Hvar, a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, was really good to us from start to finish.
We arrived late afternoon where the host of our AirBnB met us at the harbor to walk us over to our home for the next few nights. Hvar is a small island so just about everything in the main center is accessible by foot. We noticed right away that quite a few places were closed. Our host explained that we had just missed the high season so things were quieter now. We knew it would be more quiet traveling in October but were surprised with just how many places were shut-down for the seasons. Hvar is known for partying and a place where models, princes, and stars come to enjoy the beauty of the island by day and party by night. Right when you get off the boat there is bar called Carpe Diem that the likes of Beyonce and Jay Z frequent. In the high season Hvar goes off and parties all night. We were fine with missing it though. I am sure especially Jess since she was pregnant after all.
We loved out AirBnB. The location was great, the views of the harbor and sea were fantastic. It was clean and also spacious. After Barcelona we had our concerns.
View from our room on the second floor.
We settled in. I did some yoga. Jess checked in with her family on Facetime. Peter worked. When we reconvened we headed out to dinner at the #1 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor, Dalmatino. That’s one advantage of being in Hvar in low-season, you can walk right up to any restaurant, without reservation and be seated.
It was excellent on all fronts. From the unique menu, to the food, the service, the atmosphere. We loved it. We also quickly learned that Croatia has exceptional olive oil and they love to drink. I am sure the latter sounds more fun than the former but if you’ve ever had really good olive oil, like really good, then you realize it is pretty decadent and fun to enjoy. Side note: It’s actually Spain the produces the world’s best olive oil, followed by Italy then the US.
Our waiter was one of the best parts of the evening. He gave us great recommendations. Three words: black-truffle-risotto. He was exceptionally friendly and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know us. Plus he gave us plenty of liqueurs to try on the house, enforcing we all drink – he gave Jess an exception only after seeing her baby bump. That was about the only exception this waiter was going to make.
After traveling for about 8 months now I have realized that service means different things in different countries. What is considered good service in the US doesn’t necessarily apply elsewhere. You can’t compare for a number of obvious reasons. Mostly, you speak different languages and communication is often times an exercise of charades. But also in some areas of the world service just isn’t important or taught. But when you come across a pleasant surprise while traveling where the service standards are one that are close and recognizably awesome to you, its an incredibly warm feeling. Croatia is one of those countries. The first picture below is octopus with capers and olive oil. YUM!
Our second day we did a walking tour of the island. From the island piazza you can see Hvar Fortress and hike all the way to the top.
As we worked our way to the top we stopped along the way for many photo shoot opportunities.
Behind Peter and I in this picture are the Pakleni Islands. During peak season taxi boats bring tourists over to this area in droves. From May to September it is estimated that 20,000 tourists come to Hvar a day. Being there in October we just missed the madness. Which again, we were secretly thankful for.
It was fun to now have a friend to do yoga poses in pictures with me. As you can see Jess is the flexible/dancer graceful one.
For our evening adventure we decided to hire a boat to enjoy the sunset on the sea. Whenever you are thinking to hire a boat for a tour, I recommend always for sunset. It’s a guaranteed good time.
We got to see the other islands in the area, see a beautiful sunset, and make a new friend.
We took the boat over by the Pakleni Islands which were basically deserted as well as Palmizana, an island my friend Kara had been to about a month before us which was quiet as well. It was nice to have the sea to ourselves. You could almost hear the echo of partying from the shore; the scene of the crime.
After the boat ride Peter and I enjoyed some wine while Jess ordered a hot chocolate at Hotel Croatia. From there the balcony boasts a view of Adriatic Sea so we were able to enjoy the last little bit of sunlight.
Jess and I started in on some girl talk so Peter took this as a cue to head home. Jess and I continued our chats until we realized we should probably head out for dinner. We walked around the ancient stone streets of Hvar until we stumbled upon Giaxa where we enjoyed our dinner in a relaxing historical environment. The food wasn’t our favorite but our quality time together was.
The next morning Jess and I were headed out to a cooking class recommended by my friend Kara who had just been their with her husband on her honeymoon. She relayed to me that this was one of her favorite things they did on their trip. I figured it had to be good and perfect for an afternoon activity for the two of us. It ended up being like nothing I could have anticipated. It was way better than anything I could have imagined a cooking class turning into.
The class is run by a highly energetic and a bit eccentric man by the name of Berti. In my correspondence with him he told me that we would be getting picked up for the class. As we walked up to the meeting point a middle aged man leapt out of his clunky car covered in dirt but with a really great attitude and energy. He exchanged a few words with Peter insisting that he join, but he was looking forward to a quiet day of work and declined. Pleasantries exchanged, an estimated time when we’d be back relayed to Peter and we were off. But first we needed to make a stop because he was pressing olive oil that morning and he needed to grab some on the way. We had no objection to grabbing freshly pressed olive oil.
The class itself is held in an abandoned medieval village, Malo Grablje. Hence why we needed to get a ride to the class. It’s only accessible by car and taxis won’t be able to find a house in an abandoned ghost village that you need to go off-roading through thick forrest to get to.
When we arrived in the village we were both taken by the surrounding beauty and peacefulness of the area. The stone house that Berti runs his cooking class and restaurant is engulfed in woods and cliffs. We quickly learned that everything he cooks with is literally from the land. I was especially taken by a huge pomegranate tree located right next the porch. You don’t get pomegranates fresher than that.
This photo shows the picturesque surroundings and the pomegranate tree.
Berti is the host with the most. He invited us in and immediately offered us house made wine and whipped up an appetizer of anchovies with capers and fresh olive oil.
The cooking class itself was more us watching him in his element. The Berti Show certainly came with all kinds of entertainment with just enough involvement from Jess and I. For me too, the wine continued to pour. One of my favorite aspects of Berti’s personality besides his bundle of positive energy is that you get a feel from him that he is one of those people that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or where you come from. The type of man that despite what side of the war you were on over Yugoslavia, it doesn’t matter. Let’s all just drink and eat and have a good time. At one point towards the end of the cooking class he mentioned he should go pick up Peter so he could enjoy dinner with us. I told him that was a nice offer but not necessary. Also the class never really ended. We got picked up around 1:30 PM and by the time we left it was after dark. He was the type of host that made you feel welcome the entire time and even when the sun had gone down he was still offering us food and drink.
Throughout the class Berti told stories, poured wine, or made fresh lemonade for Jess, and danced around his kitchen.
For dessert we made sugared almonds. Berti taught us the proper way to crack open the shell. Does wine drinking and a hammer go together?
After our dinner was prepared we took a seat outside and enjoyed the food in a glorious, quiet, and peaceful setting.
We sat talking and eating till the sun went down. Like I stated previously we were welcome to stay and never felt like Berti was ready to drive us home. When we finally said maybe we should get going Berti insisted that Jess take home some fresh olive oil and homemade honey to her family. And of course the left over food for Peter to have for dinner.
With our hearts and bellies full Berti drove us back home.
The next morning we had an early ferry to catch then a 2.5 hour car ride to our next adventure in Plitvice Lakes. That evening, due to it being a Saturday night, we were kept up due to the noises coming from the night life till the wee hours. Despite it not being high season Croatians and tourists were still getting after it.
Fun fact, Croatia is known for it’s lavender that is grown on the island. I didn’t know this at the time but there is an ice cream shop that sells lavender gelato. If you follow my blog you know I am obsessed with gelato. Something to try next time.
One last thing. If you read my previous blog post you know that I thought Jess might be having her baby that day. It was a false alarm and it was some serious contractions. She did have her baby about a week later on March 14th, 2015. A pi baby! It’s a boy named Edison. He is sure to be a smart one.
Thanks for following along!