Hvar, my new love
I am a placist – I fall deeply in love with the places I visit or live in. I try not to judge but instead there is an unwritten list of the ones where I immediately felt some intrinsic connection or energy. Sometimes a place is just a one-night stand, like 24 hour port visit in some poor South American port town, where the only way you’re going to enjoy yourself is if you open your mind, and more importantly your heart, and just let it in. Longer affairs happen for me in quaint little towns, or beautiful national parks, like my favorite, Yosemite. Id happily go back to any of them. And then there are the lifelong darlings, where I know if I ever had to give up my wanderlust ways I could stay forever: New Orleans, San Diego, and Istanbul.
I was so taken with the island of Hvar, on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, that it jumped right past one night stands onto my list of diamonds.
As the ferry pulled into port, we saw small stone cottages tucked into crevasses on a peninsula. The water was so clear that you could see schools of fish swimming right next to the ferry’s hull, as well as the keel (really deep visibility). I haven’t seen that kind of water since Aqaba, Jordan in 2006.
Our bus driver agreed to drive us along the old road, which goes up over the ranges and through wild lavender fields. At a particularly scenic stretch we stopped to soak it all in. Along with lavender, we found wild marjoram and mustard plants to pick and keep in our pockets for pick-me-ups throughout the day.
The town of Hvar is on a beautiful harbor just past a square lined with shops and cafes. After a quick familiarization walk through the town, our guide recommended afternoon activities: hiking up to the fortress above town for panorama views, swimming at one of the island beaches, or, for the truly adventurous, hopping a boat over to the nude beach. We opted for a leisurely lunch and shopping. It was my last full day in Croatia and I wanted neat souvenirs.
We picked well. While we were eating lunch, a decked out wedding party marched down the hill on their way to the church at the end of the square. We cheered them on from our table, and the proud not at all nervous groom saluted us with Princess Diana waves.
Siesta foiled my plans to spend money at the local galleries. After browsing the disappointing shops that were still open, we decided on a quick dip in the Adriatic.
Instead of sand beaches, the town has little rocky coves with rock or iron ladders leading to the sea. We picked a secluded one where I thought it unlikely that anyone would see me changing. I embraced my inner German and stripped on the beach in order to put on my bathing suit.
To get to the water, I walked over some rocks, across a wooden plank, and then tried to keep my balance on some slippery rocks while climbing down into the sea. The precarious entrance was worth it: The Adriatic felt amazing! The water temperature was so perfect that as soon as I was in it I was comfortable – no shivers or looking for bath toys. I had the cove all to myself while I swam and played and just soaked up the bliss. I dove down and swam with a couple of schools of fish along the rocky bottom. My only complaint is the salt – I don’t think I’ve ever been in a sea so salty!
Totally refreshed by my dip in the sea, I was in a state of bliss for the rest of the day. We stopped at a vineyard, Plavanc, and tasted the best wines of Croatia. None were “insipid” like some of the others we tried.
So, I learned that you can rent the lighthouse on the island for a week at a time – anybody want to join me next summer?