From the travel diary of August 2014 – Croatia
by Annalisa Primiccio
Stop for a moment!
Think about it, running the whole life long.
For the bill that’s expiring, the supermarket that’s closing, for the forgotten gift, for the dog waiting for you at home. To run, run, run, but always too little for oneself.
Putting myself on the road means to stop. I observe, smell, taste, respect the schedules but.. there are times when I stop.
The environment has to be right, you look for it, you find it. It happened in Bol, in Croatia, by the sea, at the harbor, in the evening.
The people were walking slowly, walking tired from the day at the beach, they were enjoying distractedly what I, sitting on a bench with a cigarette, was accurately ” living”. It seemed like one of those movies where everything around is at a halt, you fulfill your actions at a normal speed, while the rest is slow, slowed down.. fading out. The light was yellow. The sea blue. The stones of the yellow houses, the shaded boats.
My perceptions white, pure, ready to soak in all the senses and to be colored by them as they want. The sounds were confused, essential as background for this My Moment.
There was a group of musicians playing jazz on an extension of the port, a peninsula with blue all around and the docked boats floating, in time, with the sound of the waves.
The musicians were there, they seemed motionless to me, as if emanated by the music, illuminated with blue spotlights that was well in tune with the light darkness all around. The air seemed rarefied, moreover it was an August evening, never too hot here, never too humid, never too heavy ..light .. to get in to and stimulate one of your senses, smell.
Smell of seafood delicacies, cooked with skill and fished by men with their hands scarred from making nets, nets to be woven to ensnare your senses, another one, taste.
Associate certain smells only to certain flavors and here and there are many to be discovered. Of odors and flavors. Of the resin attached to the barks perrceived in the immense pine forest, of the salt water that is drying on white pebbles, of the mint in the mojitos, of the Pag cheese, of the headdresses of elderly women who observe you from their gardens hidden by hedges, of the Dalmatino ham served with a simplicity that says, I will not embellish the dish you have to savor it!, of white alleys and small churches perched overlooking the sea, of a palette of pastel colors that colors the green water of the sea by day, of silence.
After the cigarette I turned around and found smiles, free, as if someone was watching me for some time, in that My Moment that seemed to me to last the entire vacation .. smiles, sons of a typical friendliness of this country. Croatia.
Day 1/5 – Split and Bol
In 40 minutes by bus from the airport for 30 kuna (€4) to reach the center of Split, from the port for 33 kuna per person to take the ferry to reach the island of Brac, the ferries depart every hour and takes 50 minutes to get to Supetar, nice and small place for refreshments before taking a taxi or a bus to Bol, Vallo della Brazza .
Although it needs half a day to reach Bol, the effort is absolutely worth it!
Bol is a small very well-kept town, recently renovated and westernized with lounge sofas a bit everywhere but frequented by people of every kind. The center faces the harbor, and looks like a postcard.
The buildings are made of white stone that, at sunset, intones rosy colors, romantic and charming. The stone comes precisely from the island of Brac and is the same as the ones with which they built the White House in Washinton DC. It’s all at your fingertips, all easy to find, and then the friendliness of the Croats is sincere and not one of convenience.
There is a long pine forest, where you can rent bikes (I recommend it), and it overlooks the large hotels with SPA on one side and fantastic beaches of pebbles on the other. If you walk across the whole pine forest you will reach the famous Zlatni Rat beach (that white tongue with crystal clear sea on the left and on the right that is a bit the tourist symbol in of all Croatia).
They say it is the most beautiful beach in the whole of the Adriatic and the most romantics call it the golden horn.
In Bol we stayed three days because it is a small fun and relaxing jewel, very well connected to nearby islands, such as Hvar, the most known.
To move by sea, there are also Taxi Boats, real water taxis traveling short distances and that make you see everything from the coast, everything from another perspective, at a very low price.
Where to stay in Bol
Apartments from €25
Apartment equipped with everything needed for cooking and air conditioning, with a patio next to the garden and sea view. a beautiful sea view.
Apartments from €20
Central and well-equipped with kitchen and balcony. An excellent value for money.
Day 3 – Hvar Island
At 9.00 we embarked on an elegant and modern boat, from the port of Bol to reach Hvar Island. They are organized trips from 9.00 to 18.00 with two options: the basic cost is 160 kunas round trip, then if you want to have lunch on the boat and to be taken to the nearby coves you have to add another 160 kunas.
We preferred to use the boat as a means of transport and not as a cruise.
To organize this tour all we did was ask at the information stall located in the port.
Here’s another wonderful thing of the Croats and it is that they do not stress you out to sell you things or propose excursions, if you want to organize something you go to their stalls and ask, nobody ever bothers you on the street trying to ensnare you! The journey took about an hour and a half.
We passed this time sunbathing on the bow, and observing the island of Hvar in its entire length, so virgin, green, rugged and barren, with no sign of tourist nor local civilization. There is no one along the coast, only flocks of gulls perched on the rocks in the sun in droves. And when they get tired of that, they will escort the boat!
Hvar is the name of the island but also that of the famous town.
On arrival we realized immediately that it’s vast, rich, clean, and very busy, even by super rich people who moor their yachts that kept us gaping, maybe while walking down the boardwalk you eat one of the typical pies, cottage cheese-based or with cottage cheese and meat, they are called Burek and you find them really anywhere. They will wrap you full wedges of pie, warm and a bit greasy.
The visit of the town is worth at least 3 hours, required to lose oneself in the more distant alleys, without names. Here is also found the Spanish fortress, climbing on a high hill a hundred meters from which to enjoy the view of the Pakleni islands.
From the main square where there is the Sveti Stjiepan cathedral you soon realize that everything seems to recall Venice, not surprisingly, the maritime republic had dominated it for nearly four centuries. The lions and the bell tower of St. Mark, together with the troublesome pigeons, will make you feel right at home!
Not by chance 30% of this population speak Italian properly. An Italian very similar to the ancient yet still in use Venetian dialect. To communicate with the Croats a mixture of basic English and Italian is the most effective solution if english isn’t your own language.
Day 4 – Pag Island
We decided to go back to Split to rent a car, it was really difficult (for this I advise you to organize before departure, Rentalcars offers several options from €40 a day).
Map in hand we ventured through the streets/Croatian motorways until we reached the island of Pag, which is called Island but it is actually connected to the mainland by a bridge, so, at least this time, no ferries!
After about two hours of newly built highways, the cost of the toll is 60 kunas, we landed in a lunar and decisively particular landscape. After reading some reviews we decided to aim towards Novaljia, but it didn’t need a lot to realize our error. A sort of Ibiza, a place of recreation and unbridled fun for the very young where the spotlights are on discos and parties on the beach. Nothing could be further from what we wanted. For this reason, we quickly headed to Zrce beach that, although equipped as a disco for the night is also a really nice beach. Despite the disappointment, however, the road that has led us to Pag is very scenic, on one side the sea, on the other endless barren lands with the famous “dry walls” which are small stone walls about one meter high, made exclusively of stones laid down and embedded drily, and land absorbed in sheep-raising and from which is produced the delicious and well-known Pag sheep cheese.
Along the same street you can see small islands that emerge from the sea and then the oyster cultures. Many black circles, huge, side by side, sticking out of the water, are the cultivation fields of another delicacy of this land, to which I also add the truffle considered one of the DOC (controlled designation of origin) products of the place.
On the same road, before arriving at the bridge of Pag, are the ruins of an ancient fort that kept watch on the coast for traffic control of ships. It is called Fortica and the rocks with which it was built merge into the landscape that here becomes lunar again, almost white.
The town of Pag despite being made up of just four cross-roads is delicious. From this intersection winds lanes paved in white and shiny, dividing the city center in 4 small neighborhoods. In the place where they join up again stands the Gothic Basilica of Santa Marija. Very nice the small shops, including one of clothing set in a small desecrated church.
Of cafes and restaurants there are also here as many as you want.
We were recommended the Tovrnelle restaurant. Well, the best of the whole holiday! Could not be missed in the starters Pag’s sheep’s cheese and sliced Dalmatino: a kind of typical Dalmatian smoked bacon … it is the hors-d’oeuvres of the land of which they are most proud ..and they have every reason to be!
After a nice walk to digest we go back to the apartment and we realize that we do not have the key to lock the door of the house, we call the agency but they explain that it is normal, in Croatia it seems that crime does not exist.. they sleep with the houses open without problems.
Day 5 – Nearby Pag
As for the beach we asked around a bit and instead of going to those crowded and well-known we decided to look for particular ones, once crossed the jetty of Pag (where there are the most popular beaches, long and sandy) rather than going up the street towards the mountain direction Novaljia we follow a small road on the right where there are numerous areas of cottages and guest houses.
We park and go through uncultivated fields, suddenly finding ourselves on a cliff of brown earth in perpendicular to the sea, to get down we found a staircase rather rusty and unsafe, but the “risk” was well worth it. We were just by ourselves.
In front of us in the distance the white and smooth lunar hilly peaks, above our heads slabs of earth that drip drained water, the sea calm almost like a lake, a myriad of small fish.
So we decide to venture strolling through these small caverns that the caved-in ground creates finding a lot of slate and clay, it did not take us long to decide to make the mud-baths!
From here about 20 coves start one after the other, one more beautiful than the other that are often reached by dinghies and boats, but venturing, it can also be reached by land.
At midday we decide to move, we take the car and go back up the road for Novaljia. We park in a wonderful pine forest, halfway between Simuni and Mandre. Even here a magnificent landscape shows itself, a fairly wide beach of white pebbles with kiosks on the beach and the posibility to rent (for the first time) a sun-bed for sunbathing.
To sum up, here the day was really pleasant: clear beach, crystal clear water and behind us a fresh and fragrant pine forest. The area is also suitable for camping, in fact, there are several well-equipped, large and cared for.
To return to Pag we made our first stop in Zadar. At Bodega, wonderful place in one of the main streets of Zadar behind the church of St. Donat, the Forum and St. Anastasia. 3 different wonders with an Italian charm that give Zara a romantic twinning.
We decided to move away from Zadar to find a more peaceful place where to stay and in our case it was Petrcane. Only 14 km away from Zadar. A tiny village inhabited by many Croats. Alleys between white small houses that overlook a marina. The beaches around are all very nice. The fact is there is not much in this country but that it is located in a strategic and peaceful location. Happy with the choice.
To sleep we found two apartments a bit dilapidated but they are situated right in the center of this quiet and tiny square where there is a local and opposite a restaurant. There is no sign of vehicles, the dogs stroll around peacefully, seems like having stepped back in time, in Italy, 40 years ago. Where the gentlemen a little tipsy with wine, arm themselves with guitars and sing the songs in dialect.. heaven knows telling of what those refrainss…?!
There is nothing to see in Petrcnane but it is located in a strategic location and above all peaceful.
Day 6 – Krka National Park
After breakfast on a beautiful terrace of a bar overlooking right to the sea and next to a small bakery for croissants and sweets, next to Konzum supermarket, we leave in the direction of Krka National Park .
Perhaps not surprisingly, but this park is something charming and wonderful. You just cannot miss it!
It is in this park that are found the highest waterfalls in Croatia.
You park the car out of the Skrodin village, go across it and you will reach the bottom of the main road, a building with dark glasses, a modern building. The entrance ticket costs 110 kunas per person.
With ticket in hand, the second queue begins that in general already starts at the side of the building and comes up to the landing stage of the ferry that takes you in 10 minutes to the park entrance.
It is the nicest way to get to the falls, otherwise there is a bus. Less panoramic, less expensive. The ferry leaves every 30 minutes, every 20 in August. To fully enjoy all the scenic route it takes an hour to walk. At the end of the path go back to the starting point: the waterfalls. First you skirt along it and then you plunge in!
The danger zone where the water has a very strong pressure and generates current, is delimited by ropes, and often there are “lifeguards of the falls” whistling you if you are doing something inappropriate. I advise to wear the usual rubber shoes or you could cut you with the stones under water, due to the current .. It will not be a relaxing bath, you know … but it’s an experience to try! You see them, so threatening and powerful, yet so beautiful surrounded by rainbows.
The lost energy can be recovered delighting with fresh fruit that older ladies with their neat stalls and the veil on their heads will sell you with a smile. We found fresh grapes, blackberries, figs and then there are glazed almonds and other dried sweets in a paper cone to eat. At Krka you can spend the whole day, and not even be aware of it. Just remember that at 18.30 leaves the last boat that takes you back to Skrodin!
At sunset while returning to the car parking, we find, on the street, many farmers who sell vegetables freshly picked. They are improvised stalls, so the offer is 2 peppers (small light green, they are so in Croatia), 4 zucchini, 6 tomatoes … well, whatever they had picked during the day!
And then there is the honey, and oil, Dalmatia is rich in oil.. but the strange thing is that the one put on the table at restaurants seems of sunflower as it’s very transparency.. so, ask that of extra virgin.
On the way home we could not resist, we had already seen, in the past days, on the roads, these huge metal barbecues that hosted whole pigs skewered into a tube that are made to rotate for a slow and continuous cooking.
Our curiosity was aroused, it seemed a typical thing that we had not read anywhere. The view is a bit macabre but for those who are not vegetarian.. a real treat! And our curiosity has been satisfied. We sat down to dinner at 20.00.
Depending on the season in addition to the pig in these huge ovens/spit called Peka are roasted sheep and lamb. Cooking begins from the morning and in the evening the meat becomes soft and delicate, often accompanied by a spicy sauce made with ground red pepper and chard.
For wine, we took the Malvasia that is also found in our Sicily. The prices for the bottles are quite high, so take those home-made ones that have always pleasantly surprised us.. the prices will be a slightly less. To finish we taste the Maraskino, a typical black cherry liqueur.
With the fullest belly, we go back to Petrcane, have a beer under the house with the usual Croatian folk songs and then rest!
Day 7 – Trogir
Breakfast at the usual bar with sea-view terrace and this time we decide to stay in the area. We then proceeded to the beach early in the morning but the mistake was to get too close to the Hotel Falkensteiner complex. Luxurious gigantic glass buildings, surrounded by English lawns that had nothing to do with the surrounding landscape.
We paid the entrance to the beach, something that nowhere else had happened to us and after seeing the sand, we left preferring the usual reef where the water can best express all its blue!
This area is all luxurious, there are whole sidewalks closed even, for the passage of dogs, a note really out of tune. So with the aggravating circumstance of bad weather, we convinced ourselves to go and visit a little more Zara.
The historical center is a small peninsula, the walls surround it, and it can be accessed only by two parts: from a pedestrian bridge facing the sea entering Porta Marina or by land, passing through Porta di Terraferma.
We parked in front of the pier (it’s all blue stripe) crossing the pedestrian bridge suspended over the water. Among souvenir shops that sell the typical lavender bags and wandering in the shiny alleys, we skirt the entire outer quay and arrive at the sea organ.
You have to do just one thing. Arrive on time for the sunset and not be in a hurry.
Let yourself be lulled for a half hour by this wonderful sound that the sea can produce with its waves. 5 chords and seven tones is the music that the 35 organ pipes invisibly placed under the dock play. Depending on the intensity and motion of the waves. The sound comes out from the circular holes hollowed in the white dock floor. Photo, time lapse and filming at sunset . Now it’s time to go with a beautiful corn the cob made really hot on carts in the street … direction Trogir for the last day !
Where to stay in Trogir
The old town of Trogir is pedestrianized, so if you choose to book an apartment in the center, remember to ask the card for parking, because you cannot enter with the car.
You can park outside the city, cross the pedestrian bridge and lose yourself in the alleys of this majestic and simple town. Enchanting. All neat and carefree!
Follow a selection of structures in Trogir at affordable prices and for all with excellent value for money.
Double rooms from €45
Central and 5 minutes from a parking lot, ideal for those who want to discover the city center. Clean rooms, COMFORTABLE with excellent balance quality/price.
Sudios from €45
Completely restructured studio apartments in the center of Trogir. Equipped with all necessary amenities, an optimal solution that combines design and comfort.
There are a lot of restaurants, and the striking thing is that they are real architectural jewels and of design, with a superfine taste that distinguishes Trogir from all other locations.
There is no restaurant or tavern (konoba) that is not extremely stylish and elegant yet at the same time affordable in price. It would be worth getting lost in the narrow streets and going around it into the night. Getting to the castle, go back along the promenade and suffering the same usual envy of the luxury yachts that also crowd the peaceful sea here.
Day 8 – Departure
Before departure, we devote the last hours of stay to wander around the stalls eating Surimi made in the shape of giant squid with a spicy chili sauce, herb and oil wrapped in paper, and giving ourselves a last walk along the beaches near the old part of Trogir. On the road from Trogir to Split airport, we see this garden that gives the very idea of cool and relaxation and a mill, the Konoba Milnice.
The place is very special, the mill is in operation and in the room below the large dining room there is a real museum.
Another dining room has part of the pavement transparent, just above the powerful jet of water that the mill spits out, sucking up the stream that surrounds the whole garden, where swans and ducks make merry in peace.
A last gift that Croatia wanted to give us, and with melancholy, we take our leave from this striking and unexpected place.
Bye Bye Hrvatska!
Getting to Croatia
If you book your trip with a couple of months in advance you really pay very little, we talk of around 70 euro per person a/r with Easy Jet . We having booked close we spent twice (even if it is in any case, little). Croatia in everything is still pretty economical.
The town nearest to Split airport is Trogir, only 5 km away, while Split is 25km away. Keep this in mind if you have a return flight early in the morning .
To find flights from Italy to Croatia search on Skyscanner.
- Croatia’s official currency is the Kuna, advisable not to change at the airport, but do it in exchange agencies. To date, the exchange rate is 1 Euro = 7.6 Kuna.
- There are 7 airports in Croatia, so if you are planning to make a traveling itinerary you are spoiled for choice. Trieste is also very close, practically at the northern border. From where you can rent the car with Italian companies and go down from Istria to Dalmatia
- If you take the plane the key thing is to rent the car before departure, on Rentalcars you can rent cars from € 40 per day.
- Remember to bring a satellite navigation system for two reasons: to rent it with the car is more expensive, and the phone cannot help you because of poor reception of signals and for the internet connection you need to provide an inexpensive subscription for the Internet abroad.
- For documents, it’s enough to be in possession of a valid identity card for the European Union. Always remember the health card.
- First thing to buy once in Croatia: the rubber shoes to enter the water; to buy in any store along the boardwalk for less than €10 (and to throw away before the departure. The smell gets a little too strong to be put into the suitcase!))
- Per those who enjoy a more quiet and organized trip, do everything before arriving but double check the distances from city centers and the sea, or you could risk to venture out in desolate areas.
Have you been to Croatia? How did you like it? And where have you been?
I’d love to hear from you!
I travel independently taking mainly public transport. A world trip began in 2011 is not yet finished, my mission is to explore the world and write about it. Travel consultant Galapagos, Argentina, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Namibia.