History, Culture & Family Fun
in Korcula, Croatia
On our recent month-long trip in Europe, Croatia was the fourth country we visited and Korcula was the 12th place we laid our heads to rest. With so much packing up and moving on you might wonder if places started to run together in our minds and if one location started to feel like another. To be honest, each location had its own personality and uniqueness and Korcula, along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, was no exception. Keep reading to find out what we learned and what we loved.
Where is Korcula and How Do You Get There?
Korcula is the 6th largest island in Croatia, among 2000, and located just up the coastline from Dubrovnik. It’s important to note here that Korcula is the name of the island, but it’s also the name of the old medieval town that attracts tourists (map of Korcula town). To visit Korcula, you must take a water ferry from either Orebic or Split. Orebic is just a short 20 minute ferry ride and Split takes about three hours. We did both. Since we were arriving from Dubrovnik and had our rental car, we drove along the peninsula near Bosnia’s very small coastline and then took the car ferry from Orebic to Korcula. After staying several days, we drove the 40 minutes to the other side of the island and took the car ferry to Split to continue our journey northward. It would have taken us about the same amount of time to return by way of Orebic, but we liked the idea of seeing more or Korcula island and having a rest from driving. My husband could relax and enjoy a book and the boys could catch up on some school work more easily at a table with WIFI than in the backseat of our rental car. It is not necessary to pre-purchase ferry tickets. Know the departures ahead of time by checking online and then arrive in plenty of time to line up with other cars and then purchase your ticket to board. Each time we rode the ferry, we arrived about 20 minutes in advance and found this to be more than enough time.
Lined up and ready to board the car ferry
Watching as all the cars drive on
Korcula’s History at-a-Glance
The first inhabitants of Korcula were farmers and fishermen and today you can see evidence from their stone burial mounds located on the island. Korcula, along with many other places along the Dalmatian Coast, became a Greek colony when the ancient Greeks arrived. One of Korcula’s most prized possessions still exists from this time period and can still be seen in the Town Museum. It’s a stone tablet from the 4th century BC. Written in Greek, it’s the oldest piece of written history found in the area. The Venetians arrived in Korcula in the 10th century and they would rule on and off until the 14th century. Korcula experienced its golden period at this time and many important buildings were constructed and are still standing today. The distinct Venetian architecture is evident throughout the old town. Korcula was in constant danger of Ottoman invasions and in 1571, they came face to face with this threat. Even though the Ottomans tried to take over Korcula, the people were able to unite together, defend themselves and fight them off. Korcula eventually became part of the Austrian Empire until the end of the First World War. At that time, Korcula became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes under the Versailes Agreement. Eventually the area became known as Yugoslavia. In 1991 Croatia became an independent state.
Where we Stayed
As soon as we arrived by ferry, we drove a short distance (less than 10 minutes) to our hotel, Hotel Korsal. For our stay in Korcula we wanted a small luxury hotel that could accommodate our family of four. On this month long trip we alternated between hotels and apartments we rented through Airbnb. Having just come from a rented villa in Dubrovnik, we were ready to rest in luxury and let someone else fix our breakfasts and make our beds. We wanted to be close enough to walk to the old town, but far enough to still be able to drive to the hotel with ease since we were arriving by car. We were very pleased with Hotel Korsal as it met all our needs and wishes. They have some unique family suites that are perfect for a family of four traveling together. One main door opened to our family suite and then two separate rooms (each with their own bathrooms and a beautiful view of the sea) were separated by additional doors. We pulled the car up to the hotel and they valet parked it for us. We loved the location (right across the street from a beautiful beach and only five minutes by foot to the old town). The friendly staff and a generous buffet breakfast was also wonderful.
The view from Hotel Korsal
Culture - Moreska Dance
Korcula is famous for their Moreska dance that has been performed there on the island for over 400 years. We knew our boys would be interested in sword fighting even if it was camouflaged in dance, so we made plans to go. We got lucky with the timing because we didn’t realize before our arrival that these performances can only be seen on Thursday nights. Thankfully we were staying over a Thursday night. The Moreska is a traditional sword dance and drama that was common throughout the Mediterranean during the 12th and 13th centuries. It originated in Spain and is about the conflict between the Moors and the Christians. Its popularity in Korcula may have been linked with the struggles with the Ottoman Empire. Through the years, the Moreska dance disappeared from the Mediterranean, and today can only be seen in Korcula where it has been performed for nearly half a century. The performance begins with dialogue between the Red King and the Black King and then is followed by the dance with lots of clanging and clashing. Finally the Black King is conquered and the Red King wins. Today this traditional dance is performed by two different families from Korcula. We thought it was so interesting that only people from these two families are allowed to become Moreska dancers and carry on the tradition. Hotel Korsal was able to arrange for our tickets and charge them to our room, and give us directions for where to go for the performance.
Explore the Old Town
Korcula’s old town is the main attraction of Korcula. It’s a medieval walled city positioned on an oval shape of land. The old town is filled with narrow streets that branch off like the bones of a fish. We learned that this design was intentional is it reduces the effects of wind and sun. Venetian Renaissance architecture can be seen through the old town and the main gem is St. Mark’s Cathedral completed in the 15th century. Several museums (mentioned below), numerous restaurants, gelato shops, and gift shops can also be found on these quaint streets.
History - Marco Polo
Everyone knows Marco Polo as the medieval merchant who lived in the 1200’s. He may be best known as one of the first European explorers to travel the famous Silk Road from Europe to the Middle East to China. While most historians consider Venice his birth place and home, some say there is evidence that he was born and lived for a short time on the island of Korcula. Well, this is exciting news for Korcula, and don’t think they’re going to forget about it. There are several points-of-interest related to Marco Polo in Korcula and worth a visit. The first one is a small stone house and tower that is alleged to be his birthplace. The tower has incredible views over Korcula’s old town and the surrounding sea. The town of Korcula is in the process of turning it into a museum for visitors, so check with the tourist information office upon your arrival for opening hours. Another Marco Polo point-of-interest worth seeing, especially if you’re traveling with kids, is the souvenir shop located just outside the town gate. Downstairs visitors will find a souvenir shop with globes, compasses and journals. Additional floors contain an animated exhibit perfect for brushing up on your Marco Polo history. As a family, we enjoyed reading Who Was Marco Polo?, a short biography a few days before arriving. It’s a quick read, but full of fascinating information about this famous explorer.
Marco Polo's home
Tracing the Silk Road
History - Town Museum
The Town Museum is located inside Gabrielis Palace on the old town’s main square across from St Mark’s Cathedral. If your kids love ancient sculptures, replicas of boats and shipbuilding yards, and exhibits that show what life was like at an earlier time, they’ll love this great little museum. This is where the stone tablet from the 4th century can be seen, the oldest written document found in this area. The original Korcula Town statue from 1214 is also on display.
Family Fun - Rent a boat & Go Exploring
This just might be one of the best travel memories we’ve had lately. In fact, just this week a friend asked our boys what was their favorite thing we did during our month long trip in Europe (link) and they both mentioned this particular day when we rented a boat and explored islands. Like Robinson Crusoe, there is something special about navigating a boat to go where you please, find uninhabited islands and explore them. That’s exactly what we did. We rented a boat from a small office located near the marina. We got the biggest and fastest boat they would allow us to have without an official “boat license” which didn’t end up being very big or very fast. But that didn’t get in the way of enjoying this spectacular experience. We went to the local Konzum (grocery store) to purchase a picnic lunch and then stopped by a fishing shop for bait. My 13 year old loves fishing and rarely travels without a fishing pole. The boat rental company also supplied us with an ice chest, so we were all set. The following pictures will give you an idea of where we went and what we did.
No, he didn't catch anything, but sure had fun trying!
Our first stop, not an island, but a deserted area along Korcula's coast.
The island of Planjat
That's me staying with our boat while my guys explore an uninhabited island
A Fransicsian Monestery on the island of Badija
Stupa - small island with a beach club offering great food and beach activities
Where to Eat
We enjoyed a few meals while staying in Korcula, but the one that stood out the most was Pensatore Kitchen + Wine along the waterfront in the old town. Our boys are big pasta lovers and when we learned that Pensatore is known for their homemade gnocchi, we knew we had to try it. Each day the gnocchi is prepared fresh and hand-rolled by ladies on the island. The result was the best gnocchi we’ve ever had. We especially liked it tossed with Pensatore’s homemade pesto sauce. There are also many fresh fish dishes to choose from, a nice wine list and some interesting desserts. Of course, hitting a gelato shop instead is also a great option.
In all, we spent two nights and three days in Korcula and we absolutely loved it. The people were friendly and the area was relaxed and comfortable. We were glad to not be there in high season as fighting the crowds on the small narrow streets in the old town would have taken away some of the enjoyment. We visited the first week of June and the weather was warm enough for t-shirts and shorts. If we had spent more time we might have opted to get in the car and drive around a bit more exploring other parts of the island. It’s one of those special places we hope to return to someday.
We would like to thank the Korcula Tourist Board for providing free tickets to visit the Town Museum and Marco Polo Tower. As always, all opinions expressed are our own.
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