Though our stays in Hvar and Dubrovnik, Croatia were short, there is so much from them we want to share! We haven’t been meeting as many backpacker friends here as we did in South America, but we have been enjoying these lovely “vacation” spots in the low season without the crowds.
After spending 10 days in Split, Croatia, we took a ferry to Hvar Island, one of the many gorgeous islands in the Adriatic Sea. After we found our apartment in Hvar Town, we wandered around the tiny village, already in awe of the views. The island, known for its lavender fields and party atmosphere, was nice and quiet when we visited – just the way we like it!
We were only on Hvar for two full days, one of which I was sick, but we made the most of our time by renting a boat for the day. The fact that anyone can rent a boat there is both fascinating and terrifying to me. “Do you have boating experience?,” the man asked. “Nope,” we replied. “Ha, well at least you’re honest…” And he proceeded to show us how to turn the motor on and off, steer, and pushed us off from the dock. Then off we went to the Pakleni Islands for the day, a small archipelago, all but deserted this time of year, nearby. The weather was warm for mid-October by Boston standards, but chilly in the shade. We still took advantage of the sunny spots we found and enjoyed jumping from our tiny boat into the clear, blue waters.
Nate steered us into the small harbors we found, and I took over driving in the open seas.
Our little boat was dwarfed by a few huge yatchs in the harbors, but otherwise we didn’t encounter many people during our adventure.
At one of the harbors we checked out, we hiked to the other side of the island and found this tiny bay, closed down and deserted.
As the sun headed toward the horizon, we made the 45 min ride back to Hvar Town. I have to say, the beginning of the day was a bit choppy and not so fun for me. It took me awhile to wrap my head around the fact that someone actually just rented us a boat for the day with only a three minute lesson on how to survive in it. But as the day went on, and as I took over the helm, I felt more comfortable and nostalgic for my Ocean State. It was one of the most unique and exciting days we’ve had on this trip!
On our second day, Nate hiked up to the Spanish Fortress on the hill above Hvar Town. Hvar, like many places on the Dalmatian Coast, has been claimed by many cultures over the centuries. The Greeks first settled here in 380BC. Then came the Romans, the Slavs, the Venetians, the Ottomans, the Turks, the French, and the Austrians, all fighting for control of this beautiful island. Interestingly, Spain never colonized here; the 13th century fortress is referred to as the Spanish Fortress because the Venetians hired men from Spain to come build it.
Coming by bus from Split, we had to pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina for about 30 minutes to get to Dubrovnik. It was unremarkable and not noticeably different except for the currency, but we beamed with excitement as we got a few more (unreadable) stamps in our passports and enjoyed the view at the Bosnian rest stop.
We found an amazing deal online for a hotel in Dubrovnik and reveled in having bathrobes, slippers (which we took and are still wearing!), and a breakfast buffet, unlike our usual tiny apartments. We had one full day in Dubrovnik, which turned out to be pretty cloudy and windy but dry at least.
Dubrovnik is among the 10 best preserved medieval walled cities in the world, which means when you enter the old town, you feel like you’re in a completely different world. It’s not dissimilar to other towns on the Dalmatian Coast we’ve visited like Split, Šibinek, Trogir, or Hvar, but I’ll never get tired of walking through these narrow, twisting, cobblestones streets.
In 1991, after claiming independence from Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was bombed over a period of seven months by Serbian-Montenegrin forces. 114 people were killed and 56% of the city’s old town suffered structural damage. Rebuilding is so complete that we didn’t notice anything other than many new-looking roofs. There was a decent amount of information presented about this siege and as we walked we tried to digest that this town was under attack from waring nations not only hundreds of years ago, but decades ago as well.
We strolled around the Old Town, then decided to sneak away from the crowds at Buza Bar, a somewhat famous but difficult to find cafe on the rocky coast of the walled city.
We continued our day by walking east to get some better views of the city, finding a gorgeous rocky coast and a hidden cave.
We found a little restaurant outside the city for lunch where Nate got an octopus salad. Yum. (I got spaghetti). Having already walked several miles, we opted to continue and walk the medieval city walls and got some incredible views of the old city below.
Having walked all day exploring the city, we tromped back to our hotel, put on those robes and slippers, and got excited for our next destination: Kotor, Montenegro!