My sister and her husband live in Florida and each year they visit us here in Split, bringing size 11AAA New Balance sneakers, chewable vitamin C tablets from Costco, Excedrin, Good n Plenty candy and other American wonders that I still crave.
They arrived last week and we decided to do a three day holiday to Peljesac–a gorgeous peninsula between mainland Dalmatia and the island of Korcula which is home to more than 40 wineries, including Croatia’s premier red, Dingac; spectacular scenery, distinctive cuisine and local folk who love living here and are eager to welcome you and share their pleasure.
Although you can reach Peljesac by car, passing through the coastal border with Bosnia and continuing to Ston, the coastal drive from Split to Ploce, where you catch the ferry to Trpanj,is more fun and adventurous. The serpentine road just meters from the sea, the stunning images….a dozen wooden sailing gulets, the season over, now moored lined up hull to hull waiting for winter in Krilo; a storm squall racing in over Brac; a burst of sunshine through the clouds turning the water a dazzling aquamarine; mandarin orange sellers lining the road (now is the season!)….and a ferry crossing!
After arriving in the small seaside town of Trpanj, the drive across the peninsula to Orebic, the largest settlement on the peninsula, takes under an hour.
What an adventure! Living on the coast here in Split I feel like a real flatlander–so all those majestic hills, deep canyons, switchbacks and steep climbs were fabulous fun. And the sharply cool weather had created the kind of colors I hadn’t seen since I lived in Maine–wild oranges and reds, vineyards turned yellow and rust, lush green suddenly yielding to vast stretches of wildfire-blackened forest…the sea, dark, vast, endless.
We had planned to visit Saint Hills, Matusko and Milos wineries during the three days we were here. But when I saw a small sign for Saic Winery, I made a wicked hard left and snaked my way off the main road outside Orebic to their shop. Hard to find for sale in Split, their Plavac Mali is really splendid, rich, full-bodied and to my taste, much better than the same varietals from Hvar which are so popular.
The shop was locked up tight…so we banged on a couple of doors nearby and yippee, the winery owner’s wife comes out and invites us in to taste!
Our first tasting and we hadn’t even arrived in Viganj yet, the small town where we had rented two apartments in a three floor family house smack on the water.
An hour or so after our Saic experience, Dusko, his wife and their son Tomislav greeted us like relatives….sit down, enjoy some cheese, home made wine, cake!
More than yummy–Natasha actually asked and got her cottage cheese cake recipe, light as a feather and dee-lectable. Dusko told us he had spent 30 years in the merchant marine, seen the world and then some and now his son Tomislav, studying in Split, will follow his dad’s footsteps as an marine engineer,
The whole family made us feel like there was absolutely no other place we could have possibly come on Peljesac other than Petra.
There are so many things about small seaside villages in the off season that make them and life, truly blissful. Like the 7km “road” between Orebic and Viganj. More like a private driveway along the sea….romantic at night and beautiful during the day, wide enough for only l car, it just kept following the shoreline all the way!
Unlike Split which still get a cruise ship or two deep into November, the Peljesac season is much shorter, with many places here folding up on Oct. l.
So for us and others like the Austrian couple who have been coming to Petra for more than 20 years off season, such peacefulness….hearing the water lap at the pebble beach, no sound of cars or people, is paradise.
Until it turned dark and the full moon came up.
What is that sound!? OOOOOoooo! OOOOOOOOOoooo! Coyotes? In Viganj? Where is the pooch?
Sure enough Dusko tells us that there ARE coyotes up in the hills, but they leave folks alone except then they are hungry and like dogs, come down and sniff around for food. Harmless? You bet. Scary sounding? You bet.
Next morning, still thinking about coyotes, we had a great home-cooked breakfast (my omelets are famous) and then set off for one of the premier wine growing areas on the peninsula, anchored by the town of Ponikve.
The Milos winery, a family affair like so many of them here, was open and happy to see us. Their wines are top shelf, more expensive and worth it. The tasting included some decade old plavac and under the expert guidance of one of Frank’s sons (sorry, forgot his name–the one with the beard!) we quickly appreciated the nuances between the vintages. While I was lapping up the wine, Natasha was eyeing the handmade stone sink. Milos exports 40% of their production, selling the rest locally to better restaurants. In Split you can enjoy their Stagnum and other premium wines at Paradox, just behind the Croatian National Theater.
Although we couldn’t get to sample the wine at Saint Hills, we did stop at Matusko, one of our favorite wines–their Posip (white) as well as their Dingac and Postup are really delicious and considering the quality, far more reasonable than many others. A big place, the cellars were underground and went on forever, with gated brick “reserves” as well as barrels stacked chock-a-block for aging.
I do have to mention our quick trip to Korcula town. After an easy ramble around the walled Old Town, we stopped in at one of my favorite places in Croatia–Konoba Komin. Owned by Frano Gavranic, if it isn’t grown or caught on Korcula, he doesn’t serve it. I don’t even bother asking for a menu–he looks at me, I look at him, and that’s it. Our meal began with a mix seafood plate of various marinated delicacies, some tuna pate, homegrown greens, figs and more….and then the main course was several kinds of sea bass and a pair of pilot fish, rarely served, but sensational with Frane’s mashed garlic potatoes with just enough blitvah to make it extra tasty. And the wine? Posip of course.
On our way back to Trpanj we had some time to catch the ferry back to Orebic so we walked around the town and took this very weird photo using a road mirror–cool, eh?
But this next one of me and Judy is even stranger
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