The Rock Walls of Hvar
Fred decides he likes cooking outside
Friday 8/8 - We catch an early bus out of Dubrovnik headed north up the coast. We have sorta made reservations to take the ferry from the island of Hvar to Ancona, Italy on Sunday the 10th but have no firm plans for the intervening two days. A weekend. During the busiest holiday month of the year. So we head in the general direction and hope for the best. Our Lonely Planet Guide has missed on a few things but is right on the money on at least one: the state-run tourist boards here are mostly useless. It does not take us long to figure out that each has its own territory and each will defend its little piece of tourist heaven to the detriment of all the others. So, the Dubrovnik tourist board can be no help in finding a room on Hvar. when we get off the bus in Dvrinik we think maybe the tourist board there will be able to help us find something onthe island right across the channel.
TB: Why do you want to go to Hvar? There is a fire - 85% of the island is burned down. You don't want to go there.
US: Okay. Find us a decent room here and we will stay!
TB: There are no rooms available here.
We take the ferry across. A pretty girl who speaks English immediately latches onto us. Need a taxi up to Jelsa? That will be 500 kuna (about $500) No, there will be no bus for a couple of hours. That bus over there? Oh I think it is going back on the ferry... Why don't you stay here instead? No, there are no rooms available here, I think....
Couple of blatant lies there and we climb aboard the bus which is in fact going to Jelsa and costs us 50 kuna total (about $7.00). It isn't air conditioned but is going fast enough to raise a breeze and we are in for the most exciting ride of our trip. Hugging cliffs on an alien, largely uninhabited landscape. We see no people but miles and miles of rock walls. Near as we can figure people must have been shuffling those rocks around for centuries... There are burned out areas -- many still smoldering. We pass through some tiny villages that look like they are from a much earlier time.
It takes us about 2 hours to get to Jelsa, which we have chosen - based on our Lonely Planent Guide - from Hvar's 3 main towns as the one most likely to have a room. There is a travel agency right next to the bus station... Odisej (www.odisej-travel.com) so we breeze in and ask if they have any rooms available. The girl there hems and haws... no, very full this weekend. Wait a beat. We are starting to figure out that the words "no rooms available" don't necessarily mean that... there are no rooms available. We set down the luggage. We chum around a bit. Fred drags out our Lonely Planet Guide to Croatia and the agency owner Luka asks to see, then asks where he can buy a copy of that book. Fred says "find us a room and the book is yours..."
Well, it turns out that there might be a room available after all. But mostly there are just apartments for more than two people and -- oh, you would be willing to pay more for something larger? Well then, let me make some calls...
Fred tosses over the book and Luka's grin gets bigger and the office girl is sent for a round of pivo and Luka spends some time on the phone and we talk to his wife Meri about our travels and our web site and "Oh, so you are Island people too?!" and we ask about sand and as it turns out most of the beaches are pebbly but there are two places where there is sand and hey! there is an apartment available but it will be an hour or so before it is ready. So Luka says come on we will go look at the beaches and then I will take you to your apartment!
So we load up the luggage in his battered Yugo and we go visit a beach and the sand is actually quite nice so then we go to another beach that has a pretty swell bar and this time it is our turn to buy a round and Luka tells us more about Hvar and points out his wife's family's vineyards. Before the tourists arrived the island was strictly agriculture and the rocks had to be stacked up because the ground is so full of them.
He tells a bunch of other stuff about the island but is distracted by his cell phone and so he says our apartment is ready and so he drives us back to town and to our room which as it turns out is not as big or as expensive as he had thought it was going to be but we have a private terrace and an outdoor kitchenette and a view of the water and we are happy indeed.
So -- if you are headed to Jelsa and need help finding a room or booking a boat or other type of local excursion, you must undoubtedly give Luka and Meri a shout and if you tell them you saw them on sandy feet's website it may not help but will certainly not hurt.