HERZEGOVINA & CROATIAN ISLANDS - 12 DAY GUIDED TOUR ITINERARY
DAY 10 - Croatia - Orebić, Korčula Island and Badija Island
Orebić beaches in the morning.
In Orebić we will board ferry to Korčula Island. Journey time is 15 minutes.
View to Korčula town from ferry.
According to legend, Korčula town was founded by the Trojan hero, Antenor, the founder of Padova. But that's only a legend. It's a fact that the town and island of Korčula were mentioned as early as the 10th century but civilisation on the island goes much further back.
Archeological finds point to the existence of a pre-Illyrian civilisation and Korčula was the first of all the Adriatic islands to come within the sphere of Greek colonisation probably as early as the 8th century BC. The inhabitants minted their own coins and maintained links with the mainland and a trading centre on the Neretva river. The town vanished into the mists of history even before the Romans arrived.
The Romans conquered the island as part of their Illyrian conquest but it appears not to have been an important centre for the Romans as few traces of their occupation remain.
Along with the rest of Dalmatia, Korčula fell under the rule of the Byzantines, Venetians, and Austro-Hungarian empire but the Venetians left most of an imprint. It was the Venetians who constructed the walls surrounding Korčula town in order to protect it against the Turks and pirates.
After the fall of Venice, the Austrians arrived followed by the French, the English (until 1815) and then again by Austria until 1918. In 1918, the Italian army occupied the island until 1921 when Korčula became part of the former Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1941, the island was again occupied by Mussolini's Italian troops who remained until the capitulation of Italy in 1943. Then the Germans came and occupied the island until 1944.
Revelin Tower - The main entrance to the old city is through the southern land gate at the base of this tower. Built in the 14th century and later extended, this fortification is adorned with coats of arms of the Venetian doges and Korčulan governors. There was originally a wooden drawbridge here, but it was replaced in the 18th century by the wide stone steps that give a sense of grandeur to the entrance.
Sea Gate - The west side entrance is called Sea Gate that leads through Baroque stairway from the harbor along the open loggia from 1584 (today local Tourist Office) to the town.
Tucked behind massive walls on a small peninsula, the winding streets are linked by stone steps and offer stunning vantage points across the Pelješki Channel to the Pelješac peninsula. The main street runs north to south and the side streets were constructed to properly ventilate the town.
Streets to the west of the main street are straight to allow the summer maestral to blow through; streets on the east are slightly curved to brake the winter northeasterly gales.
Korčula’s signature stonework, best displayed in the Gothic-Renaissance-style St. Mark’s Cathedral.
Cannon at Tower of All Saints in Korčula.
Three cannons stand on top of the rampart known as Tower of All Saints at Rampada Street. They are silent reminders of several historic battles that occurred in the Pelješac Strait. For example in 1298, 180 navy ships fought here between the fleets of Venice and Genoa. Native son Marco Polo was imprisoned after this Battle of Curzola. While in jail, he wrote his famous book on his world travels.
Korčula town beach.
St. Mark’s Cathedral is probably the most important building in the Korčula Old Town. It is built in Gothic-Renaissance style, completed in the 15th century at the place of other church from 13th century. It was built by local masters and craftsman of stone masonry, very well known in renaissance and baroque Dubrovnik and Venice.
Most famous among them was stone mason Marko Andrijić who completed the cathedral’s tower and cupola (1481) as well as elegant ciborium above the main altar. Cathedral’s facade is decorated with the truly beautiful fluted rose and various relief and statues (photos), while the main door – portal is framed by statues of Adam and Eve and figures of lions. Inside the Cathedral there are two Tintoretto’s paintings.
Marko Andrijić (c. 1470 - after 1507) was a stonemason from the Republic of Ragusa and one of the great master builders of the 15th and 16th-century. His son, Petar Andrijić (c. 1492-1553), was also a stonemason.
Many ornamental carvings in Korčula and elsewhere are attributed to Marko Andrijić. He also introduced some transitional Renaissance features in his work.
House of Marco Polo – believed to be house in which Marco Polo, the famous world traveller and writer was born.
Korčula’s claimed connection with famed traveller Marco Polo is not as tenuous as you might think. The man who travelled along the Silk Road to Kublai Khan’s China was born around 1254, possibly here, or in Venice. Polo certainly fought for the Venetians in the famous Battle of Korčula in 1298. He was captured by the Genoese and during his imprisonment dictated his famous memoirs to a literate fellow inmate. Indeed, DePolo has for centuries been a common family name here. The house frequently shown to tourists as Marco Polo’s birthplace is actually a 17th-century structure said to be built on the site of his former home – that shouldn’t take the romance out of what remains a plausible story.
Forteca – the English tower Fort Wellington
More than hundred years ago, the British navy occupied the island of Korčula during the Adriatic campaign against Napoleon’s revolutionary France. The Royal Navy’s knowledge of the region probably went no further than the setting of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Peter Lowen, the captain of one of the ships did discover similarities with Shakespeare’s quasi-mythical land of bright sunshine, excellent food and fine wine. Perhaps he was inspired by Shakespeare to make the real Illyria look like the imagined one by helping to establish better government in what would become his home for over two years. Alongside Vis, Korčula became the second major British naval fortification in this part of the Eastern Adriatic. Although the British did not stay long enough to introduce the locals to cricket, croquet and cucumber sandwiches, they did leave subtle stone structures to symbolise their short settlement.
English Piazzeta is a small semi-circular paved terrace with stone benches and pillars that is located on the eastern side of Korčula Town. It was built in 19th century by Admiral Peter Lowen, during a brief British rule of Korčula. English Piazzeta serves today as cafe’s terrace where one can sit and enjoy al fresco cocktails.
The inscription commemorating Peter Lowen.
Lowen seems to have caught the affection of the locals, who commemorated him with an inscription on the monument in Latin: "To Peter Lowen, during whose favourable administration this place of relaxation and this road suitable for wheels was built. Enjoying the freedom, the municipality of Korčula grants that this be commemorated." If Lowen was to have his tea there on a summer’s day, he would be delighted to see that since his last visit, the locals have adopted water polo, one of the British navy’s favourite sports, whose outdoor swimming pool is visible from the very piazza he built.
The Maclean house, known as the Palazzo Boschi and located immediately next door to the Cathedral of St. Mark in Korčula’s main square.
Fitzroy MacLean, who was a friend of Ian Fleming and is popularly believed to have been one of the inspirations for James Bond.
During World War II, Maclean, who was working as an army officer and cover British agent, was chosen along with a few select compatriots by Prime Minister Winston Churchill for an Allied operation targeting partisan and guerrilla units in the mountainous region of Yugoslavia. “Mr. Fitzroy Maclean, M.P., is a man of daring character, with Foreign Office training. He is to go to Yugoslavia and work with Tito. What we want is a daring Ambassador-leader with these hardy and hunted guerrillas,” stated Churchill. Described by his contemporaries as a tall, handsome, imposing, and energetic figure, Maclean parachuted into Yugoslavia in the summer of 1943 while it was still occupied by the Germans. He went on to work with Tito and was widely credited with a substantial role in Winston Churchill’s decision to back Tito instead of Draža Mihajlović, the leader of the Četnik faction.
Describing his time with Tito and the Yugoslav Partisan movement, Maclean once said, "To some people, my life might seem one long adventure holiday, blowing up forts in the desert, clandestinely parachuting into guerrilla wars, penetrating forbidden cities deep behind closed frontiers." He later went on to pen two autobiographies about Tito in which his admiration for Yugoslavia’s war-time leader and later President is abundantly evident, as was his admiration for the people of Yugoslavia and Croatians in particular.
Fitzroy MacLean (centre, wearing beret), Korčula, 1943
At the wars end, Maclean returned to Britain where he was a long-time Conservative Member of Parliament, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for War, and a traveler and author of a plethora of books. His autobiography, Eastern Approaches, published in 1949 describes his travels in Central Asia and the Soviet Union during the 1930s and his wartime adventures in Yugoslavia during WWII.
His friendship with Tito would continue throughout his life and right up until the President’s death in 1980. When the Homeland War broke out in the early 1990s, Maclean and his wife Veronica were visiting family in Scotland. Saddened and distraught, they made one of the first mercy missions into war-torn Yugoslavia, steering a truck with medical supplies through Bosnia to their beloved island of Korčula, which Fitzroy had liberated during WWII with Tito and where the Macleans still owned a property. He was 81-years old at the time and still the gallant daredevil.
Following Maclean’s death, his son Charles bequeathed a series of private papers and correspondence between his father, President Tito, and other global dignitaries, to the University of Virginia. Among the more interesting and curious artifacts within the files are letters dating from the 1990’s war to Lord David Owen and academic Stevan Dedijer about the Korčula Emergency Appeal, a relief effort for a hospital on the island which was organized by Maclean and his wife Veronica.
Sir Fitzroy Maclean passed away in 1996 at the age of 85, while visiting friends in Hertford, England. At the time he was living at Strachur House, the Maclean family’s ancestral home in the Scottish county of Argyll. His wife Veronica survived him by another nine years, passing away in early 2005 at the age of 84. Their love and association with Korčula, while perhaps unknown to the tourist hordes, is well-known among the locals who fondly recall Veronica Maclean’s affection for rakija, a drink she once famously quipped should be sipped only after being "shaken, not stirred."
We will have lunch in Lumbarda - The small, coastal village of Lumbarda lies on the east coast of Korčula Island. The pretty village – reputed to be the oldest settlement on the island – is situated around a picturesque, sheltered bay nestled among vineyards and gently rolling hills.
The terrace of the restaurant is located in a beautiful garden full of olives, pomegranates, peppers... The menu includes dishes of Mediterranean cuisine, the best of regional wine, and excellent desserts. The food is fresh and homemade, mostly from the garden where the restaurant is located.
After lunch we will take water taxi from Lumbarda to nearby Badija Island.
Dominating and lording its historic glory over the bay in front of Badija Island is a fourteenth century Franciscan monastery. It is built in the late Gothic style and named "The Assumption of Mary".
This magnificent building, with its towering bell tower and stone arches, is a sight to behold. The monastery was once home to a community of Franciscan monks, who dedicated their lives to prayer and contemplation.
In addition to the monastery, the island is also home to a small museum that showcases the island’s rich history and culture. The museum features exhibits on the island’s flora and fauna, as well as its ancient Greek and Roman history.
Large and well preserved Gothic-Renaissance square cloister, completed in 1477.
The cloister is surrounded by a hallway with a cross-vaulted ceiling, opened towards the central area with a range of arcades made of trefoils. The arches and columns are decorated with masterfully carved leafy details. This cloister is considered, besides a similar one in Dubrovnik, as one of the most beautiful on the Croatian Adriatic coast.
In the middle of the courtyard, on the platform, there is attractive water well. In the form of a quadrangle the arcade is running along the four walls of Church and Monastery.
The most attractive part inside the Church is the main altar, created in 1722 by Vilime Montina from Bassan, the master craftsman of the times.
The altar was modelled after Tirali’s main altar of the Venetian church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The island Badija is recognisable by its fallow deer population which were brought to the island in 1958 when the administration of the Brijuni islands brought two pairs of fallow deer.
Over the years, the fallow deer have settled in and become accustomed to the presence of humans, so they can often be seen eating from tourists.
The island is forested with pine and oak trees and bordered by rocky and pebble beaches
Pine trees offering welcoming cool and deep shade on warm summer days. The crystal clear waters here are a favorite of local swimmers.
Sunset in Orebić.