Today was a day of bells. We awoke to the sound of bells from the local church in Gradac on the Dalmation coast, just behind our campsite. We had arrived at Gradac late in the day, just as the sun was starting to set. The position of the campsite was wonderful – right by the beach looking out across the Adriatic. By the time we arrived, the reception was closed, so we picked the last remaining spot by the water, quickly put up the roof, and then scuttled off down to he water to take some photos. Just along from the campsite was a small harbour, surrounded by a few bars. Being Sunday evening, many of the locals were sitting outside, enjoying the last of the sun. Many of the local fisherman were just leaving the harbour in their small boats to go fishing – there must have been ten or twelve small boats out on the water, and a couple left to join them as we stood and watched. The light was superb, and much to my embarrassment Howard managed to shoot some better photos on his iPhone than I did on my camera – I will post them for you to see! Walking back to the campsite, we stopped at one of the waterside bars and had a bite to eat and a drink – very pleasant.
We went to bed listening to the sound of gentle waves lapping on the shore, and set our alarm, since we planned to leave the site early to catch the ferry to Hvar Island. Although both our alarms rang, it was only the sound of the bells that eventually got us up!
We packed up the van, but still no-one had appeared in the campsite office. Not wanting to miss our ferry, we left, but sent an email to say that we had stayed the night, and could they please invoice us. Later in the morning, I received a reply – ‘Have the night’s stay as a gift – maybe you will return one day’. We were touched.
The ferry to Hvar was wonderful. The sun was shining, and the coastal scenery just spectacular. However, just as we arrived on the island, the clouds welled up and it started to rain. We landed at Sucuraj on the far eastern end of the island, and drove the full length of the island, a surprising 70km. For the whole length of the drive, we only passed two other cars. It was like a ghost island. Strange – as we had read on the ferry that this was a bustling party island – but no signs of this today. Much of the island was covered in small olive groves, the plots separated by piles of stones that had been cleared from the land to enable cultivation. We stopped briefly at a town called Jelsa on the northern coast for coffee. It had a pleasant harbour, surrounded by a polished limestone walkway. We sat under the awning looking out across to the far side, the only ones outside in the rain.
We arrived at Hvar Town, at the far western end of the island, and were met by the lady who ran the ‘Villa’ where we were staying. She directed Oscar to his parking spot, and we followed her on foot into the Old Town. We have been surprised to find the many of the campsites in Croatia are not yet open – apparently party season doesn’t start until May. Our host explained that the town was still very quiet, but that in a week or two it would be transformed. We heaved a sigh of relief – just as we like it. Our room is gorgeous (and very cheap), so we instantly decided to stay an extra night.
Later in the afternoon, we took a walk up to the 16th century fort that looks out over the town. The views were wonderful, and thankfully by then, the rain had stopped and the sun come out. We then wandered back to the main square, St. Stephens Square, which was originally the river estuary, but filled in to form a huge polished limestone plaza from the cathedral down to the waterfront. As the sun started to set, we sat and had a drink and did a significant bit of ‘people watching’. Many of the locals were out for their early evening promenade, and three small children had this enormous square almost to themselves for their football game. A very relaxing way to pass half an hour. As we sat there, loud bells started ringing out over the town. A good end to the day.
I really like Hvar. It has a lovely feel about the place. I’m not sure I would like it in the middle of the summer when it is full of crowds – but for now, it is perfect. I can see why the Croatians are so proud of their Dalmation Islands – they are certainly some very special locations.