By now it should come as no surprise when I say that I absolutely love Croatia. It is actually quite remarkable just how much it leaves all other countries I've visited so far in the dust. I’ve honestly never been this surprised by a country before in my life. From Split, I left the mainland for my first island, Brač, located approximately 17 km (~10 miles) off the coast. Since my plans to visit Greece fell through, I’m no longer in any rush to get through Croatia so I figured why not try and spend the last few days of summer exploring the islands. Given my incredible experiences in Zadar and Split, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my time!
The song of Supetar:
My point of entry to Brač was a town called Supetar on the northern side of the island. Like all other Croatian cities I’ve visited so far, I was completely blown away by Supetar. It takes only a few hours to see the entire city, but I could easily spend months just relaxing on the beaches. The city has a very small-town feel, but it's more than likely because I'm visiting during the low season. The residents of Supetar are very much dependent on tourism for their survival and I can only imagine the chaos this little town is subjected to during the high tourist season. Thankfully, during my stay I only had to share the city with a few other people. Large resorts line the coast, but quaint little houses beautifully decorated and covered in bright pink oleanders are scattered along the hills further inland. Since many of the private residences here double as hotels/apartments during the summer, the families here pour a great deal of money into making their homes look their best. As I wandered through town, I was surprised by the amount of construction going on and how much the neighborhood was being developed.
During my two days in the city, I walked the entire coastline and enjoyed the beaches as much as I could even though the water was unpleasantly cold in my opinion. I've traveled for four months now, but I still have not acclimated to the temperature of the water here in Europe. The handful of people sprinkled throughout town were either young couples whose children were not in school yet or 60-year-olds, but either way I very rarely saw anyone my own age. It hardly mattered though, it just meant more space for myself!
The only downside of visiting Supetar during the low tourist season is that parts of the city felt like a ghost town. Along the main promenade, nearly all of the bars and clubs I passed were either deserted or shut down for the winter. Many of the advertisements on these establishments showed pictures of people partying in very upscale, classy bars, but the reality I saw was the complete polar opposite. Periodically, I came across deserted carnival rides, trampolines, and bumper car tracks covered in leaves and dirt. It was a remarkably eerie feeling. While I didn’t have a chance to see Chernobyl when I was in Kiev, I imagine this is what it must be like to visit.
When it came time to leave, I debated about how I wanted to get to my next city, Bol, on the other side of the island. After my atrocious camping experience the night before, I was hesitant about spending another night outside, but part of me wanted to push myself to get off the beaten path. After meeting Australian Andrew back in Lviv, I wanted to shake things up and not just mindlessly take buses from city to city. I attempted to hitchhike, but at best I saw only a few cars every hour and sadly no one was keen on stopping to pick me up. Since I had all the equipment to camp and Bol was only 40 kilometers (~25 miles) from Supetar, I figured I’d just walk it! Surely it would be more exciting than just taking a bus.
Yes, I know, I’m stubborn. I’m going to make this camping thing work one way or another, even if it kills me.
The first few hours of hiking from Supetar were considerably more difficult than I expected. It didn’t help that I was carrying a 30-pound bag strapped to my back and was walking uphill during the hottest time of the day, but as long as I took periodic breaks I was fine. The countryside is beautiful and it was rewarding to get out of town. The dusty path uphill was lined with olive trees as far as I could see and all around I could hear the sound of birds chirping, bees buzzing, and the occasional neigh of a grazing horse. As I made my way up the mountain I could still see Diocletian's Palace and Marjan Park across the water back in Split. It already feels like I left that city so long ago.
After two hours of hiking, I made it to the incredibly small town of Donji Humac. The city felt completely deserted; by comparison Supetar was a bustling metropolis on par with Manhattan. As I walked through the town I saw a grand total of two people, but it was nice to be off the beaten path. Based on the number of stone blocks that littered the streets it appears like the town's main industry is stonemasonry and uses a nearby quarry for its raw material. There wasn’t much to do in Donji Humac, but it was incredibly nice to just walk around and experience a side of Croatia that most people probably drive right past.
From Donji Humac, I made my way to the nearby town of Nerežišća about one kilometer away that was (not surprisingly) deserted as well. I sat down to relax for a moment and met a local man named Andro who asked if I needed any help. Andro was in his late twenties, wreaked of cigarette smoke, and was born, raised, and now lives in Nerežišća. He was a remarkably nice guy who made for some great company during my little afternoon break. We talked about life in the town, what it's like to growing up in Croatia, his travels abroad, and gave me some tips for getting around and camping.
As the sun began to set, I made my way out of Nerežišća and proceeded to hike uphill for an hour or so before finding a spot to set up camp for the night. The entire walk up I could see Split on the horizon constantly reminding me of the distance I'd covered. From my perspective, it seemed quite impressive, but looking at a map my progress for the day was hysterically insignificant. Like the countless cities I've visited so far, Split is slowly fading into a mere memory. It is now - both figuratively and physically - behind me, yet it still sits there smiling under the bright sun. Just as Split was my home away from home for a few blissful days, the next town will be just like it I bed... I just haven't gotten there yet.
Hopefully, this time around my camping experience is more enjoyable… I guess only time will tell.