Croatia: To Hvar Island; our first motorcycle gang (there would be another)

After departing from Trpanj, we drove on the Adriatic Road to get to Drvenik to catch the ferry out to Hvar. The Adriatic Road, y’all. It has an interesting history – especially the one section of it which belongs to Bosnia – a tiny little stretch of road where you have to go through a border crossing and then back out – look it up, it’s fascinating – a remnant of Austria-Hungary’s policies from a century ago and Bosnia’s only access to the Adriatic Sea (we did not go through the border, we scooped around it). The road goes through mountains, looking down on salt water lakes, careening around the curves, abysses dropping off into the ocean, it was … hair-raising. I took videos out the window, just to put one level of distance between myself and the experience. Don’t get me wrong. It was beautiful!! But it was a roller coaster. Deep breathing required.

We arrived in Drvenik with maybe 45 minutes until the ferry. Rachel and I wandered around and decided to get some lunch. We over-estimated our time. We sat down at a pizzeria, right on the beach, ordered two beers and a pizza. The beers were enormous and we burst out laughing when they arrived. STEINS. As we sat there, we saw the cars lining up for the ferry. Our pizza arrived. We ate one slice, before we suddenly realized, with a bolt of stress, WE HAVE TO LEAVE. NOW. We quickly paid and – having only drank one half of our huge steins – RAN to the ferry, each of us holding 3 leftover pieces of pizza wrapped in napkins. We were a spectacle. In our matching hats. Rachel was ahead of me and she said she saw Ante standing by the car, and he saw our frenzied approach and shook his head at us, calmly, reassuringly, like “No. That is not necessary.” (Yet another thing we laughed about for the whole trip.)

Our car was surrounded by snorting huffing motorcycles, and … about 80 guys in motorcycle gear, with leather jackets covered in patches, bandanas around heads, leather fingerless gloves, motorcycle boots, cigarettes, sunglasses, a gigantic stomping motorcycle gang. They were everywhere. The ferry passengers were Ante, me, Rachel and …. the Balkan chapter of the Hell’s Angels.

There appeared to be some not-hostile “segregation” going on: the Bosnia-Herzegovina bikers stuck together, and the Croatia bikers holed up with each other, but they were all headed to the same place: Hvar Island. (As a matter of fact, once out on Hvar, we kept catching glimpses of them, one time we saw them riding in a procession across the bay. The best moment was: we were driving over some huge mountain on Hvar, a tiny swerving road with a huge drop on one side, and a motorcyclist zipped by in the opposite lane – and Rachel said that he was staring at his phone. AS he was careening over the abyss. INSANE. SO BUTCH.) I murmured to Rachel, “I want to crash whatever party they’re having tonight, but I fear it is an uncrashable party.”

Once out on Hvar, we had a pretty long drive over the hilly interior of the country to get to Hvar proper. Hvar. (Pronounced Hwar, FYI. Ante corrected our pronunciation immediately.) Hvar is this gigantic island, covered in green trees, and towering mountainous hills, giving a dizzying endless view of the surrounding sea, the mainland like a mirage. Pictures don’t do it justice. You can’t really get the scale, or the sense of how high up we were.

Like Dubrovnik, like most towns along the coastline, Hvar is down at the bottom of the mountains, perched on the edge of the sea. So you have to climb up the mountains, go over the top and come on back down to get to it. It was a hell of a ride. Green almost vertical fields, and vineyards, and lavender fields (one of the things grown on the island, it’s known for its lavender – all along the road are signs saying “Lavenda”, indicating some person down that lane has lavenda for sale), with sun hitting the slopes. Stunning. As we approached Hvar, a gigantic structure loomed in sight on an opposite hill.

I mean …

Hvar was an important port, and an essential part of the Venetian Empire. A lot of trade came through here. Its importance can be seen in that fort, which hovers directly above the town below. Like a dragon standing watch. It’s incredible. We visited the fortress later. At night, it’s lit up, so it’s almost orange, which makes it look even MORE like a dragon.

Our hotel was amazing. It was a quick walk along a stone path curving around the coast to downtown Hvar. The hotel had a pool, but also a beach down at the end of a slanting path. We split our time between the pool and the beach. Boats bobbed in the water. There was a restaurant along the beach, a blazing white structure which took the light, making the whole scene appear magical, like something out of a myth.

Rachel and I swam, we did laps, we bobbed in the salty buoyance, we lay on deck chairs, we swam again. The hotel was clearly a family friendly place, overrun with kids having a blast.

For example, I don’t think in the history of the planet anyone has ever had more fun than this gaggle of 10/11-year-old girls, all crammed onto one paddle board, as one girl attempted to paddle them around.

The screams and laughter, the constant capsizing, the clambering back up on the board … it went on for an hour straight. It’s the kind of fun these kids will remember 45 years later as they reminisce. Like me and my cousins remembering our childhood summer vacations at the lake in New Hampshire (where we still vacation). “Member that time the rowboat capsized next to the dock and none of us were wearing life preservers?” And etc.

It had been a really long day. We had traveled a long way, on multiple boats. We would be hanging in Hvar for a couple of days, so we settled in.

Sometimes things strike me as funny and there’s no use explaining why.

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4 Responses to Croatia: To Hvar Island; our first motorcycle gang (there would be another)

  1. Melanie says:

    Looks like Wednesday nights Bikes on Beale Street. Except for the exotic Mediteranean backdrop.

    • sheila says:

      Ooh, I gotta be there for that.

      HEY. speaking of which. I’m gonna be in Memphis Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 – I’m a juror at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. We should meet up!

  2. Melanie says:

    That building on the beach really is like something out of – I don’t even know – Xanadu?

    I started to say Arabian nights, but thought, wrong place. Actually I imagine there are a lot of Ottoman influences there?

    • sheila says:

      There are a lot of Ottoman influences, you’re right! That restaurant is very Xanadu! Lots of chi-chi parties/receptions going on there – slightly intimidating – one time a dude was playing his saxophone before a gig inside, standing out on the deck. It was so cool.

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