Brač: life on the big island

Brač (pronounced “Bratch”) is the largest island off the coast of Split, but also one of the less touristy (compared to Hvar and Korcula). It’s mostly known for 2 things: its white stone and the Zlatni Rat beach, which were about the main highlights during my 1 night stay there with a Croatian family. 

The easiest way to get to Bol (the city on the other side of the island where I’d booked a small AirBnB room in the home of a Croatian family) from Split is probably by the once-daily direct ferry. But since I didn’t want to wait until afternoon to take the ferry (it runs at 4:30pm during the summer and 4pm the rest of the year), I got the 9am catamaran over to Supetar first, and then the 1 hour-long bus from there across to Bol. Let’s just say, I think I underestimated how much of an ordeal it would be getting there, just kind of floating with the idea of “island=small” in my head when I booked the room without much research. Oh well. The bus ride allowed me to see a lot of the piles of white stone I’d read about (mostly after my visit). Did you know that a lot of the stone from major monuments (like the Reichstag in Berlin, Diocletian’s palace in Split of course, and even the White House), comes from Brač? Pretty cool.

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“Old Boys Club” at a bus stop in the middle of Brac island

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I did make it to my house, and got to meet the nice couple also staying there: a Polish guy and his Malaysian girlfriend. Both were young and had been staying there for about a week during their longer travels. They showed me to my little room – a cozy, blue room with 2 twin beds, and definitely one of the nicest rooms I’d stayed in so far. The husband of the host came by and gave me juice and invited me to sit on their balcony overlooking the water. After helping me settle in, he rushed back to work down by the water where he worked at a boat rental place, and I spent a good hour out there enjoying the breeze and planning some more. 

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I did make it down to the beach of Zlatni Rat, the most popular beach on the island, but (kill me, I know!) I can’t say I was really impressed. I knew the beaches weren’t white, sandy, pristine beaches, but I think I was expecting a relaxing, tiny-pebbled beach where I’d be able to set up my towel and wade in once in a while. Since the beach does stick out like a finger into the water (OK, that is its main attraction..), I should have known it could be a lot windier. The beach itself constantly changes with the tide and with winds, which is rare and really a cool characteristic. But between the wind, the hard pebbles, and the 5 kuna (about 70 cent) charge to use the restroom, I didn’t stay much longer than an hour reading my book on my towel.

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Some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen

I wish every day included a swim in the Adriatic right off this dock…

On my way back, I wandered down to a smaller beach where a topless older woman was bathing and smoking. It was way calmer and I ended up spending most of my time diving off a small wharf into the water, enjoying the water, drying off for a few minutes, and repeating. I know, it was a really rough afternoon… I know I’ve said it before (and can say it a million times over), but this water and scenery never gets old. Looking down, you can see all the way to the bottom, even 100 ft out, and at one point I saw little clear, striped fish swimming by my feet. Looking back at “mainland” is nothing but white-tan hills or rocks and green trees. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s something so captivating about it, especially on the smaller little alcoves where you can get the whole beach to yourself. In typical Croatian fashion, I stripped off my bathing suit and loved it. I know, I know, boys, you get to swim like this all the time. Don’t rub it in. I got out and read with my feet dipped in the water, a great way to spend late afternoon. It was definitely one of the most relaxed parts of my trip so far and I felt like I was on some odd oasis of a vacation in the middle of 6 weeks of backpacking. Now just allow me to overindulge in some pictures for a second…

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Swimming topless, crystal-blue waters, and dock diving… This must be what dreams are made of…  
          

Well, after finally waking up from my Adriatic swimming dream, I took myself out for dinner that night to try more seafood on a place overlooking the water. (Yes, the really rough 24 hours continues.) Another amazing sunset, and you can tell the island really dies down once the ferries of tourists here for the day leave. I had the restaurant all to myself, which was a bit strange, but I think most people were outside admiring the end of the sunset. The food was good, though not as good as in Šibenik, but I didn’t really expect as much. I had octopus salad and a local fish stew, served of course with bones and skin.

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That night when I got home, I finally got to meet my host, who was extremely welcoming and friendly. She immediately made me sit down at the dining room table with her and she brought up some homemade wine and grapes from downstairs. We chatted for a while about life on the island, and she shared how last summer, there had been too much rain to really have many grapes and definitely no olives. She had spent the day in Split with girlfriends and really used it to buy food for her rabbit (which she can’t get on the island) and some new sports shoes for her daughter since everything, naturally, is cheaper in Split – which by the way, does say a bit since Split is already rather pricey compared to, say, Šibenik. It was nice to find out a bit more about life here, which is much simpler and less easy than is sometimes easy to imagine lying on the gorgeous beaches. Many people here work in agriculture and/or tourism, and rely on some additional income from renting out rooms (‘sobe’). Being on an island adds some additional difficulties, as things aren’t always readily available or cheap. But, like in most small towns, many people were born and raised here or nearby, and this is home.

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The bus and ferry rides back were uneventful, save for some close encounters with cyclists and then oncoming cars on a narrow, winding road way up high in the hills overlooking the sea. But as in Europe in general, each maneuvered within inches of everything, and we got there OK. I luckily got a ticket to Mostar for 3:10 pm, so spent the next hour and a half going into the nearby drug store and spending up my remaining kuna on some mini body wash and nail polish and such. Also stopped by the pharmacy for some cough syrup (being sick in a foreign country does take its toll on you, but luckily she was super helpful and nice in helping me pick something- as was the guy the day before in getting me some cream to disinfect and heal my cut toe- and I’m now past the stage where I just wish I was home being cared for when sick). I still had some change left, so I ducked into the closest bar to the bus station/port and guzzled down the cheapest beer before my bus.

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Service in Split and Brač

I have to say, the service in Split especially (but also in Brac) was so bad overall, that I’m pretty sure I could have walked out of that bar without paying, or without even being served, as happened to us my first night in Split too when we tried ordering and the guy motioned to “no, sit down” and then never came over before we left.

Sobes everywhere
Another related thing that blew my mind about Croatia in general (but of course is also because I stuck to the coast and the cities I did) is the sheer number of apartments, sobe, and rooms for rent. It seems like every other house has a sign on it and everyone rents out rooms. At the bus and ferry stations, old women and guys sit and walk around with signs for “sobe” and it seems like everyone is involved in the tourism industry, which is the biggest industry in Croatia.

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On to Mostar…

My ride to Bosnia!

 

Where I Stayed

In an AirBnB room with a lovely host, Sandra, and her husband.

Tips

  • Unless you’re looking for a break from traveling, I wouldn’t plan on spending more than 1 or 2 nights on Brač. While relaxing, the island’s beaches are still rocky (little pebbles) and it’s not easy enough to get around without a car to stay busy with treks or cultural sightseeing.
  • If you have extra time, plan on exploring the Dragon’s Cave. I opted not to go due to timing, but my AirBnB host was happy enough to set up a tour (note: you will need a guide to enter the cave since the door is locked) It also requires about 3-3.5 hours and involves a bit of a hike.
  • Pučišća is also meant to be a great little place to stay. Our bus on the way back to Supetar stopped there, and it was indeed sparkly white.
  • Island-hopping from Brac isn’t always the easiest. Usually you’ll have to go back to Split before taking another ferry back out to Hvar, Korcula, or other nearby islands.

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2 thoughts on “Brač: life on the big island”

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