September 15, 2008
My body has been back from our Croatian getaway for a few days, but my spirit is still very much there, on a deserted pebble beach, reading in the late afternoon light, twiddling my toes, and examining the possibility of going back in for one last dip.
My mind refuses to believe that, in the morning, we will not be feeding part of our breakfast to the wild kittens that roam everywhere; that our toughest decision today will not be whether to watch the sun set from the balcony of our hotel room or from a seaside terrace; and that, unfair as it may be, figs do not grow on trees around here.
So, in an effort to come to terms with the fact that our paradisal vacation is officially over, I have listed a few highlights below. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the readers who generously responded to my call for Croatia recommendations -- the list, collated and slipped into our guidebook, proved immensely helpful, as always.
And now, for the highlights, also illustrated by this set of photo from our trip:
Visiting the greenmarket in Split (on the Eastern rim of the Old City, outside the Palace walls), ambling along the aisles, and buying wild blackberries and ripe-to-bursting figs from the stalls that had the tiniest crops. (Compared to the glories of the Split market, those of Korčula Town and Dubrovnik/Gruž were a bit of a let down.)
From the center of Split, walking westward and uphill through the tortuous streets of Veli Varoš and watching the sky blush from the terrace of the café at the top, a glass of chilled white wine in hand.
Driving down the coast from Split, discovering the sort of beauteous landscapes you're going to live in for a week, and stopping for a splendid lunch of shellfish and octopus at Konoba Feral, in the village of Brela.
On the island of Korčula, quickly understanding that the best bathing spots are the ones you have to fight for, i.e. the ones that require a drive down the steepest, narrowest, rockiest dirt paths, until you discover the hidden cove at the bottom. (The trick then is to try and forget you'll have to make a U-turn and drive back up; you have some swimming to do.)
Hiking up Kom, a small mountain in the middle of Korčula (elevation: 508m/1700 ft), meeting absolutely no one on the way up or down, except for a few butterflies and one elegant owl, and gorging on the 360-degree view from the top. Not really minding the bramble scratches on your shins once you realize they match the color of your toenails.
Eating figs right off the tree; finding it exceedingly difficult to stop. Learning to detect the presence of a wild fig tree just from its honey-sweet smell.
Eating house-smoked pršut (Dalmatian ham), grilled lamb, and goat cheese ravioli under the vine at Konoba Mate, a restaurant in the village of Pupnat where everything is homemade and the owners are kindness incarnate.
Catching a taxi-boat ride from Korčula to Vrnik and spending the day exploring the quieter-than-quiet island, getting Myst flashbacks, and having no trouble imagining you're on your own private islet.
At every restaurant, ordering a side salad or a platter of grilled vegetables, and marvelling at how fresh and well prepared they are -- something to be grateful for when one travels, as I'm sure you'll agree.
Having lunch at the famous Kapetanova Kuća restaurant in Mali Ston, and, out of curiosity, trying the Makaruli, a sweet macaroni cake that reader Hana recommended. Finding it to be an outstanding confection, and vowing to try and reproduce it (recipe, anyone?).
Walking the walls of Dubrovnik and trying hard to ignore the obnoxious crowds, the better to concentrate on the fruit trees (pomegranates! lemons! figs! pomelos! quince!) that seem to thrive in every garden of the city.
In Dubrovnik, going for a drink at Buža, a bar whose open terraces cling precariously to the cliff outside the City walls, offering a wide-angle view of the sea. Loving every minute of it, and going back the next day to get one last shot of Adriatic beauty before flying home.
Konoba Feral Obala Kneza Domagoja 30, in Brela, a coastal village to the South of Split, +385 (0)21 618 909.
Konoba Mate at the center of Pupnat, a village on the island of Korčula, +385-(0)20 717 109.
Kapetanova Kuća on the waterfront in Mali Ston, on the Peljesac Peninsula, +385 (0)20 754 555.
Buža Bar on Ispod Mira, at the Northern edge of the Old City of Dubrovnik; follow the wooden sign that says "Cold Drinks."
In Split: home-style Croatian food at Buffet Fife (Obala Trumbićeva 11, +385 (0)21 345 223).
On Korčula: pizzas at Doris (Ul Tri Solara in Korčula town), smoothies at Fresh (opposite the bus station in Korčula town), old-fashioned cookies at Cukarin (outside the city walls in Korčula town), Croatian cuisine at Konoba More (on the waterfront in Vela Luka, on the Western tip of Korčula, +385 (0)91 812 768).
U Salognu: A Sunny Place in Corsica
Stratford and Toronto Recommendations