I spent the last week traveling by land yacht (bus) along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. As you might imagine, the impromptu road trip yielded many new experiences and a few “firsts”.
My route took me north from Split, stopping at the towns of Trogir, Vodice, and Zadar.
Each of these towns (including Split) have similar features: remnants of ancient walls, fortresses, and cathedrals; narrow cobblestone streets; coastal promenades; beaches; and lots of ice cream shops.
But the vibe in each town is very different. Which is best? That’s impossible to answer because it just depends on what you’re looking for. Each town has its unique personality – to be discovered (and interpreted) by each visitor individually.
This week, I bravely explored a few “firsts”.
International Charter Prep. From Trogir, I took a short day trip to the small town of Marina, where the charter company Sunsail operates. I stopped by the Agana Marina (confusingly in the town of “Marina”) to drop off my sailing gear and check out the facilities. I didn’t see our actual boat, but the charter operation looks top-notch. Very excited to skipper my first international charter in a few weeks!
Cuisine. Up until now, in terms of local cuisine, I had really only tried slow-cooked lamb in Split, and a few pizzas and Greek salads. This road trip gave me the perfect opportunity to go deeper. It was time to try to seafood. I splurged with octopus salad, mussels, and grilled sea bass. Plus the fabulous sides of home baked bread, fresh olive oil, Dalmatian-style chard, and local white wine. I've posted several photos on Facebook (@dannyboytravels) highlighting the dishes.
Ice Cream. United States has a Starbucks on every corner. Croatia has ice cream shops on every corner. Everyone eats it. And it's CHEAP. A single scoop cone is 8 kuna, or just over $1 USD. I love ice cream, but it's generally sometime I don't splurge on when I travel. But here, I just had to try to. Yum! One morning, I couldn't order a fruit smoothie because it was "too early" (it was 9:45am) but they would serve me an ice cream cone. Go figure.
Adriatic Sea. In Zadar, I finally took my first plunge into the Adriatic Sea. Up until this point, I was a bit nervous about it because (a) the water is pretty cold and (b) the coast is rocky. On one of my first days in Split, I saw a tourist emerge from the water with a bloody lacerated foot because he’d stepped on a sharp rock, broken glass, or nasty sea creature. If you look closely, all the locals wear crocs or other “water shoes” to protect their feet (except at sandy Bacvice Beach, south of Split).
Anyway, in Zadar, I found the perfect place where I could jump off the rocky cliff into deep water without having to walk out in shallow rocky water. I could also climb back out on a metal ladder that someone had installed. (These metal, swimming-pool style ladders are pretty common along the rocky coast. You don’t want to be scaling the sharp rocky edge as the waves bash you.)
My swimming spot was at the southern end of the ‘peninsula’ on which Zadar sits. I had walked down to find a highly-rated café there, Tequila Sunrise. As it turns out, right next to the café is this great swimming, and jumping, spot. So I gathered up my nerve and jumped off a 5-foot high cliff into the water.
Ahh, so refreshing! Cold, but refreshing. I took another few jumps off the rocks, each time going a bit higher. I also enjoyed watching an older man do some really crazy high jumps, seemingly intentionally trying to land as close to the rocks as possible.
Jumping off into the water was addicting. On my walk back along the peninsula to the center of Zadar, I stopped by the north end of the peninsula, and jumped in again! This is where the famous ‘sea organ’ is. This man-made contraption generates church organ like tones as the waves roll into the stone wall and force air through a variety of holes. It’s really eerie, especially sitting at sunset, which I did a few times during the week. I took a recording; I’ll see if I can post something.
The rest of the week was filled with normal stuff. Lots of walking. Lots of cafes.
I did stop by a couple of more marinas and charter companies, mostly in Trogir, looking for volunteering or sailing opportunities. Once again, I was met with negative responses. The one contact / referral I did receive only resulted in an eventual negative response as well (but with some good tips on how to get a work visa). That said, I am getting a little traction on some online sailing/crewing websites… not for Croatia, but for adventures in the distant future.
At the end of the week, I continued my bus trip north – but turned inland. I’m now at the National Park “Plitvicka-Jezera” (or, Plitvice) where there are a series of lakes and waterfalls. I took a quick 3-hour walk around the Park this evening and it is amazing. I’ll post pictures and include that story in my update next week.
On the administrative side, I have changed my return flight from November 15 to October 23. I’m returning to San Francisco early so that I can pick up my offshore sailing gear. I’ll head immediately to Fiji where I will be reunited with the sailing vessel Avalon and her skipper Tom. We’ll make the return sail to New Zealand in November!