Beaches of Vis Island – Sandy Smokova beach

Vis is generally known as one of the most beautiful islands of Croatia. Culture, history, food, beaches…all that makes Vis  Island a very special destination. There are several very popular beaches on the island (Srebrna, Stončica, Grandovac, Stiniva…to name just a few) but some are only accessible by a boat as the coast of Vis is quite rugged and wild.

One of my favorites is Smokova for sure.

Smokova beach

Entering Smokova bay

This is not a small bay. It can hold dozens of boats of all sizes and and it is a perfect refuge from jugo (southern) wind or maestral (north western). It is a popular destination for all boaters but it was not crowded despite the fact it was August 1st which is usually the busiest month of the season.

Smokova

Smokova

In the bay

In the bay

The beautiful bay ends with a small sandy beach that is just perfect for families! Well…maybe not everyone likes it.

Great for families and (most) children

Great for families and (most) children

The beach itself is maybe a 100 meters long and it is made of a very fine, nearly white sand. The beach is open to northern winds and it is not the cleanest as some people have a custom of throwing stuff overboard… The Vis island tourist board should find some funds to clean these beaches and maintain it that way through the season (and after). Lots of driftwood as well but I like that and some folks built a nice shade.

White sands

White sands

It is also worth mentioning that, because of the high hills that envelope the Smokova bay, sun is lost fairly soon so, by 7 PM, it was already dark on the beach.

At the beach

At the beach

A curiosity of Smokova is that one can still see part of a WW2 bomber wing at the sea bottom. About 100 meters from the beach. It is part of a wing of an aircraft that did not make it to the Vis airport and crashed here. The airport for allied airplanes was created in the central part of the island as US and British airplanes were attacking Nazi targets during the last stages of the WW2.

Part of the wing

Part of the wing

And then it was time to head back.

Heading back to Vis town

Heading back to Vis town

Stončica lighthouse looked pretty as ever.

Stončica lighthouse

Stončica lighthouse

In general, nearly all beaches of Vis are quite special and very hard to pint one out as the nicest. Smokova is excellent for families as that sandy part makes it easily accessible and great for children. Smokova is part of our motor boat trip around Vis Island as one of the most popular stops.

 

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Restaurant Apolon, Stari Grad, Hvar Island

Recently, we have been invited to inspect Hotel Apolon in Stari Grad on Hvar Island. It was a pleasant surprise over a year ago when I first visited but, what intrigued me even more, was the restaurant that everyone was raving about. So, we used the opportunity to visit and taste some of their favorites.

Hotel restaurant Apolon, Stari Grad, Hvar

Hotel restaurant Apolon

There are several great hotel-restaurants in Croatia but not so many in Dalmatia which is a pity considering all the riches we have: from seafood to fruit, from herbs to meat. But, several attempts are already making a big difference. One of them is Apolon.

I have to admit that, when I first saw their menu, I was not impressed. Used to modern cuisine in better restaurants, their offer looks sort of boring with only typical classics you can find in, pretty much any tavern or regular seafood restaurant.

Apolon menu

Apolon menu

But I was seriously wrong…

The manager Rico explained their/his philosophy and he is spot on! Why reinventing something that is so superb? Dalmatian cuisine has it all and all it needs is a modern touch and someone creative to put it on the table. Of course, there are GREAT chefs all over the coast that are bringing that fresh air to our culinary scene.

We started with a bruschetta and every single dish was nothing short of superb! Not only in their taste but also in quite creative presentation by young chef Duje.

Apolon bruschetta

Apolon bruschetta

Cold seafood starter

Cold seafood starter

Squid stew

Squid stew

Deconstructed apple pie

Deconstructed apple pie

Some will immediately notice similarities with Grašo restaurant (in Split) menu. The chef spent some time cooking there but everything at Apolon is seriously better that at Grašo. Somehow feels fresh and modern while the tastes are superb! Everything is simply delicious and each one of the dishes that were brought out is worth coming back. Seafood, of course, is the main reason to come as it is very fresh. Most of the vegetables are grown in the restaurant garden or they buy them from organic producers on the island.

Chef Duje

Chef Duje and manager Rico

Needles to talk about the wine list as Apolon is on Hvar; famous for Tomić, Duboković, Plenković… and many other great wine producers.

Again, a VERY pleasant surprise and well worth stop on either your cruise or a getaway from Hvar town crowds. Stari Grad feels like stepping back in time. Thanks to Restaurant Apolon, not in culinary way.

Culinary Tours in Croatia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underwater archaeology in Croatia (with Secret Dalmatia)

Over a year ago, I was talking to my good friend Mato Ilkić, an archaeologist with Zadar University and authority on antique coins and underwater archaeology, how there is so much to discover and not enough funds. With our economy in gutter, archaeology gets only peanuts… There are excavations of course, but very limited.
It is simply frustrating that there are so many places that still hold important secrets! So, I asked Mato if it was possible that I donate money and then we choose where to dig. He liked the idea and we worked out all the details. All the funds I donated (20 000 Kn) went to University of Zadar which got all the necessary permits. Mato Ilkić Ph.D, Martina Čelhar Ph.D, Dario Vujević Ph.D, Mate Parica Ph.D, Marko Meštrov and Maja Kaleb teamed up for this interesting expedition. All great folks!

There are dozens of locations that I would love to see excavated but Mato suggested that the money goes to a week long underwater exploration and sondage of a known pre-historic settlement near Ričul. Right by my home town of Turanj. I agreed and, almost a year later, the crew got together and it was agreed that they start excavating on one of the most promising spots.

Location of the excavation

Aerial shot of Ričul, heart shaped Galešnjak, Tukljača cemetery near Turanj and “x” marks the location of the excavation.

One can clearly see the underwater structures on the aerial shots and, it is known from the records, that the region was part of the village of Tukljaca. The village was abandoned and slowly sunken underwater during the Ottoman–Venetian War (1570–1573). All that remains are some walls that can still be seen outside the cemetery on the mainland… Back in the 70s, some archaeological reconnaissance has also been done but no sondage and actual underwater excavating have been done. Until now.

Getting ready to dive

Getting ready to dive

I have also provided a small boat to carry the water dredge and all the necessary equipment. First, the archaeologists decided on where to dig (pump out the sand) and the area was  only 4 square meters. They assumed that they would test few spots and get some results. But, by the end of day one, they realized that the location was far richer in finds then they could have ever dreamed of! Thousands of pieces of broken pottery, bone tools, wooden tools… have been found. We decided to leave the finds and equipment in my front yard where they filled the big containers with fresh water to start the process of desalinization.

Samples of finds: pottery, bone tools...

Samples of finds: pottery, bone tools…

Already, the ancient wooden pylons started emerging. I helped prepare one for C14 analysis so we will have the exact dating in few weeks. The archaeologists are assuming that they were forming the harbor of the ancient Liburnian settlement and that all the finds are about 3000 years old. We will know exactly soon! The sheer number of pylons shows the significance of the place as it obviously required a  serious number of workers to get the work done. The wood is likely to be holm oak (crnika) and it is extremely hard!

Piece of ancient pillar that will undergo C-14 analysis.

Piece of ancient pillar that will undergo C-14 analysis.

Although the sea is shallow (2,5 – 3 meters) the current is fairly strong and made the working underwater challenging at times. But the wealth of artifacts and interesting structure being discovered, made everything much easier. Another value of this location is that no Roman remains (or any later) have been found so far and it looks like the village was abandoned before the Roman conquest (like many other places in the region)

Broken handle of ancient pot

Broken handle of ancient pot

Clearing sand between the pillars

Clearing sand between the pillars

In action

In action

So people ask me why I gave money to something like this. Because I like history, wanted to be an archaeologist when I was younger and I just like a good, true mystery. Nothing beats a huge underwater settlement from Bronze Age! And it is always good to give back to the community. Very proud that I can be the first local business that actually financed an archaeological expedition!

We are already making plans for new donations and projects in 2015! Also, happy to see if anyone else wants to join in giving  funds to something like this. I plan to support various cultural projects around Croatia and, as one can see, a small donation can lead to a big and important discovery. And there are PLENTY of those all over our beautiful country!

 

There is also a unique opportunity to join these exciting excavations for all Secret Dalmatia clients!

 

Travel in Croatia