Brač

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After being blown away by Dubrovnik I had high expectations when it came to Split and the Croatian islands.  Though I did enjoy my time on Brač, the same could not really be said about Split and overall I left Croatia after almost a week feeling a bit flat.

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I think a big reason for this was my visits to Mostar and Sarajevo, which have undoubtedly been the highlight of my trip so far.  Basically anything following that would pale in comparison.  I didn’t expect Split to be such an anticlimax, however.  After all, it is one of the most popular destinations in Croatia.

There is not all that much to do other than eating, drinking, dancing, lying on the beach and some mediocre day trips by boat.  Oh an there is the Roman palace of Diocletian, which is really quite old.  In fairness, this place is probably a lot more fun if you were to visit as a group of friends or family.  It has a very social atmosphere and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.  But I don’t think it is really somewhere for a solo traveller to visit, especially if you have already visited Dubrovnik or Kotor or Bosnia.  The old city is not as nice as Dubrivnik or Kotor, the swimming options are not as good as Dubrovnik or Perast – and there is a wacking great port bang in the middle of the city, which smells awful and is a bit of an eyesore.  I couldn’t even get myself to take a single photo of Split.

I bought ferry tickets to Brač as soon as I could.  This was a great decision.  I decided to rent a motorbike for three days, which enabled me to see the entire island – at my own pace.

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Brač is about 50 minutes by ferry from Split.  It is probably the most accessible of the Croatian island, yet it does not seem to be nearly as popular as Hvar.  Most people visit only Bol, which is famous for its triangular beach, Zlatni Rat.  In the photo above I had to get up very early in the morning to avoid the thousands of people flooding the beach during the daytime.  Incidentally, I have no idea why the place is that popular, because it is not a sandy beach and other than the view from afar its not all that pretty.

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I was based in a little town on the Northern coast called Pučišća, about 20 minutes drive from the main city, Supetar.  The island has a typical Mediterranean feel to it, and I would liken it to Malta or Sicily, with a dry and hot climate.  There very few tourists and you can basically stop at any of the small coves along the coast for a swim.  You’ll have the place to yourself.  Even in large towns like Sumartin, I was never on a beach with more than 10 people (I didn’t spend much time in Bol, you see).

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It is a very relaxing place and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from the crowds.  The water is incredibly clear and pretty warm and there are plenty of options to rent boats or jet skis.

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Sage and thyme are some of the herbs that grow wild in the hills of the island

The island has more to offer than swimming, however.  The food is also fantastic.  The lamb, in particular, is worth noting.  It is a pretty dry place and not exactly covered in grass like Wales.  So the little lambs end up eating the sage, thyme and rosemary that grows wild everywhere. The locals also explained to me that the coastal climate also imparts a salty flavour to the meat.  It’s a sort of self-seasoning lamb.

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I drove inland to a tiny village called Dol, not to be confused with the tourist-trap Bol.  It lies in a valley, in the midst of herb-covered hills, olive trees and wine vineyards.  I didn’t see many people other than a couple of nuns and as I pulled up to the local restaurant I could hear the bells of the church chiming twelve.  Perfect timing.

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Brunch one morning consisted of an omelette made with a local version of Iberico ham and the ubiquitous ajvar

I was told to eat the lamb with my fingers and it was truly delicious!  Served with ajvar, a red paste made with peppers and aubergines, and locally-made red wine and bread, this was one of my favourite meals ever.

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It was a very relaxing few days and I think doing it on a motorbike is the best way.  Driving through the hills on a warm day, you can smell the shrubs and herbs and feel the cool ocean air in your face.

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There is not a lot I can say about the place other than that.  I think it is an ideal place to relax for a summer beach holiday – good swimming, good food, close enough to Split and Bol for a good night out, etc.  But it is a bit one-dimensional and will not blow your mind or expose you to new cultures or ideas or interesting people.  I suppose it’s all about experiencing the Dalmatian island culture and relaxing, which is no bad thing!

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