The Drama Queen

Written by  Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Zrinka Balabanić

Much like any love affair between a man and woman, it is often fiery, wounding and devastating.

At other times it is inspiring, enchanting and nurturing.

Bora on Sea
Bora on Sea

Its’ ups and downs are always surprising and whimsical. Never predictable, and prone to be unremittingly mysterious, its’ unleashed forces are wild, untamed, certainly reminiscent of unchecked passion and love.

Nature can be tempestuous, dispiriting, even dangerous, yet it’s also soothing at times, a presence bearing sublime gifts. It must always be seen as a threat with explosive potential, yet Nature also has its’ forgiving side, a gentility and caress that  offers the prospects of abundance, discovery, and new fertile horizons.

Such is the dual nature of this “Drama Queen,” the Bura, the legendary Croatian winds that sweep through the Dalmatian Coast at different times during the year.

Heavy Clouds Over the Island of Pag
Heavy Clouds Over the Island of Pag

It can be a blessing to cheesemakers on the barren island of Pag, delivering salt from the sea to the isle’s pastures—and to herbs such as thyme, sea fennel and sage—which eventually give the sheep’s milk a distinct salty flavor. That saltiness has increasingly earned Paski sir cheese numerous international awards.

Watching this robust cheese being produced in family-owned farms—and sampling several homemade recipes—are certainly a delight. It’s a fabulous family outing, a way to really savor authentic Croatian culture—and to have a “farm to table” experience.

But the “Drama Queen” still looms. While adventure-seeking sailors welcome the gales and gusts, the Bura is also notorious for closing bridges and disrupting life all along the Dalmatian Coast with its hurricane strength 170 km/h winds.

The Sea Stirred by the Bora
The Sea Stirred by the Bora

Again like a lover, its’ bursts can be short-lived. Let still ferocious.

These winds gather strength in the east over the mountains ringing the coast, then roll down the slopes and spin towards the Adriatic flinging outdoor furniture and trees wildly in the air.

That’s the dark side. Funnel-shaped winds. Uproarious seas that challenge even the most skillful sea captains. Swelling gusts coming from very direction.

Colorful Sky
Colorful Sky

It’s that changeability which makes the Bura particularly troublesome. Like some partners or lovers, there’s no reading this Queen—and in Croatia where sailing between magical sun-kissed isles is a chief allure for international travelers, boating can mean great derring-do adventures.

Such spasmodic gusts present (especially in the winter when the Bura rages most intently) bouts with V-shaped winds of incredible speed.

As the “Croatia Full of Life” website advises, “the Bura spreads like a fan. The larger the bay, the larger its’ blowing fan.”

So take heed. Sailing is not easy in the “clash of sea currents.”

No one ever said love is clear sailing.

The Rainbow Over the Sea
The Rainbow Over the Sea

Yet the drama can be taken out of your relationship with this tumultuous Queen.

Simply retreat to a small cove—or a roadside haven when the winds rise up. Watch the storm swirl and then dissipate while enjoying the scenery and the predictable bonding over some refreshments.

With all that energy in the air, the pure electricity, all sorts of intriguing prospects become possible.

Memorable moments amid blackened skies. And yes, even love!

 

    Welcome to the Love Boat

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada

Always the rogue, the lover of women and their most stunning attributes, the Captain mischievously laughs at his feeling helpless in a “sea of confusion.”

“I kept marveling at the sight in front of me, it was so beautiful, so heavenly,” recalls Tomislav Mravičić – Mito, the captain known throughout Croatia and the Balkans for his “party boat” and wild, often ribald storytelling.

Captain Tomislav Mravičić Mito Makarski Jadran
Tomislav Mravičić Mito

“I couldn’t move. I had gone to get my work permit, told I couldn’t get one, and here was this secretary in a low-cut blouse with this unbelievable cleavage.

“Seeing I was persistent, she took pity on me and gave me a cup of coffee. When handing it to me she bent over me, and seeing so much of her, I had to say, ’they are so beautiful…the most beautiful I have ever seen. So wonderful, so amazing!”

Makarski Jadran
Makarski Jadran

The Captain got his permit—even if the startled secretary spilt her coffee, yelled unprintable words at him—and his life on the sea, looking for mermaids and adventures, began.

That was 30 years ago.

Now Captain Mito is a free-spirited fixture on the alluring Dalmatian Coast. Plying the turquoise waters near Split, Hvar Island, Korcula and Brac, this 70-year-old libertine is known for steering passengers to uninhabited dance parties, gluttonous food feasts, and other wild merriment aboard his ship, the Makarski Jadran

“I can’t talk now,” bellows Mito into the phone, smiling devilishly at me. “Go, go, get some delicious grilled sardines on deck. Can you please put on a new (sea-faring, blue-striped) T-shirt?

Adriatic sea
Life is Wonderful

Then returning to his phone call, he adds, “There is a beautiful lady in my cabin. We are busy. She needs all my attention. Let me take care of ship’s business.”

Laughing uproariously at his own humor, he abruptly ends the phone conversation, and ushers me to the top deck where scores of female passengers have jumped onto tables. Their hips swaying wildly to the beat of loud music, and waving excitedly to onlookers on Bol’s Zlatni Rat beach– a long white sandy expanse—these dancers have ripped off their tops, and exchanged for fo tight-fitting T-shirts. They only want to party, to feel totally liberated.

“I dance too, I know how to create a good mood with giving out T-shirts, but now I must take care of the ship,” says Mito, grinning. “My young sailors also know how to treat  women.”

The Best Life Nearby Sea
Best Life Near the Sea

The sea is so transparent at Zlatni Rat many people on board jump into the water once the ship anchors offshore. I, too, couldn’t resist these warm waters that are so calm, so soothing. So as the seagulls flew over me, and the music from the ship continued to tickle my senses, I swam and swam, never wanting to stop.

Once this swim-n-sardine interlude ended, Mito was again up to his old tricks, shouting at a woman waving from her house.

“Ivanka, here I am, wait for me, I am coming, soon, wait, wait,” he yelled, obviously trying to entertain passengers with his joking, trying to be the King of the Sea.

Between Biokovo Mountain and Adriatic Sea
Between Biokovo Mountain and the Adriatic Sea

“I have a very beautiful, very dangerous wife,” he admits, a woman who is his constant North Star. “I always listen to her. She provides me with wonderful food, a warm bed, and the inspiration to show everyone on my ship memorable good times.”

As the ship sails towards Makarska, and Mito begins to think of the “adventures” that await him at home, he continues to talk about his ship.

“Of course sailors want action. They must keep their distance on the ship, but the summer passes quickly. If they need a day off for love I never ask a question. I just tell them to agree on who will do what, how, and that’s it.

“We have had several cases on board that resulted in marriage. Love flared up, really flared up on this ship. Even my son found love on this ship. He met his wife onboard”.

The suggestion is clear. Mito’s  ships a “Love Boat”

Good Mood on the Boat
Good Mood on the Boat Makarski Jadran

 

Though momentarily at a loss for words, I could understand what Mito meant. This was no ordinary cruise to gorgeous islands. It was a passage that took me back to my past, to my youth, a time when I ached to be in love-to find a soulmate.

Not an ordinary companion, but one I shared my dreams with – one which made that fire flare up. That would be real companionship, exploring and finding joy together.

Don’t we all need that now? Real togetherness, sharing our humanity together. Wouldn’t that help us get though the current storm?

Captain Mito, along with all his jokes and stories, certainly knows all about love. He has certain wisdom. So as I headed home from this momentous day at sea, I kept smiling. I knew I would soon return to the “Love Boat.” Very soon!

Can you catch the sun?
Can You Catch the Sun?

 

My Secret and Secluded Cove

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada

How do I escape the madness, soothe my restless soul? What do I do when the world seems upside-down, torn from its’ axis, and feel like many of you do right now, that the stress keeps mounting, and is too overpowering?

I flee.

 

Determined to be child-like again, to play, and to discover an entirely new reality, I escape to a place that is all mine.

My secret and secluded cove. My very own smooth stone on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia.

It’s a stone that allows me to be free, at least for some precious moments. A stone that even lets me follow the paths of mermaids swimming offshore. I am so alive here, so entranced that I can see the long tails of these mermaids flapping in the deep blue sea. Her hair shines in the blazing sun, and she glides so beautifully, it’s easy to understand why passing fishermen yell to her, desperate to embrace her magic.

Yet this cove with so many other-worldly powers is still secret. It is not so easy to get to. There are so many large boulders in this wild, untamed place, so many rocks blocking my path. They make it so difficult to see the transparent sea, and its’ playful, glimmering fishes.

We all encounter boulders in our life, insecurities and various obstacles—so there is only one choice—we push ahead, we remain determined, ever courageous.

I jump from boulder to boulder, and my imagination gives me new confidence. I can’t fall, and so with each strong leap, I edge closer to my cove, my stone.

Once I finally feel its’ warmth, its’ hugs, my eyes start to wander, to explore all the shades of gold, blue and green surrounding me.

Pine trees.

The clear, uplifting blue sky.

The limitless horizon.

My soul soars, comes alive. So do my secret desires and fantasies.

I am young again. Reborn and renewed.

Of course I never want to leave this paradise.

But there is still one unresolved mystery.

As I sit on my stone, and watch the golden sun caress the water, I keep wondering,

“Will she appear today and take me to places only a mermaid can visit?”

There is only one answer. I better stay here a little longer, just a bit longer, to wait for her. To dream.

Mala Velika Paklenica

Discover all of Paklenica’s natural glories! 

Written by: Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Surrounded by massively-large boulders, a stunningly green mountain peak in the distance beckoned to the adventurer inside me. Even if the path towards this spire meant braving the narrowest of trails, and then ascending through a steep gorge lined with unforgiving and intimidating-looking craggy stones, the prospect of taming this wilderness kept me going, even high-spirited. Knowing there was breathtaking beauty ahead, I didn’t surrender to my fears, and continued walking, determined to overcome all challenges, and to discover all of Mala Paklenica’s natural glories.

A legendary, Croatian National Park Paklenica in northern Dalmatia, abundant with spring-fed streams, torrents, endangered bird species, and 300 meter high canyons, the Mala Paklenica has long stirred fears and the imagination. Its’ gorges and ascents can be treacherous. But hiking with Jure and his skilled helpers, I was mentally getting ready to hook myself to steel cables and to expend all my energy to reach that green summit.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

While surrounded by majestic, towering trees of every variety, and chirping birds cavorting above me, I was still surprised when encountering a dry riverbed. One of the park’s scenic wonders, especially when the mountain runoff cascades down the cliffs, it was clearly the victim of the dry winter, or far more worrisome, dry because of climate change.

I still pushed ahead, entranced by the almost supernatural silence—the other-worldliness calm that greets Paklenica’s visitors. There are so many different ecosystems, flowers, and animals, to marvel at, there is no time to think about life outride the park. Here there are only caves to explore, rich vegetation, and panoramic views of fascinating rock formations.

But Mala Paklenica remains a terrific physical and mental challenge—for colossal boulders often confront those who hike these narrow goat trails. Where to put your foot? Will the gravel hold your weight? What should I do with my hands? These critical decisions must be made in split seconds to get past the boulders. So my instincts had to take over,  fueled by a mighty rush of adrenaline.

Totally focused, knowing success means finding new survival skills,  I take a breath and summon the resolve to go forward. One small step, then another on our intimidating path. There can be no respite. Too many of Nature’s miracles await us.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

Specifically, the vast meadow below the Velebit mountain range. Abuzz with bumblebees and songbirds, this vast field seems like a rainbow glistening under my feet, covered with wild, flourishing roses in every conceivable color, dark reds, violet, yellow, peach and Kelly Green. It’s Mother Nature’s coming out party, her warm-hearted greeting, saying “Come, feast on my riches. Walk here, and taste the delights.”

Hypnotized by this streaming rush of colors, and the soft breezes enveloping me, I gazed at the Adriatic Sea in the distance. “What could be more beautiful?” I asked myself. “This is Creation, the real soul of life.”

Amazingly, there was one more marvel to enjoy, the Velika Paklenica canyon, a geological must-see. It too contains a striking array of plant and animal species, including falcons, eagles, deers, bears and lynx.

But sunset is quickly approaching. After eight hours in the Park, it’s best to collect our memories, impressions that may have even changed our notions about beauty, and to wind our way down the gravely goat trail towards the  “real world.”

What an experience!

Yet amid all the roses, canyons, and wild animals, I also discovered something besides scenic wonders. I found a power inside me, the conviction that I could encounter hazardous obstacles, and without any prodding, keep on moving, keep on climbing. Towards that rainbow!

Whether it was finding a field of wild flowers, or fulfilling some life’s ambition—that reaching this goal was indeed attainable.

Photos were taken by Anita Palada

Bol Zlatni rat

Explore the most beautiful beaches in Dalmatia

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

In the Land of Enchantment, there are so many idyllic, sun-blessed beaches close to secluded, picturesque coves, visitors face a constant dilemma.

Where to go to find a beach of one’s own?

Croatia’s Dalmatia region , a coastline caressed by transparent turquoise waters, and freckled with scores of sandy, pearl-white beaches carved out of surrounding cliffs and verdant hillsides, is a sun-worshipper’s heaven.

But even for me, a long-time native familiar with exploring coastline paths and the always soothing small island retreats, choosing one destination is just too difficult. There is so much intoxicating magic on the Radica Peninsula–where the sea-n-sun played mischievous games with the pebbled beaches, white rocks and shallow bays–there is only one way to solve this dilemma. All adventurous attempts to discover beaches untouched by the demands and constraints of time have to start in the old, charming town of Primosten, “the City of Beaches.”

Located between Sibenik and Split, this charming enclave of stone houses and secret nooks is close to ten seaside playgrounds.

Each of these beaches is near restaurants, coastal paths winding through luxuriant vineyards, and is kissed by waters that promise relaxing swims in radiant sunlight. All of them offer a distinct experience, celebrate “wellness,” and seem to be magically enveloped by pristine scenery which lulls and soothes the senses.

June Beach is totally secluded, surrounded by mighty cliffs to protect its’ aura of mystery. Here one can feel totally alone; a “secret” place where the senses are revitalized—and time stands still long enough to luxuriate in the sun, to daydream, and to gaze at either the glimmering blue water, the frolicking seagulls or passing yachts.

Dagna Beach, a tiny spit with its’ massive, pink-tinted boulders, and Marina Lucica, expansively sweeping around a cove with crystal white sand offer their own ambrosia-styled delights.

Primošten beaches
Beach June Primošten

 

Another unique experience awaits visitors on the uninhabited island of Smokvica Vela, a pristine isle only an 8 minute boat ride from Primosten. A veritable Garden of Eden with luxuriant vegetation, typically embraced by the gentlest of breezes, this pint-sized haven has become a go-to haven for nudists. Its’ magnetic appeal is understandable, for the flavorful scents of pine and assorted flowers  cast a spell over the island, as if the breezes are saying, “Come, savor our sensual delights.”

Other Dalmatian islands offer a similarly enticing welcome.

Even if this bounty makes singling out favorites difficult, I feel totally blessed by having such beaches near me, invigorated by the mere thought of their striking beauty. A nature lover, always swept away by the color green, I also feel energized by the color blue—the special blue sea in Croatia. It relaxes me, takes away all my stress.

So the sand and surf is more than a mere transitory getaway. They give me hope. They will transmit the same positive energy to Croatian visitors—if they explore and discover their own favorite place in the sun.

Zlatni rat Bol
Zlatni rat Bol

One glorious spot I often go to is Zlatni Rat. Invariably hailed as one of the loveliest beaches in Europe, this sugar-white pebble expanse known as the “Golden Horn” sits near Bol harbor on the southern coast of Brac Island alongside Hvar Channel. A slice of Paradise bathed by calm, blue and green waters, Zlatni is all about relaxation, indulgence—and adventures, as the westerly winds make this the quintessential escape for airborne windsurfing acrobatics.

High energy is also rules at Zrce, a beach known for bungee jumping, innovative cocktails, high-voltage techno music, and dancing in “bubble baths” until dawn. Offering madcap hijinks with raw electricity, Zrce is adrenaline-fueled, “wild and free” beach clubbing, festivals and frivolity—a place where the partying never stops.

Zrće Beach Novalja

Be heroic! Test yourself. Come here and see if you have the stamina-cum-courage to swim in the sea all day, and to enjoy hedonism all night.

That Pleasure Principle is Croatia, its’ gleaming Dalmatian Coast.

Come! Bask in its’ delights and diversions. You will be swept away by the magic.

Photos: Zrće beach – Posada agencija/ Primošten Sunset: Anita Palada/ Primošten Beaches: Tourist Board Primošten/ Zlatni rat Bol/Tourist Board Bol

Thanks a lot to Tourist Board Novalja, Tourist Board Primošten, and Tourist Board Bol for the provided photos.

Discover Krknjaši Lagoon in Croatia

Imagine Calypso, the mythical nymph, detaining the wandering Odysseus in her own styled Paradise, offering a secluded white sandy beach, a sheltered cove of translucent turquoise water, along with scents of jasmine, pine and ambrosia.

Sent by Zeus, the wing-footed Hermes braved tumultuous seas to reach this sybaritic garden spot replete with an array of heavenly pleasures.

But such god-like intervention to find such magic—a tranquil island affording breathless views and peaceful, shallow bays nestled below moss-covered hillsides and only reachable by boat—is no longer necessary.

Paradise is easily found.

Perhaps a mermaid won’t be seen. And while lost treasure from sunken pirate ships might go undiscovered, unspoiled Croatian beaches will still evoke a Calypso-like spell of pure enchantment.

Sprinkled alongside the Adriatic Sea, and typically kissed by gentle waves and winds, these beaches are the defining characteristic of Croatia—for this blessed land boasts 2500 miles of island coastline, and is clearly a sunbathers’ delight.

Countless coves await with luxury or family-friendly accommodations, cafes buzzing with throbbing nite life, shallow bays for skinny-dipping, and silvery sand for alluring relaxing in the sun.

Amid this bounty of serene and scenic retreats, one beach relatively close to Trogir and Split in Dalmatia is particularly radiant.

I should keep its’ dreamy appeal a secret, for the soft whispers of the waters surrounding Drvenik Veliki island give me a certain freedom, solitude, and the chance to swim alongside gloriously-beautiful fish.

Relatively few tourists have discovered this idyllic retreat, so I will resist the temptation to keep it a mystery. So enjoy the schools of fish, walks in the fine smooth sand, and sail to the Blue Lagoon to discover Krknjaši Beach, Croatia’s sparkling gem.

Other seaside getaways offer more watersports, activities for children, and innovative cocktails in trendy restaurants.

But Krknjaši still conjures up the Calypso inside me, never hoping visitors will stay seven years on this isle—yet still knowing they will feast on all its’ pleasures.

Those joys immediately begin with the short boat passage through the lagoon, the gentle breezes filling me with expectation. Bounding off the boat, I was soon lying on pristine white sand, transported to a welcoming, carefree realm.

Krknjaši is so lulling, so sublime, foregoing lunch is easy. Listening to the gulls and lapping waves is far more delicious. So I will wait to retreat to a nearby fish restaurant. Now it’s just time for enjoying the sun’s rays, following the path of those birds flying towards the horizon, and occasionally dipping my feet into the water, giggling every time a fish brushes into my legs.

Only when the sun is about to set—and the soft hues of a passing day leave their own memorable impressions—is it time to repair to that restaurant.

So the punctuation to this perfect oasis begins with a few fishes, then some grilled prawns and squid. The menu offers other Mediterranean specialties all complemented with wine from Dalmatia and hot homemade bread with a generous serving of olive oil. It’s a splendid way to end a magical day.

Sitting under the stars in this small, cozy place will long be remembered. Yet maybe it was the wine, or just the stars playing tricks on my imagination, for out in the lagoon, I saw some movement, several large splashes.

“What could it be?” I wondered.

Fascinated, I knew I would have to come to Krknjasi again, for that was the only way to solve this mystery—whether these seductive waters could really be the playground for some whimsical mermaid.

One that seemed to be waving at me.

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh