We do not normally go on organised excursions but we desperately need to be up in the mountains and since we had no car and were not fully fledged climbers we decided on a trip in a mini bus. This turned out to be a good choice.
The road was of course very narrow (mostly single track with passing places), twisty and twindy. Typical hair raising mountain roads. Apparently the professional tour drivers have problems with tourists travelling in their own cars since the latter are not experienced in mountain driving and frequently cause dangerous situations. Officials are trying to ban access to the mountain road to all non professional drivers.
We stopped a few times on the way up before culminating at the peak - Sv Jure which is 1762 metres, Croatia's third highest mountain (with it's 10 metre mast it is the highest!).
The scenery is, of course, magnificient, Makarska and the surrounding coastline in full view and the whole vista of the Biokovo mountains.The whole area is a Nature reserve park.
We knew lunch was included at the end of the trip but did not realise to what extent - it was a banquet! We ate outside, were greeted with a glass of home made herb brandy. (the guides, who were husband wife, made this brandy and obviously encouraged us to buy some.We were backpacking and could not carry it). It was delicious by the way. We had huge salad for starters, chicken with local ham and cheese, potatoes and Croatian cooked cabbage which was excellent and pancakes with fig marmalade. An endless supply of locally produced red wine was provided, also very good. It must have lasted about 2 hours and there was a good party spirit.
My cousin and "Ralph Lauren" climbed back up the gangplank, "Ralph" helping my cousin along as he was collapsing with laughter.
He bought the paper the next day. A little note in the right hand corner of the front page about "Ralph in Makarska". The center spread had all of the details, including a short bio of Mr. Lauren. And there were the pictures of my cousin standing next to Ronaldo, the Italian radiologist, aka "Ralph Lauren".
People in the cafes sipped their espressos or spooned their cappucinos and sighed as they paged through the morning paper.
"Here I am in paradise and I have proof that it is. Ralph Lauren came here yesterday."
A pause to stir a spoon.
"How did I miss seeing him?"
"Why didn't he stop by my table?"
They stared out into the harbor with greater interest. The waiter had mentioned a rumour that John Malkovich was sailing up the coast from his hotel in Dubrovnik.
A visit was in order, they concluded.
An acquaintance of one of my cousins is an American of available monies. Along with a few professional association buddies, he rented a black yacht, a visibly noticeable craft tucked amidst the swan-white other ones in the harbor. Being a raconteur of considerable fame, my cousin was invited along for the 5 day cruise. As a joke, he donned a skipper's hat. Being able to distinguish a captain's hat from a top hat was my cousin's limited knowledge of shipboard doings. For a few days, he was cavorting, carousing, and arrousing people's interests on the yacht as it lazily meandered in the myriad of islands off the coast. When it came time to unload him, Makarska's dock was picked as the place to dock. As my cousin strolled down the short gangway, captain's hat still perched at a rakish angle, a reporter from a daily national paper came up to him. The yacht was the largest ship in the harbor that morning, so curiosity and scoop hunger were on alert.
"Who's on that boat?"
"Sorry, who's on that ship?"
My cousin looked around. He saw a gent walking by with a fashion labelled polo shirt.
"Ralphie, of course."
He stared at the reporter, his blue eyes twinkling as he carefully laid out the line.
"Ralph Lauren, of course." He pointed to a full head of grey gentleman lounging on the ship, drink in hand. "Don't you recognize him?"
The reporter stuttered, pulled out her camera, and clicked furiously.
"How about a picture of you and Mr. Lauren together, skipper?"
Skipper!? My cousin thought this was going all too well. He waved to the gentleman on the ship to come ashore. The grey-headed man was more than happy to come down; it must be another story that my cousin had to regale him with.
The reporter snapped a shot, asked "Ralph Lauren" a few questions, which were answered in an Italian scented English.
She rushed off to her offices with a scoop.
It turned out to be Ronaldo, an Italian Radiologist. That's the way the story ended. If I had not seen the full center spread two page pictorial and article, I would have signed it off as another inventive story, delightful in its detail, superb in its execution. I was a hungry shark; my cousin was throwing out his verbal chum, slowly bringing me closer to the hook. I bit. Again. But, this time he unfolded one of the daily newspapers and showed me the truth of his deceit.
It started in this manner.
All along the main roads and in the marketplaces, you'll spot signs for Zimmer Frei, Room, Carrera, Apartman. Between July 1st and August 15th, prices in some places have doubled or tripled. Immediate cash flow is on high anxiety setting. Makarska is a gorgeous little town half-way between Split and Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast. Like all towns along the coast, it survives on the summer tourist season. Obviously, any attention thrown Makarska's way is appreciated. The easiest method of casting attention its way? Some hoi-polloi, in the form of a movie / tv / fashion/ politics star, of course. Hoi Polloi sitings are the first sections of the paper folks look at as they loll and gag in the little cafes and bistros edging along the main road of town as it wraps itself around the harbor. Best seats in the house for wealthy arrivals as yachts and elegant sailboats come to dock.
(to be continued)
Tucepi (population 1,700) is located 4 km south-east of Makarska. Until the earthquake of 1962, the majority of its inhabitants were living in hamlets at he foot of Biokovo. Today, its inhabitants are engaged in agriculture and toursim. Tucepi has become one of the most attractive summer resorts in Croatia. It is distinguished by the most beautiful and longest gravel beach of the Makarska riviera, a pine wood, olive-groves, luxury hotels, beautiful houses and sports grounds. There is marina in the place, protected from the wind by its breakwater.
Baska Voda (population 2,200) is situated 9,5 km north-west of Makarska. It is one of the oldest and most visited summer resorts in the Makarska Riviera. Long gravel beaches, thick pine wood and nicely arranged streets are the decoration and the distinction of this place.
Brela (population 1,500) is situated 15 km north-west of Makarska, on the steep Biokovo foothills. The population there is engaged i winegrowing, olive growing, growing of marasca cherries and figs, and toursim.
Brela is the springs of beauty because of its natural features: a thick pine wood descending all the way to the beutiful gravel beaches and the clear sea. It has been known as one of the most attractive tourist places in Croatia for several centuries already. It is the winner of the European ecological award “Blue Flag” for years 1999 - 2001.
The Punta rata beach at Brela was awarded the European Blue Flag, an environmental award given to communities for their efforts in keeping their beaches clean and managing them with consideration for the local environment.
The pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens) in Donja Brela is thought to be more than 300 years old, and by its large size and well developed habitus it dominates the landscape. Oaks of this size are very rare, especially along the Croatian coast.
Igrane (population 400) is located 17 km south-east of Makarska. It is situated on a small peninsula the right side of which is covered by a wide sandy beach.