Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Island of Korcula

Monday morning bright and early we packed up our bags and wheeled out of a deserted (but busy) Dubrovnik Old Town to catch a taxi to the new port. We had tickets on the regional ferry up to Korcula, and our boat left at 8:30am. Our tickets said we had to be there 2 hours in advance to validate them, but frankly we could have shown up at 8:25 and still been welcomed on board. The four hour journey was really beautiful, as we had an interior space to sit out of the wind as well as a few open decks from which we could enjoy the scenery.

We arrived in Korcula around 12:30pm and were met by our rented apartment's housekeeper. She walked us into the Old Town and to our accommodations, a spare but clean and comfy studio apartment off the main square. We dumped our bags and immediately went out for lunch. Korcula Old Town is a tiny little medieval jewel, with alleyways heading down to the sea and a crumbling wall surrounding it. There are two harbors, and we found an excellently located by overpriced beach bar overlooking the northwest harbor and therefore the sunset.

You can also swim in the sea off the edge of the Old Town, which we did our first day. Unfortunately, the sea is rocky there, and I broke my flipflop (damn you JCrew!) and the Irishman touched his toe to an urchin! I had to borrow his flips for a quick trip to a pharmacy for tar ointment and tweezers. He only had 3 spines in his big toe, thank goodness, and he claims it wasn't too painful. After that saga, we definitely needed a nap.

Korcula's Old Town suffers from a different sort of touristy-ness than Dubrovnik; Dubrovnik wants you to visit and spend time (and money) there, and has cleaned up the town and restored many of its sights accordingly. Korcula, however, has effectively moved out of its Old Town and left it as-is. There are restaurants and bars and tourist shops, to be sure, but there are also boarded up homes and abandoned buildings. Life seems to take place outside the walls, in the newer area. But of course tourism brings in a lot of money, and Korcula has many ways of helping one spend it. I made the Irishman sit through a Moreska sword dance performance that cost us a tenner each. It was actually quite well done and fascinating, but I think he would have enjoyed it more without the first 15 minutes of traditional folk songs sung by a slightly weird band.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to a rental shop to pick up some bikes. Our goal for the day was beach, so we headed down the road to Lumbarda. We rode through lovely fields of olive trees, pretty rolling landscapes with ruins, and past rows and rows of grape vines and vineyards. We chose to go to Vela Przina beach, a sand beach (no chance of urchins!) and in a sheltered cove off the water and out of the wind. We spent most of the day there, with an O┼żujsko and hotdog break, and swam and read.

On the way back to Korcula, we rode up into the actual town of Lumbarda, and checked out the views. We also stopped at a winery to try Grk, the local white wine varietal. The winery was a bit weird, as there weren't any other tourists around - just the owners - so we felt compelled to buy something just for showing up. Which wasn't exactly an issue. Grk is really nice, as is Posip (another Croatian white we drank while traveling), and we actually ended up buying three bottles of our favorite Posip in the Konzum (on sale for a fiver each!). The ride home was harder the Irishman since he had the wine in his backpack, but I highly recommend renting bikes and riding around to anyone visiting the island. It's a really nice break from the touristy areas and old medieval walls of the old towns, and seeing the countryside is a great way to spend a day of holiday; it is inspiring to be out there, wind in hair, with such blue skies.

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