Faraway Worlds

The harbour in Bol, a Dalmatian island
cruise travel diary  

Reflections on a month in Dalmatia

Last updated 5 December 2020

The Adriatic coastline is stunning. The water is blue silk, deep and salty. Swimming is wonderfully easy; you can pretty much just bob along, barely moving.

We’re on a week-long gulet cruise, stopping in at various different islands on the way. It’s a good way to see the coastline and avoid the rocky shoreline. The weather is perfect, the towns are charming (if sometimes a bit repetitive) and swimming off the boat is amazing. And yet… there’s just something missing for me. A small piece of something which I can’t quite identify and yet has played on my mind for the three weeks we’ve spent on the coast so far.

Maybe it’s the distraction of tourism, Sail Croatia and Yacht Week. Many of the island towns are full of tourists, who are mainly young and somewhat intoxicated. Hvar’s particularly crowded – I’ve never seen so many drunk Australians before. Our boat is quiet, though, and many bays are calm and beautiful. Even in the mainland, where tourists are spread out a bit more, tourism is everywhere, and most locals seemed to be involved with the industry. It’s a bit overwhelming, especially in the very small towns.

Still, Croatia’s absolutely gorgeous. And, while I’m uneasy at times, I also feel that every so often Croatia surprises me, showing me just what I need to see. I’ll be walking along, feeling not quite there, when something appears that matches my state of mind so exactly, that I almost feel like the country understands me, in some strange, surreal way. It’s always something small: a sunset reflected from a cross on a hill, an abandoned, broken building caught between two resorts, an old church or cemetery near a deserted cove… Just something little and odd, which soothes me for a few hours or a day, until my persistent disquiet comes back again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely enjoying Croatia, although I would probably recommend spending less time at the coast – after three weeks I’m definitely struggling, but I am a big city person. As far as we can see, the main point of coming to the coast is to relax and escape from the world for a while. We’ve already been travelling for over three months; we’ve relaxed enough and I’m really starting to crave city life.

There’s so many different parts to Croatia, and it’s all hauntingly beautiful. Ultimately, though, I think what’s bothering me is the veneer of sun, sea and sand that doesn’t quite cover (and definitely doesn’t honour) the scars and sacrifice of the recent war. I’ve been in this country for almost a month and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know it yet. Somewhere underneath all this talk of Italian heritage and Venetian islands, beyond the beaches and drinking and uninterested tourism staff, is the real Croatia. And I’m not quite sure I’ll ever find it.

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