Croatia Part 1: Split (Duće)

The day we journey from Budapest to Croatia was an interesting one. From thinking our Hungarian driver had stolen our luggage, to getting evacuated from the Cologne airport and meeting a Croatian cabbie that I swear was my Uncle Shawn all while eating a record FIVE sandwiches in 12 hours, we finally arrived at our Airbnb in Duće, Croatia (~30 miles south of Split) in time to watch the sun go down. And boy was it something.

It’s difficult to concisely convey how amazing Duće is, so let me wax poetic here for a minute. Outside is quiet and peaceful. Only a few locals walking along the water, chartering little boats, or enjoying the evening. No one is stressed or looking at their phone. The nearest ATM is 3km south of Duće; the only sound is of the water lapping up onto the sand and shell-encrusted shore. I have yet to find seawater that’s clearer. One single winding road traces the coastline and divides enormous rocky mountains to the East from the Western sea. The mass of granite makes you feel the size of a speck of dust. Every direction is a postcard.

The small charming cottage where we stayed sat ten steps from the Adriatic sea and crossing its threshold I was instantly Mother Goosed—transported to the faraway land of a fairy tale. To my right were a set of wobbly plank stairs so steep and compact climbing them was like going up a tree house ladder.

Large wooden beams held the place just so, and the smell of salt and warm evening air seeped through the windows. There was a fridge fit for Thumbilina and small round dining table that nestled between the small kitchen and living space. Homemade art made up of miniature pieces of painted driftwood hung from the walls, and made the place feel warm and familiar.

We met our host, Silvana and I couldn’t help but do a double take…no triple take…no quadruple take when meeting her. She looked so much like my mom; she had her same (unique) features. Long fingers, Long long ears, long long long nostrils, even longer thumbs (seriously they could pass as pointer fingers). Her hair, her skin, her stature oozed Simone. She was adorable and I wanted her to be my baba (grandmother in Croatian, of course!).

I told her Croatia is supposedly where my great grandparents are from and she had a lot of knowledge about the many farmers who immigrated to the US from various Croatian islands in the early 1900’s because their grapevines had been infected with disease. Well it’s settled then. I’m the descendant of Croatian winemakers!

That night we walked north a mile or so and picked up shampoo and snacks at a small gas station on the side of the road in an area called Dugi Rat. We ate at a restaurant that was perched on a cliff. The entrance/outdoor eating area faced the water and sat high above the beach. We ate outside on a picnic table surrounded by pine trees. We had grilled seasonal vegetables, fish pate, and grilled monk fish which was outstanding. Being outside, looking at the water, and enjoying the sunset with barely anyone around—much less anyone who spoke English—was spectacular.

June 1, 2016: The next morning we woke up in our simple, rustic bedroom that had a window with two green shutters that looked out onto the water. The sun was too bright to sleep any longer so we got dressed and walked along the main road towards Omiš (the small town south of Duće). We passed houses and pensions here and there—most had white wrought iron gates and purple and pink flowers in their front yards. There were even a few grapevines!

We also saw a couple of restaurants on our walk, but it was, for the most part, quiet and undeveloped. People seem so relaxed here. After coming to a grocery store, we got cash and then continued along the road to Omiš, which is a bit more happening (if you can even say that). We approached the little village’s main downtown and crossed over a channel that runs from the mountains into the Adriatic.

The little boats in the channel were sparkly and white.

We bought a cherry strudel from the bakery and ate it on a park bench under a few trees next to the small harbor.

We bought a bag of cherries from a small produce stand and walked back to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for lunch and dinner. On our walk home we couldn’t wait to get into the water. It was 11 AM and we were roasting.

Back at the cottage we got out beach chairs and set ourselves up for an entire perfect day of wading in the water. A few people were around including an old tanned couple puttin’ around the water the whole afternoon on a dinghy. A preview to our future, I hope. Our skin was tight from the sun and the knots in our shoulders were nowhere to be found. We had a picnic for lunch and then beached some more.

Duće is wow. It’s a place you go to feel like a character in one of those beautifully-set movies like Under the Tuscan Sun or Mama Mia. I’m pretty sure had we just gone to Split, and hadn’t stopped in this sleepy little beach village, we wouldn’t have had such a memorable stay. It was truly the place, and the host, and the weather, and a whole bunch of other variables combined that collided perfectly together to form one day of pure bliss that made our trip. It, my friends, was heaven.

Check out my guide to Hvar, Croatia here.


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