Thursday, 28 June 2012

Kaprije – perfect alibi for a serene vacation

While looking at the old photographs, I’m counting and calculating. This is the forth summer we have been spending on Kaprije. In a row! I’m getting that strange feeling of disbelief, familiar to people in long (and happy) relationships. That fatal number, rounding up the period of time spent together never seems real. In one moment it looks as if the time had flown by, and in another one, as if there had never been life before “you”, that “you” have always existed and that you will last forever (the feeling that one usually lacks in an argument).

In any case, it took two people to do this hard mathematical calculation, to put everything into one equation: two different apartments, discounts we’ve had as regular customers, newly opened bars and restaurants, people we’ve met, cameras we’ve changed; and we realised that, already after the first year, we stopped making our minds about the location where we planned to spend twenty precious days off, about the place that will be our home away from home, that is Rijeka. The decision in this case is not at all rational.

Despite our own property in Dalmatia, summerhouse in attractive tourist village of Petrčane, and my own family house in Šibenik, we, on everyone’s surprise, decide to rent accommodation on the island we have no connections with (at least according to the general opinion). So, really, what is it that brings us back exactly? Why do we, especially I, see Kaprije as Prozac during the year, when I feel overwhelmed by my working obligations? Let’s just go back to family and family reunions I’ve mentioned earlier. Don’t take me in a wrong way, family reunions are fantastic. Doctors should be prescribing them, in limited amount and number of days to spend together, I’d add. Family houses and summerhouses are burdened with investments, maintenance, repairs, demolitions… An extra problem is if they are situated on the mainland, because it means that we are easily within reach for all eventual urgencies and obligations that might unpredictably come up at work.

The internet connection at Kaprije is slower than the life on the island, which is in slow- motion itself. That fact, with several photos of natural beauties, inspired the head office of T-Mobile in Austria. And, not to fix the conditions, but to escape to an oasis of peace where it is possible to read e-mails and surf a little, but any kind of serious work connected with upload or download is out of the question. You can also claim that you were out of reach to those whose call you don’t want to take, even if the signal is btw ok, but you know, you can always say that you were on a boat, on the hill or something like that, where that wouldn’t be a lie.

The best thing is that the mainland is difficult to reach. There are several regular lines and simply, whoever wants to reach you or call on you, needs to think about it early enough. It’s the perfect alibi for vacation.

Let’s also mention that there are no motor vehicles of any kind on the island, apart from a motor cultivator that can be used only in specified time of the day.

The island is rather undiscovered by the tourists, and that’s why I’m worried about writing in superlatives, because it would be wonderful (and totally selfish, I know) that it stays like that.

The prices of the apartments for rent very convenient compared to some more popular tourist destinations.

Fresh fish is easy to find on one of many fishing boats and you can grill it every day if it pleases you. If not, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, from pizza to fresh fish. The sea is, of course, perfect, with cute and carefully designed little beaches in front of little houses by the sea.

Kaprije is not an island for younger people eager for action and parties, but it’s perfect for us (khm) young and older ones, who long for hedonistic delight, to everyone who wants to combine complete isolation with good company, simple to find on the island.

If you want to spend your day with the best Mojito (the way we spent most of our summer vacations) you will settle in Liberty. You can grab a quick, tasty bite (reasonably charged) in the restaurant bar Neptun, where you can also say hello and goodbye to guests, and if you dream of exotic combinations in your own arrangement you need two days of (passive) exploration and research – you will discover everything, meet everyone and go everywhere.

Five days later, you start to behave somewhat like the locals, you soon become one of them yourself, and already in the first week of vacation, you’ll forget the stress, the work, the crowd and the noise… And instead of travelling anywhere else, instead of changing islands and destinations, instead of exploring something new, we don’t have any doubts. Kaprije is the only place where we spend our summer vacation and everything there seems like home already, it is actually our summer home. The only certain vacation. (Petković)

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New Yorker who discovered Sibenik for me

You'll never admire the place where you spent most of you life, no matter how wonderful it may be, as when you take your camera and go sightseeing, while being a host and a tour-guide to a foreign friend. It is the town you live in, the town where you went to school in, where you had so many crazy nights out with your high-school friends, with that hidden street where someone stole your first kiss, with the recently closed cute little shop where you bought that amazing dress which makes you look 5 kg thinner, the square where you finally dated the guy you've been secretly looking at for the last 5 years, right at the moment when the blabbermouth friend of you suspicious mom ran into you. I was a traveler myself, for so many times, wondering the streets of Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Milan, Vienna, Cape Town, always with my out-dated camera (it was never easy to spare some extra money for a new camera when there's the new collection fresh in stores, and when that polyester shirt, which, by the way, will be 80% on sale in a month, would go perfectly with the skirt I managed to dig out on the last year's sales) trying to capture at least a fragment of the surreal atmosphere, thinking sadly '...why wasn't I born here..'
However, thanks to my friend Michelle, a born New Yorker with Croatian roots (I'm not sure if you've noticed, but if we would add the number of people with 'Croatian roots' worldwide, to the 4.5 million Croats, God only knows what the number would be. I just love it how Croatian journalists continuously find new stars who somehow always turn out to have a grandpa who left Croatia long ago...that must be the reason all those stars are so successful) and her desire to walk the paths that her pa and gramps used to cross, I had the opportunity to see my home town from a new perspective.
One day Jere, Michelle and myself, this time with Michelle's super modern camera, started an adventure called 'let's meet the old part of town'. Michelle kept cheering non-stop! She was ecstatic about Gorica, which is, in my opinion, the most picturesque part of town. She tried to touch every stone, wondering what monument could that be, trying to capture the genuine Dalmatian atmosphere by taking pictures of old stone houses, staircases, green wooden window sheds, entrance halls, niches, old house-to-house drying ropes, repeating again and again how amazing it was and how she couldn't believe people actually lived there. My only thought was -
'Hellooo, you live in New York, what's all the fuss about?! ' Just like most tourists, Michelle was surprised by the number of stairs around the old city centre. There's an interesting fact how last year, tourist guides in Šibenik, inspired by continuous tourist questions about the exact number of stairs, decided to count them all up. They came down to 2851 stairs, a number that made Šibenik the city with the biggest number of stair in Mediterranean. However, Dubrovnik tourist guides though it was simply impossible for Šibenik to have more stairs than Dubrovnik, and decided to do the same thing, counting 5423 stairs in the old part of town (the story is a great example of our character, as well). Back to our mission. We walked with Michelle along Jurja Dalmatinca Street and found ourselves in front of 'Četiri bunara' (The Four Wells). There you'll find one of the best restaurants in Šibenik - Pelegrini (my own personal favorite, and judging by the comments on some of the most renown web pages - a large number of tourist's favorite, too). Genuine groceries prepared in an imaginative and innovative way, will definitely be an exciting new touch for your demanding taste buds. Add a glass of supreme wine, sitting 'face-to-face' with St James' Cathedral, being served by hospitable waiters.... mmmm!!
Četiri bunara are also the location where this year's Off Jazz&Blues Festival takes place. Remarkable atmosphere and renown names of jazz and blues scene are surely something you must visit! The festival takes place at the end of July and lasts for 3 days. It's a definite must see!
We finally arrived to St James' Cathedral, which was enlisted on World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 2000. You can only start imagining Michelle's facial expressions.
I could write pages and pages about this architectonic beauty, which still leaves me breathless (despite the fact I see it on daily basis) - it simply cannot be ignored, but I'm going to let the experts tell the story. The Cathedral is situated on the Republic of Croatia Square, next to the City Hall, the Duke's and the Bishop's Pallace, and traditionally it has been the stage for the opening of the International Children's Festival for so many years. People in Šibenik have a special bond with the Festival. It must be the fact that most of us personally took part in creating this story through numerous art, drama and music workshops and plays. It also was a perfect excuse for parents, because of Festival's educational function. The Festival starts at the end of June and lasts for two weeks. It's the time when the entire old part of town, including Gorica, Medulić, Dobrić, becomes a big stage for the children from all around the world.
After few hours of sight-seeing we decided to have something to eat, and as true hosts we took our guest to a genuine Dalmatian tavern 'Marenda'. It is not one of those luxury restaurants, it has the interior of a real old tavern, and it's the perfect place to enjoy homemade Dalmatian meals with a glass of good home made wine. You know what they say, when in Rome... Later we walked down Zagrebačka Street (rich in sacral heritage of Šibenik), where you'll find Uspenie Bogomatere Church, which used to be a monastery for Benedictines, but only those from noble families. There was no place for poor girls there. They had to go to St Luca monastery. With the arrival of Napoleon, the monastery was closed, and the church was given to the episcopacy of Serbian Orthodox Church. Just across to the church you'll find Giro espresso caffe bar, with the best coffee in town. At the end of our journey we left Jere to watch a football match enjoying his beer, and decided to finish our adventure with shopping, just like most women would. On Dobrić Square you'll find an amazing boutique, owned by the famous Croatian designer from Šibenik, Loredana Bahorić . After a glass of good wine we needed a good rest, and promised Michelle to take her to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. She wasn't disappointed! The island of Zlarin turned out to be the perfect choice!
That is how my New York friend helped me to realize just how special my home town is, how I would always recommend it to anyone, and how proud I felt for being a small part of this grand story.

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