A Week in Paradise's Off Season
The sign at the bus station in Hvar boasts that this island is apparently named one of the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world…right up there with the likes of Bali and the Antilles. I believe it.
This place is incredible. From the unbelievably clear water to the centuries old architecture to the cheap wine ($2CAD for 1L) & easy drinking beer, our stay in Hvar was fantastic. We only stayed a week and it definitely wasn't long enough to enjoy all the island has to see and do so we usually just ended up drinking wine, eating crackers, cheese, meat and pizza on the stone beaches.
We arrived in the off-season in the first days of April but to us Canadians, it was a tropical 16 degrees. Patrick and I both wore shorts and got decent sunburns on our faces but the locals were mostly still all in winter jackets and scarves. Being two of the maybe 5 tourists on the island reminded us of how much we love traveling in off season. 80% of the restaurants and tourism companies are closed but we spent out time eating in busy local pubs and getting to see things you could never experience in the busy season.
One of the most beautiful things about Croatia is the history is incredibly accessible. From 2000 year old sphinx in public squares to churches and palaces turn into markets and shops, this country lives its history.
We stumbled into a gorgeous old church in Hvar called, Church of Our Lady of Grace which sat beside the Franciscan monastery. To be honest, we didn't really learn much about this church. It was built sometime in the 1460′s and it was not yet open for visitors for the season but we were free to wander through the front hall area.
We do know that we missed out on seeing the 500 yr old cypress tree in the inner courtyard and collection of valuable artwork in the monastery. As it was, what we saw was pretty awesome. I think my favourite part was the stone at the door, which has been worn into a slope from centuries of parishioners footsteps. Beautiful.
Above Hvar looms a huge fortress. Part of it’s walls date back to the first century BC. It’s pretty awesome and a decently long way up from the town. We climbed through the twisting streets and when we made our way to the top we were rewarded with an incredible view of the town and harbour.
The water in Hvar is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s all kinds of translucent green/blue beautiful and you can see clearly to the bottom in dozens of feet of water. It’s almost impossible to avoid tide pools when you walk along the shore because the water is so clear, it looks like glass over the rocks and you can hardly even see that it’s there. Life in Hvar is completely wrapped up in and around the harbour and it was fascinating to watch a culture revolving around the sea.
Each morning the town square, right at the mouth of the harbour, was full of people having coffee, pushing strollers, meeting friends, showing off their catch or just on their way out to fish.
On their way home from school every day, kids play soccer and fix bikes along the water.
Later in the evening, the restaurants lining the harbour display their fish menu for the night on ice at their entries.
One evening we watched a fisherman standing on his boat, moored in the harbour. He was looking deep into the water, just leaning over the rail of his boat, then ever so slowly, he picked up this 15 ft trident and eased it into the water. We didn’t see him catch anything with it while we watched, but he looked like he knew what he was doing.
Off Road Scootering
We rented a scooter for a day to explore more of the island of Hvar. It was a 50cc scooter, with a seat no more than 12 inches long which made the trip... uncomfortable. Carrying both of us, going up hill, it maxed out at 40km/hr. In fact, I got off and walked most hills so that we didn't strain the engine too hard.
We took it on roads that haven’t quite been built yet, cruised down slopes that we’re pretty sure were just sheep trails and say some beautiful sleepy beaches along the southern coast of Hvar.
This island and town are so beautiful, I'm sure we'll be back to explore more of this area... on off season of course.