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Korčula, Croatia

Korčula is a 20-mile long island an hour away from Hvar by high-speed ferry. It is also newly one of my favorite places on earth. There are 6,000 residents year-round on the island, and nearly all families have their own wine grapes. I fell in love with the island and its people.

The island has a long history, including yet another fortress built by the Venetians in the 1400s. The island was taken by the Germans in WWII and has gone back and forth between Italian, Croatian, and British rule over time. But really, by this point in the trip we were like, “ooooh. Another turret. Where’s the wine?”
I’m kinda kidding. The walk along the fortress was ridiculously cool and interesting. Marco Polo was born on the island. We walked by his house too, but there was not much to see.
You do, however, feel the Venetian artistic presence. The flourishes on the fortress buildings, including lions, are apparently very much their style. I would like to read more about how the island rebuilt itself after the bombings in WWII. It took a beating. The Yugoslavian war of 1991-1994 did not reach the island, although our taxi driver said many men left to go fight to the south in the city of Dubrovnik.
Trinkets and a bag of sponges — for sale in the little shops in the fortress. We didn’t buy much other than t-shirts.
On one end of the island is a community called Lumbarda. We took a taxi to a local winery here and this is the view from their porch. Those are their grapes, orange trees, olive trees, oh and yep. That’s the Adriatic Sea — right there.
I get how silly food photos are — but let me explain the significance here. This is why I fell in love with Korčula. The woman who served us explained her husband’s family has been on the land for more than 300 years. These are olives from their tree. Proscuitto she hand cut. Cheese they made from local dairy. We listened in wonder as we shoveled homemade bread dipped in their olive oil and drank their wine. It was unreal how fresh and wonderful everything was. And sincerely, as a bit of a wine snob, some of the best wine I’ve had in my life.
In my dream life, I spend my summers on this island writing and wandering. We rent one of those homes with a red tile roof, befriend our neighbors, have long meals over great conversation, and relax in the Mediterranean sun.

Korčula alone is worth visiting Croatia. As fas as logistics go, getting to the country from Arizona is not the easiest. However, beginning next month, there will be direct flights from the East Coast of the US to Dubrovnik, the major city to the south. This would take considerable time off of the trip considering my route involved three flights each way. (I’d do it again tomorrow given the chance! What an adventure!)

Next up: Dubrovnik and the Game of Thrones nerds I was traveling with’s delight.

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Travel

Split, Croatia

The beach in Split. With tourism just starting to return, many of the public spaces previously crammed with visitors are now being used by residents.
Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb were walkable. We stayed near the water or the city center and were able to walk most places.
The food was excellent. Croatia sits just across the Adriatic from Italy. The seafood was fresh, the eggs yolks orange, the olive oil, wine, cheese, and proscuitto made on site.
Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik have centuries-old fortresses that we walked through. All were build with rock from local quarries, by hand. At one point, if you were traveling to one of these cities from the rural areas, you were required to bring stone with you. Being in these ancient buildings with their tiny passageways and stone arches reminded me of being in Old Jerusalem.
The day we were wandering Split was a Sunday morning, and first communion for some of the children. It was sweet to see so many families out with their kids. The church bells were ringing.
High speed ferries are common transportation between the larger coastal cities. They are reasonable. Depending on the distance, tickets cost $8-$20 or so. We took several of these and it was remarkable just how fast they go.
I couldn’t get over just how old everything was.

More on Hvar, Croatia next.