Dalmatia by Sea and Land.

Flying into Dubrovnik is always a breathtaking experience for  first-time visitors. The majestic walls surrounding the Old Town, terracotta roofs within, stone walkways, churches, and monasteries, with the blue Adriatic Sea shimmering under the Mediterranean sun..a magical sight to behold!

 My last group for the 2018 summer season had arrived. Four returnees, and five ‘first-timers to Croatia‘ guests, a gathering of 5 Australians, 2 New Zealanders, and 2 Americans. From the very first moment this group gelled beautifully and we enjoyed the next 14 days cruising the Dalmatian Coast together as far as Split, followed by touring on land further north to the Krka National Park, Zadar, Nin, Šibenik, Primošten and finally Trogir.

A great group of Aussies, Kiwis and Americans..

 After spending the first two days exploring the Old Town, walking the walls,  taking the cable car to the top of Mt Srđ, visiting the Homeland War Memorial  Museum, and enjoying a ‘getting to know you’ welcome dinner at the famous Proto Seafood Restaurant, as well as testing the waters back at our Hotel on Lapad Bay, it was time to wave goodbye to Dubrovnik and set sail on the beautiful timber gulet LINDA, captained by Antonio (Toni Ković)

Dubrovnik from Mt Srdj
The view from Mt. Srdj

Captain Toni suggested we sail for the little fishing village of Suđuran on Island Šipan. We arrived at sunset and visited the recently restored 15th century Castle, learning a little of the history of this area and about the everyday life of the locals living here. Meanwhile ‘Linda‘ had sailed around to the harbour of Šipan and was  waiting for us with welcome drinks and a delicious traditional Dalmatian dinner prepared and served on board. A calm and balmy evening with the lights of Šipan reflecting across the bay.

Moored in Šipan Harbour

Šipan is one of the 5 islands that are part of the Elafiti Island group. In Šipan Harbour there are many abandoned old Dalmatian homes…an old fishing village in the past and today the population is no more than 50 families Before dinner…it’s nice to work up an appetite by taking a walk around the bay…over to the other side. There’s a lovely beach and swimming spot and if you climb up on the rocks you can see the open sea on the other side.  The ladies had to have a look in a little shop called Atelier Belladonna…handmade jewellery using natural stones and gems…you will see the sign as you walk by the harbour.

Under sail on the way to Mljet..on our beautiful Gulet Linda.

23/09 Sailing to Island Mljet…37 km in length and 7 km at the widest point… population approx 1500. Most of these people are connected to the Mljet National Park. The other interests here are medicinal herbs and bee-keeping. Suggestion: A guided walk into the National Park, a 20-minute walk to the lakes. Take N.P. boat to St Mary’s Island in the larger lake. Spend half hour on St. Mary’s Island and the Romanesque Monastery built in the 12th century by the Benedictine monks from Italy. This is owned and maintained by the Dubrovnik Catholic Diocese. The island of Mljet was home to Homer the ancient Greek. He stayed here for 7 years and wrote his most famous works called ‘Odyssey’. (You will note the hotel in Pomena is called ‘Odisey’) There is a lovely swimming area near the hotel…and the sunset from Pomena is stunning! There are quite a few traditional seafood restaurants in Pomena…all on the water…all great with freshest seafood particularly lobster and a great spot at sunset.

Our amazing Captain Antonio (Toni) Ković on the far right and his crew.

24/09 Island Korcula/Korcula Town We took a walk through the old town’s atmospheric centre. This is a 15th century town rich in tradition, the birthplace of Marco Polo and the Moreška sword dance. For centuries it was ruled by Venice and you will discover the Venetian influences in architecture and cuisine. St. Mark’s Cathedral is located on the highest point on a small peninsula encircled by 13th century walls and towers. .. The Town Museum is great for a first encounter with Korčula. See objects from stone masonry and shipbuilding tradition, archaeological collection dating back to the 3rd cent. BC. Overnight in Old Korčula Town – Island Korčula. Suggestion for dinner: We can reserved a table up at one of the very best restaurants Konoba Maha http://www.konoba-maha.com/ Stunning ambiance and traditional Dalmatian cuisine.We were not disappointed!

Korčula was a favourite spot for Wendy..and we all love this old town, birthplace of  of Marko Polo. 

25/09 Sailing to Komiža on Island Vis. Komiža is one of my favourite places..so natural, so steeped in history. As we moored Linda in the sheltered harbour the bura winds were blowing, but nothing was going to stop us exploring  this island of mystery and magical adventures. I noticed an old weathered green door slightly ajar, and immediately it spurred my curiosity. I could see a display of local products, olive oil, grappa, wines, locally made soaps, local honey, jams, beauty treatments made from locally gathered herbs, and little jars of immortell and shea butter. Most lovely ladies will be familiar with the brand L’Occitane,  where the immortelle daisy plant is known as a very high end ingredients for anti-aging skin care and here is is..growing in the wild on island Vis! Incredible..needless to say I purchased a nice little supply!

Mooring in magical azure crystal clear waters along our sailing route. 

26/09 Island Vis / Vis Town The ancient Greeks from Sicily settled here in Vis in 397 AD and called it Issa. Consider visiting the Old fort known as Gospina Batarija. Here you will find a collection of items and amphorae from the ancient town. The St. Jerome Church and Monastery on the western side of the harbour is a well.. The monks always produced a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables in the Monastery garden. In early evening we explored the town of Vis, the café bars, galleries, boutiques, in this town of rich history. Dinner at Villa Kaliopa in the town of Vis is the most romantic spot at sunset and one of the best in the Adriatic. Up until 1991 foreigners were not allowed to visit Vis until 1991, the year of Croatian Independence. For the previous 45 years it was Tito’s military base, keeping a check on the traffic entering the Adriatic. It seems that tourism of this Adriatic gem was paused for a period of 50 years. Today visitors can enjoy the natural beauty, and explore the many special places of interest at their leisure. This is where the Meryl Streep movie Mamma Mia 2 was filmed.. we searched high and low for Pierce Brosnan but had no luck at all!

27/09 From Vis Town we sailed across to the Pakleni Islands located on the southern side of Island Hvar. I had promised to take the group to one of my very favourite restaurants, the famous Laganini Lounge Bar nestling in a cove of azure waters at Palmižana where Chef extraordinaire, Hrvoje Žirojević rules the roost. Captain Toni moored Linda nearby and we were soon sipping cocktails and enjoying the Laganini  hospitality before being transferred  across the channel to Hvar Town for the evening walk, hoping to meet a celebrity or two! Hvar Town is know for it’s VIP guests particularly during September when most of the tourists have thankfully departed and the real travellers and mega yachts tend to arrive!

Laganini Lounge Bar..where the mix of Dalmatian cuisine, finest wines, cocktails and lounge music, in a  relaxed ambiance, is truly  food for the soul.

27/09 From Hvar Town we sailed around to the northern coast of Hvar, entering the harbour of old Stari Grad, the oldest town on the Dalmatian Coast..settled more than 2000 years ago by the ancient Greeks. Much more laid back than Hvar Town..and so many interesting little shops, galleries, narrow cobbled walkways, lavender, and delicious cuisine, with wines of highest quality..Hvar is an island of sunshine, fine wines, figs, honey, freshest seafood, lavender, olive oil, and tons of Dalmatian hospitality.,. My group particularly loved Stari Grad. One of our favourite little delicacy stores is in one of the back streets, Sinja Kola 11, called ZA POD ZUB (For Under the Tooth) www.zapodzub.com

The local boys having a chin wag

Our American guests, Ruth and Becky were very sad to leave Stari Grad and are planning to return as soon as possible!

28/09 Arriving in Milna on Island Brač… Stone from the Island of Brač is praised worldwide among engineers and architects. Some parts of the White House in Washington include Brač stone. The story of Brač stone goes way back in ancient history to the time of the first settlers the Illyrians. Today we went on a safari with the amazing guides at Explore Brač, exploring the island in open air Landrovers. Visiting the abandoned village of Škrip, tasting the pure extra virgin olive oil at the  Škrip Olive Oil Museum,a delightful experience,  visiting the Jaksić Stone masonary art gallery, then driving to the highest point of the Dalmatian Islands, the lookout at Vidova Gora, with the town of Bol below and the famous beach, the Golden Horn (Zlatni Rat) that changes shape according to the wind and currents..stunning views with the Italian coastline very visible on the horizon. The day ended with a feast of local specialties at the  Tomas Family home in Milna, including a tasting of various rakija (grappa) and a full long lazy table filled with goodies to whet the appetite and the wine flowed as we came happily to the end of another adventurous day!

At the Splendid Jaksić gallery in Donji Humac

The Jaksić stonemasonary gallery, and the Pustina Blato (Blaca Desert) Monastery.

Olive oil tasting at the Museum of Olive oil at Škrip..always ends with a glass of wine , home baked breads, cheeses , olives, and tapenades..ŽIVJELI!

29/09 9.00am Disembarkation in Split. Sailing into Split this morning, saying goodbye to Captain Toni and his wonderful crew, thanking them for taking such great care of us, for so many delicious meals, comfortable beds, and always smiling faces, we were sad to say goodbye. Hugs and kisses were shared all around, as we ‘threatened’ to return for more of the same in the future..

We found our driver from the Shuttle transfer agency in Split  waiting to take the group to their B&B accommodation, the Luxury Balatura Apartments located at 69 Radonice Ulica near the heart of the Old Town Centre. Sisters Perica, Tea and families own and manage these splendid apartments where guests are made to feel they are staying in a home away from home. www.balaturasplit.com  After settling in, the group were treated to a tour of the Old Town with Katija, an excellent local guide, visiting the ancient Diocletian Palace, and the atmospheric heart of Split. A bit of a rest in the afternoon then Split by Night..and a stroll along the Split Riva..a must for all visitors to Split!

Meeting Chef Željko Bremac in Split..Bryan (far left) wasn’t too sure about doing a cooking school..but he managed a painful smile for the camera! 

30/09 Sunday Cooking Class with Chef Željko Neven Bremec and Alma, starting at the Split Green Market, purchasing all the fresh produce for our Dalmatian Cuisine Class, then on to the Fish Market, followed by a short walk to the school. Bryan was not too fussed about joining this ‘cooking thing’ and it showed…after all a man’s place is NOT in the kitchen! ..Arriving at the school by 10.00am we were greeted with a cluster of bottles of finest Dalmatian rakija,(grappa) and an assortment of pate, breads, cheeses, proscuitto, olives, figs, and after downing a shot or two and the customary, ‘ŽIVJELI!!! it was down to preparing a lunch that would be fit for a king (and his queen!) Bryan’s attitude was starting to change a little..he was warming up to the idea..maybe this was going to actually be quite a good day with plenty of good tucker and vino!!

A brilliant day at the SKMER Cooking School in Split..9.00am to 3.00pm!

Learning how to fillet a fish, make cappaccio marinated in lemon and orange juices, tuna pate, seafood risotto, and a speciality of Island Hvar, the much loved seafood dish Gregada, with a bowl of kale, broadbeans and potatos, garlic and olive oil deliciously drizzled with olive oil, followed by superb moulds of caramelized rožata, or creme caramels as we call them in English. A feast we will long remember, accompanied by some of the finest Croatian wines both red and white, and lots of laughter and fun throughout the day.  Everybody hugged and thanked Chef Željko and his lovely wife Alma for such a perfect day. At 3.00pm we rolled home for an afternoon snooze.

01/10 Today our driver took us north to Zadar, visiting the Krka National Park and waterfalls on the way. A lovely morning in nature, walking 2 kilometres around the lakes, mesmerized by the clarity of the water, the falls seeminly flowing from every direction. Close by in the village of Plastevo we visited the Sladić Vineyards, really enjoying a wine tasting of 4 of their wines, and some of Mama Sladić’s homemade treats before continuing on to the northern Dalmatian city of Zadar.

Krka Falls in the National Park, always a beautiful day out in a natural environment.

Late afternoon our local guide really opened our eyes to this city that has been destroyed so many times in the past, yet continues to amaze us with so many interesting facets from centuries ago. Roman remains, Venetian attacks, then Turkish attacks when ruled by the Venetians, followed by Austrian rule, Bombed by the British in WW2 and some say authorised by Tito to teach Zadar a lesson for their resistance!

Sunset Rhapsody, at the Sea Organ in Zadar, northern Dalmatia. 

Visiting the Sea Organ at sunset is always so special in Zadar. Hundreds of people gather to watch the setting sun in a spectacular display on the horizon while listening to the sea playing a haunting melody as the movement of the sea enters and subsides through pipes of the organ..when the sun finally slips below the skyline, the crowd applauds with much gusto. It’s as if the final curtain of a dramatic opera has fallen to the stage.

02/10  Today our driver took us to the little 9th century town of Nin to visit the ancient Salt Pans that are still in existence today producing salt of very high mineral content.

Our guide Ivana explained all about life on the salt pans..a way of life for many in the past, and still operating today.

Arriving back into Zadar we visited the Museum of Ancient Glass  ..always a favourite for my guests to Croatia. Glass objects, jars, jugs, bowls, and jewellery of many colours and hues, some dating back 3000 years are displayed to perfection. A display of glass blowing was so interesting, watching the seemingly impossible become beautiful works of art..

Glass blowing in the Museum of Ancient Glass in Zadar and St Donat by night.

/10  Driving down the coastal road to Šibenik we spoke about our 14 days together as a group. We all agreed it had been a very special time. For some old friendships had been renewed, for others new friendships had been made and we promised ourselves we would make another plan for another adventure sometime soon in the future. Šibenik in the past was not promoted as a tourist destination, but things are changing! A network of streets and squares were laid out in the 15th and 16th Centuries and  the crowning glory of the Dalmatian Coast is the cathedral of St James, the masterpiece of the sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac, today a world heritage site.

In the old centre of Šibenik

Continuing on down the coast we arrived at the pretty islet town of Primošten and an absolutely delicious lunch by well known Chef Pero Savanić at Restaurant Mediteran.. www.mediteran-primosten.hr

Happy travellers…. grazing our way through some of the finest homestyle restaurants in Dalmatia, at Restaurant Mediteran in Primošten..

Our final destination was the magical walled town of Trogir. The walls enclose a maze of medieval walkways and arches, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture from the 15th century, A Cappella singers often performing in the loggia, singing about stories of the sea, lost love, seagulls and fishermen, good wine and pretty girls! Some great restaurants and wine bars are to be found in this small town of great ambience.

Time for goodbye arrived. We hugged and shared a few tears as we reminisced about our  fourteen days cruising and touring.. For me as tour escort and organizer it had been an exceptional  Dream Team,  and hopefully we will have the opportunity to travel again further afield in the not too distant future.

Doviđenja ..till we meet again.