On Monday morning we heard the news that the Croatian government have implemented some drastic and sudden domestic and border control rule changes in response to the increasing number of Coronavirus cases in the country. Some of the main points include:
Passengers arriving to Croatia for immediate personal reasons are now obliged to go into self-isolation for 14 days after entering Croatia. The self-isolation can be reduced to 7 days if the person undergoes PCR testing (they have to pay for it) and shows a negative test a week after they've entered Croatia.
The new restrictions do not apply to EU/EEA/UK. The EU safe list of 15 is not included in the exemption (ie they need test/isolation).
Tourist arrivals are an exception, so they're allowed to enter Croatia. If the tourists have proof of a negative PCR test not older than 48 hours, they're not put in self-isolation, but they're not allowed to leave their accommodation and should limit their contacts to the necessary ones.
In addition, masks are now mandatory in all indoor public spaces across the country, this appears to have been well communicated domestically as at 7am in Konzum everyone was wearing a mask.
Cities and states around the world such as HK, the state of Victoria in Australia, California have started to reimpose restrictions again to fight the second wave of the Coronavirus. The new rule changes in Croatia really served as an alarm bell for us as we haven't really felt the existence of the virus ever since we entered the country. Now we need to bring the masks if we plan to go to supermarkets, that now puts an end to impromptu visits if we happen to be passing a supermarket. More people are wearing masks out there on streets as well. It had been wishful thinking for us before that things are normalising, but it's now time to acknowledge that the virus is indeed going to stay for quite a while and we have to remain vigilant until the vaccine is available.
Hvar town has continued to see an increase in visitors this week. The seemingly abandoned Bonj Les Bains Beach Club came back to life early this week. Up until then, people including us had been enjoying their unattended exclusive wooden decks and lounges freely at the famous Bonj Beach. Similarly, a lot of cafes and restaurants all of sudden popped out of hibernation, with people sitting out and music flowing. Popular beaches start to get full towards mid afternoon and can be fully packed in the early evening (5pm). The golden coloured sunset hours see the most people out and about (6-8pm), especially along the Riva and at St. Stephen's Square. We even saw a couple of buskers at St. Stephen's Square playing guitar and singing. Last time we saw any buskers was four months ago in Seville!
After last week's hectic schedule, we took a more relaxed approach to this week by spending more time reading by the beach and strolling along coastal walkways around the town. Hvar town becomes more charming by minute as you take more time to appreciate it at a slower pace: white washed stone buildings, cobblestone streets, ever-present lush greenery, vibrant pink bougainvilleas and stunning clear lustrous waters - all elements live harmoniously side by side, complimenting each other and creating a perfect picture!
Feeling like a semi-local, we have frequented some beaches and walks more than others and would like to share them with our readers, only reluctantly :)
Our Favourite Coastal Walk of Hvar Town
Starting from the St. Franciscan Monastery, the walk heads north past the Riva (seaside promenade) and Bonj Beach to the end of the walkway just before Beach Podstine. It's only about 2.5km one way on a paved footpath with views of different parts of Hvar town, the harbour and the Pakleni Islands. You walk past several beautiful beaches, the Riva packed with luxury yachts, a pine tree covered nature reserve and a number of restaurants and bars. The walk is very quiet in the early morning and buzzing with people in the late afternoon and evening. Check out the pictures posted on our Instagram below - we'll let the pictures do the talking.
Our Favourite Beach of Hvar Town
Pokonji Dol beach is the largest pebble beach in Hvar Town. Located in a bay about 2km from town center, the beach is very protected, surrounded by green hills and has a view of a tiny picturesque island with a lone lighthouse on it. The water is calm and luminous with a gorgeous light blue hue. Unlike rocky beaches, here it's much easier to get in and out of the water without having to walk gingerly and nervously to avoid slipping on sharp rocks. You can get to the beach via the coastal road by foot or by car or you can take a short cut like us by walking down a rocky footpath of a hill, depending on where you start from.
We swim there pretty much every day, sometimes in the morning which is quieter and sometimes in the late afternoon when we don't have to race the sun for shade. But each time we can't help but be wowed by the ravishing water and feel a bit sad at the same time that we won't be able to swim there forever.
There are also two cafe bars/restaurants on the beach, where you can grab a coffee, a drink or a meal. One of them is serving cocktails at 30kn at the moment, which is half of the common going rate. The cocktails were actually really good!
Our Favourite Past-time at Hvar Town
Since everyday involves a walk down the Riva at some point, boat watching has become a bit of a favourite past-time. Each afternoon a new set of yachts, catamarans and luxurious motor yachts make their way into Hvar harbour and then moor either in the harbour or reverse onto the Riva to dock with water & electricity. It's entertaining to watch the harbour crew racing around helping the boats moor, directing traffic, and making sure people are paid up.
There are all shapes and sizes of boats from small yachts to 60 foot catamarans and 100+ foot luxury motor yachts. In the afternoon and evenings you can see the decks full of people eating, drinking and living the good life. Sometimes when we do our morning walks we see the consequences of the good life - tables overflowing with wine and beer bottles and often some sleeping/passed out on the deck or even the roof!
Then come mid morning it's all action again as those that are leaving that day all get their shopping completed, make sure they haven't left anyone on shore and then make their way off to explore the seas once more.
Many of these boats come with crew, sometimes just a skipper or for larger vessels they have a captain and stewardess as a minimum with optional deck hand and chef's etc. We often see the crew in their uniforms and wonder what type of life they lead. It must be interesting to see the world slowly by boat and enjoy the beauty of the sea and islands. But we also don't want to over romanticise it because it would be a demanding job in all reality.
For now, we admire these boats for their beauty and the feelings of luxury they inspire, but don't see it fitting into our current travel budget - so we will keep admiring them from the shore.
Sea water temperature this week has dropped due to a Bora wind, which is a north or north-easterly wind that blows along the Adriatic Coast. It was already cool and now has been below 20 degrees! We have to psych up each time to jump into that cold but nevertheless seducing water.
We've noticed local Croatian women typically bring a spare bikini with them to the beach. After a swim, they change into the dry spare pair to sun bake to be comfortable. If they want to swim again, they change back to the previous ones which are drying. Before heading home, they change into the dry ones again so that they don't have wet bikini patches on their outfit. We've watched in admiration how skilful and frequent that they change right on the beach with other bathers close by. I guess they've been doing it for a long time and practice makes perfect!
Another interesting scene we've noticed was a group of senior local men would meet and hang out under the flag pole in town center every evening. It seems that has been their local hangout place since they were boys. We were tempted to go up and chat with them asking a lot of questions, but always ended up just watching them from a distance, amused.
We wrote about lack of toilet facilities in Split previously. Not surprisingly no toilets at any beach can be found here on Hvar. Often there are a lot of bushes around, which can be handy. But still, for such a pristine gorgeous and expensive island, wouldn't it make sense to provide this one basic necessary facility??
We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.