White beaches and white wine – A detour to KorCula (1/2)

Well, are you already tired of winter? The grey, cold weather, the drizzle and the increasing longing for some sun can be a bit hard on the mind. An antidote can be to always dream yourself into the next summer vacation. Should you need suggestions for an unconsumed, exclusive and relaxing destination, we have some inspiration below :).

On the trail of the sun – Where to go in late summer?

The late summer or. Early fall is, after all, a bit of a specialty of ours. If you are in the luxurious position of not being dependent on employer requirements or school vacations, this is something like the perfect travel period. You could fully enjoy the summer in Germany and virtually extend it with a trip to the south. Sunshine hours maximization, so to speak. After the extremely exciting late summer vacation in the Big Apple the year before and the many months of exhausting work that preceded it, we opted for a less action-packed version of the two-week annual vacation.

It should be an island, something totally quiet in the sea, as secluded as possible and as far away from home as possible. We remember the 2015 road trip across the Balkans, exploring southeastern Europe. The landlady of our then-apartment in Drvenik on the Makarska Riviera was a native islander – she comes from one of the many islands off the Croatian coast – namely KorCula. She raved about the nature, the peace and the originality of the perhaps most beautiful Croatian island.

A look at the map reveals: seclusion would not be a problem for this destination. The island is, if you like, the penultimate outpost before the external border of the European Union, if you are coming from the island of Mljet resp. of the enclave around Dubrovnik. If you are looking for rest and relaxation, this is already a good condition – to be far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities and especially from work. Does KorCula hold up to this claim? The preliminary research is quite positive. The most praised characteristic of the island is its nature, which is very green and diverse, in contrast to large parts of Croatia, which are more rocky. The island is also famous for its white wine and white beaches – and lots and lots of sun.

Sounds great?! We also find! We set off in mid-September – not least, of course, to be able to tell you what to look for in this form of island vacation.

Arrival with obstacles – which means of transport?

In principle, there are several plausible ways to reach KorCula. However – because that's what remote islands are all about – none of these options is really easy and comfortable. Here it already shows: For this form of quiet island life you have to decide actively. Unfortunately, it's not possible to simply jet off like to Mallorca, because the island doesn't have an airport – and that's a good thing. So how to get there?

"Airport" may well be a good keyword. Of course you have the option to fly either to Split or to Dubrovnik. Both cities are about the same distance from the island. But since it is naturally surrounded by water and unfortunately there is no bridge, you need the ferry to cross over. The local traffic on the island is also rather badly developed, therefore a rental car is an indispensability for mobility. In this respect, you also need the car ferry that runs between Split and Vela Lukat, or between Orebic on Pelješac and the island's capital KorCulas. The prices are, depending on the route, for 2 people and a car between 30 and 80 € per direction.

There is no way around the drive. But we need a flight and a rental car. The alternative here is clear: drive your own car – and that's exactly what we're doing. As in 2015, we saddle up the all-purpose vehicle – the Golf VII R – and head south. The route planner says: Just under 1.500 km at a stretch, predicted over 17 hours driving time – without breaks, refueling and the ferry. Even for experienced drivers quite a challenge, which seems doable in one day, but by no means comfortable. Last but not least, it would be almost a shame to drive the route in one piece, as there are so many destinations worth seeing along the way! We make a virtue out of necessity and make two stops until we reach our destination.

On enchanted paths in Slovenia – Better with a stopover?

After a good half of the route we find ourselves in Slovenia – a small, but definitely underestimated country. Here, too, we rely on tips from locals, which we could gain during our last road trip in the region. The guide of our food tour, Aljaz from Ljubljana, raved about the town of Bled and the nearby gorge called Vintgar Gorge. After 9 hours of driving we arrive in Zasip and check into one of the many simple vacation apartments in the region.

Then after the long distance but first immediately one thing was due, namely food! The next route led us on the shortest way to the inn Gostilna Kurej. The lovingly family-run restaurant is known for its authentic Slovenian cuisine and especially for its rich meat portions. Despite the grave mistake in retrospect of also eating an appetizer, we enjoy the meat platter and a good load of cevapCici. So good! Especially because it should remain the last meat portions for a while ;).

Cevapcici Gostilna Kurej, Slovenia

Slovenian meat platter in Zasip

The next day is dedicated to the Vintgar gorge. Under gray skies and light drizzle we set off on foot towards the gorge. The weather gives the whole, fitting to the region, a slightly gloomy, enchanted and very unexcited atmosphere. This impression is reinforced when we reach the entrance of the gorge. The rocky gorge is ca. 1.6 km long and can be hiked on alternate sides of the river via boardwalks. The small waterfalls of the river, which are framed by several rock formations, are impressive.

Those who take on the hike will end up (resp. the center – you have to go back ;)) is rewarded with the highlight: the 13 m high Šum waterfall. For the hike you should plan – depending on the season – including photo breaks 3-4 hours. However, one must take into account that the gorge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Slovenia and is very crowded during the summer months, which can affect the enjoyment of nature. You are therefore better advised to visit the gorge in the off-season, if possible. Otherwise the visit is really worthwhile!

Sum waterfall in the Vintgar Klam, Slovenia

Large waterfall Vintag Klam

Vintgar Klam, Slovenia

Fog in the Vintag Klam, Slovenia

Small waterfall in the Vintgar Klam

Old and even older things in Dubrovnik – Is the detour worth it??

After our stay in Slovenia we head directly to our destination country and approach the Croatian border. With a small, but geographically unavoidable detour through Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Neum Corridor, we make one more stop before turning further south. We visit Dubrovnik, which we already loved in 2015! At that time we had already explored the "Pearl of the Adriatic" for a day and since the detour seemed marginal, we took the opportunity to be enchanted once more. We enjoy the unique flair of the city, the sunset on the hill and especially the first seafood, right on the coast! I start with grilled shrimps at Bistro Glorijet, an inconspicuous and therefore all the more recommendable small fish restaurant at the cruise port.

Old town of Dubrovnik

Port of Dubrovnik

City wall of Dubrovnik seen from above

From the city wall above the old harbor, just down the coast, you can see another sight – the former luxury hotel Belvedere. The hotel opened in 1985 and was in operation for only 6 years, until it had to close due to the siege of the Serbian army in October 1991. Afterwards it served as a war refuge. After the end of the Balkan wars it fell into a slumber and in spite of renovation plans it is decaying since then. In short: The Belvedere is a dream for every urban explorer, lost place aficionado or photographer. Since in me a bit of all this slumbers, I spent 1-2 hours looking around the site and documenting the unique object.

Architecture Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik

Atrium Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik

Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik sign

Pool area Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik

Central staircase Hotel Belvedere Dubrovnik

"The complete photo reportage of my Belvedere exploration you find on imgur.com.

Off to the island! – How to get across?

With these highly exciting, but also slightly morbid impressions we turn our backs on Dubrovnik, which is really always worth a trip – and even more so a small detour – and head back to our main destination. On the D8 we drive a little bit back to the northwest and then turn off to the Pelješac peninsula. However, we don't get far at first, because shortly after the change of course lies the "Vila Koruna" in Mali Ston – a restaurant known for its ultra-fresh oysters. We do not let ourselves be lumpen and turn in. The waitress welcomes us very friendly and leads us directly to the best table of the restaurant.

Here it also quickly becomes clear why the oysters are supposed to be the best – the basins are IN the guest room. It really doesn't get any fresher than this. We indulge in oysters au gratin, sea food rice, crawfish and deep-fried baby squid – with a quality you just can't get at home. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean Sea is too far away from Saxony to be able to offer anything like this freshness.

Oysters in the basin, Villa Koruna, Croatia

Oyster Basin in Villa Koruna, Croatia

Guest room with oyster basin Villa Koruna, Croatia

Again well strengthened we continue the journey. Our intermediate destination is called Orebic – because there is the ferry port. Until then, we enjoy what feels like the only major road in the area and the landscape, which is increasingly shedding its ruggedness and changing more into greenery. The peninsula is also known for its wine and offers along the way countless opportunities to visit wineries and stores, admire, taste and purchase wine. We do without, knowing that especially the regional white wine will play an important role for us in the coming days. The route to the ferry terminal takes us a good hour – but it is worth it, because it is very winding in places and offers some spectacular views. Nice!

Arriving at the port, we purchase a ticket for the ferry. Per person 16 Kn are due and for a car under 5 m in length again 76 – in sum thus 108 Kuna or scarcely 15 €. Very fair price. The ferries run somewhat irregularly, but about every hour. The principle is: first come, first served. You stand in line and as many cars are taken as will fit on the ferry . we are lucky and still find space.

You can stay at or in the car, but the trip to the deck is more worthwhile, because from here you have a fantastic view of the coastline and the ever-growing island of KorCula. The crossing is one of the shortest in Croatia, which is almost a bit of a shame, as the route is really worth seeing. After about 25 minutes we arrive in the port of KorCula town, take a last look at the mainland and roll in the Gulf over the loading ramp, in the middle of the island capital.

Limited choice, but clear conditions – Where to stay?

The beauty of KorCula has not yet spread to the extent that one can speak of mass tourism there. Rather the exact opposite is the case. Of course there are vacationers who are interested in the seclusion and also certainly regulars. But the individual tourist does not necessarily have the destination on the screen and for family vacations it is relatively inconvenient to reach the destination at all and then to get around on the island. Subsequently, there are a few hotels (mainly in KorCula town and Vela Luka), but they are few and far between and quite expensive even by German standards.

Finally, a hectic hotel would not be appropriate for the island's tranquility. What is much more common than hotels are vacation houses and apartments, which are often used by the locals as retirement homes or simply to earn extra money by renting them out. With AirBnB you have pretty good chances to get something useful. If you disregard the capital, the offer is extremely affordable even in the best location. We decide on a well-equipped, quietly situated apartment with a direct sea view and head for the village of Prizba, where it is located.

Vila Milica, Prizba, Korcula

Vila Milica Korcula

After a little photo treasure hunt to get the key (the landlady was unfortunately prevented at our arrival time), we entered the apartment, which was to be our accommodation for the next week, and we regret nothing. The apartment is modernly equipped, spacious and clean. A lot of Post-Its with useful tips are waiting for us at the fridge and in the fridge a bottle of Pošip – the white wine that was discovered on the island and is primarily grown here. The apartment also has two bedrooms, one of which we use as luggage and dressing room and could thus (and also from the size loosely) be inhabited with 4 people – at a total price of 45 € per night. So you could stay here for a little over 10 € per person absolutely reasonable.

But the real highlight is the view. The apartment is located on the third and top floor of the house, which is slightly elevated above the road, about 50 m from the sea. We step out onto the terrace and are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the sunset over the coast as well as the small offshore islands. Madness! Yes, here it will be possible to stay for a few days . We can recommend the apartment and also the lovely hostess Ivana without reservation. The bottom line is that a vacation apartment on the island, if you can do without house keeping, is clearly the preferred option.

Getting into island life . and to the beach – how to get down?

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the sea in front of the door and the many hours of sunshine is that you have a permanent source of basic relaxation. Consequently, everything on the island is a bit quieter and more dignified. When you start the day with a view of the water and for the first three minutes you can't see anything at all because of the glaring sun, you have a permanent smile on your face – if you let yourself. I have to admit, it took me 1-2 days to switch off from the stress of everyday life and travel and to get used to the fact that you don't have to plan things or be at place Y at time X all the time. To help us relax, we start each day with a breakfast overlooking the coast and the blue Adriatic Sea.

To get a better feeling for the pace on the island, we first explore our surroundings a bit and simply follow the coastal road where we stay. This becomes recently later a driving dynamically quite appealing and at the same time well built (and warm ;)) Mountain road, on which we have a lot of fun directly. We finally arrive in the middle of the island, in a somewhat larger place called Blato, which ensures the basic supply with 1-2 supermarkets. In general, the one or other leisurely drive across the island, where the way is the goal, is quite recommendable. Many of the smaller roads lead along orchards or vineyards through cute villages or simply along the sea – you should not miss it.

Another means of relaxation necessary to fulfill the purpose of the trip were quasi-daily trips to the beach . or. the beaches. As on the whole island there are hardly any tourists at the end of September / beginning of October . and not even very many locals anymore. At quasi every beach where we stayed, we were therefore more or less alone. The water was mostly but still warm enough for swimming – even if with me the focus is more on enjoying the view than on swimming ;). Since KorCula also has – unlike the coast on the mainland, which consists mainly of rocks – fine sandy beaches, we first seek out the largest – in the bay of Lumbarda in the east of the island.

With about 150 m it is not very long, but it offers almost exclusively white sand and a suitable bar. For swimming it is however only conditionally suitable, since it goes very flatly into the water. However, this is an advantage for families, who might get lost on the island. Since the bay is relatively open, you have here in the evening still quite long light and a nice view of the sunset, provided that the mosquitoes do not eat you ;).

If you like it even less touristy, you can take the serpentine road to the bay of Pupnatska Luka, which is quite adventurous for inexperienced drivers and can often only be driven on one lane. The courage is rewarded with a stay in one of the cutest little bays I have ever visited. Although the sand here is not quite so fine, but rather pebbly, but that does not detract from the beauty. Framed by two consistently green headlands, the secluded beach curves gently around the bay for about 200 meters, affording super views of the Mediterranean Sea. The tranquility, accompanied only by the gentle sound of the waves, and the crystal clear water do the rest to recharge the battery.