
We were up at about 1800 feet and it was actually pretty chilly so it was a quick sunset photo before we headed down to the settlement of Komiza which is the fishing village on the western side of the island. Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time there as we had a dinner reservation at 8.30pm.
A quick trip back to the town of Vis, a quick change and our ride arrived to take us to Rokis which is the restaurant owned by Oliver mentioned above.
Roki’s is a family-run restaurant which was established in 1991, continuing a 200-year-old family tradition in wine production. They first began producing and selling their own wines, before setting up a tavern to accompany the wines.
Rokis specialise in ‘peka’ which is one of the most popular meals in Croatia’s Dalmatia region. ‘Peka’ is a blend of vegetables and meat drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome, or “ispod čripnje.”
A “peka” is a large metal baking dish with a bell-shaped dome lid, used to cook food in an open fireplace, with hot coals and embers placed on top of the dome for even, slow cooking. Think of it as a primitive slow-cooker! Meat, poultry, fish and vegetables can all be cooked in this way, and the finished dish is also referred to by the same name: peka!
It is the sort of restaurant you can’t just decide to go to on the night – you have to book and order your ‘peka’ in advance due to the slow cooking process. We had booked the table on the Sunday and then on the Tuesday I had to call before 12pm to let them know what meat we wanted. They do lamb, veal, octopus and fish. We went with a mixed meat ‘peka’ – lamb and veal. The meat was so tender and the accompanying potatoes were heavenly. We also had a few bottles of their red wine which was also very nice. The setting was lovely and the service really good. Our meal at Rokis was definitely a highlight of the trip.
On Wednesday we headed for Korcula. Steve and I had been there in 2014 when we were on a cruise – I remembered it had a lovely old town and beautiful waterfront. The boat was not going to be docking until about 3.30pm so we organised a water taxi to come and collect us off the boat a bit earlier. We had decided not to do any excursions on Korcula – we just wanted to explore the old town at leisure.
Korcula had 15,522 inhabitants in 2011 which makes it the second most populous Adriatic island after Krk and the most populous Croatian island not connected to the mainland by a bridge. The population are almost entirely ethnic Croats (95.74%).
During the First World War, the island (among other territorial gains) was promised to the Kingdom of Italy in the 1915 Treaty of London in return for Italy joining the war on the side of Great Britain and France. However, after the war, Korčula became a part (with the rest of Dalmatia) of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs in 1918. It was ruled by Italy from 1918 to 1921, after which it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, known from 1929 on as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1939, it became a part of the autonomous Croatian Banate.
After the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Italy annexed the island. After the Armistice between Italy and the Allied powers in September 1943, it was briefly held by the Yugoslav Partisans who enjoyed considerable support in the region. Korčula was then occupied by German forces which controlled the island until their withdrawal in September 1944. With the liberation of Yugoslavia in 1945, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was formed, and Korčula became a part of the People’s Republic of Croatia, one of the six Yugoslav Republics. The state changed the name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1953, and so did the Republic into Socialist Republic of Croatia. After 1991, the island became a part of the independent Republic of Croatia.
The old city is surrounded by walls, and the streets are arranged in a herringbone pattern allowing free circulation of air but protecting against strong winds. Korčula is tightly built on a promontory that guards the narrow sound between the island and the mainland. Building outside the walls was forbidden until the 18th century, and the wooden drawbridge was only replaced in 1863. All of Korčula’s narrow streets are stepped with the notable exception of the street running alongside the southeastern wall. The street is called the Street of Thoughts as one did not have to worry about the steps. They say that Korcula is a mini Dubrovnik due to its positioning and layout.
We enjoyed a lovely meal at Fillipi which is on the promenade of the city wall overlooking the ocean. Denise had booked us a table whilst wandering around and was told they didn’t have any waterfront ones left. When we arrived at 7.30pm we were seated waterfront – it was gorgeous and probably the best setting in which we had dinner on the trip. The service was impeccable – our waiter Boris was so professional, helpful and pleasant. He recommended a lovely local white wine called Bire GRK – they only make small quantities of this and it is only sold on the island. After dinner we went to one of the little wine shops and bought a bottle to enjoy at sometime later on our trip.
I was very excited about our destination on Thursday – Mljet. The Mljet National Park is the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean and it has delighted its numerous visitors for 56 years with the colours and the scent of untouched nature.
The Park was founded on 11 November 1960, and the renowned researcher and academician Branimir Gušić was a great contributor to its protection status.
The Mljet National Park stretches over almost 5400 hectares, including a marine area of 500 meters from the coast, islands and cliffs, and therefore spans over almost a third of the island. Two deep bays filled with seawater, known as Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero (Small Lake and Great Lake) are the most famous locations of this area and an important geological and oceanographical phenomenon.
The entire surface area of the park is extremely rich with life, and numerous endemic and endangered species are a testament of the importance of protecting it.
We hired some bikes to bike around the lakes and out to where the sea feeds into the lakes – the lakes are salt water lakes. It was absolutely stunning and although the bike left a bit to be desired it was still great to be back on a bike at one with nature. Again the colours of the water are incredible and you can swim anywhere you like on the island apart from where the boats come and go from.
Ana had told us about a swimming spot under the bridge where the current takes you as you float on your back. Of course I was up for that and it didn’t disappoint.
Back on the bikes a bit further around the Great Lake we went where we caught a little boat across to the Isle of Saint Mary.
There is a Benedictine monastery with the Church of Saint Mary on the Isle of Saint Mary situated in the southern part of the Great Lake. The area of the isle is 1.2 acres (0.5 hectares). The monastery was being built from 1177 to 1198.
Initially, the Benedictines built the monastery and later on the church. During centuries, the church changed its appearance under the influence of different styles, the Renaissance and Baroque, but the central part remained Romanesque. The Church of Saint Mary as part of the monastery compound is a single nave Romanesque (Apulian) construction, built after the original Benedictine’s building in Monte Gargano. The church was partitioned and extended in the 16th century when the coat of arms of Gundulić family was installed on the porch. On several occasions, alterations were made in the Romanesque monastery. At present time, the building is a two-floor Renaissance building enclosed with courtyards on two sides and having arcaded main tract facing the courtyards. A defensive tower was built in the south-eastern corner therefore all the buildings, including the church, became defensive structures. The monastery was also reconstructed during the Renaissance, thus creating a uniform complex with the church.
The history of the monastery extends as far as 1198 when the Pope Innocent III issued a document consecrating the Church of Saint Mary on the isle of the same name in the Great Lake on the island of Mljet. The Benedictines organised the monastery in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict. For a long time, the Benedictines were taking good care of the island and lived in harmony with nature praising God. Many significant names, like Mavro Vetranović and Ignjat Đurđević, could be found among the Benedictines of the monastery. In 1345, the Benedictines renounced their rule over a part of the island therefore Mljet obtained a Statute and municipality in Babino Polje.
Formally, it was annexed by the Republic of Ragusa (the original name for Dubrovnik) in 1410. The monastery continued with its activities until 1809, when it was closed during the rule of Napoleon. From that time on, the island had a number of different owners; the monastery property was governed by the state, and the monastery became more and more neglected. In 1960, the monastery was converted into a hotel and was opened until 1991. In 1998, the dilapidated monastery was given back to the Diocese of Dubrovnik. Renovation and redecoration works are currently ongoing.
We went into have a look at the cloister and it had a very peaceful and tranquil feel about it and you could just imagine the monks going about their business in there. The church was also really nice.
We headed back to the port and had a drink at one of the bars with a few of our fellow passengers. We had a captains dinner that night on the boat and none of us were really looking forward to it given the lunches we were being served. Ana had told us that the starter was Octopus salad and the main Sea Bass – not being a lover of fish this was not going to end well. I had asked for an alternative and Ana hoped they could accomodate me.
We all got tidied up and were pleasantly surprised – we were served platers of nice cheese and cold meats, seafood risotto and octopus salad. At least there was something I could eat. I was served pork for my main so was pretty happy about that. The fish lovers at the table said the Sea Bass was actually really nice. Desert was a lovely panacotta so all in all it exceeded our expectations.
After dinner a couple of the crew cranked up the music and started dancing. A few people got up but the music was a bit naff to start with. It had its moments but it is always hard to satisfy a range of music tastes. Someone from the Port Authority came onboard about 11pm and shut the music down – we had to move inside! Some people drifted off to bed but going inside seemed to spur some people on and they partied on until 2am – guess who was also there until the end 💁♂️🙄.
Everyone was a bit slow on Friday morning as we headed for the final port of Dubrovnik. We anchored up near one of the Eliphati islands called Kolocep and had a swim stop. I decided to go and sit on the rocks on the shoreline and stood on a sea urchin 😬. I pulled out the three spikes but unfortunately a couple broke off so I had to round up some sharp utensils to perform surgery. A few of the Aussies on board who have experienced sea urchins first hand told me to keep an eye that they didn’t become infected – so far so good!
We docked about 4.30pm in the new port area of Dubrovnik which is about 15 minutes by bus into the old town. We managed to purchase some tickets for the local bus and went to check the place out. There was one cruise ship in and the place was so busy. We were going to be here for three nights after getting off the boat so we just had some dinner and headed back to the boat for the night. We said goodbye to Ana that night – she had to catch the overnight bus back to Split to start another cruise the next morning.
The bus ride back to Split would be straight forward if not for a six mile stretch where you actually cross into Bosnia-Herzegovina.
During the Communist period, Marshal Tito decided to award the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina a symbolic outlet to the sea at Neum, even though the road goes through Croatia. Nobody foresaw then that lines drawn on a map for administrative convenience would congeal into an international border. As things ended up, the Balkans became more balkanized, just as western Europe became more united. The border crossings at Neum mean that it is impossible to drive to Dubrovnik to Split without passing through Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anxious to create a single stretch of contiguous territory, Croatia has begun work on a $300 million bridge to the Peljesac peninsular that would link the two cities , bypassing Neum. There is little economic justification for the expensive bridge, and many environmental arguments against, but this is a part of the world where common sense does not always apply.
Ana had been a great guide – nothing was ever a problem and she did her best to accomodate everyone’s requests. She had a great knowledge of the history of her country but also shared some of her frustrations with the Croatian Government. The economy has struggled to recover from the war of independence and there is a level of corruption in the higher echelons. The wheels turn slowly which is frustrating for people wanting to improve their situation. The unemployment rate in Croatia averaged 17.57% from 1996 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 23.60% in January of 2002 and a record low of 8.60% in July of 2018. The tourist season runs from about April to November so people working in this industry normally have to find alternative employment in the off season.
A lot of people have left Croatia over the years due to the discord with the Government. Ana said she too would have left if it hadn’t been for her boyfriend who is a teacher and believes they should stay and be part of the change. The boat crew and Sail Croatia staff work back to back cruises during the high season having about two hours off every fortnight. This takes its toll and I think compromises safety and the level of experience both the staff and guests have.
It was very interesting talking to Ana and getting her perspective on things. Her father is Croatian and her mother is Bosnian. A lot of inter racial marriages fell apart in the war of independence but she is thankful that wasn’t the case for her parents. Her mother was an economist but couldn’t get work for about 10 years after the war – her pension has been pro rated due to this. Ana’s sister is an architect but hasn’t been able to get work for a year. Ana said it is very common to only have one person working in a family. People often take jobs they don’t want to do and I think this was reflected sometimes in the casual attitude they had to service or lack of.
I hope for the people of Croatia that things improve soon as it is an amazing country with so much to offer.
We got off the boat at 8.45am on the Saturday and got a taxi into the Old Town where we had booked an AirBNB for three nights. It was fun navigating the golf body bags through the throngs of people! Luckily we were in the lower part of the old town where there were no steps apart from the three flights up to the apartment.
There were 5 cruise ships in town that day so you can imagine what it was like. We had a bit of lunch and went to ride the cable car to get a birds eye view over the area. When we got there they had closed the cable car as there was the threat of a thunderstorm. We decided to take a walk to Sv. Jakov (St. James) beach which is about half an hour away instead as it looked like the thunderstorm wasn’t going to come to much. It was beautiful and we enjoyed a nice drink there before getting a water taxi back to the old town. It was nice to be able to see the coastline from both perspectives – land and sea.
There was one cruise ship in on the Sunday but the place was still pretty busy. We had booked a free walking tour for 10am but it got re scheduled to 12pm. Our guide Marco was great and gave us a good insight into Dubrovnik and pointed out the places of interest.
Dubrovnik is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. Its total population in the 2011 census was 42,615. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.
The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade; as the capital of the maritime Republic of Ragusa (the original name for Dubrovnik), it achieved a high level of development, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy.
After gaining independence from Venice in 1358, Dubrovnik flourished into a modern independent city-state with wide-spread connections all around Europe. During the wealthiest period of the Republic, between the 14th and 18th centuries, it recognized the authority of seven different monarchs or states within it. In order to avoid conflict between their vassals and to keep the peace among other competition at sea, these state delegates were skilled in negotiation and diplomacy. During the 18th century, the Republic had between sixty and ninety consulates all over the world (the Habsburg Monarchy, in comparison, had only 30).
The Republic had good diplomatic relationships with many states, but in order to trade with the Ottoman Empire (in what is today Turkey) it was required to pay a large amount of money annually in the form of a ‘tribute’. What is more, it was also required to send ‘guest’ hostages (noble citizens of the Republic who were treated with respect, but who acted as a ‘guarantee’ that the tribute would arrive again the following year) to Istanbul throughout the year. There wasn’t much choice in the matter though, as this ensured keeping their independence which they valued above all, with the Republic’s motto being “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro,” meaning “liberty is not well sold for all the gold.”
There was great benefit in being able to freely trade in the East. The Ottoman Empire used the Republic like a main distributer of merchandise in the inner Balkans. The main goods distributed were ore, especially silver and Dubrovnik was the main port for goods that were traveling from Italian states to Black Sea. Under the protection of the Ottoman Empire, Dubrovnik had a settlement in every major city in the Balkans, from Istanbul to Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia and Sarajevo, where it had established its own hospitals, trade courts, cemeteries and churches within the cities.
The Republic had strong relations with Rome and the Spanish kings too. Not only was it a Roman Catholic country, but it was also a main trade mediator between the West and East. With all of these benefits in both politics and goods, Dubrovnik developed a great fleet which was even covered against accidents by naval insurance from the city itself. The city port of Gruž (Grauosa) could receive around 100 big ships, the largest of which was the famous Dubrovnik Karaka, large enough to carry a crew of 140 people.
There were many famous sailors who were not sailing under the Republican flag alone, but who were captains of foreign ships. Records from the 18th century claim that Dubrovnik had around 250 ship captains. Its ships were also active in the Atlantic, and especially across the shores in England (London and Southampton), where they traded Greek wine and English wool.
Behind all the power of diplomacy and wealth was the Republic’s main trading good – salt. Salt was the main item of export during the Republican times and the income generated from it was huge. After liberation from Venice, Dubrovnik bought territory in the peninsula of Pelješac where the famous salt works were active during the Roman times. The salt works were immediately revitalised and the new city of Ston was founded, complete with all of the necessary administrative support.
Ston’s salt works are the oldest active salt works in Europe. Salt is still being produced here according to the “old way” – depending a lot on the sun, wind and sea. Over 45 000 square meters of salt works are divided into 53 pools that are each named for what are considered the most important Saints in Dubrovnik (among whom St. Blaise, the guardian of the city, St. Francis, St. Nicholas and St. Joseph). The only pool that does not carry a saint’s name is Mundo – the pool from which the Republic used to give salt to its poorest citizens.
Salt was a very expensive commodity, and at the time often used for the conservation of food. The price was thus very high and only the wealthiest patrons could afford it in large amounts. Most of the salt was shipped to the Habsburg court in Vienna. The purest, and therefore highest quality salt was taken from a special pool paved with granite slabs.
With the huge benefits accorded through the salt trading (a third of the total GDP at the time), the living-standard in the Republic during the 17th century was the highest in Europe. According to old records, the salt works produced more than 6000 tonnes of salt every year between 1611 and 1637. In comparison, today Ston’s salt works produce only about 2000 tonnes per year.
In order to protect their main commodity, the Republic built a vast system of fortifications up to seven thousand kilometres in length between the 14th and the 18th centuries. The walls were reinforced with ten round and thirty-one smaller square forts, that together make up the longest walls in the world after the Great Wall of China. The reasons for building such a system were the high level of insecurity caused by wars between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe.
In order to provide high security to both the citizens and city’s main commodity, it was necessary to have a stable government. Not only did the Republic boast well-organised diplomacy abroad, but it also had its own city management to maintain law and order that was provided by the Big and the Small Council and the Senate. They sought to place the Republic’s interests first, and disobeying this order with greed or self-interest was immediately sanctioned. From within the Councils and the Senate members a Duke was chosen. The Duke was a symbolic figure only and his mandate lasted for only one month. In this way, they supressed individuality and the possibility of autocracy.
With security and safety guaranteed, many citizens were rich. It was a modern and well-organised society with highly developed legislation which, as a result, in 1416 abolished slavery and condemned slave trafficking on their ships.
In 1991, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by Serbian and Montenegrin soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) for seven months and suffered significant damage from shelling. After repair and restoration works in the 1990s and early 2000s, Dubrovnik re-emerged as one of the top tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. By 2018 however, the city had to take steps to reduce the excessive number of tourists, especially in the Old Town. One method to moderate the overcrowding was to stagger the arrival/departure times of cruise ships to spread the number of visitors more evenly during the week.
Despite demilitarisation of the old town in early 1970s in an attempt to prevent it from ever becoming a casualty of war, following Croatia’s independence in 1991 Yugoslavia’s Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), by then composed primarily of Serbs, attacked the city. The new Croatian government set up military outpost in the city itself. Montenegro, led by president Momir Bulatović, and prime minister Milo Đukanović, coming to power in the Anti-bureaucratic revolution and allied to Slobodan Milošević in Serbia, declared that Dubrovnik would not remain in Croatia because they claimed it historically had never been part of Croatia. This was in spite of the large Croat majority in the city and that very few Montenegrins resided there, though Serbs accounted for 6.8 percent of the population.
On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was attacked by JNA with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack was on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. The number of casualties in the conflict, according to Croatian Red Cross, was 114 killed civilians, among them poet Milan Milišić. Foreign newspapers were criticised for placing heavier attention on the damage suffered by the old town than on human casualties.
Nonetheless, the artillery attacks on Dubrovnik damaged 56% of its buildings to some degree, as the historic walled city, a UNESCO world heritage site, sustained 650 hits by artillery rounds. The Croatian Army lifted the siege in May 1992, and liberated Dubrovnik’s surroundings by the end of October, but the danger of sudden attacks by the JNA lasted for another three years.
Following the end of the war, damage caused by the shelling of the Old Town was repaired. Adhering to UNESCO guidelines, repairs were performed in the original style. Most of the reconstruction work was done between 1995 and 1999. The inflicted damage can be seen on a chart near the city gate, showing all artillery hits during the siege, and is clearly visible from high points around the city in the form of the more brightly coloured new roofs. ICTY indictments were issued for JNA generals and officers involved in the bombing.
General Pavle Strugar, who coordinated the attack on the city, was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half-year prison term by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for his role in the attack.
Marco pointed out the Church of St Blaise. According to tradition, Saint Blaise’s miraculous intervention thwarted a planned invasion of the city in 971, and in gratitude, the people of Dubrovnik enthusiastically embraced the saint’s cult, proclaiming him their patron and protector. Over the centuries, the relationship between city and saint flourished, and the identities of both became virtually inextricable. The annual Festivity of Saint Blaise, which has been celebrated in some form since at least 1190, only reinforced this association. Statues of Saint Blaise can be found everywhere in the city.
Marco then talked about the walls built around the city and the varying thicknesses which were strategically thought out. The construction of the walls was quite a feat given everything had to be done by hand or will limited tools.
The Walls of Dubrovnik (Croatian: Dubrovačke gradske zidine) are a series of defensive stone walls surrounding the city of Dubrovnik in southern Croatia. With numerous additions and modifications throughout their history, they have been considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period.
The oldest systems of fortifications around the town were likely wooden palisades. Today’s intact city walls, constructed mainly during the 12th–17th centuries, mostly a double line, have long been a source of pride for Dubrovnik. The walls run an uninterrupted course of approximately 1,940 metres (6,360 ft) in length, encircling most of the old city, and reach a maximum height of about 25 metres (82 ft). The bulk of the existing walls and fortifications were constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries, but were continually extended and strengthened up until the 17th century.
This complex structure, amongst the largest and most complete in Europe, protected the freedom and safety of a “civilised” and “sophisticated” republic that flourished in peace and prosperity for some five centuries. The walls were reinforced by three circular and 14 quadrangular towers, five bastions (bulwarks), two angular fortifications and the large St. John’s Fortress. Land walls were additionally reinforced by one larger bastion and nine smaller semicircular ones, like the casemate Fort Bokar, the oldest preserved fort of that kind in Europe. The moat that ran around the outside section of the city walls, which were armed by more than 120 cannons, provided superb city defense capabilities.
Marco explained the Croatian flag to us – it consists of three equal size, horizontal stripes in colours red, white and blue. In the middle is the coat of arms of Croatia. The flag combines the colours of the flags of the Kingdom of Croatia (red and white), the Kingdom of Slavonia (blue and white) and partially of the Kingdom of Dalmatia (blue and yellow). Those three kingdoms are the historic constituent states of the Croatian Kingdom. The shield is in the red and white checks of Croatia. Above is a crown made of shields of its various regions. From left to right they are the ancient arms of Croatia, Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, Istria and Slavonia. The current flag and the coat of arms were officially adopted on 21 December 1990, about ten months before the proclamation of independence from Yugoslavia and a day before the Constitution of Croatia on 22 December 1990.
Marco pointed out a doorway that had been bricked up – above the door was this inscription: COCHALVIT . COR . MEV . ITRA . ME . ET . DITATOE . MEA . EXARDESCET . IGNI which translates to ‘My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned’. Psalm 39 from the Book of David guards the doors to the house where the first Orphanage was founded in 1432. Ospitalle della misericordia, as it was called in Dubrovnik at the time, provided shelter for many unwanted children.
Many girls and women approached the doors at dusk or dawn trying to hide themselves from view, bringing the small bundle and leaving it on the wheel in the window that the nuns would turn and take the child in to their care. At the Orphanage children remained until the age of six and after that they were either taken into foster families or into labour arrangements. Boys were often sent to merchant ships, and girls were taken into houses as maids. Rarely, the mother herself would take the child back and, in order to facilitate later identification, they used to leave half a coin with the child, keeping the other half for themselves.
Dubrovnik was also the main filming location in Croatia for King’s Landing, a fictional city in Game of Thrones, the famous television series based on the series of fantasy novels “A Song of Ice and Fire” and distributed by HBO. For those who have seen the series and are passionate about it, a visit to Dubrovnik will become a beautiful déjà vu because of the way in which it was so well integrated into the setting of the series.
With a base such as that of the Old Town of Dubrovnik, no special measures were necessary for scenery or special effects in order to play the fortified port city of King’s Landing, a stronghold of the Lannister family. Filming grandly exploits the large outer walls, fortifications built over time by human hands, as well as the narrow streets of the old town where several scenes happen during the course of the episodes.
We went and walked the city walls at 6pm that evening which was very enjoyable – the temperature was perfect and the sun was just starting to set. It is also not that crowded at that time of the night.
That evening we enjoyed a lovely meal at Azur which is a restaurant that serves an Asian & Croatian fusion type of food – we were lucky to get in. We had booked the night before and the only time we could get in was 9pm. It was very nice though and we all enjoyed our meals. We then met up with Ange & Mark from our sailing trip to have a drink and watch the US Open men’s final.
On Monday Gary & Denise went over to Lokrum Island for the day. I wasn’t sure if Steve would enjoy it after reading the reviews – it sounded like there weren’t a lot of places to lie in the shade and the swimming spots were rocky with the threat of sea urchins! I decided to do the next best thing and dragged him along the coast line to Sv. Jakov (St. James) beach where you could hire a lounger chair and umbrella. Steve and beaches don’t usually go together but he stuck it out and was very excited when we organised a water taxi back to the old town in the afternoon – one less walk 😜. I had 5 swims – I wanted to get my final fix of this magical water.
Gary & Denise had a good day and they said the reviews didn’t do the island justice really.
A couple of other good eating spots to note if you are visting Dubrovnik – Cogito Coffee, Nishta Vegan Restaurant and Pink Shrimp. I did’t personally visit Pink Shrimp due to my seafood affliction but Denise and Gary really rated it. Our walking tour guide Marco had recommended it to us. I can recommend Cogito and Nishta first hand though 😋.
That evening we went to Gradska kavana Arsenal restaurant for our final meal together before flying back to London the next morning. We had tried to book a table at Gradska kavana Arsenal the night before and they said they were fully booked but we could try our luck as sometimes people don’t turn up. With a bit of Gary charm 😉 we got a lovely table out on the terrace. The food and service were amazing and also good value – we could see why it was such a popular spot. It was such a nice way to end our 10 days together in Croatia.
The next day we all flew back to Stansted airport in London. Denise and Gary went through the E-Passport entry point while we queued up with all the non EU citizens – the queue was extremely long and the customs officers were being extremely thorough – not sure if it had anything to do with the date – 9/11 😳. We kept in touch with Denise via text as we were separated by the customs booths 😬. They retrieved our bags for us but in the end they had to go as their taxi was waiting. It was a bit of a sad end to our holiday together as we waved goodbye over the border control wall 😥.
We eventually got through about twenty minutes later. We were headed to Heathrow Terminal 4 on the National Express bus to catch a flight to Bangkok via Doha. Our time in the Northern Hemisphere had come to an end. We had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with friends in this part of the world and discovering some new places. Until next time 👋 😘.