Our last few days in Croatia have been a mix of island and mainland life. At the town of Hvar (on Hvar Island) we met good friends from home and shared a couple of fun days exploring the town and swimming and relaxing at nearby Mlini island. The town is very beautiful but a hugely popular tourist destination for young travellers who crowd into the bars and nightclubs along the waterfront each night.
We said goodbye to our friends who were travelling on to Italy and took the bus across the top of the island to a much quieter Stari Grad. It was a very interesting (and slightly scary) trip and gave us an amazing view of the Stari Grad plains and the rock terraces built for agricultural purposes by the ancient Greeks in 4th century BC. The colony of Pharos was founded in 384BC by the Greeks on the site where Stari Grad stands today, making it one of the oldest towns in Europe.
I fell in love with Stari Grad when sailing last year so was very eager to spend a few more nights there. We happened to be visiting the night Croatia played Argentina in the World Cup. Again, the restaurants and bars all over town were crowded with local families out to watch the game. They scored 3-0 and each of those goals was celebrated by a huge cheer across the town. Young children were dressed up in the Croatian colours and played football around the streets after the game. It was a great atmosphere and a nice way to spend our last few days on the islands.
We took a ferry back to Dubrovnik for one last night before catching a flight to Prague. We’d booked a place outside of the city walls this time which had the most amazing views of the Adriatic.
It was hard to tear ourselves away but a 10 minute walk took us back inside the great walls of the old city, where we visited a few historic sites including the oldest pharmacy in the world, dating back 800 years. We also found an extraordinary gallery called War Photo Limited, exhibiting photographs taken by renowned photojournalists, mostly during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Although quite harrowing, they were brilliant images looking at the human side of war from all perspectives. It helped me understand a little more about the region, particularly Croatia and its fight for independence. If you are interested, the photos can be seen at http://www.warphotoltd.com/exhibitions/the-end-of-yugoslavia36.
The next morning I took a taxi to the top of the 500m hill overlooking Dubrovnik. It was a very entertaining ride which I shared with a couple from Austria, while the driver told us about his experiences during the war and pointed out sites of interest. From the top of the hill there is an amazing view of the entire city of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. Behind is Bosnia and many more hills covered with wildflowers, rocks and trees. It was hard to imagine that only 25 years ago tanks stood on that same peak firing bombs at Dubrovnik, and the beautiful hills behind were dotted with land mines. Everyone we spoke with has strong memories of the war and its effect on their lives – even our young taxi driver who was only five at the time.
The next day we were to depart Croatia for Prague but our flight was cancelled due to a strike in France. Instead we were put on a bus and taken to a five star hotel overlooking the Adriatic, where we spent the rest of the day lying on a deck chair by the beach – such a luxurious inconvenience! Yesterday, we finally boarded our flight to Prague.
I have very special memories of Croatia from our sailing trip in 2017. I loved revising some of my favourite places and creating new memories this time around. I’m leaving Croatia for now but know I’ll be back.