12.10.2012 - 14.10.2012 26 °C
Episode 18: Dubrovnik to Makarska
A wee remininscence, azure waters, nibbly fish
I first visited Makarska (Croatia) in 1966 when I was 16 years old (yes…go ahead and do the calculations). The reason for the visit was because in that era, this was one of the few places by the sea where citizens from the then Czechoslovakia could get permission to visit outside the country. As my parents were originally from Czechoslovakia, I still had family there whom my mother, brother and I were visiting. The red curtain divided us in that my sister, aunt and two cousins could only drive to Makarska via Hungary while my mother, brother and I took the bus through Austria and down the coast of Yugoslavia. We all eventually met up again in the camping ground on the west side of Makarska, pitched up a couple of pup tents and then proceeded to spend most of our time in the clear, refreshing waters of the Adriatic Sea. The images that stand out most in my mind from that time were the Biokovo mountains rising over 1,700m behind the township that each day we said we would walk up (and didn’t), the palm fringed promenade in front of the town with the smell of freshly caught sardines, the young boys walking around selling one litre bottles of olive oil for a mere pittance (which we slathered on ourselves to get that bronzed tan and éau de salád dressing aroma), the petrified donkey being transported by a tiny skiff, and my little brother blasting off his taste buds on his first (and last) red chilli pepper. Revenge on little brothers can be sweet.
Move time forward and as Makarska was along my way to the Czech Republic, I decided to do a two day stopover to see if I still recognised anything. I departed Dubrovnik early on the morning on the local bus, arriving in Makarska 7 hours later. A non-eventful bus trip that drove along a winding road that hugs the coastline the entire way so there are the cliffs dropping into the Adriatic on the south and the Dinanic alps looming up the northern side of the road. I was still lucky with the weather despite it being October, so it was a joy to see the blue of the Adriatic Sea and the clear blue sky along the entire route.
The coast on either side of Makarska is referred to as the Dalmacija coast. This entire coastline is a highly popular tourist destination and in peak time, the beaches consist of masses of oiled bodies of every shape and form soaking up the sun. Luckily, I was out of peak tourist time so I had a lot of the beach and town to myself.
I decided to splurge during my stay in Makarska and so stayed in the Villa Lelas which was conveniently within walking distance not only to the bus station, but also the beach. I chose this place because it advertised that there were “ocean views” so I had visions of a balcony with table, indulging in fresh bread and salami. This turned out to be an absolute stretch of a description given you could only see a sliver of blue between an ocean of buildings. But it was comfortable, clean and there was a bakery across the street with some rather tasty raspberry pastries which I did eat on the balcony, sans table.
The old town is relatively small but still quaint and easy to stroll around. The highlights are St Mark’s Cathedral, dating from the 17th century, and the statue of the friar Andrija Kačić Moišić and the main prominade along the main harbour.
I first saw a sign advertising fish spas when I was in Kiev, but I never ventured to try them out while there. So when I saw the “New! Fish Foot Spa. Relax and Go. 50% discount today” sign in the old town, I decided it was time. The spa consists of a large room with four tanks, each of the tanks having a bit of vinyl padded seating around the edge. Oxygen burbles away and the fish dart in and out of the bubbles. According to the flyer, the fish are Garca rufas or Dr Fish. The brochure further explains that “fishes suck fungus, dead cells and dry skin while repairing the skin. At the same time they massages (sic) give you a sense of well-being and relaxation. Fish have no teeth and do not cause wounds – so this is relaxing and fun”. So how could I not try this?
My feet were first bathed in disinfectant and I then sat on the edge seating, slowly dipping my feet into the coolish water. In a flash of a second, I had hundreds of little fish swarming around my feet, dipping in and out of my toes, sucking fungus and dead cells from my feet. And it tickled. And as I have extremely ticklish feet, the nibbling tickled to the point of my getting the giggles. Luckily I was the only customer so I could giggle away during my 10 minute session. As I was the only customer, I got an extra 5 minutes of nibbling fish and accompanying giggling, although it was apparent that the majority of the fish were losing interest in the dead cells on my feet by this point. I’m not sure if relaxing is the correct work for this spa, but I can unequivocally state that I was never bitten.
Most of my time in Makarska was spent in the calm waters of the protected bay on the west side of Makarska, despite the water being a bit on the chilly side. For the most part, the stony beaches were very empty and quiet. One thing I do admire of European men and women, regardless of the flab, pot belly, crepey skin, droopy muscles or tummy rolls, they wear their bikinis anbd speedos with pride. I was actually one of the very few people wearing a one piece swimsuit.
In between dips in the water, I wandered hither and thither: the old cobblestone streets of the old town, Cape Osejava, the water front (the fishing boats still moor at the front harbour smelling of fresh fish), the original camp ground area. And olive oil is now sold in petite boutique bottles at killer prices. The town itself has grown and there are substantially more restaurants along the foreshore (which all seem to have similar menus - pizza being very popular), but the town really has not changed a lot.
And I looked at the Biokovo mountains each morning and told myself each morning that there was no way I was going to walk up to the top on this trip.
Next stops: Zagreb, Vienna and Prague