12.06.15 – 17.06.15
Our time in Hvar started with a bang –well, really, it almost didn’t start at all. Our bus from Zadar was meant to arrive in Split at 10am, with our connecting ferry to Hvar at 10.30. We thought it would be a bit tight, but decided to take the chance, seeing as the next ferry wasn’t until after 3pm. Ha. What an event that turned out to be. Our bus ended up running only slightly late, but it still meant we were pulling into Split Harbour at 10.15, surrounded by ferries but having no idea which one to sprint to. Several wrong ferries, snaps at each other, and one info desk later, we’re simultaneously doing our best Usain Bolt and Ironman impressions as we’re running, with all our luggage, right round to the other side of the harbour, because of course it is the ferry furthest away. Daniel breaks away from me because he can see up ahead that the crew is bringing in the ropes as they pulling away from the dock. Daniel’s waving, ‘where you going?’ they yell, ‘Hvar’ Daniel gasps back, and we thank the gods of Travel and Good Timing as the crew come back and allow us on board when they could have easily kept going. Even though we were infinitely grateful for having made the ferry in time, it was a fairly unpleasant because there were no free seats left –so we were relegated to the back of the ferry, dripping with sweat and sitting on and around luggage. Still, I’d rather this than have missed the ferry altogether.
Continuing on the day’s theme of physical exhaustion and pushing limits, we find our way to the hostel, all the way to the bottom of a flight of stairs that is. A large flight of stairs. But with a sign saying ‘Earthers Hostel this way’ and our perennially empty pockets meaning a cab was out of the question –we got to work. And by ‘got to work’ I mean Daniel powered ahead while I eventually had a tantrum about half way up. But all’s well that ends well, and when we both reached the top it was definitely all worth the drama of the ferry and the steep stairs. The hostel is perched on the edge of the hill, looking directly over a beautiful bay. This is without doubt the best view of a hostel we’ve ever stayed at.
We actually hadn’t even planned on coming to Hvar for these five days, we’ll be here next week as part of our Croatia Sail tour, but changed our plans because of a guy we met in Budapest who couldn’t stop raving about how stunning the island is, plus how Earthers was the best hostel he’s ever stayed at. I’m glad we listened because the place seems like heaven, straight off a postcard. And we seemed to have picked the perfect hostel to completely soak it up. The beds and dorms are simple but clean, and the common area is great for meeting people. The best part is it’s outside terrace though, with plenty of tables, hammocks and a ping pong table! All looking out at ‘that’ view too. Interestingly, the place is run by three friends, two Croatian born Aussies, and a Californian ex-chef.
It’s so easy to make friends here, as the hostel is so chill that a lot of people find it difficult to leave. On one of our first nights we ended up chatting to a group of three girls who were travelling together –Krissy, Izzy and Nikita. Turns out they’re from Perth as well, so we played a fun game to play with anyone from Perth ‘let’s see if we have mutual friends on Facebook’. Of course, we do. Krissy and I have two, while Izzy and I have a record breaking five. Classic Perth.
It’s easy to see how Hvar is known as the playground of the rich and famous. Every single detail of this place is gorgeous, from the cobblestone alleyways to the infinite small bays to the people laid out on day beds at beachside bars. It also has the price tag to match the rich and famous, so unfortunately for us these few days are probably going to break the budget a bit. It’s not expensive by ‘grown up’ standards, or even Aussie standards, but for young people try to stretch your money as far as possible, it’s definitely never going to make ‘top 10 budget destinations’. Having said that, it is easy to save money by taking the normal precautions –cooking meals at the hostel, buying snacks and drinks regularly from the local supermarket.
We started our first night off with a bang, joining in on the pub crawl organised by Earthers. It was a great night, visiting a few local bars including ‘Jazz Club’, which weirdly did not play any Jazz music. The night ended at a club called ‘Pink Champagne’, which I think you can tell by the name that it was fairly terrible. Just your stereotypical club with repetitive music and inflated drink prices, but having said that we
were drunk enough enjoyed it enough to stay out until sunrise.
Each day thereafter was a similar version of the day before. Get up late, on account of the night before, eat some cereal or waffles put on by Earthers, head to the beach to jump head first into the sea and feel your hangover float away towards Italy.
There’s a few beaches attached to some bars, where you pay a daily rate for a day bed and butler service to wait cocktails on you all day –which I think if I was ever to return to Hvar it would be in several years when I have a bit more cash to splash. Until then, we are happy passing the days wandering from marina to marina, cove to cove, where families and kids spend hours tanning and cooling off in the freezing water. Hvar is no doubt the ‘Ibiza’ of Croatia, but this is all dependent on how and where you choose to spend your time. Apart from the going out in the evening, Hvar is probably one of the most relaxed places to spend a few days, because it’s so easy to go for a wander and find a secluded spot to set up camp for the day and feel like you’ve discovered your own private paradise. So much so that you might even get annoyed when other people have the same idea and decide to set up camp too. Get out peasants, this is our beach. Honestly.
One of the best days we spent was sailing around Hvar on a catamaran owned by Earthers. In the summer they regularly take groups of around 20 out, where the cost also includes all you can drink beer and sangria, plus a BBQ as well. It was a really fun day, and considering all the sangria, pretty relaxed too. After spending the afternoon going from swim stop to swim stop, the finale was pulling up to some ominous looking cliffs where a handful of silly
people guys wanted to jump from. Hvar is known for its cliff jumping spots, something I have absolutely no interest in after hearing horror stories including a girl fracturing her spine only two weeks ago. Of course one of these silly boys who jumped off the boat to swim to shore and climb the 18m high cliffs was Daniel. While the rest of us watched on with a mixture of excitement, disbelief and fear, the five guys climbed higher and higher until they resembled small specks on the peak of the cliffs. After much deliberation, only one of them found the courage/stupidity/sheer nerve to jump, and thank goodness it wasn’t accident prone Daniel. It was a young guy from the UK who I’m sure his mum will be pleased to know he perfectly pin dropped and did not break any bones.
At this point in time, we are starting to tire of seeing endless restaurants selling pizza and pasta. For better or worse though, it’s always the cheapest option, plus often very delicious because Croatia still strongly identifies with Italian/Mediterranean culture, especially when it comes to food. So when the owners of Earthers told us that they had just last week opened a restaurant in the heart of the old town, specialising in fresh, healthy cuisine –we couldn’t get there faster. It was almost a repeat of us running from our bus to the ferry a few days earlier.
Fig restaurant was a little hard to find, but it was well worth the effort, and once you know where it is you’ll never have trouble again. The food was all that I’d been craving for months now –Salads! Fruit! Nourishment! Over our several visits, our favourite menu items were the watermelon and feta salad, the Mexican pulled pork, roasted root vegetables and hummus and the brie and cranberry flatbread. But every single menu item looked just as good as the last. It’s definitely not the cheapest food you’ll find on the island, nor the most expensive. For us it was well worth the splurge though, and combined with the friendly service and charming laneway location, it was one of the best meal experiences we’d had in a while. We’ll definitely be back when we return next week on our Sail.
On the topic of eating out and socialising, no visit to Hvar is complete without passing an afternoon at Hula Hula Bar along the beach. This is one of those swanky places I was mentioning earlier, where you can pay to set up on the beach and have people wait on you hand and foot all day as you tan and dip in the ocean. Or, you can head straight to the bar area where the cocktails are just as strong as they are expensive –so it’s my responsibility as a budget traveller to tell you to order a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea, and not need to order anything else for at least four hours. Oh boy. Apart from the, at times, (s)wanky crowd, Hula Hula is a really fun place to enjoy some sundowner drinks, with the sunset on one side, and a DJ on the other. One time there was a saxophonist accompanying the DJ, which we thought was cool; although then someone pointed out to us that he was ‘lip synching’ along to the track the DJ was playing! It was all a lie! Like I said, (s)wanky.
Hula Hula closes at 10pm, so afterwards there’s a few options for those who are heading back to the old town to kick on. My favourite was Kiva bar, a tiny little place which plays anything from Eminem to Destiny’s Child to Abba, which means everyone is going crazy singing and dancing their little drunk hearts out. Plus there’s also Carpe Diem, the bar on the mainland or for the really determined, the club that has its own island –allegedly run by the Croatian mafia. It costs a bit to get in, but that includes transport to and from the small island. We went once, just to experience it, and I’m glad we did. It’s really a site to see, a whole island dedicated to an outdoor night club. Pros: the drinks weren’t that expensive, the open air of it all made for a very relaxed club. Cons: The crowd was 100% drunk, annoying, Aussie Contiki crews. But like I said, it was definitely somewhere worth visiting at least once.
Like I said, we hadn’t planned on coming to Hvar, mainly because when we start our organised Busabout Croatia Sail next week, we will stop here for a night as part of that trip. But thanks to an English guy we met way back in Budapest whose name I can hardly remember, we changed our plans. I’m so glad we were able to, because these five days in Hvar have been something really wonderful. Aside from its party appeal, Hvar has been one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places to come and relax. You won’t find white sandy beaches, but instead there’s rocky, rugged coastline with crystal clear waters you spend all day floating in.
Now, it’s on to
Kings Landing Dubrovnik, to see what all the hype is about.