Finding our rhythm in Coastal Croatia

Wanting too find an easy rhythm to our travel we planned to return to Coastal Croatia and some of the places we found and enjoyed on previous trips.  Off the coast of the Croatian Peljasac peninsula, the beautiful Korcula island was our destination.  As the ferry docked, near Korcula old town, and all felt very comfortable and familiar we had the desire to improvise a little and so rather than head directly to the small harbour town of Lumbarda we drove instead to the far end of the island and to the Vela Luka.

As usual the guide book had little positive to say about the small town of Vela Luka, not many ancient sites or churches in the 19th century fishing village, it could be just our kind of place. We are not constant seekers of ancient sites but rather search for inspiration and interest in every day life and enjoy the diversity of local cuisine.  Vela Luka and its people looked like it had kept a frenetic pace during the hot summer season but now felt relaxed and sleepy as the ebb of tourists slowed.

We wandered the harbour and back streets, bought provisions in a small shop and then, reluctantly, headed to the hills to the only camp site nearby.

Camping Mindel promised to be a tranquil site, hidden amongst olive trees on a crest above several bays.

Camping Mindel Vela Luka secluded camping

Within a short wander we found a sheltered bay where waves lapped gently over with rough grey rocks leading down to the clear blue water, a great fishing spot for another day perhaps. We swam in the beautiful crystal waters but were disappointed and concerned to see another bare and almost lifeless sea bed. A great concern and a frustration for Adam who, ever hopeful, had spent several hours sorting and packing his fishing gear this Mediterranean trip.

The evening sea breeze dipped the temperature quickly in the shady cove so we flip flopped home as quickly as we could. We joined a few of our fellow campers on the roof terrace and were treated to a stunning sunset across the Mediterranean to Hvar island accompanied by the rhythmical ticking of Cicadas and the twitter of Housemartins swooping on the breeze that rustled in the olive trees below.

It seemed though that we weren’t all in the same groove; some couples came before the evening sky even started its performance, stayed for the first tinges of red and then left (dinner in the oven?), some snook in half way through, chinking plastic glasses of beer as the orange glow began but still left before the finale.

We stayed until the very last ray of light had disappeared and the Cicadas all fell silent.

Croatian sunset from Korcula island over Hvar

We were woken early and rudely with a dawn chorus of toddler cries and percussion of spoons on plastic plates, really not our favourite tune so we departed quickly to go explore the other bays on the peninsula.

Rather than walk the conventional footpaths to each of the bays we chose to search for a route from bay to bay along the rocks and there was, along limestone and stark white rock formations separated by flinty, pebble beaches in secluded bays.

Beautiful Croatian coastal walk

It was a peaceful interlude as we picked our way along the coast, the vista out to sea was ever changing as were the colours and textures beneath our feet.

It was difficult to see if many others had come this way or not, we seemed not to leave a trace though some of the smoother tops to the white, chalky rocks could be from the tread of human feet over time rather than the wash of the sea.

We crossed small beaches of limestone screes below tree covered cliffs where our path was marked, at least for a moment, by musical notes as our feet shifted the rock fragments to clink against each other making, almost metallic sounds, like the bars of a broken Xylophone.  Though we followed closely in each others foot steps and in the same rhythm the music we each created was completely different. Adam’s foot steps created their tune, my melody was a new one played on a slightly different ‘keyboard’.

As I clambered I wondered how many different compositions there may have been, each fleeting, never to be captured or recorded only to be enjoyed by those there to listen. We had certainly begun to find our rhythm again here in this peaceful corner of Korcula island.

craggy shore line stone scree Croatia

The little wine oasis of Lumbarda, Croatia

Our rule of not going back to the same place twice has been broken again and with great results.

We stumbled across Lumbarda on the island of Korcula in Croatia, accessed via the stunning peninsula of Peljasac last year and because of our brief but wonderful experience there, we recommended it to friends for their holiday this year.

A small town with a strong sense of community and evident pride in their locality and all it produces from traditional music and dance to wonderful white wines, from fresh fish and tasty cheeses to melt in the mouth meat stews, Lumbarda and the neighboring medieval town of Korcula did not disappoint on our second visit.

The approach via the Peljasac peninsula is easy from the mainland, we travelled south passing through a curious strip of Bosnian coast, unavoidable but most welcome, with a great lunch of spit roast lamb and Cevapici at a little road side grill.

Road side grill in Bosnia

Lunch in Bosnia

Back in Croatia and onto Peljasac we avoided the tourist trap/mussel farms at Ston that we had unfortunately trapped us in on our last visit and found extremely disappointing (though admitted later that that the amazing fort there would probably make a great mooching day).  We tried to find the winery making and selling our favourite Peljasac red wine (a 15.6% Dingac with amazing fig, nutmeg and date aromas) but after driving up and down a few narrow tracks, a weathered local told us that they do not sell direct to the public anymore and so the next supermarket had to suffice.

Fertile plains near coast in Croatia

We were amazed again at the landscape of Peljasac, so vast, hilly and verdant with vineyards and olive groves in every direction yet still leaving room for wild, untouched valleys (where signed frequently warn you may see wild boar crossing!) and saving the best, most spectacular views, till the end as you drop down into Orebic.

Wild boar crossing

Orebic, our destination for the ferry to Korcula, a funny balance of lilo carrying, sun-worshipping tourists, enthusiastic windsurfers and busy locals.   Anthony Boy camping was the last option after we had investigated all others but actually turned out to be the best spot, great views of Korcula across the bay, right by the sea and lots of space for everyone. A lesson to us not to be put off places by their name!

Korcula from Orebic

We were excited and apprehensive about returning to Lumbarda but we needn’t have been at all, Sanja at Mela Postrano camping, remembered us and welcomed us again to their sunny field, peppered with olive trees and the very occasional motorhome drifting through. One star camping just as we like it, a bit like wild camping but with toilets.

Midnight drinks by the van in Lumbarda

The next few days we became so relaxed and rejuvenated by the place and the weather, we actually managed to get up and run each morning. This enabled us to see more of the locality than we saw last time. The lighthouse looking out to Mljet island, the next bay along with a nice Botnia Targa 44 motor cruiser and of course the lovely beaches, quite special before anyone arrived.

In the evenings, a national holiday meant we were treated to several charming local events, that despite being tailored for the tourists, were clearly taken very seriously and enjoyed most by the local community.  Delivered with immense pride and organisation: traditional dancing, by what seemed like the whole town, on one evening, traditional music on another, the summer Friday fisherman’s market and live music at the Beach bar on Saturday. The local band played a contemporary mix of passionate Croatian songs and some we knew, our hearts and legs finally felt like dancing.

Traditional dancers at Lumbarda

In the heart of Lumbarda is a an expanse of vineyards that produce a wonderful white wine called Grk. It’s served everywhere in Lumbarda and nowhere else, seemingly extremely restricted to the locality (the restaurants in Korcula just 4 miles away cannot sell it and none of the supermarkets sold it).  For me it is a little like Chenin Blanc, vanilla, rosemary and a little hint of oak, it really is very special. We drank it with a Lumbarda pizza with goats cheese and anchovies, all an unlikely but amazing combination and another lunchtime in a winery looking out across the vineyards to the sea and mainland mountains beyond, we enjoyed it with Prsut (Dalmatian smoked ham) and Dalmatian smoked goats cheese.

Beautiful sunset at Lumbarda

Lumbarda will always be one of our places, the clear blue water, the variety of vistas to absorb you, the food and wine, the people and the easiness of being there. I’m sure we will break our rule again.