croatia · europe · Travel

Croatia 2016: Sailing and swimming – Kornati National Park

Day 3 in Zadar.  Today we’re off to Kornati!  The weather is a little better than yesterday – the gale-force winds have abated for a start – but it’s still a bit chilly.  And once more, that decision not to pack waterproofs and long sleeves seems a little foolish.  We’re on a boat in the Adriatic, the sun is barely strong enough to peek through the clouds and I am cold.  Even the ridiculously strong “breakfast schnapps” can’t warm me up.  It’s a lovely ride – but to be honest it’s a little boring.  There’s blue seas, there’s mildly interesting  islands, there’s a muffled commentary that we can’t quite understand.  And it’s still bloody cold.  Sitting at the open back of the boat is a little warmer when the sun finally makes an appearance but it’s still cold.

On a very cold boat ride through Kornati National Park
On a very cold boat ride through Kornati National Park…

Luckily it does warm up as we dock at a small island.  And like a bunch of children let off a coach on a school trip, we all trip over ourselves to get the best position on the small pebbly beach.  Mr Fletche and I locate a great spot on a rock – until we discover that we quite literally have ants in our pants.  So we move to a slightly more ant-free area and get ready to go swimming.  I bravely go first, tiptoeing over rocks.  It’s heartstoppingly, breathtakingly cold.  So cold that it hurts.  But when I finally bite the bullet and dip myself under, it is glorious to swim in.  Mr Fletche is still paddling around the shore.  The water has hit his belly and it’s a shockwave too far.  He’ll go in when he’s ready, and this is not the moment.  Meanwhile, I enjoy the calm stillness of the water; I usually dislike swimming in the sea because of the salt but it’s barely noticeable here.  The sun finally looks like it’s out to stay so it’s nice to dry off in the sunshine – our cheap Croatia beach towels from Makarska are finally being put to good use. Mr Fletche goes off for a wander around the island before finally braving the freezing waters.  We’re then all herded back on  the boat for our next stop – quite literally lunch at “the captain’s table”.  Lunch is an indeterminate grilled meat, mackerel fresh from the sea and red wine which only starts to taste drinkable after the third glass.

Wherever we lay our Croatian Beach Towels, that's our home...
Wherever we lay our Croatian Beach Towels, that’s our home…
Loved this spot!
Look how clear the water is!

It’s a VERY long and chilly ride back, not helped by the fact that I am still damp from swimming.  However the captain does appear to put his foot down (or whatever the sailing equivalent is) in order to deliver us back to Zadar ahead of schedule – in time for the Croatia v Czech Republic kick-off.  The trip was fairly well-organised and as advertised so we certainly can’t blame the tour company, but we were slightly disappointed with our day.  Possibly if we’d done this with a smaller tour group, there may have been more opportunities to anchor up and swim from the boat, rather than what was essentially almost 5 hours on a boat there and  back just for an hours swimming time.

It’s a quick change back at the apartment to peel out of our damp clothes and into something warmer and drier.  As we’re strolling back into town via the park, the shouts, cheers, chanting and fireworks give us an indication that Croatia may have scored… We settle down with a beer or two at Caffe Lovre for the rest of match – we’re there in time to see the second Croatia goal and to celebrate with the fans of our new “second team.”  Football over, with a disappointing late comeback by the Czechs, and we head back to our spot on the Riva for a final Zadar sunset.  Tonight it does not disappoint.  The colours of the sky and the sea are nothing short of spectacular, and even after the sun has sunk below the horizon, the sky is an amazing pink and purple colour for some time afterwards.  We’ve been lucky to see some wonderful sunsets in the Maldives, at the Grand Canyon, at Cambria in California, at Burlington in Vermont – but this is definitely up there at the top of the pile.

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Tonight we eat at Restaurant Groppo.  The ambience, service and food are all lovely, and a meal like this back home would cost twice what we paid here – and this is one of the pricier options.  Remembering Mr Fletche’s attempts to cut our loaf with a teaspoon, I stuff a few of the uneaten slices of bread in my handbag.  Groppo has now also supplied us with our breakfast.  Considering it’s a Friday night, Zadar is extremely quiet.  The square which was buzzing on our first night is practically empty; we make our way round for a final goodbye at the Garden Lounge and we are the only customers there.  Everyone must have been out for the football earlier and now gone home!  We take a final stroll along the waterfront.  I finally get to dance on the Sun Salutation, oohing and aaahing at the pretty lights.

Sun Salutation.  Or giant illuminated waffles.
Sun Salutation. Or giant illuminated waffles.

Zadar has been a fun place to hang out in the last couple of days, and it’s also a great base for daytrips   When I put the itinerary together I wondered if Zadar was a little far out along the coast but something pulled at me every time I thought of taking it out.  We’ll miss our apartment, we’ll miss cocktails and Belgian beers at the Garden Lounge, and we’ll miss those sunsets.  But we’re only halfway through our holiday so we can’t wait to find more places to miss!

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