LIVING ON ISLAND TIME
Explore the islands of Croatia, soak up the sunshine by the bays that guard the hidden beaches in Dubrovnik and fall in love with the slow rhythm of the nightlife in palm trees covered Hvar
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Morgane Le Breton
22 June 2023
Marked by the sea breeze, the air in Croatia was sticky and left a salty feeling on my skin. The sight of the majestic mountains guarding the skyline was a reminder that this place was truly a treasure. Here the sun was warm and stayed high up in the cloudless sky all afternoon, the evenings ran late as if time was moving with a different pace and the azure glow of the peaceful blue sea gave the island a surreal dream-like appeal. Five days were not nearly enough time to soak up the beauty of the country but we were determined to try nonetheless.
We headed into Dubrovnik just as the remaining few moments of the day were about to give way to the young afternoon moon. The car slipped unnoticed down the open street as we drove toward the heart of the city. The slow fall of the summer sun was a reflection of the ethos of living in the moment. Slowing down seemed to be the only way to exist around here and we were adapting quickly.
The old city of Dubrovnik was mapped out by narrow cobbled streets and endless stair paths leading to tiny restaurants positioned on the edge of cliffs and marble plazas. We were staying on the third floor of an old apartment building that was snuck in between two outside tables of a pizzeria and heading in felt like we were entering a part of the restaurant itself. Naturally, we hurried to put away our bags and head downstairs for a delicious slice and a glass of locally sourced wine. In the early September weeks the weather was still hot, yet the breeze felt refreshing. On our first day there, we headed for a walk to explore the outskirts of the city. We stumbled upon a tucked-away beach where a handful of locals were sipping cold beers and bottles of lemonades and a few lucky travellers were swimming in the cool waters of the Adriatic. A group of young and elderly men had found salvation under the shade of the trees where they were playing backgammon. A couple was getting ready to walk down the rocks and dive into the sea. I sat on the edge of the bay and looked up at the tranquil scenery that seemed as if it belonged stuck in time. The rest of the world fell quiet. The only noise was a collection of the songs from an old Croatian radio station, the humming of distant conversations and the splash of people jumping in the water.
We took a ferry to Hvar and travelled by car along narrow empty roads until we made it to the docks. The city was vibrant by day and stunning at nighttime. Whether you had planned a long weekend getaway to the island or you were so familiar with the place that you could move around like a local, Hvar has something for everybody. As night fell and the twinkling lights of the street lamps lit up the way, the borders of the land and the sea merged into one. The boats docked near the coastline encapsulated the charm of an island dream as their silhouettes threw reflections in the calm water. The restaurants were filled with those who had come a long way to taste the divine island cuisine that appears unmatched. From black risotto to oysters and calamari the menu was bright and exciting. The bars offered just as many interesting options and we had cocktails to end the night in style.
To live like a local required to get off-the-grid and in order to do that we searched for the most remote beach we could find. Located parallel to the main road, the view from the bottom of the remote beach near the outskirts of the city was worth the tough trek we were about to take. We parked the car on the side of the road and embarked down a steep rock-covered path leading to a crescent moon shaped slice of paradise. The bay was small, the crowd was a mix of people from different pockets of the world and the feeling was like we had travelled half-way across the globe just to get here. There was a small shack in the corner with only a handful of tables and two sixty-something guys running the restaurant that had merely a dozen meal options handwritten on paper glued to a flat piece of wood. We shared a table with a big group of Spanish-speaking people in their late twenties, who devoured their fish with a big appetite and separated the meat from the bones with quick, skilled movements - a testament to having grown up around the sea. Coke, wine and beer kept guests hydrated. The beautiful selection of freshly caught fish and shrimps was the only option on the menu, which also turned out to be a combination of one of the best meals I have ever tasted.
‘‘To live like a local required to get off-the-grid and in order to do that we searched for the most remote beach we could find.’’
Split was a paradise in its own. We devoted our time there to connect with nature by exploring the Dalmatian coast. Like many before us, it was an integral part of our journey to make it to the breathtaking Skradinski Buk waterfall at Krka National Park. After nearly an hour of following zig-zag paths we were welcomed by the roar of falling water as we finally reached our destination. Stopping by the tiny villages along the way was part of the itinerary and the smell of fresh wild lavender still lingers in the corners of my mind. This fragrant flower is iconic to the area and it was sold everywhere in many different shapes and forms - from lavender shampoos and handmade bars of soap to elixirs and even lavender flavoured gelato (I had to try a scoop of the purple sweetness and I am happy to report that it is worth the hype).
Back at Dubrovnik we ended the trip with a drink by the water. We got a few bottles of gins and tonic from the small convenient shops and found a seat in a bay where the water sport instructors had piled up dozens of kayaks upside down, ready for travellers to welcome the new day with more adventures, but for tonight we were the only people there. The streets above us were busy with crowds blending in, exploring, archiving all the beauty that Croatia had to share. The songs of cricketers and the smell of the sea were a beautiful farewell to a week spent in paradise.
Many places around the globe possess that slow-living rhythm which even the most experienced of travellers still have a lust for, but few are the places like Croatia that provoke a sensation of sweet nostalgia. With its coasts washed by aquamarine waters that glisten under warm sunshine rays, the magnificent palm trees and lavender fields gracing the landscape, this European gem is an epitome of a postcard-worthy glamour. Hidden beaches, timeless heritage sites and lesser known wooden shacks by the seaside that offer the catch-of-the-day and not much else - this is the soul of Croatia and it lives on to prove that there is beauty in nature that is worth planning a trip for.
NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.
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