A meeting with the captain of marine police on Hvar allowed us to turn it over to the grateful constabulary. Swarming with day-trippers from the mainland, Hvar looked just like the guide book; picture perfect. A taxi ride up the steep mountain that overlooks the town brought us to tour the castle, where the locals saved Hvar from capture by the Turks a thousand years ago. The castle dungeons can still be viewed by tourists, but now mainly serve as a catering hall for weddings and other celebrations.
From Stari Grad on the north shore of Hvar, we island-hopped to Bobovisce and Milna on Brac, before heading back to the mainland. The Croatian people were friendly and courteous but the Stari Grad dockmaster gave us an exceptional taste of Croatian hospitality starting with a tour of the town and its historical highlights. Then, he recommended Miln, a restaurant catering to locals, who looked at us like we were lost when we wandered in. Topilow provided the background piano music once again, for an excellent evening of cold beer and good food.
After our week afloat, we stayed on to see more of Croatia. We walked around the town of Split to experience the modern and vibrant waterfront promenade and the retail shops built into the former palace of Roman emperor Diocletian.
Deciding to take in Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, proved to be more diverting than the opera itself. We showed up at the box office to purchase tickets, but found out they were sold out. We were told to return at 8pm because they could possibly offer us tickets then. We returned at 7:00 PM with a sign in Croatian made for us by our hotel manager. It read, “We want to buy tickets for the opera.” The people who read the sign got a good laugh, but we didn’t know why. We were later told that the locals thought that we were crazy, when it was explained to us that the tickets had been distributed for free by the town of Split. “Only Americans would want to buy free tickets,” they said.
A newspaper reporter covering the story of the free concert saw the commotion and came over to interview us. She went into the theater and brought out two free tickets for us. We enjoyed the opera immensely. The next day we saw an article about it, featuring our picture in the local newspaper! Unfortunately, not being able to speak Croatian, we couldn’t read the story. We still haven’t had it translated.
We toured further inland by car, visiting Plitvicka Jezera National Park, Zadar, and the Roman ruins at Salona. Plitvicka Jezera is a most beautiful series of lakes, streams, and waterfalls, with water was so clear we you could can see schools of trout swimming in the streams. We hiked about six miles on boardwalk trails that go around and over the lakes, through the woods, right to the base of the waterfalls. We were told not to stray off the trails because there might be some unexploded mines still buried in the ground from the last Balkan war!
We had a great time in Croatia. It is a truly beautiful country, and we found the Croatian people to be extremely warm, friendly and helpful. Our boat from The Moorings was trouble-free, the marinas were spotless, and the place is, by and large, nicely geared for tourists. Next time we’ll sail out of Dubrovnik, and see the islands to the south. All in all, we can’t wait to go back.