I can’t help but feel like a carnival attraction walking around Bol. The season is closed. We are alone amongst locals. As I walk down the empty town streets I am watched from the few bars left open. Construction workers dirty with the days work, beer in hand, watching me pass. Children in the grocery store agape, their head on a swivel as I pass, not shy about maintaining constant eye contact. It’s a little weird. I feel self conscious about taking out my camera for fear of becoming an empty stereotype. And I’m getting the feeling this town is done with tourists, that snarky dread any townie knows in a place where tourists invade. The season is closed. Go back to the mainland. We already have your money.
We bus from Zadar navigating a quick switch of buses at a mountainside reststop and head to a familiar bus station, the Split station we arrived at so many weeks ago. With some effort we figure out where our ferry will be stopping and head off to old town for a bit of lunch and errands. We beeline for Fife, our Split standout, bags in tow, then up the street for a couple of new SD cards for my camera (I hadn’t had much luck in Zadar). We find a place to make passport photos so we can send off for our International Driver’s Permit and wait in line for some time in a bank queue to be told they don’t offer cashier’s checks. Though I’m still not sure the teller understood our request.
Three hours later we’re on board a catamaran to the city of Bol on the island of Brač slicing through the ocean red with sunset. After deboarding, we make our way through town to be met by our host in a minivan full of kids and family. They meet us at the gate and we’re led up a winding path to our cozy apartment snug in a hillside garden. It’s small but enough to feel at home.
Walking around town
Instead of the tourist enclave I had imagined, Bol actually turned out to be a functioning community. Our villa was filled with the chatter and laughter of a local elementary school and the streets thick with children when the day was done. The two small markets in town were the main source of food and it bustled with everyday people buying the standard fair, complete with middle aged yokels out front drinking beer and ogling women like your run of the mill 7-11 crowd. The pier bar was packed with grumpy old fishermen being social and sharing stories. Townies doing townie things.
Honestly I feel self conscious. Judged. I know it’s all in my head but I feel a certain pressure not to be a mainland asshole. I keep the camera holstered and try to be cool.
As soon as I’m out of sight of downtown the camera comes out and I’m back to my normal shutterbug self. On the outskirts of town I roll up to this fantastic abandoned resort that’s been gutted and graffitied.
I found an abandoned resort!
In general, I’ve found the graffiti in Croatia to be pretty primitive. But as I reach the outskirts of town I run across what looks like a three story hotel completely covered in graffiti. This shit is on point. The entire face of the building is covered in a coherent design. The seaward facing wall was covered in a three story mural by Arsek & Erase which was phenomenal. And the interior side has a similarly impressive photo realistic mural.
I venture further in. It appears that this is an entire seaside resort that’s been abandoned, completely demolished by townies, and become the home of some outstanding artwork and possibly a few squatters from the furniture and improvements I found on some units. I’m cautious. I don’t want to clunked in the head and drug into the ramshackled interiors to be plundered of my booty (take that how you will), but I’m drawn irresistibly into the decaying wonderland. I discover a winding cliffside stairwell down to the ocean with a private beach and dock and I ferret my way around all the secret little spots coasting on a mix of adrenaline and curiosity.
As it happens this is the perfect time to be exploring on my own as Katy isn’t so much a fan of breaking and entering but it’s so much my favorite thing in the world. Yay! I discover an entire complex of buildings tucked away in overgrown forest pathways, each vandalized and covered in graffiti. So magical! I can only imagine the stories lurking here. Such improbable beauty and fantastic views taken hostage by an unknown cadre of young punks and homeless island dwellers. I wanted to know more! But alas I had so little time. But this amazing place will haunt my imagination with such potential. I will return here, if only in stories.
After a bit of research the hotel is called Bijela Kuca or White House made out of the same stone used to make the US’s White House. Originally run as a highschool by the Dominicans who run the nearby monastery it was forced into the possession of the state who converted it into a hotel eventually run by the Zlatni Rat company. During the Homeland War it ran up considerable debts to the government and they were forced to turn the hotel back over to the state where it’s sat abandoned ever since. Apparently they run a music and graffiti festival nearby that attempts to bring a brighter face to the town eyesore by giving it a facelift. Explains the awesome art.
Zlatni Rat the Golden Horn
Considered one of the best Mediterranean beaches and one of the top tourist spots in Croatia Zlatni Rat pokes into the ocean like a tongue, a double sided beach peninsula usually carpeted with umbrella chairs and a busy traffic jam of yachts anchored in the bay. But today, we’re the only two tourists in Bol. It feels like we’re unknowingly starring in our own rapture movie. Not another person for a mile except some guy in a yellow kayak in the distance. The weather’s still holding and the water is brilliant. We stake out a spot at the very tip of the horn and pick through the pebbles for seashells while Katy plays the Beach Boy’s Kokomo that’s been playing in my head.
A local movie
After a few drinks at one of the only open town joints we happened upon the town theater that was showing “Everest: Mladi Jeti” the dubbed croation version of Abominable. It was awesome! With large popcorn, two alcoholic drinks, and two tickets we were still under 100kn (about $15). The audience was almost entirely kiddos which makes movies even more fun. It was entirely in Croatian but honestly you didn’t need any English to get the movie. I love watching movies in other languages.
Dinner at Konoba Dalmatino
I’m sure Bol is blanketed with a wide array of amazing restaurants serving exquisite versions of Croatian home cooking. Maybe. I have no idea. There’s only one restaurant open in the town right now. And that’s where we chose to eat. Konoba Dalmatino. Google and the various websites may agree that there’s more to be found but we’ve looked and in early November every other place has taken their summer treasure and closed the fuck down. But even though it’s the only choice, Dalmatino was charming and the food was quite good, if not the cheapest place we’ve eaten. Katy chose the lamb and I chose the beef cheeks, which they were out of, so I had the lamb too. A simple ceramic dish of baked lamb and an array of basic veg. It was great. But at 180kn a plate, it was a bit out of budget.
Cooking in our apartment
The up side to having no restaurant options is that it gave it us a chance to start cooking on our own. Honestly most of our previous apartments were better equipped for cooking but this one had just enough of the bare essentials to prepare a decent meal. A pot, a fry pan, a really dull knife, and that’s about it. But we did our best and made some decent food. I also found a liter of serviceable white wine for about 18.5kn or roughly $2.75. What more can you ask for?
Pork cutlet with a mushroom and olive red sauce over gnocchi.
I fried the two pork cutlets then cooked down the mushrooms in the same skillet, reduced a little white wine until it was a syrup, then added the red sauce and olives. The gnocchi were a cinch to boil. A base of gnochi, then cutlet, then sauce, and there you have it. It even felt a little local.
Smoked sausage with stewed beans and a mixed salad.
Similar approach. Sear the sausage, heat the beans, add the sausage back, and simmer. Katy used a coffee filter as a cutting board and prepped all the salad fixin’s and we used the standard salt/olive oil/vinegar dressing everyone uses here. Pretty good.
Did I mention how delicious emulsified meat is?
Oh yeah, more mortadella sandwiches. You know you want one. [*sandwich winks]