8:40 a.m., on the catamaran to Dubrovnik
Well, our time in Hvar has come to an end, and it’s been the stuff of great stories I shall be telling for years to come (though not necessarily here…). Hvar is essentially Croatia’s equivalent of Las Vegas, so what happens in Hvar stays in Hvar.
You know you’re in a party place when, while sitting on your backpack at the dock waiting for your boat, you find yourself in front of the club that you left mere hours before. The few young people who are actually up and about have a sluggish, bleary-eyed appearance; as we’ve discovered over the last three days, there’s absolutely no need to get up before 11:30. And let’s be clear: Rachel and I have not at any point been drunk or hungover; we’ve just embraced island time and its corresponding lifestyle.
We spent our last afternoon in Hvar not actually on Hvar but rather on one of the very small islands across the bay from Hvar town. Several of those islands have beaches (including several nudist ones, apparently!), so there’s no shortage of boats waiting in the marina to take you over for a mere 40 kunas (less than $7) round trip. We ended up on Mlini beach, home to precisely one restaurant and host of maybe 300 day trippers scattered over its pebbly coastline. We spread our towels over the stones just at the edge of the water so that the sea was gently lapping at our feet all afternoon. I rose to the challenge of surviving without my Kindle and instead studied my Croatian book for periodic 15-minute periods. I learned a few helpful pieces of grammar and a handful of phrases, several of which were useful to us about 12 hours later, as I will explain.
We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner of LAMB right before heading back to the main island, and it didn’t disappoint us – the lamb was deliciously and simply prepared and served straight off the bone. We wished that all of our family could have been there too!
Back on Hvar, we made our way as quickly as possible up the half-mile uphill path to our apartment and showered so that we could make it up to the top of the fortress overlooking the town before the sun set. It’s a good thing we’ve been doing a lot of uphill walking in the last week because the fort was no easy feat. It was 100% worth it though – we arrived at the top just as the sun had sunk, leaving behind a beautiful peachy glow that illuminated the landscape and surrounding islands in a way that made the natural beauty even more awe-inspiring. (When faced with incredible views like we’ve had in Croatia, I always wonder how anyone can doubt the existence of God.)
After taking LOTS of pictures, we took the much easier way down and had a light second supper at a lovely tapas place nestled into one of the narrow back streets, away from the main square. We drank local wine and shared Dalmatian prosciutto and a number of regional cheeses, all of which were delicious, while a guy played an acoustic guitar and softy sang along. Once again, we found ourselves in a very romantic situation! One day I’ll have to come back and do this with a man…
After dinner, we went straight for the crème de la crème of Hvar’s bars: Carpe Diem. (You might recall that two nights before we’d ended up at their island outpost with some Germans; last night we went to the original.) Carpe Diem has been on my radar for eight years, and it shows up all the time in travel coverage of Croatia. It is THE place to go on Hvar.
Now, last night we weren’t dressed up at all. I had already worn my designated Carpe Diem outfit on Monday, and we’d needed pretty simple clothes and shoes to make it up to the fort, so Rach and I showed up in a plain grey maxi dress and a $5 black dress from H&M. We also had crazy hair because of the wind up on the fort and minimal make-up on. But none of that ended up mattering.
We’d been sipping our drinks for maybe five minutes when two older Italian men came up to us and pretty much immediately invited us onto their yacht. Seriously! We’d been joking about how our goal should be to score an invitation to a yacht; we hadn’t thought it would be that easy. However, one of these guys was more wasted than anyone I’ve seen in a long time, and we were soon mostly engaged in keeping him from grabbing and kissing us (in a harmless way). Eventually even his brother got tired of this and took them both home.
We spent another 20 minutes or so at the bar surveying the crowd (we’d arrived just before it exploded) but finding no one of interest, so we moved to a different vantage point. We’d been standing on the stairs for about ten minutes, mostly watching groups get bottle service (which came with much ceremony, including flaming sparklers), when a guy came up to us and said “hi, would you like to come join our table? We need more girls!” We followed his pointing arm and realized their table was THE table, in a corner of the bar cordoned off not only by ropes but also screened in. This is where the celebrities (like Prince Harry and Beyoncé) who frequent Carpe Diem get bottle service. Needless to say, we went back with him.
After receiving wristbands identifying us as Carpe Diem VIPs(!), we sat down and received drinks poured from an obscenely large bottle of Belvedere vodka. This bottle was every bit of two feet tall and so heavy that you had to use both hands. We learned that their group was five Austrian investors who were all vacationing together on a yacht. We really only interacted with the two seated near us; one was really young (he said he was 25, but his boss told me he was actually 21) and the other was probably late 30’s or 40ish. The younger one monopolized us for a while, and the conversation was always very serious though energetic. I found it hilarious that he accused me of being very serious and analytical when he was the one who drove the conversation towards, for instance, a discussion of male vs. female psychology based on a book he’d recently read. (Sidenote: I am now learning what the standard reaction is to telling people you are a lawyer. They invariably either look mock scared, raise their eyebrows in uncertainty, or tell you you’re too analytical. Guess I’ve just gotta live with that now!)
Carpe Diem closes “early” (at 2:00), and when that time came around, we told them truthfully that we needed to get home and pack before our 8:30 boat to Dubrovnik, at which point they launched a full-on sales pitch trying to get us to come back to their yacht. (Yacht invitations count: 2.) for reasons that should be obvious, we turned them down and thanked them for the invitation. It was all a bit weird, but ultimately I’m proud that these guys found us intelligent and interesting – always nice to see those traits admired in women.
Rachel and I made what we thought would be our last trek up the hill but discovered upon arrival that the keys had fallen out of Rachel’s wallet. We tried in vain to get our landlady to answer her phone or hear the doorbell, so we eventually figured we might as well try to retrace our steps. We walked all the way back to Carpe Diem, passing lots of struggling drunk people, and thanks to an intervention from Saint Anthony, were able to recover our keys there.
At this point we were anxious to be home and too tired to do the hill again, so we grabbed a taxi to take us home. The driver spoke no English, so I got to test my Croatian, with success! I managed to point out where we were going by piecing together “here”, “right,” “wait,” and “how much?” Simple but got the job done!
So we finally went to bed around 5:15 and had to get up at 7:30 to get on the boat. Hvar has been an absolute blast, and I truly think that anything can and does happen there. We are happy, however, to leave the party island and be back on more normal turf. We’re presently sitting on our terrace enjoying a jaw-dropping view of Dubrovnik.