No! You cannot ask me this. Why do I have stupid people coming to my window like you?!’
The Croatian ferry teller woman still continued shrieking at us behind her window. Putting our hands up and giving a reassuring smile to her, we looked around. It was almost like we propositioned her!
‘We just want to know where the Jadrolinija ferry to Hvar will be leaving.’ we simply asked again. Again, that was followed by more cursing and screaming.
We had bought our tickets the day before but we weren’t told where the 10:15 ferry would be leaving from Split’s harbour. After we grabbed breakfast on the way to the harbour, we were greeted with not one, not two but three Jadrolinija ferries spread out over many piers. Uh-oh, and we only had 15 minutes to haul ass. Hence, I had the bright idea to go back to the ticket booths. Only that, the window where we bought our tickets from, there was now a 100 plus strong queue. We would never make it in time. So, we thought we would politely ask the not so busy booth next to it manned by a bored looking woman filing away at her
claws large manicured nails. Although her booth wasn’t a Jadrolinija booth, we thought she might be able to help us. She didn’t like that. After ten minutes of yelling, we gathered that Jadrolinija was stealing her custom. I’m sure her pleasant personality was not the cause.
Anyway, with the clock ticking, we ran like hell with our backpacks on our shoulders to one ferry. Nope, it wasn’t that one. We ran down a pier again and up another one. There was some activity on the boat. Had they closed up the entrance? A bored looking worker appeared on the deck. We shouted up, waved our arms and he clocked us with an amused expression.
‘Hvar?!’ we shouted up.
He pointed towards the third ferry. The one that was the furthest away from anything.
‘We’re never gonna make it,’ Mark admitted defeat. Our toil of running in the scorching August heat revealed to us harshly with our sweat-stained t-shirts and panting breath in the high humidity.
‘Ah, bollocks to that,’ I urged him, shouldering my backpack. ‘We are going to board this god-damn ferry.’ And off we went running, jumping over bollards and harbour objects. Do you know Baywatch? It was felt exactly that, my hair bouncing slowly and looking as always masculine as ever.
We made it with thirty seconds to spare. Huzzah! I celebrated by dousing myself with water on deck. For Mark, he simply went to a quiet corner to curl up in a ball. All that running didn’t help his hangover…
Sailing the Adriatic Sea to Hvar
The ferry ride from Split to Hvar took an hour and a half, stopping at Brac Island first to offload passengers. We could have got off here but I was adamant that I wanted to go to Hvar. I don’t know why. After all, there’s so many islands in the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea to choose from. But for me, my gut told me to go to Hvar for our first island of my backpacking trip in Croatia. I had heard raving reports, seen beautiful images and I’m told the people there are gorgeous. It would just be like finding my own tribe.
The ferry ride was pleasant, the sea lolling the boat around pleasantly making my head bob in tiredness. But my eyes were alert, amazed at the stunning marine scenery that lay below me. Sunlight dazzles danced on the surface, enticing the viewer to swim with them in the cool and pleasing sea. But before I knew it, we were casting our ropes off to anchor the boat to the port wall of Hvar, where for the next two days will be my island in the Adriatic Sea.
‘Did you know Hvar is the most sunniest place in Croatia with 2724 hours of sun a year?’ A British girl gushed at me as we waited to disembark. She looked pleased waiting for congratulations from me as she stared at me, her finger hovering the fact in her backpacking guide. I simply replied,
‘Did you know Hvar Town gets 20,000 visitors a day?’
‘Really?’ She looked over people in front of her to get a view of the town. ‘It’s quite small to get that number.’ I shrugged. I knew I read it somewhere. And it was true.
Hvar Town is the island’s busiest hub. By day, it’s a tourist draw with its sleepy 13th century walls surrounding gorgeous gothic style palaces and pedestrian only marble streets. It all sounded rather romantic. But the british girl was right, it’s a small bay town. How could they fit 20,000 people in one day. It’s a mystery that will never be solved.
As we walked down the harbour, I couldn’t help feel the excitement bubble inside me. It was all so rather quaint and delightful. My eyes were feasting on a smorgasbord, my ears hearing the dulcet tones of quiet laughter and the ribber jabber of market trading. I could feel the cooling (and appreciated) sea breeze making me feel at ease. Restaurant courtyards spilled out onto the harbour and the main St Stephen’s Square, overlooked by the Cathedral of St Stephen. There was an easy charm to the place, where everyone seems to live one day to the next. There were no worries to be had or any stress. Just see, eat, live and drink.
Hvar was already my favourite place in Croatia.
Dropping our bags off at the Shaka Hostel, we went exploring Hvar Town for the afternoon.
Hvar Town in Pictures
An Evening at the Spanjola Fortress
After having a quick bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in St Stephen’s Square (Pizza here is extremely delicious), Mark and I looked up over our heads to look at the hill that stood behind Hvar Town. On top, lies the Spanjola Fortress or ‘Spanish Fortress’ if you prefer the English version.
Through one of the many little streets that steps up towards the hill, you can easily climb through a park to get to the citadel. But remember to stop at various points and look back to Hvar Town. The views are tremendous.
Remember to put on a lot of insect repellant as the park does harbour pesky biting midges.
The Spanjola is medieval in origin when it was built to defend the island from the Turks. Venetians and Austrians that came along strengthened the fort and added barracks. It’s biggest selling point that draws crowds to visit is, without a doubt, its viewpoint. Here are a couple of pictures from our time there.
After sunset, the sky is still light enough for you to enjoy a refreshing fruit beer to reward yourself with the climb to get that beautiful view. There’s a charming cafe, where you can take a pew. Although, watch yourself with the stone floor as they are liable to trip you up much to my discovery and Mark’s embarrassment.
A Night Out on the Waterfront
It is said as soon dusk falls on Hvar Town, the place is transformed from a sleepy tourist centre to the epicentre of all night partying. We decided to see this for ourselves as we joined the Shaka Hostel’s bar crawl to the waterfront first stopping off at the Hula Hula Bar for our free shot of Rakia.
Soon enough, the drinks were flowing and because of the easy chilled out vibes of the town, people got talking to one another readily. A mix of nationalities were thrown together and soon you were dancing to cheesy tunes and twirling each other around throughout the bars that lined the Waterfront.
A Day on the Beach
Seeing as Mark and I had been travelling intensively for the last week and a half (such a hard life), we felt we deserved some beach time when we woke up the next morning. The sun was shining, the sea was inviting and what’s more, we needed to brown our bodies.
We got a local’s tip to go east of the waterfront as you’ll surely find quieter and less crowded beaches there instead of west where most beachside cafes and bars are with rowdy behaviour. Finding a small beach only populated with a few families, we put down our towels and baked in the sun. It’s not all we did mind, as I dipped in the rather cool water that gave me refreshment from the sizzling sun.
Most of the day, we just read. Reading a book, listening to music whilst sunbathing or simply taking a swim. We got iced water from a nearby shop and we ate lovely sandwiches also.
But it’s not to say we spent all day at the beach. We felt like we needed a stroll, so onwards west from the city centre we went to check out these happening places. There’s the Hula Hula Beach Bar, which seemed it wouldn’t look out-of-place in Ko Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party.
But as we passed luxury resorts, charming restaurants and more through winding paths navigating the edge of the island, we came across a special chilled out beach bar called Falko where you could simply laze on hammocks. Plinky plunky music was played and immediately you felt even more relaxed than you believed possible. Here we took a quick bite and ordered a few drinks and promptly felt swamped in this relaxation station. Needless to say, the day went by rather quickly!
A Last Night in Hvar
I couldn’t believe it. A whole two days had already gone in Hvar and I didn’t want to leave. I tried to convince Mark to stay longer but I had to yield because he wanted to go to his Croatian Island. We simply didn’t have the time. I felt a little depressed to leave but Mark decided to cheer me up with a slap up dinner at a gorgeous restaurant in St Stephen’s Square. I’m not sure if he was keen on the waitress, right?
Tucking into a beautiful steak and having a glass of wine was just the tonic I needed and we were ready to go on yet another bar crawl to the waterfront. However, we wouldn’t be staying there as we would be going to a hidden open secret of the Hvar nightlife. It’s called Carpe Diem Beach Bar.
Opposite Hvar Town across the harbour is Marinkovac Island where Carpe Diem Beach Bar lies. The whole island is turned into one big party bonanza as house music are played by up and coming DJs ready to spin out some tunes. To get to the island, you simply board one of the many taxi boats waiting for you in Hvar Town.
The beats will last all night for sure. Carpe Diem was in your face, loud and one of the raucous nightclubs I’ve ever come across. Luckily, I didn’t stay too long…well does 4am sound late?
Finally, it was time to leave Hvar the next morning. Grabbing my breakfast at a cafe, my thoughts simply turned to how much I absolutely enjoyed Hvar. Even though I had been in Croatia for more than a week, I didn’t feel that I relaxed as much I should have done then until I got to Hvar. This Croatian island worked its wonders on me. I couldn’t give enough thanks to it.
Staring in the distance at the harbour in the warming breezes of the morning, I drank my coffee thinking,
Hvar. You are my island in the Adriatic.’
But my thoughts were soon interrupted by Mark shouting at me across the harbour,
‘Ed, RUN! We’re going to miss the ferry!’
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