Another week of fruitful research and intense travel went by. My head is bursting with impression and information but thought I’d share some of the highlights of my ten days in Dalmatia.
I started on the faraway Vis island, which was occupied by the Yugoslav National Army for fifty years, off-limits to foreigners until 1989 and abandoned by the military overnight in 1992. In the last couple of years, Vis has become heaven for gastronomes and seekers of secluded beaches. In addition to a handful of incredible meals, I did a great tour on the island, of former top-secret military sites. With a brand-new agency that specializes in trips around Vis and the surrounding islets, Vis It, I toured rocket shelters, bunkers, weapon storage spaces, submarine “parking lots” and subterranean communication headquarters for Yugoslavia’s secret service. Unforgettable and loads of fun!
On the chic island of Hvar, which I last visited during the war back in 1992, the transformation was quite shocking. Luckily, I managed to see Hvar’s hidden spots that reminded me of the island as it was before the tourist boom. With Siniša of Secret Hvar, I visited the abandoned village of Malo Grablje, with its ancient stone houses and a well-preserved church situated in a dramatic canyon. We drove through endless fields of lavender, terraced fields and vineyards; climbed to the island’s highest peak of Sveti Nikola; and made quick stops in the seaside towns of Jelsa and Stari Grad, my old stomping ground. It was so great to know you can still escape the glitzy yachts and poseur beach parties that have become synonymous with Hvar.
At the end of my blitz tour of Dalmatia, I spent a few days in its capital, Split, Croatia’s second-largest city. This Mediterranean beauty always sweeps me off my feet. There’s nothing like wandering around Diocletian’s Palace, getting lost in its maze of alleyways where people have lived since Roman times. Grab a coffee on top of leafy Marjan hill, the city’s recreational enclave, where Vidilica cafe provides wow vistas of the Riva (Split’s marble-paved seafront promenade), the harbor and the old town. On my last night in Split, I toured the city’s nightlife hotspots on the back of a friend’s Vespa, hopping on and off at beach bars, seafront clubs and cafes tucked inside the ancient city walls.