IN BETWEEN ISLANDS
Light Chaser Life is introducing a series called In Between Islands by both of our writers. This is the second post from our new series of life in an archipelago.
On the slopes of the steep coastline called Dingač, hugging the small villages of Trstenik and Podobuce, the donkeys and the graphevine tenders brave the 50-degree inclination to harvest the plavac mali grapes.
The slopes are too steep to navigate on human foot alone, so the donkeys of Pelješac are crucial in producing and bringing the world some of Croatia’s best wines.
59 kilometres (37 miles) from Dubrovnik is the finger-shaped peninsula called Pelješac. This low-key and sparsely inhabited part of the Croatian coast off Dalmatia county is a secret destination with lots to offer. The four municipalities of Orebić, Trpanj, Janjina and Ston rest in a long piece of land measuring 65 kilometers in length (40 miles). The peninsula is narrow—just around 6 kilometers (four miles) wide and linked to the mainland by a small area in Ston.
Pelješac is a hedonist’s dream. This post highlights some of the experiences we had on the peninsula in the summer.
How to get there
From Zagreb to Ploče, where we took the ferry to Trpanj takes around just under four hours by car. On a bus, it takes around 6.3 hours and there are 10 departures from Zagreb to Ploče. Buses cost around 195-199 Kuna (U$ 29-30 with the cheaper fare leaving at 6.00am) The ferry to Trpanj from Ploče takes around 45 minutes. You can book bus tickets and ferry tickets online.
The drive from Trpanj to Orebić was scenic, the sea views magnificent as you travel the narrow mountain road to the seaside town of Orebić. Nearing the quiet town of Orebić, we passed several wineries, including the Korta Katarina on our way to the apartment we had rented for the trip.
Stay on Orebić beach
Most summer rentals on Orebić face the water, and there are so many great places to eat and drink right there on the water. (We found our apartment through booking.com.)
The seafood is fantastic. We had a few meals at Amfora located on Kneza Domagoja 6. Also try the peka cooked dishes at Panorama restaurant on Monastery Road, Zukovac-Bilopolje, which is a short drive from the beach road via Ulica Bana Josipa Jelačića. Peka is a technique where the dish is cooked under charcoal fire, slowly. The dish comes out so tender it melts in your mouth.
In the evenings, the small lane flanking the beach comes alive with a carnival of families and couples. Children skateboarding, people strolling to dinner or from dinner, and later, lining up for gelato. We recommend Croccatino, at Obala Pomoraca 30. Try the gelato with Bailey’s or the white chocolate on goat’s milk.
Highlights from Pelješac
Pelješac is wine kingdom in Dalmatia, so we had a wine tasting tour. We scheduled a wine tasting at the Skaramuča family vineyards tasting and wine shop, located at their Pijavičino wine shop right on the Pelješac main highway. There is free parking and you can see a giant sign of the signature bottle from the winery. The wine shop is open from 9am to 9pm in May to October each year.
The reception at Skaramuča was wonderful. The wine tasting takes you through the different wines ranging from the table wines which are not as aged and may not be from a barrique barrel, or the oak barrels used to age top-class wines, all the way to the older and more exclusive wines like the Dingač and the Dingač Reserva. The wine-tasting session includes charming stories about the family, the wines and a platter of olives and cold meats with homemade bread. We purchased a few bottles of a range of the Skaramuča wines and to this day, they remain some of our favorites from Dalmatia and they make great gifts when we put together “The Best of Croatia” packages for family and friends.
We also visited a cooperative of small wine makers near the tunnel that leads to the Dingač slopes. We learned about the cooperative that helps small wine makers pool their yield and expertise together to produce small labels for the local markets in Croatia.
We drove to and walked around the Trstenik village area and saw the damage to the Grgich estate from a 2015 disastrous fire that damaged thousands of bottles of wine, vineyards and surrounding vegetation.
The region that champions the wine industry in Pelješac is Postup, located on the side of the peninsula that get more than 2,800 hours of sunshine each year. The grapes that grow in this region are some of the happiest in the peninsula. One of our favorite wines for the table is called the Postup and has a donkey on the label.
We descended into a small cove and had a fantastic lunch of grilled Adriatic calamari and a swim. The small bay in Postup is similar to many inlets that offer great swimming and some rentals.
Lunch at a farmhouse
Close to the tunnel near the Dingač area and more inland are some farmhouses. We called one of the farmhouses for a peka lunch and a peek at the village and the donkeys used to harvest grapes.
The farmhouse had some of their produce displayed in the dining area: there was a giant onion almost as big as a seven-year old’s head, sitting on the counter. We sat underneath hanging slabs of cured meats surrounded by samples of the local rakija, or the fruit-based aperitif common to Croatian households, while waiting for the peka roast to be ready. We munched on starters, homemade bread and cured meats.
“Do you grow your own produce?” is not a good question to ask at a farmhouse. After we asked this question, the farmhouse matron huffed and then chuckled, staring at us for a moment in disbelief at these city folk who knew so little, and then said kindly, “Naravno.” Of course.
Then she went into the next room where the peka stoves were and brought back our roast. Meat that has been cooked so slowly and using aromatics, onions and potatoes and carrots and rosemary that each tasty bite melts in your mouth.
Franciscan monastery, church and viewing point
About two kilometers west of Orebić town is a Franciscan monastery from the 15th century. From the grounds of the church the view across the water to Korčula is super. There is a cemetery adjacent to the church, and reading the headstones tells the story of Orebić, a town with generations of sea captains, building their houses and lives on the small coast.
In Orebić town right on the water, there are villas that still stand and speak of how Orebić captains had an important role in maritime trade in Dubrovnik. The mariners who made Orebić town their base built imposing stone houses with architecture reminiscent of Venetian design.
We were invited to enter a house by the descendant of one of the families with generations of seafarers and traders. Entering her house, the foyer hinted of past glory and luxury. Intricate wall paper, carved furniture and a chandelier greets the entrance. From the main hall, a staircase ascended to several apartments.
Pelješac peninsula is a summer dream. Swim, eat, drink, play, repeat. Orebić is a quiet alternative to Korčula island across the water, which is reachable by ferry or taxi daily. It’s one of the best places to taste the freedom and joy of being on the Croatian coast when you are in between islands.