Croatia. More beautiful than I imagined. Part V.

KORCULA | MLJET | 4 DAYS

After a whirlwind party night in Hvar, we jumped on the ferry to make our way to Mljet.  This involved a few hours stopover in Korcula.  Where we took the opportunity to stroll the old back street of the medieval walled town. The Old Town itself is grooved with a succession of narrow streets that branch off the spine of the main street like the fish bone. Fish bone shape was used in Korcula Old Town design to reduce effects of wind and sun and provide citizens with sheltered and comfortable accommodation. The architecture in the Old Town is mainly influenced by Venetian Renaissance.

Venturing up to the old city wall, we passed a long line of restaurants overlooking the beautiful waters of Korcula bay in search of some much needed grub. After much indecision to which restaurant we finally made our pick, drinking white wine and chowing down lunch.  I ordered a typical Croatian dish, the Black risotto.  Made with cuttelfish, it’s the oddest pantone shade of black and gray!  Whilst definitely worth a try, in the back of my head I was longing for my amazing shrimp risotto back in Vela Luka!

After a few hours (and an ice cream), we headed down to catch the ferry to Mljet. The ferry was pretty crammed and at one point we almost found ourselves just sitting on our suitcases!  All in the name of our intrepid insistence to have our adventure in Mljet, rumoured to have captivated Odysseus for seven years.  As we entered the bay to the island, we could totally see why and sat wide eyed with the realisation that we had found paradise.

Based on ferry routes but also easy access to the National Park, we had chosen Polace, a one street town, as our base.  We had booked a little apartment for our 3 nights stay. The great thing about Polace – there is only one road that runs along the water.  All accommodation runs along this road making all accommodation ‘waterfront’!  You can’t go wrong!  And whilst the restaurants line the stretch directly on the water, the accommodation is lined along the other side of the road.

Our first night saw us take a stroll along the ‘main road’, venturing down to the water onto a jetty labelled ‘private’. Whilst apprehensively peering around to see if anyone would particularly care if we took a sunset dip, we realised that it was empty with no other soul in site. Like delighted children chancing on an empty merry-go-round, we stripped off and dived into the pristine water surrounded only by water and the odd yacht in the distance. The water sparkled and we once again entertained ourselves with water starfish tricks, somersaults off the jetty and dolphin dives. Not to mention the odd peck at the Milka slab of chocolate I had sneaked along in my bag, leftovers from our day of travels.  Sunset, water and chocolate.  What could go wrong!

The next day we were determined to get in an early morning 10km, so we headed down the main street and up the hill, in and around the forest.  The run afforded us with the most amazing views across the bay.  Totally amped by our adventures, Mljet even experienced a few fist pumps on our way home down the hill, filled with energy from our runner high, epic surroundings and respective running tunes!

After a quick shower and breakfast on the water, we headed across to the entrance to the National Park.  We learnt that one could walk (a decent 45min walk to the lakes), cycle or there was a mini bus at regular intervals. We decided to walk. And didn’t regret it. Once at the National Park, we found places to hire bikes and kayaks. Oh the choice… We were undecided. We decided to take a kayak around the lake to the monestry. Let me tell you, I’m grateful I had my friend, Captain Lou on board. She was an absolute powerhouse and important necessity in getting us to our destination!  Not only a paddling pro but a master at knot skills (much needed when you dock off the middle of nowhere!)! Our adventures took us out on the water, exploring small enclaves with the odd snooze on a rock or two along the way. Once reaching the monestry, we stopped for a glass of wine and peek around the place until paddling back into the sunset, stopping at our favourite restaurant on the lake for wine and ice cream (yes, life was good!) until walking home.

The next day saw us repeat our trip to the lake, this time determined to hire bikes and get to the end of the lake, where the inland water meets the sea.  Feeling a little like Vada and Thomas J from the movie My Girl, we set off. The sights that met us at our destination did not disappoint.  We swam whilst dodging some really spikey rock formations going into the water, lapping up the dramatic scenery and striking shades of water! Another surreal day experiencing the untouched beauty of Mljet.

Like two old ladies putting their stamp on tradition, we would return to Polace each day and seat ourselves in the same little bar on the water.  The bar was actually the inside of a boat. Cheap G&T’s were enjoyed whilst we watched the sun set and the buzz of activity of the yachties. Embarking and disembarking at the end of the day.  Dinners on the island were spent at one of the handful of restaurants along the water.  We quickly learnt after the first night that this one shop town required bookings if one was to get into one of the better restaurants.  So we would eye out our next culinary outing each day and ask us to pop in a reservation. Dinners and wine was cheap (10 to 15 pounds at most for a full dinner!) so we feasted like queens until the end.

On our last day we agreed that a hike would be something different, so we took off on our normal route through the National Park entrance but this time veered off the beaten path in search of another far off town that we were hoping to reach.  Me naively following my girl scout friend!  After 20 minutes into our walk in the forest, wearing only a bikini top and shorts, I felt a spider web cross my bare stomach.  I let out a squeal and looked in front to see the sun streaming through a NETWORK of spider webs in our path. Lou, ever the intrepid  adventurer no matter the circumstance, broke the webs with a stick and convinced me to continue and conquer our mission. However, after 45min SLOW traipsing through the forest, the spider webs came more frequently (and furiously in my eyes!!).  This time it was my turn to convince Lou!  And after tiring of our continuous karate style stick warfare with the webs, we turned back to find a new route.  After some investigating, we determined a new route… devoid of spiders and ninja efforts! We were rewarded with an amazing view of the archipelago of smaller islands surrounding Mljet.  Crisp green contrasting with the Indigo blue of the Adriatic sea.

As we headed back, we reminisced and smiled about my ability to quietly be a wimp and Lou’s fearless courage to take on spiders. Our last G&T’s saw us looking longingly out at the bay for the last time, convinced that we would not find an island so magical in the near future.

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