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Journeys : Aug Sep 2012
The Croatian coast is an extraordinarily pretty part of the world. The South Dalmatian islands boast green hills, lavender fields and dramatic cliffs, which shelter quaint seaside v illages and walled medieval towns. The perfect destination for a relaxing holiday cruise. And although the cruise boat was a delight – a comfortable 30 metre motor cruiser, sleeping 30 guests – the cruise I had chosen was not always relaxing. Once on a bike, it quickly turned into hard work, the constant sun roasting our faces and bur ning through our cycling gear. We had been briefed the night before in German and English. It was brief all right – our first ride would entail ‘some uphill and some downhill.’ A cycling nov ice, I was a little anxious about the bike riding and had put myself through some training in preparation, where I had fallen off a bike several times. I stifled my fears with the hearty food being served up from the boat’s galley. Any way, the tour website claimed that you could push your bike if necessary, and the rest of the tour group appeared to be in their 60s, so how hard could it be? Puffing badly at the top of our first assault on ‘some uphill ’, I casually suggested to the guide that the grade was a bit steep for a first effort. He laughed at me. “ What? That little thing?” And we hadn’t even begun our trip over the Pelješac Peninsula. Most of the sexagenarians ascended at a steady pace, stopping for photos at the wall of Ston, Europe’s largest continuous defensive wall, but some found the going a little tough. Fortunately, one of the Germans had the foresight to arrange the option of an electric bike. He lent his vehicle to other members of the group and as the week wore on, the optional E-bikes multiplied. The tour did offer a lazy option – simply relaxing on board while everyone else pedalled around an island. But that choice was rarely taken because the v iews were breathtaking and the cycling was actually quite enjoyable. When we spiralled down into Prapratno harbour around lunchtime on the first day, our boat San Snova or ‘dream of dreams’ was waiting for us. The crew of six – a captain, two sailors, a barman and two cooks – kept everything spotless, no matter how many other boats were tied alongside us. Our boat also had plenty of space to recline on deckchairs w ith beers after the day’s riding around the harbours of Pupnat or Vela Luka. When extra refreshment was required, we stopped the boat for a dip. As most Croatian beaches were covered with spiny sea urchins, swimming from a boat was the best way to enjoy the surreal blue water without a trip to the emergency room. I eventually accepted the sun and sweat and grew to enjoy the little challenges each day, managing the entire tour without falling off. I also enjoyed the almost- deserted rustic towns, like Stari Grad and Stomorska, where we stopped to indulge in well-ear ned gelati. More comfortable in the saddle each day, I noticed the contrasting scenes gliding by – the bron zed farmer w ith his over-burdened donkey, the bullet holes in cottage walls, small shadows from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. As the tour drew to a close I began to wish it would never end. A German sing-a -long w ith a guitar on the boat-deck had become an evening routine. Some nights we were also treated to presentations by the family who built and operated the cruise boat. When we pulled up at the quayside in Trogir on our last day, I watched holiday- makers disembark from other Croatian sailing tours. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of superiority. Those on simple sailing tours had visited Hvar, maybe even walked around its castle, but we had smelled the island’s lavender fields up-close. We had joked with locals at roadside cafés on the islands of Slano and Solta. We had experienced Croatia in a way the shop-and- sunbathe types could not. And I had eaten myself silly all week and still managed to tighten the belt a few notches. Destinations Opposite page: The b eautiful h ab our of Hvar; the Sans Snova This p age, clockwise from top: Harb ou r rest stop; villag e of Hodilje near Ston on Peljesac Penin sula; the Wall of Ston; Pratpraton JacquiStreet August / September 2012 15
Jun Jul 2012
Oct Nov 2012