There was a slogan used by the Croatian National Tourist Board which sums up where I am currently calling home perfectly – The Mediterranean as it once was. After 22 years of living in Dubrovnik there is only one part of the county that my feet hadn’t touched. That final piece of the puzzle has now been solved. Lastovo!
An island paradise, a place that time has forgot and a yachter’s dream. It quickly appeared that I was not the only citizen of Dubrovnik not to visited the furthest inhabited Croatian island from the mainland. “Oh, I have always wanted to go there, but it’s so far away,” was basically the standard reply I received. In one way they were right. The connections to Lastovo from Dubrovnik are, well let’s be diplomatic and say, time-consuming. I could have probably been in any other city in the whole of Croatia in the time it took me to get to Lastovo. And this is an island that is in our county!
First impressions – a smaller and wilder version of Mljet. The sea is clear. No, that is a massive understatement. The sea makes a bottle of Jana look cloudy. I have probably never seen a cleaner sea in my life. And the colours and shades. Degas’s palette didn’t have half of the blues I have seen in the sea around Lastovo, and Edgar did love those blue shades.
The old slogan really sums it up perfectly, both in a positive way and a negative way. For the nature is best untouched but the man made things could do with some serious touching. Apart from the natural amphitheatre that is the town of Lastovo the other coastal settlements are, being diplomatic again, less attractive. But that is so often the case, for in terms of beauty man can’t beat nature.
“No, I am originally from Zagreb and moved here a couple of years ago,” said a waitress in a beach bar. She was followed by a lady renting kayaks from Pula, a couple who own a restaurant from Slavonia and a chef from Zagreb. Finding someone born on the island was proving to be challenging. “Yes, we are born and bred on the island, I’m 82 and my wife is 80,” smiled a couple as they bounced through a wooded pathway down to a beach. We had found the middle of nowhere, on an island in the middle of nowhere, and there were a couple from Lastovo, like some almost extinct species.
Split seems to be the main destination. The honey pot that the bees of Lastovo migrate to. “Yes, we feel much more part of Split than Dubrovnik,” answered an islander with a deep Split accent. “Even though it takes us five hours to get to Split by ferry, it is closer than Dubrovnik. I can’t remember the last time I went to Dubrovnik,” she added with a smile. And that is generally the answer I got from locals. Split is their city. Dubrovnik is a necessary evil. “We were part of the Republic of Dubrovnik for centuries, but now we feel like Dubrovnik has ignored us,” concluded the local. You can’t blame her.
Covid-19 has brought new challenges. To be honest I felt light years away from Covid-19, or indeed anything else from the outside world. But in times of pandemic an island is either the best place to be or the worst place to be, there is no middle ground, no grey area. “Are you from our county?” asked a local. Seemingly when it came to Covid-19 the islanders were back in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County as there were less cases than Split.
Tourism on the island is on life support. The yachts are few and far between. The German campers are more numerous but still far from numerous. On a personal note if it wasn’t for a global pandemic I probably still wouldn’t have ever seen Lastovo. Every cloud has a silver living. And so as I sit with the dawn sunshine washing over my balcony I wonder if I’ll ever see Lastovo again. My guess would be probably not. But a long weekend on the furthest point of our county has certainly helped to bring some order to my thoughts and reprioritise my life, and for that I thank Lastovo.