With pre-paid tickets for an early morning ferry from Split to Hvar, we were tied to a 5:40AM wake-up call. As per our host’s instructions, we were to catch yellow bus number 60 which would drop us off at the ferry terminal in Split, 15 miles north of where we currently were. After blindly stuffing our things into our luggage, we zombie walked towards the road and dragged our bags heavily behind us, not at all surprised to find the street completely vacant. It was eerily quiet and the tumbleweeds rolled past us for 20 minutes. When alas we conceded that we were out of luck and would have to spend the equivalent of a month’s rent (and the rent is too damn high in SF!) on a taxi, we heard the sweet, sweet sound of an engine and the glorious sight of puffing motor exhaust. We tried not to make a scene lugging our large-and-in-charge suitcases onto the bus, but as expected, we received several eyebrow raises from the commuting locals. Nothing to see here, folks. The bus stopped frequently and became increasingly packed the closer we got to Split, but the 50-minute ride, which hugged the coast the entire route, was stunning. Once we arrived in Split, it was an easy 3-minute walk to the ferry terminal. Ferries are the way to travel in Croatia. They have comfy seats, restrooms aplenty, cubbies in which to store your luggage, and provide views for miles.
By 9:00 am we were docked in the island of Hvar and it was stunning. Sun-drenched buildings and boats upon boats floating in the azure water.
After disembarking, we bumbled along the cobblestone with our roller bags, our hotel off the beaten path and nicely secluded from the more active part of the island.
Since we had to wait for our room, we sipped cappuccinos on the terrace among the other early-morning risers. The terrace was perched on a hill and mint green tablecloths fluttered in the breeze on each of the small tables. I was reminded of the Sound of Music and felt as if governess Maria was going to run outside at any moment to sing me a song and tell me that my new bathing suit made out of the very same tablecloths that were draped over these tables was ready and I should run down to the beach to try it out.
As if prompted by this imaginary scene, we took the stairs down to the water and followed a stone sidewalk that led to the rest of the island.
All the beaches in Croatia are public so every 20 feet there were white lounge chairs, and ladders affixed to the side of treacherous rocks for swimmers who we saw emerge from the as if they were in a Bond film, all slick and perfect-looking.
For lunch we walked back towards the harbor and ate at the Fig Café, a hole-in-the-wall hidden in one of Hvar’s many cobblestone-lined alleys. The food was great, albeit slow. Enjoyed a breakfast burrito smothered in tomatillo sauce and grilled flatbread with fresh figs, fig jam, walnuts, and greens.
The sky was growing overcast, but we didn’t let the threat of rain deter a steep climb to Tvrđava – Fortica, a fortress that sits on a hill overlooking Hvar. The view from the top, though slightly mired by cloudy skies, allowed us a view of the entire island. There was a small museum in the fortress with a display of dishes and tools from a shipwreck on the Adriatic that dates back to 200 B.C.E. Shipwrecks are common in these parts as the geography lends itself to strange, unpredictable winds; in fact there are several shipwrecks to this day lying undisturbed at the bottom of the Adriatic, however preservationists still have problems with looters (such was the case with this particular one on display).
After our little hike, we got a drink at a bar near the ferry port and watched a massive yacht called the Santa Maria dock. It was like watching a live feed of the Rich Kids of Instagram. There were about 12 crew members shuffling to get things ready for the owner to disembark, but after a good half hour of gawking the owner must’ve been too lazy to get off so we never found out who it was.
Per our bartender’s suggestion, we ate dinner at a Croatian-style seafood restaurant called Macondo. I ignored my slight shellfish allergy sensitivity (which has really only showed its’ ugly face twice in my life) and ordered a shrimp cocktail, fruits de mer spaghetti, and sea bass served with grilled vegetables.
The meal was enjoyable and I didn’t have an allergic reaction to the food. So let’s just chalk that “allergy” up to purchasing sushi at a Qwik Trip in rural Wisconsin. Lesson learned. For dessert we walked to the harbor and enjoyed a couple of scoops of gelato as we watched the sun set over the beautiful island.
We weren’t sure if one night in Hvar would be enough, but if you’re strapped for time on your trip, it’s worth the detour and completely doable in a day. Bon Voyage!
Check out Croatia Part 1 here.