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Cycling on Brac Island

By smithdm3 - Posted on 14 December 2011

October 21 to 23, 2011
Thursday saw us leave Dubrovnik and join up with those who would be arriving for the biking tour of Brac and Hvar. This meant a drive up the coast to the area around Split. The drive up the coast was beautiful with the Adriatic and islands on one side and mountains on the other. And the drive actually allowed us to pass through another country. The coast of Croatia is broken in one spot where Bosnia and Herzegovina have their own little section. One of our guides indicated that this was due to the fact that during the time that Dubrovnik was a republic it actually gave away some of its coastline to the Kingdom of Herzegovina, a strong military power, in exchange for protection. So, as a result, that portion even after the breakup of Yugoslavia is still not part of Croatia. Sadly, we didn’t get our passports stamped as they don’t do this for those who are just transiting.

TrogirWe arrived in Trogir, a small city less than a half hour from Split, just after lunchtime and so checked into the hotel and set out to look for some lunch. Trogir has its own old city complete with narrow streets and contained on what is essentially an island in the middle of the larger city. Sadly, it was pouring rain so we sought refuge under a café’s canopy and ate a warm lunch of soup. The rain let up a bit after lunch and so we walked over to the city’s tower, which isn’t much of a tourist attraction and wasn’t open, but looks impressive from the outside. We then continued on into the narrow cobbled streets and wandered around for a fair amount of time.

Even though the city is small in area, there were so many little crooks and crannies to investigate. After a little bit we ended up in the town square that is surrounded by some beautiful historic buildings, including the Cathedral of St. Lawrence that was closed for renovations. We checked out the cathedral doors that are intricately carved with signs of the zodiac and scenes from every day life. We also chose to pay for the privilege of climbing up the bell tower in order to see a nice view of the city. The first part of the stairwell was a traditional steep, stone, spiral staircase that took you up to a roof over the baptistery and the front steps of the cathedral. The next part of the climb was more daunting as it was a set of somewhat rickety rusting metal steps culminating in what was not much more than a ladder to the final level. Once up at the top though the view was quite spectacular. After climbing down and wandering around some more we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

View from BelltowerFor dinner in Trogir we were once again on our own. We wandered around a bit before finding a restaurant that was open. Because we were there at the end of the tourist season, many places were already closed for winter. I ended up having some grilled squid, while Meg had veal. My squid was cooked nearly in front of us on a charcoal grill and wasn’t cut up at all but rather the full little six inch squid itself. It was pretty tasty. After dinner we made our way back to the hotel, stopping along the way to have a beer. We found a little café decorated in Cuban communist memorabilia and enjoyed most of the atmosphere (minus the smoke) before turning in for the night.

Friday saw us meet the rest of our bike tour comrades as we all piled on the bus that would take us to Split and in the ferry to Brac Island, the first place we would be cycling. The people on our tour were great, though slightly older than us as a general rule. The bus took us into Split and dropped us off near the ferry terminal. Matej, one of our guides who arrived with the bus gave us a brief idea of the old palace and city of Split before he took us on board the ferry for the hour journey over to the port of Supetar on Brac. Aboard the ferry we met Milan, our other guide for the next week. Our guides would take turns throughout the week, one day riding the bike, the next driving the van. Today was Milan’s turn to drive the van and tote the bikes around with him while Matej led us on the tour. In Supetar we boarded a shuttle which took us to the little town of Postira, our home for the next three nights.

Hotel Pastura was quite nice, though the village itself was very much closed down for the season. We ended up having our lunch at the only open restaurant in town before meeting back up with the others for a safety session and bike fitting. Postira

Meg and I had both chosen to ride road bikes for the week, rather than the other option of a hybrid. Both bikes are apparently custom designs for VBT, though, it seemed that both frames were actually identical, and only the handle bars and components were different (grip shifters on the hybrid, Campagnolo groupos on the road bikes). The bikes were very decent and quite adequate for their purpose. They were slightly heavier than our own bikes, and both Meg and I rode frames that were also slightly larger than our own. We both also brought our own seats, pedals and shoes though, in order to at least feel somewhat like we were on our own bikes.

In order to familiarize ourselves with the bikes we went on a short 10km ride along the town’s water edge and then into a valley to the village of Dol. The ride was easy and a nice way to stretch out our legs and prepare for more cycling over the next five days. The valley was nice, and included a very low-grade climb that was barely noticeable on the way up it. At the top was the village of Dol where a surprise opportunity awaited us. We stopped at a small, family run konoba (restaurant), where the proprietor Mario, greeted us with a chance to try some walnut grappa. It was sweet and quite tasty. This was actually the location we would later be coming for dinner and they were busy tending the fire to heat up a large metal “bell” which would be used to cook meat later in the evening. We hopped back on the bikes and made easy work of the descent back down to our hotel. Drinking Grappa

We relaxed for a bit before meeting up with the others to shuttle back up to the konoba for a tasty dinner. This was a great chance to get to know all the people on the tour and hear why they chose to do a cycling tour in Croatia. There were a number of couples on our tour (from New York, Philadelphia, Vermont and North Carolina), along with two single gentlemen and four ladies from Syracuse who were having a blast. After dinner it was off to bed in order to be ready for our first real day of riding on the trip.

PuciscaSaturday morning we met Milan, our cycling guide for the day, at 8:30 in the morning to go over the day’s route. After the review it was time to hop on the bikes and away we went. Meg and I were the first to leave and stayed near the front on our way to Pucisca until we were passed taking photos from the side of the road overlooking the town. The road from Postira to Pucisca was a very enjoyable ride, with only small climbs for the most part. The trip was 19k and wove through rolling hills with beautiful vistas on the island’s north coast. We arrived at the town fairly early and wandered around town looking at souvenirs for sale, some boys carving/cutting stone in front of the stone mason school and all the interesting stone that the city employed in its design. For example, they had stone street lamps in some places!

Before most of the other riders arrived, a gentleman out for a stroll stopped to talk to us. He chose to speak English with us, which to me was a bit of a surprise. His English was really quite decent, and it turns out he spent a number of years living in Australia. It was very easy to see that he was proud of both his town and country. After speaking to him, Meg and I grabbed a sandwich for lunch before making our way back to Postira on the bikes. We continued on by the village before meeting up with a nice climb up to a village called Skrip. We parked our bikes in an area surrounded by houses with old field/flag stone roofs, really quite remarkable and romantic.

We were met by a woman, Lucy, and her husband who treated us to a taste of their wine and olive oil. These were made in their home just as many people on the Dalmatian coast do. The olive oil was delicious and it had the most olive-y taste of any I’ve had the opportunity to try. We bought a litre of both wine and olive oil from her. The wine was a bit strong and we never actually got around to drinking it, but it hadn’t cost us much. After our visit, it was downhill most of the way back to Postira.

For dinner our tour group was split up into two groups of eight and was hosted by a woman in town for a home cooked meal. Sophie, a wonderful lady who actually lived in Vancouver for more than a dozen years, hosted our group. We had a meal of stuffed peppers along with mashed potatoes after an appetizer (of course) of prosciutto and cheese, all standard fare in Dalmatia. Dessert was a delicious flan and home made cookies. And then after dinner it was off to bed in order to rest up for the next day of cycling.

View from Vidova GoraSunday saw us shuttled to the highest peak in the islands, Vinova Gora, 780m high. It allowed us a beautiful view including the town of Bol and the Golden Horn (Zlatni Rat) beach below, our destination on Monday. We cycled downhill for about 10km to Nerezisca where we paused to regroup before continuing the descent to sea level and our lunch stop at Milna. Along the way we passed some large areas that were affected by a recent fire that burned a number of olive trees. We also stopped briefly at a limestone quarry where we marvelled at the size of the blocks they quarried and shipped out.

In Milna we had a light meal before doing a 3km climb back up out of the town and retracing part of our earlier route. Reaching Bobovisca we road on through Sutivan, Milar and on to the port town of Supetar. We searched for some gelato in Supetar, but sadly, couldn’t find any. It was then back on the road to ride through Splitska and up a super steep short climb back to Postira. We had a meal in the hotel that was actually quite poor as it seemed they cooked it all straight from frozen ingredients (rather disappointing, but considering the hotel was shutting down for the season the next day, I can understand why they didn’t have much on hand). After dinner it was off to bed before our last day cycling on Brac and our transfer to Hvar.

Stona Mason School, PuciscaMonday we were off early to visit the Stone Mason school. This place was truly amazing, a hive of activity as the students, all high school age, were busy splitting stone, carving and polishing. The works they produce are amazing. They often carve a decorative window frame for the school as a senior project and that gets incorporated in place of the plain-jane frames that were built originally.

After our visit we bussed back to a town not far from Vinova Gora called Praznica. We got on our bikes and rode down a magnificently breath-taking coastal road to the beach in Bol. The ride was exhilarating and absolutely beautiful. We dipped our toes in the water, but it was really too cold to go for a swim and we didn’t have any towels. From the beach we took a nice stroll to the centre of Bol and had a look around the harbour before finding some lunch. After lunch we boarded a private ferry that would take our group over to the town of Jelsa on the island Hvar.

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