Where: Cavtat, Croatia
Plate of food: Burek, savoury pastries filled with ground meat or spinach and cheese. These are simply delicious. The filling of choice is rolled up in layers of golden flaky pastry, then that roll of pastry is coiled into a flat oval shape. We bought these daily from the bakery in the village and would take them, still warm, back to our rental apartment (if we didn’t devour them on the way…).
I also feel compelled to mention dried figs (what? You’ve never felt that way?). Dried figs were everywhere in Cavtat: drying in flat baskets on the sun-drenched hillsides, piled in bunches at the local market, and inevitably in my bag for every excursion we went on. These were plump, soft, sweet, and bursting with deep flavour. Don’t underestimate a dried fig until you’ve eaten one in Cavtat.
The Best: The Croatian coastline. Cavtat is a jumble of stone buildings nestled around two calm bays; a spit of land separates them as it stretches out into the Adriatic. The coastline is rocky and dramatic. The water is tantalizingly blue.
In the heart of the town is a small bay with deep, dark water that welcomes gleaming super yachts, but also reserves a space for local boys to play impromptu water polo as evening falls. This is where you can sit at one of the cafes with a bottle of wine and the catch of the day on your plate. The sunset across the bay is spectacular. At night, shadowy fish circle beneath the glowing lights of the yachts.
Further along the coastal road there are secluded swimming spots that can be your own private piece of paradise. We’d walk along until we found a good spot that hadn’t been nabbed by sneaky German pensioners who reserved prime spots by laying their towels out at DAWN. (Just a note that I have nothing against Germans or pensioners. I only wish I had been as organized as them.)
We’d scramble down the rocks and then float in the crystal clear water. We’d sit and examine the pebbles and sea glass, lazily count the bright fishing boats bobbing along the shore, gingerly touch sea urchin spines, and squint out across the shimmering water toward Dubrovnik. I would be astounded if there is a better way to spend an afternoon.
Story that needs to be told: Simply: Cavtat. I tell nearly everyone I meet about Cavtat and how they need to book a trip there…now, right now! And with this post I have alerted all the people I somehow missed, and Cavtat Tourism will surely give me a prize now. (You can pay me in Burek, thanks.)
It is a place blessed with a bounty of goodness: good weather, great food, stunning scenery, inviting seas, friendly people….
I have such very fond memories of my 2 trips to Cavtat:
- The waiter deftly removing the fillets from the whole grilled fish at our table side with just two spoons. Look at that – so easy! I have since attempted this on my own and it resulted in me having to change my clothes. Look at that – NOT so easy!
- Fresh scampi, fresh fish, fresh calamari, fresh, fresh, fresh!
- Wandering along the port and watching the staff on the luxury yachts prepare to sail. They look so capable and efficient in their matching khaki shorts and polo shirts, polishing the brass, tying ropes, carrying crates of champagne on board, and tending to the 2 jetskis kept under the hull (what?!).
- Getting a full-body hot stone massage at the spa as I gazed out at the blue Adriatic.
- Matt’s Dad going snorkeling with the apartment keys in his pocket and losing them as he swam. AND THEN FINDING THEM AGAIN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAY. Incredible, right?
- Late night lemon sorbet.
- Happening upon a religious procession with local villagers in traditional dress, parading with flowers and musical instruments.
- Discovering our toddler could climb out of her travel cot much to my horror (you mean, she’s not contained now??!) and to the hilarity of my in-laws.
- Buying beautiful red coral jewelry.
- Strangely stumbling across a Country and Western music hoedown in the main square. Complete with cowboy hats, guitars, and two-stepping! This one remains a mystery. But I kind of like it that way.
- The contentment of ending a splendid day with sand between our toes, salt water still dripping from our hair, and just the slightest tingle of pink across our noses.
“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
― Judith Thurman