From island to peninsula (Vis – Ston)

Sunday, June 11, 2017 Post by Janel

Today we’ll take the early ferry out of Vis. How much demand there is for a 7:30AM boat on Sunday, only time will tell.

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Dad gets the car parked in line. MP and I snag pastries. We all coffee. It’s too early, but life could be much worse.

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Boarding is painless. We settle in and blog.

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Two-point-five hours later, we arrive to Split and get the heck outta dodge. We tell Google we want to take the coastal road – of which there is plenty – and I do my utmost to find a radio station that’s more music than static.

IMG-20170613-WA0007It’s so consistently beautiful that you almost get numb to it. Cove after cove, cliff after cliff, all pristine with turquoise waters and red roofs. We do our best to keep reminding ourselves where we are.

The munchies rear their mighty head a bit past noon, and we pick a town at random and seek a spot for refreshment. Drevenik will do.

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Drevenik is a family beach town, bustling with kids in swimsuits and sunbathing older women. We sit down at the most obvious Konoba and get coffees and beers. MP and I are hankering for eggs, so get a cheese omelette apiece. Dad opts for fish soup.

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The omlettes are heaven – just what we want. The fish soup is… well, “underwhelming” is heading in the right direction. But we’re thankful for the stop anyway.

We press on, quickly finding ourselves in the unbelievably lush delta of the Neretva river. Crops of every kind abound here – the soil must be nothing short of ideal for growing beautiful fruits and vegetables. There are tens of roadside stands replete with fresh and jarred goods for sale, and we only have to pass a small handful before it becomes obvious that we must make a stop.

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An extremely nice shirtless guy shows us his wares, letting us sample sweet wine and honey. He asks if we’ve eaten and offers to let us join the family for lunch – oh man, we have to very regretfully decline that one. I’m tempted by literally everything, but settle for hot ajvar, mandarin honey, and a fig-orange marmalade. He gifts us a couple peaches to boot. This spot is a treasure.

Next up is a teeny-weeny jaunt through Bosnia, of all things. Bosnia has just a sliver of coastline, and it actually breaks Croatia in two. Unless you’re going by ferry, it’s impossible to drive from tip to toe of Croatia without passing through a bit of Bosnia.

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The border crossing appears to be more cursory than anything else – we’re waved through on either side. I hesitate to make any judgements or descriptions here, because we’ve seen practically nothing of the country (apart from the one vacation town of Neum, which I can’t stop saying like it’s a racecar sound). I spy a little bit of Cyrillic on the street signs, which is completely absent in Croatia, and things look maybe a little bit more run-down. But we’re not “checking this one off the list.”

From the Bosnian border, it’s a short jaunt to our destination: Ston, a walled-in city on the huge peninsula that juts out near Dubrovnik.

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We’re actually staying in a teeny-tiny fishermen’s village just outside of Ston called Luka. I would be surprised if the inhabitants numbered over a hundred.

Nina & Kate’s guesthouse takes us in. We’re received warmly by Davor and Nina, a Croatian couple that speaks just enough English to invite us to fresh fish that Davor himself has caught. We hesitate – we’ve practically just eaten, and we’re itchy to heed the call of Lord Nap. But how are you gonna tell your fisherman host, “Nah, I don’t want any of your fresh fish as a gift”?! We accept on the condition that we can sleep for a short spell.

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The afternoon is spent on yet another one of those too-short naps that feel like blissful eternity anyway. Ahhhhhh.

We drag ourselves up and over to the shore, where Davor and Nina have a private port, table, and grill. Nina is setting the table with all kinds of goodies, and there is an enormous platter of whole grilled fish smack-dab in the center. Worth getting out of bed for, yes.

We meet another Croatian guy who introduces himself as Darko (great name!). He speaks great English and uses it to make slapstick puns at every turn. Davor and Nina’s son Daniel joins us for dinner too.

There’s grilled zucchini and bread. A tomato-cucumber salad that blows me away – how can something I’ve eaten all my life taste THIS good? The fish, “Queen of the Sea” (we think they are a variety of porgi), which we’re told that Croatians eat with their hands – yesssssss. And red and white wines that Davor’s parents made. All the veggies are from Nina’s garden, and the fish are from the glassy sea that stretches out in front of us. It is all outstanding.

And the company is incredible. Darko is a riot, and Davor shows us photos of the sea in the winter season on his tablet. Nina is apologetic about her English (which honestly is great – c’mon, WE are the ones in Croatia without speaking hardly a word of Croatian) but understands just about everything. We communicate just fine, and we laugh and laugh.

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Davor has built his own grill. He asks if we would like to see it… And it turns out to be perched on a mortar shell. Whoa. He mentions that he was in the war, and that there was fighting right here in these waters, Serbs over there, Croats over here. It’s odd and disturbing to know that brutal violence was so recent, and it’s very difficult to map that hard truth onto the peaceful, blissful present. That’s been a constant throughout this trip, really – definitely merits reading up on the conflict.

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Davor shows us how he keeps a few live fish in a pool he’s constructed within the port as “pets.”

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Darko rigs a small piece of baitfish onto a line and hooks one to show it around – then tosses it back. Good thing they have short memories.

Nina says she’ll be making mussel risotto tomorrow, and would we like to join? The answer is clearly YES.

We take our leave from the family and saunter down to the adjacent town of Hodilje for a bit more white while watching the sunset. Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović is the only game in town, a casual spread of tables right on the water.

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We had thought to dine here, but post-fish wine will do nicely instead.

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Dad and I play with coins and a cork. I think I won.

I don’t know how MP found this place. Seems like there are fewer and fewer hidden corners of the earth these days, but – for now – Luka is still one of them.

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