Peka

I had always wanted to visit Croatia, it was a country that sounded a little like the Greece of my late teens, we had holidayed for a couple of years in Puglia in northern Italy and I loved staying in a simple apartment - in the case of Puglia obviously it had to be a trullo - barbecuing local meat and fish and feasting on great vegetables but I was always fascinated by the former Yugoslavian countries.

We eventually got to Croatia in September 2017 we flew to Dubrovnik which was a beautiful green walled city but very busy with too many selfie taking tourists so swiftly moved to the island of Hvar by ferry.

Renting airbnb for a few nights we then planned to move on to another island and then to Split, but after a couple of nights decided we couldn’t possibly leave Hvar so soon and cancelled the accommodation we had prebooked and extended our stay in Hvar. Starigrad was charming so we stuck there, it is the oldest town in Hvar and much quieter than Hvar town, it is on the most beautiful coastline with turquoise clear seas to tempt you into the sea.

The town had a few nice bars and simple tavernas in a square by the harbour. We soon learnt that the menus in each were very similar with European dishes but had house specials which were always the better choice - these were often simple grilled whole fish or meat stews at bargain prices.We had heard of the legendary Peka of Croatia which turned out to be either lamb, chicken or octopus cooked in a oven proof dish and was basically the meat or fish with potatoes and vegetables baked slowly by putting the whole dish in an open fire for 6/8 hours (you need to order when you book), Simon had heard of a hill top ancient village Humac which had a restaurant that only did peka so that was where we headed. It turned out to be the most beautiful rural village lit only by candlelight and all facilities run by solar power, we were treated to a feast of our preordered lamb peka which was melt in the mouth tender and a natural wine made on the premises which was so in demand they couldn’t sell us a bottle to take home with us. It turned out they had a couple of cottages to rent out, what a dream place.

What fascinated me about this country was that the residents had been only 15 years out of war and you could see evidence of this throughout the country with bullet holes and shell scars on buildings and roads, they talked about it openly, young men who had been born in Bosnia but now worked in Croatia, how they fought in their teens but were now taxi drivers trying to make ends meet so their wife and family could join them, the people were open and friendly and interested in our lives and our origins.

We said we would return and plan to take a long road trip at some point and stay in that eco village whenever life returns to something like normal. Swimming in that clear warm Dalmatian sea with nobody else in sight would be a great place to self isolate.