Hvar, Hvar away
"It's the island Beyoncé visits!" I heard someone exclaim aboard the catamaran boat tour through the islands just off the coast of Split, Croatia.
The 20-something people on board the catamaran would be visiting the islands of Hvar and Brač with periodic anchored stops for swimming and snorkeling in the chilly Adriatic.
The weather on this Thursday in late June could not have been more perfect: A sun-filled sky, calm waters, and an on-board open bar set the scene for a serendipitous day afloat with Summer Blues.
After a quick swim and salad stop, we landed ashore on Hvar Island and made our way onto a bus to visit the hazy and humid village of Vrboska.
The sleepy town was small in size but rich in character. Boats were docked along the central canal, which was flanked by a café or two and a smattering of wineries. The only sounds that silently roared from the placid town came from our English-speaking tour guide, a local Dalmatian who schooled us on the history of the island from the 15th century onward.
My friend Kruti and I sat in swinging chairs and sipped on cool coffees before our bus was scheduled to depart. In a desperate search for tea towels (what is a tea towel?), I ducked into Vrboska´s only souvenir shop and scoured the offerings. I found something resembling what might have been a version of a tea towel and was eager to show Kruti that I may have found the hidden treasure she had been seeking. I stood in the doorway of the shop and called to her: "Kruti, look: Tea towels...I think!" The salesman giggled and nodded me forward, silently providing permission for me to leave the shop so that Kruti could eye the merchandise. Although they did not quite fit the expectations that Kruti had for her imagined tea towels, I smiled to the salesman while uttering "Havala," the only Croatian word I had learned thus far. We threw down a few kuna for our coffees and took off to our next destination.
Our next stop on the journey through Croatian islands was Hvar Town, the central city on the island with a population of slightly more than 3,000 people.
The humidity followed us as we sauntered through the cobblestone streets and marveled in the hilltop fortress that mightily peered over the bay. It was difficult to imagine this quaint village as a favorite of the likes of Prince Harry and Beyoncé.
Coves carved their way into the earth and provided secluded swimming spots for small groups. Vendors sold lavender in any and all forms: soap, oil, even gelato. It did not take long for us to find a stone bench beneath the shadows of the white stone houses as the misty afternoon settled in.
We boarded our private boat, enjoyed mid-day sandwiches, and sailed off to round out the rest of the islands on our itinerary. Sailing among these Adriatic islands by boat aided my understanding of a life that existed hundreds of years ago, a civilization that thrived thanks to its production of olive oil, wine, and lavender. In my opinion, what else could one possibly need?