Monday, September 9, 2013

Villa Jelka and The Island of Hvar (Croatia)

We arrived at Hvar Island and mapped our way to Vrboska and Villa Jelka (pronounce the J like a Y). It would have been easier if Pat hadn't kept entering Vbroska rather than Vrboska (ie putting the "r" after the "b", not before) into Garmin. In any event, Vrboska is a small quaint village on a picturesque inlet with a fortified church and a popular yacht harbor. Our balcony at Villa Jelka has a gorgeous view of Vrboska and the many sailboats.

View of Villa Jelka from Vrboska Harbor
For some background on how we happened to travel to Hvar (and to Croatia at all)… It was probably 12 years ago that Petsa, our hairdresser in California, told us that she planned to retire to Hvar. We had no idea where it was or why she might do that. She assured us that it was an idyllic Island in Croatia (and patiently explained that Croatia was one of the countries that used to be part of Yugoslavia.) We later promised her that we would visit her there. In the meantime, as most of you know, we made many wonderful trips (to Spain, Italy, Australia, Africa, SE Asia...) and moved to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Last year we visited Tioman Island (in Malaysia, where South Pacific was filmed) and we delighted in laying on the beach drinking in the view (actually drinking would have been nice, but really we just spent hours relaxing on the beach reading, pausing to enjoy the view and reading some more.)

We are finally on Hvar visiting Petsa. Sitting on the balcony looking over the inlet to the local fortified church (it looks like a castle), the question that comes to mind is: "Which could be more beautiful? Our little beach in Malaysia or the balcony at Villa Jelka?" (Jelka is Petsa's daughter). No need to decide. Just know this is idyllic. 

View from Villa Jelka

View of the Fortified Church from the Balcony of Villa Jelka...using Bill's 36x zoom lens

The front of the fortified church

The view is simply unbeatable. The decor is as perfect as expected (having seen what Jelka did with her spa in California). There is an amazing arbor at the entry. It appears to be of 30+ year old grape vines. In fact, Petsa being as creative as her daughter, has collected pieces of old vines and woven them into an arbor complete with a living vine. The effect is perfect. It was confusing at first because we know they only built the place in recent years. How could there be such a vine? Then we realized what she had done.

The confusing vine at Villa Jelka
On Friday we roused ourselves and drove over the mountains and through a tunnel to Hvar City. The first thing to catch our attention was the requisite fortress overlooks the city. This one has a lovely crenelated wall reaching up the hillside. Being September most of the glitzy set and their yachts had left for the season. There were a few swimmers in the otherwise quiet harbor. Strolling around the narrow streets we discovered the usual selection of shops (Pat bought a blouse), cafes, restaurants and churches. 

The Castle at Hvar City

Panorama of Hvar City & Harbor
Next day we took the 30-40 minute walk along the inlet from Vrboska to Jelsa (again pronounce the J like a Y). Jelsa has many more accommodations, restaurants, cafes, gelato shops, and wine tasting rooms than Vrboska (but it is not nearly as cute). Along the inlet were a few people taking advantage of the sun and sea. We continued our exploration beyond the village where we found a church and an appealing camping area, For a change of pace from our fish diet, lunch was veal stuffed with cheese and ham for Pat and pork kabebs for Bill. These were accompanied by a bottle of very local red wine (Tomic winery is a few minutes from the center of Jelsa).

After we returned, Petsa delivered some jam filled crepes with walnuts. Delicious. There were plenty. In fact, enough for breakfast for the next two days.  They were still delicious with each tasting.

The interesting thing is that on all the local menus, crepes are translated as pancakes. It is not clear to us if that is what the Brits call them or if it is just another overly generic menu translation.  

Speaking of menus, the one at the nearest restaurant (Restoran Luka) is in 9 languages. In addition to the typical Croatian, Italian, English, German and French, there is Hungarian, Norwegian, Turkish and maybe Czech. We can't quite remember…  Talking to the staff at Restoran Luka we learned that the local schools are now taught in English.  We knew there was plenty of English spoken but had no idea that it was the primary language in schools (or at least in schools in Vrboska.)
A nice white wine.  It is literally one of the house wines at Restoran Luka.
We've only encountered this grape (bogdanusa) on Hvar.
We think the bird must be a "Gardelin"
Sunday we went to nearby Stari Grad, the second largest town on the island. And yes, it has narrow winding streets, restaurants, cafes, and shops. For lunch Bill had seabass and Pat has grilled calamari…much as she loves fried calamari, she is becoming addicted to grilled ones… as long as they are not too large (and tough). Lunch was accompanied by a wine made by the owner/waiter/...  The food and wine were quite good. 

A street in Stari Grad...notice how meticulous it is.  It seems to be typical of the island.
In fact, almost no graffiti anywhere. Probably because everyone know everyone on a small island.
Grilled Calmari. Not too big. Not too small. Yum!
We drove back by the most direct route, an unpaved road that went through the rock-walled vineyards.

Each little vineyard has it's own stone hut / shed(?)

An interesting side note.  We had planned to rent a car to get from Zagreb to Split and then rent another for a couple days on Hvar.  It turns out that we literally saved $100's by instead renting the car in Zagreb and keeping it for the trip to Dubrovnik (14 days). This included paying the fare for a car on the ferries. The strange thing is that other than the price for rental cars, prices here have been quite reasonable.

Another side note: Here's another shot of one of the little "trucks".  This one shows the front better than the photo of the one in Split. 

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