February 2012: Thoughts on Korcula Town
Over the years we have sailed amongst the Dalmatian Islands we have rarely been back to the same place more than three times. Korcula Town is no exception, but unlike many favourite stopovers (Hvar, Vis, Bobovicse, Vrboska etc) where there is no lack of love or delight in a place, just a wish to try somewhere new after a while, I am sorry to report that with Korcula Town it is is a different matter.
Our first visit (2008) was made with great anticipation, the town is after all one of the Dalmatian highlights, mentioned in the same breath as Hvar Town and Dubrovnik and above other destinations such as Split, Vis or Brac. I had high hopes which did not take long to evaporate. Yes it is pretty, yes it is impressive (at first sight at least), yes the architecture is beautiful as is the location, but it seemed to lack something, to fall between two stools.
It had the streets of Hvar Town, Trogir or Dubrovnik and was certainly busy enough to remind you of those places, however you could never get lost here. Korcula Town is a small place, 5-10 minutes walk and you will have covered the length of the old town north to south, passing the cathedral on your way. What’s more its famous herring bone street pattern, the very strength of its design, precludes wandering aimlessly. You are either on the main central thoroughfare, you are on the town walls, or walking in a straight line between.
By know you must be wondering ‘what is he moaning about...it sounds delightful.’ And at the surface you would be right... Korcula Town is a delightful place and I did enjoy it, yet for me something remained unfulfilled?
Korcula Town: Western Gate
Our second and third visits came in 2009 and 2010 and were on the downwards slope. I returned in 2009 convinced I had missed something, that there was more to see, some atmosphere to soak up. In 2010 the town was our southern most point of travel (we had hoped to get on to Miljet but the weather was against us). I quickly learned, in the old town at least, there is nothing more - what you see pretty much straight away is what you get. No hidden secrets, no delights to discover.
That third trip in 2010 was also marked by my lowest point in sailing the Croatian coast. A rare bout of depression over took me as I sat on the ACI Marina wall (thankfully these are few and only last a day or so). The weather had not been good, we had not reached our targeted destination (Miljet) and here I was again, in the one tourist town I would rather not spend time in.
SO - what is it that makes Korcula Town fall flat for me? I am still not sure, and I still feel the urge to go back and seek that missing element, despite the fact I am fairly certain it is not there to be found. Its easier to say what is missing I think. Korcula Town has a high reputation to maintain, yet it does not have the chic of Hvar Town, nor the hidden historic highlights or either Hvar Town or Vrboska. In some ways in that sense it reminds me of Stari Grad, however Stari Grad does not carry the reputation of Korcula so is not the same disappointment.
Turning to the unspoilt nature of Vis and Komiza, or of outer islands such as Lastovo as well, Korcula lacks their just-discovered feel, the sense that you can get there by boat (either ferry or yacht) and that its a trek which is paid off by quiet, if crumbling, exclusivity. Korcula Old Town is polished, it makes it look very special, very beautiful but the polish is a thin veneer with little underneath it.
Yet it is clearly a place where people live - which is good, and I have an old friend who has a house there - for some reason I could see myself living there too? Weird I know but then I never claimed this to be a rational dislike... Coming down to it I think the problem is Korcula Town promises much, and is heavily hyped as such, but does not really have the guts to deliver.
Sailing and mooring
Korcula Town is one of those sailing hubs of the Dalmatian coast (along with places such as Milna and Split) - traveling from Kremik to Dubronik or visa versa most routes will take you through the Peljeski Kanal and past the old town. As a result there is a habit of thinking that the Town itself is a natural stopping off point. A night in the ACI Korcula marina beckons...
This is a well maintained facility with good services and clean modern showers and toilets and if there is any complaint it is only that the site is quite tight (I have heard more than one charter operator suggest that if a boat is going to be returned with superficial damage it is as likely as not going to happen in ACI Korcula - not through malicious vandalism but because of the tightness of the space). For me however this marina is part of the problem. Perhaps its just its vicinity to the town, or perhaps it is its unsheltered (no trees or shade) bare appearance, but it is here that the aforementioned depression struck home.
There are however other options - the small town harbour wall on the other side of the Old Town from ACI Korcula is one - it has always looked interesting and also busy and one day we may well try it out. Several things count against it however, not least exposure to a westerly swell that can (and often does) build up in the evenings along the Peljeski Kanal. Also the details of services (power and water, as well as laid moorings) are contradictory - the Pilots suggest there are none - my own eyes would beg to differ (and if anyone has any direct experience we would love to hear from you.)
Korcula harbour wall
Another option (and with hindsight what made our 2008 visit bearable) are the numerous other bays and anchorages within walking distance of the town. In 2008 we chose (and I cannot now remember why) to anchor in Luka Banja, a beautifully sheltered anchorage around 1nm to the west of the town, to which we could easily walk. That night we were serenaded to sleep by Night Jars and other birds, in an atmosphere smelling of of night scented flowers... strange I know but these are the details that stick with me.
2011 - Searching for other options
In 2011 we again were aiming to get down from Kremik through the Peljeski Kanal and onwards to Dubrovnik (and also back again). On this occasion however I was determined we would not spend the night in ACI Korcula and that I wanted try options other than Luka Banja too. Our outward leg took us from Uvala Vinogradicse on St Klement in the Pakleni along the Kanal and past Korcula Town for a night in the delightful Lumbarda Marina. We found it a bit rough and ready, but it had everything we needed (including a large supermarket and a fruit market in the village) and held no pretensions to be anything other and a nice Croatian beach resort. (Note to self however - there is a bus service into Korcula if you want to go there)
The waterfront in Orebic looking over to Korcula Town (right)
Our return leg started on Miljet and heading north I took the decision to try Orebic Harbour on the mainland shore of Peljesacs just opposite Korcula Town. I have another friend who has a house just inland from Orebic and again he sings its praises very highly. Again we were not disappointed, this is a delightful little resort town and nothing more . The harbour is nice and friendly which is a bonus (Again Note to self - you can also catch a water bus directly into Korcula Town if you want to go there). The only limiting factor here is a restriction on boat drawing more than 2 metres of depth as the harbour is not much deeper than that at low tide.
Now that I have all of that off my chest (something I should have done years ago) - here is what I would recommend.
1.VISIT Korcula Old Town - at least once. You will enjoy it, 1000s of people do every year.
2.Use the ACI Marina if you need too - if not use one of the local anchorages. If nothing else it may give you a nicely scented evening.
3.If you are passing through the Peljeski Kanal on the way to somewhere else and have visited Korcula Town already - try one of the other harbours or Marinas... they have things to offer, which may be far more mundane on paper than the old town, but can be equally as pleasing. If the mood takes you you can still get into Korcula Town by public transport.
I will be returning to Korcula Town, perhaps in the endless search for that missing something, or perhaps to look at some of the surrounding areas - maybe the trick lies elsewhere on the Island or just opposite on Peljesac? Who can say...
Wednesday, 29 February 2012