Written by Matt Rademacher
The southern cliffs of Vis are visually different from the forest covered islands we have previously visited. Steep cliffs with open sea caverns at their base. Not many trees just ground hugging bushes. One limestone cliff is so symmetrically shaped it appears human carved. Jim wonders if it was an ancient quarry or Dr. No’s disguised submarine entrance.
There are many gun turrets carved into the hill sides. No connecting roads so they must be accessible by network of tunnels. Vis was Tito’s partisan headquarters against the occupying Germans in WW2. Tito’s men cleared the interior flat vineyards to allow British Royal Airforce to land fighters and bombers. There isnt much good landing areas in these outer islands. The island interior is large and level enough to hold an invading army.
Yugoslavian partesian effort stands out with some of the best successes in throwing out the Italians and Germans. After WW2 Tito resisted Stalin’s efforts to bring Yugoslavia into the Soviet Union because Yugoslavia liberated itself from the Axis with limmited direct support from the Red Army. Yugoslavia had the 4th largest army in Europe.
Diana makes sure we know that Yugoslavia was not a communist country. Tito told Stalin Yugoslavia will learn socialism from Soviet example but Yugoslavia has their own methods of doing things. Tito set up what he called market socialism which seems like an oxymoron but Yugoslavia’s brand of socialism allowed companies to be owned by the workers along with other companies being private.
Soviets had set up a spy ring in the Yugoslav party as early as 1945, giving way to an uneasy alliance. Stalin tried to assassinate Tito 5 times. Tito told Stalin to stop doing that or he would have to send just one assassin to Moscow who would be successful instead of Stalin’s 5 that failed. After Stalins death Soviet and Yugoslavia relations eased.
As we approach Vis Island small fishing boats become more numerous. Tour book says this is a rich fishing area especially off the east side of Bisevo Island. We are headed to the coastal town of Komiza which sits on the west side of Vis Island.
As we approach the town we see a fair amount of a abandoned cold war era military installations. Seaside agave cactus are more prevalent creating picturesque Mediterranean scene of old style red tiled roofs.
There is an empty anchor area just off a beach on the southside of town. The small outboard motor is secured to the dingy and we motor to the a beach that has a shop nearby that rents scuba diving equipment. The wind had died so the bay was glass smooth. The water was very clear. We could see fish and the grass covered bottom 30 ft down.
Pull the dingy up on the beach and walk into town. Komiza is an old fishing town. The streets are narrow walkways. Old stone buildings multi-storied. Similar to the old towns we have been visiting yet not that much tourism.
There is a fortress tower next to the pier that was built in 1585 to fight off sardine pirates that would arrive by boat, steal their sardine catch and occasionally take people to be sold as slaves.
In the late 1800’s it was the fisherman from this town that migrated to California to start the sardine industry in Monterey (Steinbeck’s book Cannery Row), San Pedro harbor in Los Angeles and other old coastal fishing towns.
Our restaurant reservation is at 8 pm. The restaurant named Roki’s sends a van down to the pier to pick us up. We are pleasantly surprised we get to see the islands interior. The van is needed for a 20 minute drive up a steep hill and into the islands vineyard area.
We arrive at a small group of old stone buildings surrounded by open vineyards. A woman named Maya pleasantly introduces herself and shows us around her home. Her family has lived here for over 200 years.
Maya shows us an open hearth fire where our lamb dinner has been cooking. The lamb dish we ordered is called Lamb Under the Bell or Lamb Peka. It takes a few hours to cook so ordering before hand is required.
Diana said peka is the quintessential Croatian dish. However, peka is actually a way of cooking rather than a food. It involves cooking meat or seafood and vegetables slowly under an iron or clay lid that is shaped like a bell and covered with embers. Some peka lids have a short rim to hold embers on the top.
This type of cooking dates from ancient times. The remains of clay lids from as far back as 500 BC were found in the region of Slavonia (the easternmost region of Croatia). This way of slow-roasting is found throughout the Balkans and Southeast Mediterranean. However, it’s most popular in Croatia, specifically in Dalmatia. Diana says peka is usually prepared just for special occasions.
Maya asks if we are interested in seeing the family wine cellar. We follow her down stairs to a room where they have equipment to press and ferment grapes. She explains the type of wines they make and that wine production in this area comes from the Ancient Greeks settlers, who arrived on the Croatian coast in the 5th century BC.
The Greek writer Athenaeus wrote 18 centuries ago about the high quality wine produced on the Dalmatian islands of Vis, Hvar and Korčula. A wide range of indigenous grape varieties are grown here. The best known today being Plavac Mali, the child of Zinfandel and Dobricic that we had been drinking on the islands of Hvar and Korcula.
We are then taken to an outdoor table nestled in old stone buildings that overlook the vineyard and gives us small glass of strong Domace Rakija (home made brandy). Maya serves us a bottle of their Plavac Mali red wine. I notice Jacque has this constant wide smile that infects all of us. The warm evening air, the rustic country side setting, the wine and good company has us all feeling good.
Maya makes an appetizer board of meat and cheese and another of fish and a basket of freshly made bread. She then asks if we want a salad. Jacque asks if salad was grown here. Maya responds certainly yes. We order the salad.
Our lamb under the bell is served. The lamb melted off the bone. The steam made during this process tenderizes the meat and gives the dish a delicious flavor. Also under the bell are sliced potatoes and vegetables that have been slow cooking and soaking in all of the juice and olive oil. The potatoes and vegetables are a meal in themselves.
We are in heaven and order desert of everything they have. We also keep the wine coming. Dont want to leave. It’s so nice outside on the patio.
It is now after midnight and cooks and servers are cleaning up. Jacque orders another bottle of Plavac Mali to enjoy with Victoria in Tucson.
The van takes us back to the beach where we left the dingy. The bay is dark. We have been drinking and it’s not clear where our boat is anchored. Tony and me brought flashlights that we use to find our way over the dark water. I wonder what sea creatures are watching us from underneath and shine my light down into the clear water. We are not sure where Vana is but keep motoring in our small dingy in the direction that feels right. We finally see a sailboat that could be Vana and it is.
The next morning we pull anchor and motor to the north side of the island to see what is there. On the way Tony and Jim see a 8 ft swordfish leap completely out of the water. Not once but twice. Just 50 ft portside from our boat. We had motored right through a fish boil that swordfish were feeding on. Perhaps Oz wasn’t the best person to get fishing advice. We continue past a small fishing boat with a man pulling in his fish net.
We motor along further and see more hill side gun turrets. Inside a side inlet is a large ship dock tunnel cut into the water edge. The tunnel is wide enough to hold 2 ships side by side.
The town of Vis is now visible. The bay is packed of charter boats and some cruisers. All coming and going. Not many oligarch boats. This is the first time we could possibly collide with another boat. For all the traffic we are pleased the fuel dock is open.
We fill our fresh water tanks and spend some time looking around town then head off to a quieter inlet. Tomorrow we go to the Island Solta that is just across the channel from Split where we started our trip.
2 thoughts on “Vis”
The writing and pictures are simple fantastic. It is educational and like reading a book. It is so much fun to read and see people that I know that are having such a fantastic time. I asked Jaque if he had room in his luggage for me but no deal!! Next best thing is reading. Thank you so much.
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You made all your friends jealous but THANK YOU for sharing this wonderful adventure. A vicarious experience is better than none. ❤