Split, Dubrovnik, or Secret Option #3?
So we like to travel by word of mouth — well that and weather patterns — and once we started asking around about our next destination within Croatia we began to get a shockingly different collection of opinions. In Split we continually heard locals tell us Dubrovnik wasn’t tremendously impressive — it was expensive and crowded and just not a place to spend more than two days. However as soon as we arrived to Dubrovnik we began to receive the comment, “You spent three weeks in Split?!?!”
In an unexpected twist, though, it seems that it may be Orebić — the city that no one talks about — that has stolen our hearts for good.
Orebić is a small city of about 4,000 people located on the Pelješac peninsula and as it so happens, it’s wine country. Now I know what you’re thinking: Croatian wine, I’ve never heard of it; how good can that be? (Um, very, but we’ll get to that later.) But the Pelješac caught Tyler’s eye when searching for a quiet, out-of-the-way place to spend our remaining ten days in Croatia. He found that Orebić was very near the famed Napa Valley producer, Mike Grgic’s, Croatian winery. This intrigued us and after a bit of digging we learned that Miljenko “Mike” Grgic was the man responsible for putting California on the wine-making map! In 1976 his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay bested every single French wine in category at the blind tasting event, the Judgement of Paris. This was completely unprecedented and a really big deal in the wine making world.
With our interest officially sparked, we contacted several other wineries in the area and just like that our final stay in Croatia was booked!
Public transportation around Pelješac is iffy at best, and so it seemed we were to get back behind the wheel after a six month hiatus from driving. On the day of our departure our Airbnb host offered to drive us to the rental car agency, and even waited until everything was secured so that he could personally escort us back. I would say that this host from the Tortoise House was probably the friendliest man alive, but everyone here in Croatia is so damn nice. It’s been a complete joy to travel around this country over the last six weeks.
We arrived into Orebić starving to death, looking forward to a big meal prepared under the bell only to be told that these grilled seafood orders take hours to properly prepare the fire and wouldn’t be available until much, much later. We instead enjoyed a creamed pasta dish topped with freshly-shaved local truffles and we admired the beautiful panoramic scenery of Korčula and the surrounding islands.
We arrived at our apartment (but not before accidentally entering the neighbor’s property first 😂) and suited up for a dip in the Adriatic. The perfectly clear, jewel-toned waters had been calling to us for days and finally it was time to swim in them! Having loathed sandy beaches and their fine, stick-to-everything granules of death from an early age, Tyler was prepared to tough out the jagged rocky coast — determined it was still better than the adhesive sandpaper he says we grew up with. Meanwhile, my permanently-blistered feet kept me stumbling at the shoreline, determinedly making my way to the water when I hear, “Christy… Christy! We may have a big problem.” I glanced up from my ballerina act just in time to see Tyler splashing around and doggy-paddling back in as fast as possible. He looked ridiculous, and I really had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud; to witness someone as graceful and agile as he floundering about was pretty damn funny, regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, he did seem to be in pain, and he hobbled out of the water and bent down to inspect the injury. Oh jeez. Sixty seconds into our swim and a poisonous sea urchin spine had implanted itself in Tyler’s foot.
Luckily, we had our first aid kit on us and thankfully Tyler’s foot would survive; although I half expect to find him any day now down at the shoreline, throwing jagged mini-boulders into the water with the local children.
The summer heat has had us readjusting our schedules and so far we’ve continued to rise early –as in, 4:45am! — to be down at the water exercising by 6am. I’m a zombie in the mornings regardless of what time I set my alarm, so it hasn’t been any more difficult adjusting to this new routine. Even if my day is no more productive (though it usually is) I just love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from rising early. Plus, I mean….look at this place! Who wants to waste their time sleeping?
We showered and freshened up, spent a few hours working, and then set off for our first wine tour of the region, Korta Katarina. We’ll be writing full-length posts on all of the places we’ve visited and giving background information about the history of wine-making in the area, but all you need to know for now was that it was awesome! Far exceeding our expectations, KK set the bar high as we had a two-on-one tasting and history lesson from an employee so friendly and full of valuable tourist information that he could have easily been a travel guide.
As we returned to our apartment we were discussing the generous hospitality we’ve received here so far when knock, knock, knock, our neighbor showed up at our door!
Eating these little sardines kinda reminded me of peel-em-and-eat-em shrimp, but like, in an inside-out kind of way. The meaty filets peel swiftly from the bones in one smooth swoop, but just like with shrimp it can take a minute to get the hang of it.
The following afternoon our generous neighbors were back again — this time equipped with some of the finest oysters in Croatia. Being from the south United States I know a thing or two about southern hospitality, and this? This is the real deal.
Ok, full disclaimer: I really don’t like oysters. Shrimp, yes. Mussels, yes. Fish, crab, lobster — yes, yes, yes. Oysters? Meh. I know that I’m supposed to like them; everyone else seems to like them, but I think they’re just mushy and gross. I eat them. I pretend to like them. If you ever ask me about them I’ll lie and tell you I like them…
The next few days were spent in a similar fashion — rising early, exercising, writing, studying, playing catch up — and before long it was time for our next winery tour. After our daily obligations we left for our tour and took our time in the car, slowly meandering and site seeing along the way. We had another memorable day filled with good wine, beautiful sites, and Croatian hospitality.
As our time in Croatia is coming to a close, we’ve found ourselves wondering how it is possible to spend eleven nights in the tiny town of Orebić yet still have so much that we want to see and do. As I write this post, we have just three days remaining in this barely-discovered paradise, and I know that our decision to fly north for the summer is one I’ll be happy with just as soon as the cool winds of the Baltic tussle my hair and the brilliant Baltic sunshine kisses my cheek. For now, though, I am thinking about how much I will miss this special little strip of paradise. The people of Dalmatia are truly Mediterranean at heart — warm, welcoming, lively, and always ready with food and wine for sharing. I hope to soak up every last minute here on the Pelješac peninsula until that time comes, and even then it won’t be enough.
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