Pag and Rab
21.07.2012 - 22.07.2012 32 °C
With our inland road trip at an end, we headed off to the island of Pag. With a bridge that connects the island to the mainland, a bus took us northward. While the rest of Croatia remains green and fruitful, regardless of the hot and dry summer, the further we drove north the landscape began to change drastically. The soil disappeared and fields became endless and barren with white stones stretching as far as the eye could see. A few low-lying shrubs clung on for dear life, but little else could survive in this infertile landscape. Almost moon-like, we marveled at the strangeness of it and wondered what people do with these endless rocky fields. We learned that the land was at one time lush and green, but during Venetian rule it was stripped of all its trees to help build what is now Venice. As these trees were removed and winds swept the land, little else remained.
People learned to make do with what is left behind, and Pag became known for its unmistakable cheese which is some of the best in Croatia. Sheep roam freely, grazing on the few salty herbs and plants that manage to thrive here, producing a distinct salty and sharp cheese. This Paški Sir (cheese) is famous, and is an important resource for Pag, including fish and traditional lace work.
While Pag Town is known for its cobbled streets and architecture, we did not come to this island for more sightseeing, rather for the wild chaos of Zrče Beach, which lies just outside the town of Novalja. I have little to say about Novalja, with only new buildings, hotels and unappealing beaches. However, to experience Zrče, this is the place to stay.
Zrče Beach has been called the “new Ibiza,” as all the famous DJ’s come through Pag and hold large parties for insanely cheap prices. While Ibiza had clubs spread out all over the island, Zrče is a long stretch of beach with many outdoor clubs, sitting side-by-side, only steps from each other. We had no plans on spending much time here, but wanted to see for ourselves how Zrče compares.
We loved the outdoor venue, and how simple it was to pass from one club to another. We also were amazed by the next-to-nothing prices, compared to the small fortune you spend in Ibiza. However, we both agreed that the crowds were not there for the music as they were in Ibiza; rather, they were far too drunk, raucous and young. Un-thwarted, we went out the one night and danced away to French DJ –Norman Doray, who we both agreed put on a fantastic show. Carl Cox was set to play the following night, but having seen him shine in Ibiza, we were set to move on with our journey.
We pulled ourselves away from the music around 2:30 am, knowing that our ferry left in the morning at 6am for the island of Rab. With little sleep, but feeling happy never-the-less, we boarded our ferry for the quick trip up the coast. Originally Rab was not part of our plan, but I wanted to see the island where my parents had their honeymoon, over 30 years ago.
Rab is a beautiful, medieval old town with an unmistakable skyline, consisting of four bell towers rising from the red, terracotta roofs of the tightly-nestled stone buildings. Cobble-stone streets climb up narrow alleys and bougainvillea drape over every wall, only to reach the upper town where ancient churches look out at the azure Adriatic below. Small taxi boats will whisk you away to one of the many tiny islands around Rab and leave you in a private nook to spend a day in your own private beach.
Very tired from our night out, we arrived in Rab at 7am, only to find closed shops and empty streets. With no accommodations pre-planned we waited and searched hopelessly until finally finding an over-priced room, and then off we went to explore. We spent hours wandering up and down the picture-postcard streets and enjoying the many viewpoints. At noon, the sun began to beat down upon us in full force and exhaustion set in. We went to our room for a short nap, only to awake to dark skies and amazing flashes of lightning, before finally opening to torrential rains and strong winds (called bura). Exiled to our room, the night in Rab was spent watching movies and listening to the endless wind and rain. Morning brought back the beautiful blue skies as if nothing had happened the previous night. Brief but beautiful all the same, our time in Rab came to an end.
A blog about the northern region of Croatia, called Istria, will complete our Croatian journey, but that can wait till next time.