On Monday, J and I drove the short distance along the coast from Šibenik to Podgora, Croatia.
In Primošten, we pulled off the road to explore the massive, abandoned Hotel Marina Lucica. There were no signs or gates preventing trespassing.
The buildings were gutted. Despite the solid looking structure, we didn’t venture too far from the entrance. Open shafts three floors deep looked dark and dangerous. I climbed a spiral staircase to the upper floor to what must have been a restaurant overlooking the scenic old town.
The entrance to Hotel Marina Lucica.
Looking towards town.
Formerly a grand staircase.
Three floors and no railing.
The rooftop room.
A view of Primošten.
Before reaching Split, we stopped at Trogir and explored the historical center. The small island contained well-maintained buildings from its diverse and long history. There were a few stray cats and a pirate-themed candy store that has taken over Croatian tourist towns. My camera was running out of power, so I took few photos.
The old fort.
The tower wall was cracking and crusty.
Stick your tongue out.
From the road above Krvavica, J spotted another abandoned hotel. We turned around and went to find it by a wooded beach. Apparently the place was built in the 60s as a children’s health resort for military children with easily-prescribed respiratory “illnesses”. It was used until the 80s. More information can be found on The Balkanist website.
Approaching the second abandoned hotel through the woods.
On the landing.
Don’t mind me, I’m just making the sea bigger.
A sign along the coastal road welcomed us to the Makarska Riviera, part of the Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, about 60 kilometers long and only several kilometers wide, squeezed under towering mountain Biokovo. The dramatic scenery and smooth road made for a pleasant drive.
In the distance, we saw a pod of dolphins.
Makarska Riviera view.
We arrived in Podgora in the early afternoon and navigated the narrow streets to the road along the water to the sleepier southern side of town.
Podgora started as a small fishing village, was largely abandoned after an earthquake in the 60s, and is now largely tourism dependent. There are numerous hotels and rental apartments alongside the rocky, but beautiful, coastline.
Our apartment was near the end of the road, near a small marina. It was the best accommodation yet: large rooms, two bathrooms, an open kitchen, and large living/dining room overlooking the sea. Doors opened to a wide balcony with an extra table and chairs.
A tank in the hallways housed two hungry goldfish.
The host family offered us a drink and some cake while we chatted on the ground floor patio. The servings of cake were huge, and we only got halfway through before we started feeling like we had run out of things to say.
On Tuesday, we walked across the whole town, around a cliffside olive orchard, and down the main road to a naturalist beach between Podgora and Tučepi. The long stretch of beach offered plenty of shade trees, clear water, and great views of the neighboring islands and mainland mountain.
The beach was of rounded pebbles rather than sand. It was painful to walk into the water, but allowed a clear view of the bottom and the numerous fish and sea urchins.
We did as the others, and enjoyed the beach without clothes. It’s a liberating feeling to swim like a hairless aquatic ape. The water was still, cold and clear. Most of the other people on the beach were middle age or older, many German. I didn’t feel uncomfortable around them.
I enjoyed the experience more than I expected I would.
On the way back, I bought two small pouches of cat food to feed some friendly cats hanging out by the market. I decided that for the rest of our time in Croatia, I would keep a pouch of cat food with me.
J on the balcony.
Little blue cove.
Avoiding a cliff.
The naturalist beach.
Wednesday, we spent another day on the beach. Small fish took nibbles on my leg and toes, though luckily nothing else. The beach was more crowded than the day before, and an extended family took a spot in the shade nearby. They remained in suits, and I felt uncomfortable being nude in front of their younger kids and the two bikini-wearing teenage daughters who stuck to the shade writing in their journals.
Were they drawing me? If so, they were going to need a very small and ugly pencil.
In the evening, we drove to a larger supermarket to stock up on groceries for the week. We made fried rice with vegetables for dinner.
Unsure how they got it in. Unsure how they’ll get it out.
The little chapel.
The red wall.
Sunset from the balcony.
Thursday, we rested at home all day, working on photos, travel planning (mostly J), playing cards, cooking, looking at the sea, and watching the movie Ex Machina.
On Friday morning, we drove south to catch a car ferry for the thirty minute journey to Hvar Island (140HRK/$20 total one way).
The boat dropped us off on the southern tip of the 68km/42.25mi long island. We took the winding, narrow road through farmland and small towns. When trying to turn around at a dead-end, I backed into a stone staircase and scraped up the underside of the bumper. Oddly, I had dreamed about this a few nights before.
Leaving the mainland.
Ready to leave the boat.
The estate at the end of the road.
My view while backing into a staircase.
Cool stone house.
On the drive into Jelsa near Zencisca Bay, we discovered another massive abandoned hotel: Belgrade Children’s Resort. We explored as much as safely possible in sandals, but the heat of the day got to us.
The first glimpse of Belgrade Children’s Resort.
Let’s take the stairs.
It’s a jungle out there.
The rooftop space.
Tree amongst rooms.
Room with a view.
The pit of despair.
The creepy darkness.
We passed through Starigrad, then took the nice roads into Hvar town. We parked in a paid lot, then hiked to lunch at a highly-rated restaurant near the marina. Drenched in sweat, we ate inside in the cool room below street level. In addition to the excellent food, we were given free homemade aperitifs and a dessert wine.
After lunch, we walked around town in search of stray cats and fallen carob pods.
Light and shadow.
Carob pod. Delicious.
Little old street.
In search of a swimming beach, we drove down a steep one-lane road only to be unsure which way to go from there. We backtracked up road, honking before every blind turn to avoid head-on collisions.
We took smaller roads through some farm towns to the Pitve-Zavala Tunnel. This tunnel is the only way of getting to the towns and beaches on the other side of the hill, and it was quite a driving experience.
Given the green light, we entered the 1.4km long tunnel. It was one lane wide, with a low-unfinished ceiling and walls of irregular rock. Water dripped from above, pooling on the bumpy road. It felt like driving through a long, natural cave.
On the other side, a switchbacking road took us to a small town on the shore. We hike along the coves and found a small private area to swim. The water was colder than on the mainland, but we enjoyed the urchin-free views.
Grapes and sea.
4×4 and agave.
Bay near the swimming beach.
After two hours, dark clouds drifted in. We quickly packed up and got to the car as a thunderstorm started.
At the tunnel entrance, we were greeted by a blinking yellow light.
Were we supposed to yield in a one lane tunnel?
We waited for the light to change as a line of cars formed behind us. I scooted up enough to look into the tunnel, only to see headlights in the distance. I reversed and waited for a car to emerge. I moved up again, only to see more cars. The thunderstorm continued around us, and the driver of a van got impatient and cut in front of me for his own look.
After a few more cars exited, he entered the tunnel. The lights still flashed yellow.
“Here we go,” I said to J, thinking that it might be my last words as we entered the tunnel too.
The van led the way. More water dripped from the ceiling. J was freaked out, perhaps imagining that we would have to back out of the tunnel somehow.
But we made it through, thanks to an oncoming car pulling into one of two small cutouts for yielding.
The pouring rain on the other side was a comforting sight. We drove through flooding streets to the port. Lighting flashed all around us as we waited for the boat, though luckily the rain stopped when we boarded.
On the ride back to the mainland, we watched lightning strike Hvar as the sky became pink and orange.
We spent all of Saturday on the naturalist beach.
On Sunday, we walked to one of the closer beaches. The water was choppier and not as fun to swim in. No shade. We went home to eat lunch and decided to rest inside for the remainder of the day.
At sunset, J spotted dolphins near where we had been swimming earlier. After dinner, we watched The Babadook and went to bed with one eye on the wardrobe.
J swimming in the choppy water.
Our last sunset in Podgora.
Podgora felt like a vacation within a vacation, and after a week of relaxing, we were sad to leave.