Saturday, 8 October 2016

Hidden Treasures of Hvar


Split was nice, but we were in the mood to explore more of Croatia and give in to the pull of island life on Hvar, Croatia's best-known island a breezy one-hour trip from Split by boat. 


Honestly, knowing that 20,000 people visit Hvar each day in high season – eeeps! – I was a little wary, had a friend not told me about the island's overlooked pretty old town where we stayed for a few nights.



The walk from the boat to our apartment was amazing! Taking us through a maze of beautiful ancient marble-clad streets, lined with pretty cottages and merchants houses with colourful doors, shutters and flowers and hidden alleyways at every turn.









I guess this one was inspired by Wes Anderson. 


Here's our  pretty little apartment...



Next door is the most beautiful church you've ever seen – called St Stephen's built in the 12th century, sadly closed for renovation during our visit. 


Round the corner was this perfect local restaurant – Cafe Antika...





We wandered through town to the picture-perfect harbour with lots of pink houses lining the water. 




We get lost in the alleyways filled with mysterious looking buildings...




Further along we find a swimming cove. It's missing something, though – I know, a beach! These concrete platforms – common in Croatia – are easy to spot for they come equipped with a ladder that takes you down into the warm crystal-clear water.




It's so pretty at sundown... 





What's nice about Stari Grad is you can do so much without needing a car. One day, hiking shoes on, we just walk. Right out of town about 2km up a hill towards a church...



...past a cool old faded pink Volkswagen Beetle and a boat and a house with a garden full of grape vines... (they love home brew here.)


...but we don't quite get to the church. At the top of the hill, we turn a corner and stumble upon what looks like an abandoned village. There's no one around. Grass and weeds grow in between stone slabs, on roof tiles, up along the fronts of houses...


A sign tells us we're at a place called Malo Rudina – this is clearly one of Hvar's best-kept secrets. With just 20 houses – the first built in 1663 – this is what's called an eco-ethno village, one of many around the region designed to protect local culture and architectural traditions. To our surprise, it isn't actually abandoned. Rather in a state of preservation – there are a few permanent residents and some of the houses are used as holiday cottages... 













As I look around this deliberately ramshackle village, it's impossible to imagine it coming alive mid-August for the art festival, when the houses are used as galleries for local artists' work.

A tip off sends us to another eco-ethno village – called Malo Grablje (I can't pronounce it either) – but this time completely derelict. I'm excited. Since visiting Bodie ghost town in California a few years ago, I'm obsessed by the thought of what happens to places when they're just left to rot... So we set off in our car, taking in some awesome views across to the island of Brač as the road winds upwards. 



Nobody has lived here since the 50s and 60s when all of the villagers decided to move lock, stock and barrel down to the pretty cove of Milna. They didn't sell up; simply built themselves new houses. Imagine if it was that easy?

All the old stone cottages are returning to nature. Roofs are sagging and have fallen in, you can see daylight through the windows, trees and plants grow inside the walls. 












Surprisingly, we find a cafe! A proper lived-in, (usually) open-for-business cafe. But when we get there, we find out it's only open for dinner – shame. Although imagine! Dinner in a derelict town. Spooky! So if you want to go to Konoba Stori Komin, call in advance to find out if it's open, just in case.



It's so peaceful wandering around these empty once-loved houses, my imagination running wild thinking about times gone by. I'm not ready to leave this tranquil yet eerie place, but we've unfinished business in Stari Grad: waterside lunch at Eremitaž, a traditional restaurant set inside a 15th-century building which was once a hermitage for monks... the food is delicious and the service friendly. We love Eremitaž.




...before a peek inside Tvrdjalj Castle, a Stari Grad highlight. It's not really a castle, but a beautifully well-preserved Renaissance home designed and built in the 16th century by a Dalmation national treasure, architect and poet, Petar Hektorović. 


Behind the imposing old wooden door is a secret world. There's a beautiful seawater fish pond filled with carp within a covered courtyard. Wasn't Hektorović's major work called Fishing and Fishermen's Talk? This man seriously loved fish. 








If you follow me on Instagram you'll already know we found this amazing wine shop selling delicious home-brew for just £1 a full tumbler (yes it's nice!). So here I am, on our last night, sitting outside watching the sunset. 





Tomorrow: last stop, Korcula.

Psst: More Croatia travel posts: The time we vacationed in a crumbling Roman palace.

2 comments:

  1. Cool cars of Hvar, including the Renault 4s would be a good feature, bring it on.
    Thanks Ellie, your blog post reminded me of great times in Croatia.
    xx

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  2. Oh my god, as if I didn't want to go to Croatia as it was, now I realise i HAVE to go!!! Your pics are amazing!!! xx

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