I woke the morning after my visit to the local wineries still full from the night before, committing only to fresh juice for breakfast. This plan was quickly sabotaged by a piece of burek (turkish phyllo stuffed with cheese and spinach) that slyly seduced me from the outdoor bakery case as I strolled by. Resistance is futile.
Today I decided to learn about the great Marco Polo while visiting the remnants of his home in the belly of old town. I will shamefully admit that I knew little about Marco Polo-other than it being that name shouted during a game of water tag at the community pool. As I walked up the narrow staircase of his peeling stone walls, I read about his magnificent adventures.
Once the home of Marco Polo
Travelling with his father to China-travelling longer than any of his predecessors along the silk road and serving under the great emperor of china-Kublai Kahn; fighting front line in the Venetian war against Genoa; captured and held captive for a year.
Courageous, curious, loyal with integrity, adventurous-and judging from his early painted self-portraits -handsome. It seems Marco Polo was a bit of a stud-needless to say, I was gradually crushing on this historical hero. Who says we need to lower our expectations? I was so inspired by his legacy that I wasted no time to explore.
On a water taxi I found myself back on Lumbarda, walking along the causeway finding a beach to swim..eating fresh bbq of chicken and vegetables perfectly grilled and infused with buttery local olive oil and fresh herbs; and, of course, a goblet of Grk.
I was determined to check off Ivan’s suggestions for traditional Croatian food.
1. Croatian BBQ ✔️
I walked through residential allies… off the beaten path… not caring nor worrying. Feeling the heat of the sun and the heaviness of my full belly that collapsed on my legs that seemed to grow stronger with every stone staircase and mountainous range. Undefeatable-as one part began to fail the other rallied-my body was becoming a well oiled functioning ship of cogs and pullies along this gastronomical conquest.
So much so that once I made my way back to town, I had room for a bowl of fish soup and thin crusted carbonara pizza for dinner at a side cafe that whispered, “just a little more… you can do it”.
I would make Marco proud. The next day I took another ferry, this time to Orbic… continuing to explore and checking off Ivans list. I was told by a local passerby of a place only 15 mins walk from the dock that served wonderful brudet (excuse me sir where do I find the best Brudet?) I found it. I ordered that succulent bad ass filet of sea bream all snug in a stew of tomatoes and mixed peppers beside a warm blanket of polenta. I didn’t care that there were bones, I made my through them leaving no man behind.
2. Brudet with polenta ✔️
REALLY?! I have to wear this?
I finished the afternoon at a small beach where I took one last dive in the clear blue sea, the ripples around me forming like wings. I dove in and let my nose touch the sandy floor… one last kiss.
I then made my way back to Korcula. I would finish this night off with what was becoming the mythical Peka. Apparently as traditional as they come, but seemingly hard to find. Rachel, from the wine tour, told me about a family run restaurant, Konoba Belin, in the small village of Zvomo. She arranged for me to have Peka for one -as it is mostly made for two or more. In seconds of my arrival, I was guided to the large stone fire pit.
The cook, the owners son, pulled out the large casserole of meat for me to admire. Chunks of veal and lamb shank immersed in wine and oil with floating islands of carrots and zucchini.
He then stoked the fire and returned it to a metal platform and covered it with a large bell shaped dome.
I lost my breath in the elemental fragrance of the slow cooked meat that made its merry way along my nasal passage. I would be sharing this kilo of meat with “father” the cook says. Ridovicnch, father, guided me and some other patrons, around his property.
He was born and raised here. He spoke of the first church built in the 1200’s with so little money they hung the bells from the tree. “What do you think of my island?!” he asked with arms stretched with pride overlooking the town below. “Magnificent!” I replied.
He explains that “people here work to make money to build their home” unlike many” he says, that “get tired of what we have or want for more and look to buy another”. “We build one house” he adds. They build to last a lifetime… protecting it… honouring it… persevering it. We could transfer that lesson to most things in life, I think. I was very much enjoying listening to him speak of his home and his culture, but admittedly distracted, at times, by the fragrance of the meat that invaded my senses. I was soon back at the wooden outdoor table… iron and wooden artifacts hung above and intermingled with twining vines.
I was then presented with an abundance of succulent meat.
3. Traditional Peka ✔️
I went to battle… sopping the bones along the sea of wine and oil… sucking and slurping them until my face was splattered and stained with the juices.
I was full… I didn’t care… the spirit of Marco whispered to me, “you can do this”.
And I did.
I finished every piece of gristle and tender flakes of meat. When I was done, I fell back with a moan… the moan one might make when the battle is over and the battle was won.
A victory. My last real night in croatia, I finally felt this country through the heart of its soul in the way I connect with best-their food.
Thank-you Croatia! Out with a victorious bang, I salute thee.
Morroco awaits me!
Tanya’s Random Unsolicited Travel Tips ✈️
1. I didn’t exchange money beforehand and just used the bank machines.
2. The big cities, like Dubrovnik, are beautiful and a must see but, not surprising, the more touristy the higher the prices.
3. Apartments/air b&b worked well and were more affordable-contact me directly if you want to know where I stayed.
4. I drank the tap water (with ice) and ate meat and seafood in small cafes off the beaten path and didn’t get sick (that being said, my gut is impervious to anything that might come between me and food) use your discretion.
5. If you can rent a car that’s a great way to explore the coast… if not there are ferries and water taxis… island hop if you can! I chose korcula as my main base and hopped around from there… many islands close by.
6. Old towns are great but if you want authentic food take the roads less travelled.
7. If you can, take a day trip or longer to Bosnia or Montenegro.
8. Do as I say, not as I do… pack light… you can get your laundry done for cheap!
9. Get to know the culture through the lens of a local-you will learn more from these conversations than any wikipedia search.
10. And finally… spend your money on the experience not the souvenirs… get a kayak… snorkel (bring a waterproof camera!) rent a scooter… go wine tasting… you will never regret it.
And a little side note for any fabulous female travellers venturing out solo-not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable..do it!