Tuesday, January 28, 2020

So Hvar So Good

The catamaran Jelena
The catamaran 'Jelena' was berthed on Pier 6 of the boat quay at Split in Croatia. It was a lovely day with bright sun and seagulls cackling around. The cold breeze was not very comforting and we were waiting to board the vessel that would take us to Hvar an island at one hour distance. Sharp at 2 PM it cast off with a few more passengers and headed towards Hvar.  The sea was calm except a bit of turbulence due to strong winds. We saw the lovely city of Split receding as the catamaran gathered speed and a few islands appeared. The lush green vegetation on the islands was very soothing to the eyes. 
Oranges laded trees in Hvar
In exactly one hour the catamaran berthed alongside the main jetty in Hvar, which was in the heart of the old town. A sailing regatta was in progress and many sailboats dotted the waters around.

The first sight of the island literally took us off our feet as an enormous castle was visible at a distance, an old church and a historic monument just alongside the quay. We later learnt that it was a theatre. A short walk brought us to the bus terminal, where our host was waiting in the car. We were warmly greeted and he loaded our luggage in his car and showed us around the small town as we arrived at our Airbnb accommodation in less than ten minutes. Later in the evening, I ventured out to explore the town and as luck would have it the battery of my phone died and the last bearing taken by Google map was not very helpful in finding the way back. Rick Steves has warned that those exploring Hvar need to be careful as the maps cannot be fully relied upon. It was getting dark and cold and after more than an hour, I found my way back to the place.

Next morning after breakfast we set out to explore the town. The first stop was a bakery where we picked up tiny cookies called Kiflica dressed with sesame seeds and were very delicious. On the way, we saw several trees laden with oranges and lemons and several ripe fruits were strewn by their side. There were no takers! 
The harbour of Hvar
Hvar has a very interesting geographical location on the Adriatic Sea, sandwiched between the islands of Brac, Vis and Korcula. It has a large fertile coastal plain with freshwater springs, pine forests, vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards. The population is just about 11000. Hvar rose to prominence during the Venetian Empire as an important port. During the 16th century due to repeated attacks by pirates and Ottoman empire a number of fortifications came up and are still visible. Due to its beauty and huge appeal the island has been listed by Conde Nast Traveller among the top 10 destinations for several years.
Fortica in Hvar
Looming high above the skyline is Fortica a medieval castle, overlooking the sea and Pakleni islands. It started building around 6th century AD in Byzantine time and was renovated by Austrians in the 19th century.
The Old Well at Trg SV Stjepana
Stretching from harbour to the cathedral it has one of the biggest squares( called Trg SV Stjepana) measuring over 4500 square metres in Dalmatia. There is an interesting old well dating back to 1520 AD and is covered with a wrought-iron grill. There are several restaurants and pubs in this area.
Nearby is the Arsenal, considered to be one of the most beautiful and useful buildings in the whole of Dalmatia. It served as a repair and refuelling station for war galleons. A leisurely walk to the terrace of the building gives an excellent view of the harbour. Upstairs is a theatre that was built in 1612 AD and served the purpose till 2008 when a Roman building was discovered below the first floor. It has since been closed for restoration now.
St Stephens' Cathedral
A baroque-style St Stephen’s Cathedral was built at the end of the square 1n 15th-16th century to replace the cathedral destroyed by Turks. It has a distinctive square bell tower.
The Franciscan Monastery
The Franciscan Monastery built in the 15th century overlooks a pretty cove. Several coins, lacework and old atlas are preserved here. The adjoining church is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy and has some rare paintings.
Benedictine Convent

Playwright and poet Hanibal Lucic was born in 1485 at the Benedictine Convent. This townhouse became home to the community of Benedictine nuns since 1664 AD. Over the centuries they perfected the art of lacemaking, painstakingly weaving the fibre derived from agave leaves. This tradition has been recognized by UNESCO. A small museum showcases its profound work.
The Old Town
The trip would be incomplete without going around the Old town with stone cobbled lanes. 
An interesting signboard
 The interesting signboard that I found stated’ So Hvar So Good’ neatly summarizing this lovely destination whose memories are now deeply etched.

PS: All pics are mine. Next week we will traverse to a new Country, Montenegro that I happened to visit along with a trip to Croatia

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