October 1 marks the end of the season on the Croatian Islands. At first, this struck me as an oddity, and perhaps an exaggeration. Every tourist destination has a peak and an off-season, but what did that really mean? The last week in September was gorgeous on Hvar, with 80’s and sun every day. Was it possible to survive the offseason in Croatia? How could things fall apart a week later?
Surprisingly, they did. It rained late on September 30 (my birthday) and was overcast and drizzling on October 1. Restaurants were closed on the first, as were souvenir kiosks and shops. Open one day; closed the next. People stopped renting beach chairs, meaning sunbathers were laying their towels on rocks or concrete to enjoy the beach.
The Island Has You Now
The biggest change – transportation schedules, and in particular, the ferry schedule. Looking at a map, and reading Lonely Planet, I assumed a ferry from Hvar to Korcula, and then onto Dubrovnik, Croatia, was no problem. When we agreed to stay in Hvar until October 1, I did not realize what a problem it would be to get off the island. There is only one catamaran a day, instead of the usual three. It leaves at 5 pm, meaning we had to stall in Hvar for 5 hours after check out with our bags. No biggie. We have overcome worst obstacles.
The bigger problem came with how to get off the island of Korcula. At one point we felt a little stuck and started making Lost-type references like “The Island has you now.” The Island became a thing, a character in our story. And, like the characters on Lost, we wondered if we too could survive the off season in Croatia.
We learned the only way to get off The Island was by bus. Yep, bus off the island. And, the bus left at 645 am. The “bus” traveled across the shortest part of the waterway to a town called Orebic and then continued to Dubrovnik. When we arrived in Korcula we saw a passenger ferry also made the same trip to Orebic several times a day – well, what happens when you get to the other side? Can you catch a later bus to Dubrovnik? Nope. There is only one bus a day, and that is the one that leaves from Korcula.
To further investigate, we hit the tourism office. We walked in the same time as a British couple who had the same question we did – how do you get off The Island? They had booked a boat that morning to a national park, Mljet, which was cancelled because of “weather” – it rained and stormed from about 4 am until about 6 am, but while we had this conversation with the couple, it was gorgeous and there were boats all over the water (again, “off season”?).
The first woman at the tourism office confirmed that the only way to go was the 645 am bus, so the Brits resigned to spending another night in Korcula. As they walked out a second, more helpful, woman, told us there was one tourism company that also ran a “shuttle” from The Island to Dubrovnik, usually around 8 or 9 am, we should check there. We left the office and the Brits were still outside wondering where to look for a room. I informed them about this shuttle opportunity, still wondering why the first lady did not mention it.
We joked with the Brits about the “off season” problems on the islands and she joked that ferries in England run 12 months a year, and even run on Christmas. What she found remarkable was that when a tourist is surprised to be stuck, or given limited options for transport, the locals just stare at you in disbelief, like what nerve I have for attempting to travel in your country during the off season. Mind you, we stood there wearing shorts and t-shirts sweating in the sun. The off season?
We walked over to the tour agency, where the Brits met another set of Brits also trying to get off The Island. They were able to book a water “taxi” to Dubrovnik for 1200 kuna (about $200). Suddenly, another way miraculously appeared to get off the island, albeit more expensive and out of our budget. We ended up settling on the “shuttle” the next day, which was only a few dollars more than the bus, left at a more reasonable time, and was about an hour shorter.
What this all tells you is that it is not impossible to get off an island in Croatia, you just need to dig around. But, it made Eric and I both want to get off The Island. As soon as possible. We just felt trapped and isolated. It also could have been because the wifi at our apartment was pitiful, and only worked while sitting on the foot of the bed, or near the front door. And, even then, it was slow. But, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
What Happens When We Don’t Have Internet
Perhaps we spend too much time online, but we need to plan our next destination, and now, my budding “career” is spent online, so you can’t fault me too much. Luckily, during our stay in Croatia we had fantastic views from balconies that have made typing and blogging all that more enjoyable. This was not the case in Korcula – we had an inspirational view, but no internet.
Without internet, we became more creative on how to spend our free time. It meant that, for our second and final night on The Island, we ate dinner on the balcony listening to music, while drinking a bottle of wine we bought at our Croatian wine tasting.
We talked, for what seemed like hours, about where we were going next and how to get there, what we want to see, where we want to end up in the long term, whether we can ever live in one place for longer than a year or two, what would actually make us happy. How bad is our Life ADD?
Its amazing that after we have spent so much time together, that we can still even have conversations like this – you would think we have talked all there is to talk.
At the end of the bottle, and under a gorgeous new moon, we decided to hit a tiny wine bar we saw in town. We tried to go for a drink before dinner, around 430, but it did not open until 6pm. Now, it was 830, and we were ready for a night on the town – really any time we are out past dark, it’s a night on the town for us. But, we found the wine bar was only open from 6-8 pm, and from 8am-12 pm – I would kind of like to work those hours.
It turned out for the best because the outdoor cafe around the corner had two musicians playing guitar – a combination of traditional Spanish sounding instrumentals, folk music (“You are my Sunshine”), June Carter, and a little more jazz sounds. They were phenomenal.
The whole square filled to hear them, and one server ran around like mad serving drinks. Not only was every table full, but it was standing room only, with people also taking up spots on the surrounding stone wall. It seemed every tourist in town was there, well over a hundred people, drawn to the music like they were the pied piper.
It was a beautiful night filled with lovely music. This is what happens when you have no internet, but plenty of wine. The Island had us. But, we were ready to move on from The Island.