Sailing to Croatia’s ports in luxury and style
Winnipeg Free Press, August 21, 2009
I walked along the city walls and marveled as the setting sun cast an amber glow across Dubrovik.
I felt as though I’d been transported into a Lord of the Rings set, and awaited the king’s return through the ancient gates. Majestic mountains, azure sea, and fascinating history are just a few of Dalmatia’s enticing attractions. Mouth-watering Croatian cuisine, fine local wines and exceptional service were offered aboard a masterfully crafted 105-foot wooden yacht, allowing a first-class Croatia experience.
I arrived in Dubrovnik, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and set off on a 10-day island-hopping voyage throughout Dalmatia that took us to Korcula, Vis, Hvar, Brac and Split.
In larger-than-life fashion, Vlade Mihanovic welcomed us to his elegant and spotless yacht, Romanca. He introduced the boat, the crew, and then himself with a bow, then personally greeted each of us with a brisk hug. The Romanca was built in 1998 and attention was given to every detail to make this authentic Adriatic jewel stand apart in a sea of vessels. As the boat sailed into each harbor, heads turned and cameras clicked!
The medieval town of Korcula was the first stop. It’s a miniature version of Dubrovnik with its city walls and castle tower. The town boasts that it’s the birthplace of Marco Polo. In the early morning I wandered the quiet, narrow stone streets that snake throughout the old town, then sipped cappuccino at one of the many restaurants along the seawall and enjoyed the view of the aqua waters sparkling in the sun, and the stark grey mountains jutting skyward along the Peljesac Peninsula.
Next our journey took us to the island of Vis. Because of its strategic location, whichever power controlled Vis controlled the Adriatic. The town museum houses antiquities from Greek and Roman eras and features an exhibit that replicates a Greek shipping vessel from the floor of the Adriatic Sea. A top attraction is the bronze bust of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Our guide, Miso Poduje, explained the day like this: “So today we will wisit (visit) the island of Vis and I will take you to my wineyard (vineyard).”
He proudly explained the history of Vis. His family lineage can be traced back to 1499 and Miso, who speaks five languages and is a veteran of the 1991-’95 war, has given up city life in Zagreb to resurrect his grandfather’s vineyard. We walked amongst the old vines and listened to Miso explain how to make a great wine, then rode back to his cellar and enjoyed the fruits of his labour. Vugava (white) and viski (red) wines have been growing in this soil for centuries.
After each excursion it was always a pleasure to walk aboard the Romanca greeted by Vlade, adorned in bow tie and a towel over his arm, welcoming us to an exquisite meal. Each day was a different culinary delight, served on the back deck of the Romanca with its breath-taking views of the sea. The main course for lunch was typically meat, while fish was served for dinner. Each meal was served with red and white wine, an appetizer and dessert. Traditionally in Croatia, meat is served at breakfast and lunch to give Croats energy for the day’s labor.
A favourite meal aboard the Romanca included an appetizer of zucchini topped with bacon bits, Gouda cheese and finely chopped veggies; and a main course of salted veal chop with olive oil and rosemary, and mushroom soup; followed by blueberry crepes for dessert. Fine wines accompanied these lovely meals.
Next it was time for another Croatian tradition — nap time, or as the locals say, “kill and hour or two.” Fresh seafood was harvested daily for delicacies such as raw anchovies in lemon juice and olive oil wrapped around green olives and grilled sea bass. All the meals were Vlade’s personal recipes.
With an area so rich in history, a famous Adriatic yacht as my chariot and feasts fit for a king, what could possibly be missing from such a trip? The natural wonders of the Adriatic Sea do not disappoint. It is easy to see why this gem has attracted people from the beginning of history.
We motored over to the island of Hvar and found an uninhabited bay to set anchor, take a swim and have lunch. I jumped off the deck of Romanca and plunged into the abyss and my mind drifted back throughout history. I surfaced and backstroked in the placid waters until I heard Vlade calling in his thick Croat accent, “Chad, you must come for lunch now please.”
If You Go
Who: ROW International, 800-451-6034 http://www.rowinternational.com
When: June and September