If I haven’t stressed this enough through my myriad of posts thus far, permit me to reiterate once more: the only way to travel is without a schedule. I’ve taken trips in the past where I planned every activity down to the hour, but the single greatest aspect of traveling for a year is learning how to genuinely wander - I have absolutely no schedule and no place to be other than where I am right now. I've yet to experience a greater joy on this trip than to spontaneously change my mind at the last minute. Hvar is such an incredible city; simply lounging around town on the beaches, park benches, and in the various cafes is an unbelievable experience and I couldn’t bare to part ways with it. I really didn’t want to leave…
So I didn’t.
After debating in my head for some time whether or not to visit the nearby island of Korčula, I recalled my travel mantra: it is always preferable to spend more time in fewer cities. Instead of spending just a few days in each city like I did at the beginning of my trip, I make it a point now to savor every single town for as long as I can - sometimes for weeks at a time. There is something about Hvar that spoke to me and I knew I couldn’t leave just yet, so I switched hostels and extended my stay a few days.
The Song of Hvar (#3):
My first week in Hvar was stellar, but it was relatively quiet since there were never more than three people in the hostel at any given moment. The owner, Reno, finally decided to close Helvetia Hostel for the year (I was his last guest of 2014) and I moved to a new place just down the street in old town Hvar called The White Rabbit. Since it was almost winter, I assumed there was only a handful of backpackers still traveling through the region and I accepted the fact that I would probably be spending extended periods of time by myself. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and saw my new hostel was full of travelers! Every night there were at least 15 people socializing and drinking in the lobby - I’m pretty sure every backpacker in Hvar was staying at the White Rabbit.
Rightly so, it was one of the only hostels still open on the whole island.
When I returned to the hostel from another day of wandering Hvar I was happily greeted by the hostel owners, chill music, and a lively group of travelers. The owners were in the midst of organizing a boat trip to Vis and a few other nearby islands but were just one person short. Since I contemplated making a similar trip just a few days earlier, I quickly jumped at the opportunity, signed up, and extended my already extended stay in Hvar for a few more days.
Maybe this is why I felt the need to stay in Hvar.
The following morning I departed Hvar at 10:30 am with another girl from the hostel, Tejia, and two Brazilians for our day-long boating excursion. The timing of the trip couldn’t have possibly worked out better. The overcast weather that plagued the region was replaced by a warm, sunny, and near cloudless sky! From the moment we left the harbor, we saw one incredible vista after another for the next eight hours! The beautiful city of Hvar radiated happiness under bright sun surrounded by rolling mountains, light blue sky, and sapphire-blue water. Slowly it faded into the distance, but I sat on the boat completely entranced by my surroundings.
How can a place like this even exist? I’ve dreamt of places less awe-inspiring!
We traveled to the nearby island of Biševo and the entire time I was grinning ear to ear, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The numerous little islands we passed all paled in comparison to the immense sea of gem-like water. Each island is covered in deep green forests and outlined with a porcelain white rock face border delineating the island from the water underneath. The combination of vibrant green forests, alabaster white stones, and radiant blue sky created an entrancing neon blue-green glow on the surface of the water that reminded me of colorfully iridescent fish scales.
The whole scene felt like an illusion. I didn’t know water could look like this!
Once on Biševo, we switched boats to visit the Blue Grotto, a small, water-logged sea cave that the minuscule island is renowned for. The cave is only accessible by a small opening about eight feet wide by five feet tall and the entrance is frequently submerged during high tide. Thankfully the timing worked out, but the group still had to crouch down at the bottom of a narrow boat just to avoid hitting our heads when we entered. Once inside, the entire world went black as my eyes readjusted from the blindingly bright day outside to the dark cave. There was a moment of silence as everyone sat quietly listening to the sounds of the rocking boat and the little waves washing up on along the cave walls. The helmsman slowly maneuvered the boat by hand through the narrow passageway and a jaw-dropping sight greeted us the instant we turned the corner.
I mean literally - all four of us simultaneously uttered, “wooooooooooow."
On the far side of the cave there is an underwater opening that allows sunlight to enter and illuminate the water from below. At first I thought it was a mirage, but as my eyes adjusted to the dim atmosphere the beautiful glowing jewel of water before me came into focus. The very same water I spent the entire morning admiring suddenly took on an entirely new and mesmerizing quality that completely blew me away - yet again. The incandescent water filled the entire cave with a gentle blue light and there was an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. Even the entrance of the cave from inside was astonishing. As we exited, the brilliant sunlight came flooding through the small opening into the dark cave creating a glimmering streak of the most dazzling emerald green water I have ever seen in my life. The whole experience felt otherworldly, I never thought such a place existed on Earth.
Once again Croatia surprises me.
From the cave, we headed to a small beach on the nearby island of Vis where we docked for a few hours to swim. The glittering, light green water that washed up along the pebbly beach was dotted with yachts full of locals on vacation and flanked by two large dusty, dry cliffs. Behind us was a towering mountain and in front a tiny sliver of horizon among a giant expanse of bright blue sky. While the water was terribly cold in my opinion, I hopped in without hesitation - the opportunity was too good to waste. Regardless of how far out I swam, I could always clearly see the rocks, vegetation, and sea life below. The only indication that there was even water between me and the sea floor was the subtle refraction of light and the gentle green hue that colored everything below me.
I’m quickly running out of adjectives to describe all of the insane beaches I’ve seen here in Croatia. Without fail, every single picture I take looks incredible even with my phone; they remind me of the professional desktop wallpapers people put on their work computers (like I did) to remind themselves of the wondrous world outside their dreary cubicles. I can't believe I'm actually here! People may bicker about which one of the hundreds of beaches along the Croatian coast are the best, but in all honesty all you need is a map of the region and a dart. If anything, I’d be impressed if you found a bad beach here - I don't think such a thing exists.
After drying off, the group boarded the boat and we headed off to visit the Green Cave and a picturesque lagoon near Marinkovac Island. We returned to Hvar just as the sun was setting and the evening rays gave the city a resplendent glow. Hvar was already a wondrous paradise in my mind, but in this instant the city took on an almost mythical presence; each of the numerous buildings and boats constituting the city appeared built entirely of gold as if it were the lost city of El Dorado. Even though I know the sun sets ever single day, sunsets here in Croatia are one of the most mesmerizing experiences I've ever encountered - they never get old.
Days like this make me seriously question reality. After everything I've seen so far, I honestly doubt heaven exists; even the most fantastical idea of heaven that I can concoct in my head is a disappointment compared to the Croatian coastline. I came to Croatia with the intention of spending a week or two in the country, but it’s now looking like I’ll spend easily over a month touring the coastline. I figure once I’m in paradise, what’s the rush to leave? And to think that I could have missed out on all this if I stuck to a schedule - what a horrible atrocity! During my time in Hvar, I remember periodically worrying that everything was just a dream and that at any moment I would wake up in bed back in NYC on Monday morning before having to trudge off to work.
Thank god that's not going happen!
Long live summer!