February 01, 2015

Captivating Croatia Part 2.....KORCULA

The next stop on our tour of the Dalmatian Coast was Korcula (pron. Kor-choo-la); a small island known for its vineyards and olive groves (as well being the birth place of Marco Polo), located between Dubrovnik and Split.

On the Sunday morning, we travelled from the Port of Dubrovnik to Korcula Town on the Jadrolinija passenger and car ferry headed for Rijeka in the north of Croatia. A nice, easy journey, the water was like glass as we headed up the Croatian coast line. Many passengers chose to sprawl across the decking of the boat sun worshipping, however it was rather too hot for us to join them. Looking back, we probably should have as it was to be our last day of super hot, uninterrupted glorious weather during our holiday......

We arrived at the town's eastern harbour at around lunchtime where we our host, Felipe waiting for us. Again, we chose not to stay in a hotel, rather a small, self contained apartment right in the middle of the old town. When booking our accommodation, I tried to vary the locations and types of accommodation so that we could experience something a little different in each place. The apartment was just what we needed, it had a decent sized room, kitchenette (not that we did any cooking) and a nice bathroom. We were located in a little side street, just off the main square. The town itself is tiny; rich with medieval history, Renaissance and Gothic architecture and a population of roughly 3000 people. In some senses Korcula Town was like a very small scale Dubrovnik, with watch towers and city walls surrounding it. It's the type of place that doesn't take too long to walk around but it was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik.

Massimo Cocktail Bar (only good to drink at if you are able to get a seat on the roof top)
We stopped at Filippi to have a bite of lunch, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Adriatic. The restaurant prides itself on preparing locally sourced, fresh produce which was evident in the taste and presentation, along with some lovely local wine from the area, Grk. From the get go, we noticed that the level of service, quality of food and general willingness from the staff to provide information about produce and wine in the area seemed to go up dramatically from Dubrovnik. This also continued in Hvar and we felt it had a lot to do with the sheer number of people visiting Dubrovnik daily.

Lunch at Filippi
A gorgeous laneway, typical of Korcula Town
We spent the afternoon becoming accustomed to our surroundings and exploring the gorgeous town & coastal beaches. We discovered Maximilijan's, a really cool restaurant and bar located about a 10 minute stroll to the west of Korcula Town, which looked perfect for sunset drinks and we decided to head back there later that afternoon. Whilst sitting back enjoying 'the best mojitos on the island' (announced by said waiter) we weren't disappointed, the sunset was one of the best we had seen since leaving Australia. With dark storm clouds on the horizon, the sky changed from hues of orange, to pink, to purple and then blue. You don't realise how much you miss something as simple as sunset until you no longer see them regularly. Maybe I am just spoilt coming from Perth, where we get magnificent sunsets over the Indian Ocean. That evening we dined at Fundamental wine bar, just opposite our apartment.

Sunset at Maximilijan's
One of the major draw cards on our stop in Korcula was to visit Lumbarda, another town about 15 minutes north of Korcula Town where we had planned hire bikes and ride our way around the beaches, vineyards and cellar doors of the area (thanks for another great suggestion B!) Along with Bianca, Felipe had also suggested we do this but warned us of the storms on their way to Korcula which would be hanging around over the next few days. With only 3 days in Korcula, we really had no choice but to accept we may get caught in the middle of them and just take the risk. So on the Monday, we caught the local bus to Lumbarda. Upon hiring the bikes from a small shop in the town, we had been on the bikes for no more than about 5 minutes when the pesky storms that we had been hoping to out run since our departure from Dubrovnik finally caught up with us. After initially seeking refuge under a bus shelter, we high tailed it to the first winery we could find on the map, Cebalo Popic. Thankfully they were open (some of the cellar doors in the area have unusual hours) and we could escape the torrential rain. The rain was so heavy that at some points, you could barely see anything in the distance. Ever the optimists, we concluded that if we were ever going to be stuck somewhere in rain and thunderstorms, a cellar door isn't exactly the worst place to be. The winery had about 4 wines for us to try; Plavac (a red), Grk (white), a sweet Rose and Grappa. With not much else to do apart from riding out the storm, we bought a couple of glasses of Grk and sat outside (under cover) to watch the rain. Our images of this scene bear a very stark contrast to the photos Bianca took there 12 months earlier! Once the storm calmed down a bit, we headed to the cellar door next door, Bartul Celabo. With dreamy blue doors and a veggie patch, this winery was all kinds of cute! We tried their Grk and reds and once the rain started up again, sat back with a couple of glasses of wine and enjoyed the scenery. 

Cebalo Popic
Ever so dreamy blue doors at Bartul Celabo
We attempted to continue our wine tour but the weather didn't let up and as a few of the other cellar doors weren't open until later in the afternoon, we decided to call it a day and head back to Korcula Town. Considering we only rode the bikes a couple of kilometres we felt it was a bit of a waste hiring them but the staff at the bike shop said we had use of them for 24 hours so based on that, we decided that we'd come back the following morning and explore the beaches we were unable to see that day. 

Felipe had told us about a local tradition, the Moreska sword dance, which has been performed since the 15th century and takes place every Monday evening outside the southern gate of the town. We were considering going to the performance, but as the weather was so horrible and stormy we decided to give it a miss. The thunderstorms and rain continued through the evening and as the restaurants we had in mind were closed due to the the rain and lack of inside seating we ended up staying close to the apartment and ate at a nice local Konoba, the Marinero which specialises in seafood (hence the name!). We may have been able to find a better one to dine at, but based on the weather we weren't in the mood to investigate any further! 

On our last day in Korcula, we had breakfast at our little 'local', Kolenda. If you are visiting Korcula and looking for somewhere to have breakfast, this is the place to go! We found breakfast almost non existent in Dubrovnik (another thing we noticed changed as we moved closer to Split), so it was nice to find a place in Korcula that sold muesli, toasted sandwiches, good coffee and delicious smoothies. Whilst there was still some nasty storm clouds in the sky, the weather was much better than the previous day, so we headed out to Lumbarda fairly early to make the most of our couple of hours left on the bikes. We rode out to the two beaches, Vela Przina and Bilin Zal. It was just a tad rough and rugged for my liking to be swimming and hard to get the full appreciation for how the beaches would look with the tide out, but it was still worth going to visit. Just as a side note, we didn't realise how small Lumbarda would be and all of this can be done on foot if you don't want to hire a bike.
Vela Przina

Swimming, anyone? Bilin Zal
We headed back to Korcula Town and as luck would have it, clouds dispersed and the sun made it's dazzling reappearance so we were able to make the most of swimming at the local beaches just outside of the town walls before stopping off at Maximilijan's again for a bite of lunch. It was there that we realised our apartment key had gone missing.....most likely to be sitting at the bottom of the sea where Chris had been diving around whilst using the Go Pro. Oops. Luckily for us.....and those gorgeous, crystal clear waters of the Adriatic we were thankfully able to locate the key on the sea bed. Phew! Crisis averted. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering the lane ways in search of gifts (me) and seeing the town from a birds eye view at St Mark's Cathedral (Chris). 

St Mark's Cathedral

The east harbour
Veliki Revlin Tower southern gate 
That evening we had our last sunset drinks at Tramonto Cocktail Bar, which overlooks the western harbour, before moving on to Lesic Dimitri for our final meal in Korcula. I'm usually a bit wary of choosing the top pick restaurants from the Lonely Planet guide books but this meal was outstanding, from the service, to the local wine and food. If you want a special dining experience, this is the place to go.
Sunset drinks at Tramonto overlooking the western harbour

With a 5am start the following morning and memories of a wonderful stay in Korcula, we were ready for our next and final stop....Hvar! 

We stayed at White House Apartments and ate at Filippi (one of our favourites of the trip), Maksimilijan Garden, Kolenda, Konoba Marinero and Lesic Dimitri (Delicious! You must book ahead). We had drinks at Maksimilijan Garden Lounge & Beach Bar (best place for sunset drinks), Tramonto Cocktail Bar and another great cocktail bar, within the city walls but over looking the eastern harbour which name has escaped me, is really good too. You'll just have to take my word for it!

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