With a lot of sun in the forecast, we decided Tuesday was a good time to take a ferry out to the islands. We ended up on a catamaran from Split to Hvar, a town on Hvar Island nestled under the watchful walls of a centuries-old castle.

Catamaran and Hvar harbor.

The tourist season doesn’t start on Hvar for another month or so, and it was incredibly quiet. A handful of restaurants around the main square were doing business, but most other tourist-centric places were shut down. Beachfront bars were still in the process of being assembled and given a new coat of paint for the upcoming season.

Bell tower to an abandoned monastery, growing wine grapes in the backyard, part of the waterfront promenade.

We stayed a 20 minute walk outside town, and though many of the houses have rental rooms, we felt like the only visitors around. It was glorious: we ran into our host in the grocery store and the owner of a shop we stopped at while on the waterfront.

Most of our time was spent meandering the town and the waterfront. Every view had red-roofed buildings, old facades, the sea, and an archipelago of treed islands. Several side streets have abandoned buildings that are slowly crumbling and being taken over by weeds.

Harbor and castle, an abandoned house.

We visited the Franciscan Monastery and its collection of amphora and clay dinnerware from a 2nd century Roman shipwreck. The dishes and pots looked just like ones I’ve used. I’d be happy to own some of the jars on display, minus tube worms and barnacles.

Overgrown staircase, bell tower of the Franciscan monastery.

The other main sight is Spanjola Fortress above the town. I think its the only castle I’ve been where the walls functioned perfectly and it saved the entire town from sacking (by a Turkish naval fleet in 1571). Apart from the expansive views, my favorite part was the prison. Down a narrow and slippery staircase were a half-dozen cells barely big enough for a person. Working as a prison guard must also have seemed like punishment. The floors and ceilings were growing stalagmites and stalactites. It must have been chilly in winter wind and stifling in summer heat. It must have been particularly cruel with the sounds of the waves drifting up in summer.

Cannon at Spanjola Fortress, ceramics from a 2nd century shipwreck, the sea-facing castle walls.

A small shop full of local flavors sat just behind the main square. Though we only purchased a single bottle of island-grown wine, the owner fed us olives, prosciutto, figs, and local cheeses. I think he was happy to have customers during the slow season, but he told us we needed to come back “when we grow up” so that we can show our kids the island. I think we agree that lines up with our current plans…

It was hard to leave such great views…