There’s not much to do in Komiza, save day trips by boat to nearby islands, eating, drinking, and wandering the maze of walkways that creep up the hillside. Tour operators tout a short trip to an uninhabited island that has a unique ‘blue cave.’ I make a note to consider this excursion tomorrow morning.
After coffee and a sweet roll at a bayside cafe, I take advantage of the washer in my apartment to launder my clothes. There’s no dryer, but the sun and a drying rack get the work done. There’s something peaceful and relaxing about just hanging here with no itinerary, no plan, and no idea what I will do or where I’ll go next. Just getting a haircut, doing laundry, and digital file management keeps me busy most of the day.
As I head back to the seaside, I notice dark clouds in the distance, and they’re drifting toward the island. I stop at a cafe and have a beer while I take a moment to contemplate my dining options for the evening. Tomorrow I have dinner plans. I’m off to Roki’s, a small restaurant and winery on a remote part of the island.
A fellow traveler who dined at Roki’s in 2016 told me it was his best meal and dining experience ever. Getting a reservation was difficult. They don’t like solo diners. I had to call several times before they agreed to seat me. Their specialty and the only main course on the menu is “peka.” This is a traditional Dalmatian dish that requires lengthy preparation and is slow cooked along with the embers in a wood-burning oven. More on peka after I’ve imbibed.
While sipping my beer and scribbling in my journal, I hear a familiar voice. I look up and notice two women standing near the cafe looking at the menu.
“Rebecca?” I’m almost positive it’s the British woman I met a couple of nights ago in Split. She turns around. It’s her!
“Allan!” a smile comes to her face, and she introduces me to her friend. She found her passport and caught the next flight, and they had a rendezvous last night and Split and made it to Vis just a few hours ago. She too will dine at Roki’s but not on the same night. We agree to compare notes and catch up later.
At this point, I go back to my dining conundrum. Where will I eat tonight? On the one hand, I would love to go back to Restaurant and Wine Bar Hum, the food was excellent, and they offered a great selection of wines by the glass. Though, I should try something new. Perhaps I will dine at one of the local konobas off the waterfront.
The latter sounds like a great idea, but I talk myself into having an appetizer and a glass of wine first at my current fave Hum. So I take a seat on the patio and look out over the Adriatic, the sky turns blacker by the moment. Clouds hang over the jagged mountains to the north.
Tonight I learn that Restaurant and Wine Bar Hum has been serving guests in Komiza since 1906 though you’d never get that sense of history with its modern decor and progressive menu.
I watch flashes of lightning on the horizon over the Adriatic. The dramatic light show silhouettes grey clouds against a cast of deep blue sky. Then in a flash, the sky goes black again — distant sounds of thunder hint the weather to come.
I order a different glass of vugava tonight. Made from a delicate white wine grape grown on this island. Crisp and pale yellow in color, it has floral notes with a tinge of hay, melon, and cantaloupe.
I feel a drop of rain on my wrist. A minute later, I sense another, and another. The rhythm of rain picks up while the light show continues to paint the distant sky. I hear a rumble. Not, it’s not thundering this time. It’s a motorized canopy unfolding above the patio. Soon the dining area is covered, but the freeze picks up, and more lighting sketching bright and deep hues of gold, blue, and orange on the horizon. The dull roar of conversation in German, British English, Slavic, and France hums in harmony with the pitter patter of rain on the canopy above.
Hum is classy and feels upscale compared to the coffee bars and knobs the links the crescent-shaped harbor. I sip my wine while my table rocks back and forth, the uneven legs and concrete patio. Between tastes of the wine, I sip water from a glass bottle, Jana. I’ve noticed that most of the restaurants in Croatia serve still or sparkling water in glass bottles. This is in contrast to elsewhere I’ve traveled in the Balkans so far, where the norm is a plastic bottle.
I order something light, figuring I’ll eat
But you can drink the tap water here in Croatia. Though restaurants seem to play on foreigners, fear of water quality as a way to increase the check size.
Thunder roars louder, and the rain picks up. A minute later it stops. Clouds continue to move in. The occasional drizzle adds to the light show.
The calm glass water of the bay turns rough with small waves. Boats rock in front of me and the sound of splashing water on the hulls add to the rhythm of rain and conversation. Ropes on tall sailboats slap against masts, clinging different tones. It’s a live orchestra conducted by the looming weather.
I try to capture the light show, but it’s useless. One must experience this natural concert in person. So I take in the moment and watch. The attendants of several tourist kiosks pack up, moving things inside away from the rain. I overhear a young woman tell her boyfriend that every she travels she gets a magnet, for memory. I’ve never bought one I guess magnets are popular here in these parts. But I see them everywhere one this journey. I never thought too much about it, but whenever I look for a sticker of the country’s flag, I always seem to find a flag magnet; seldom a flag sticker.
Afterward, I head to a local konoba. It’s like a taverna in Greece, or Cucina in Italy, where traditional Dalmatian culinary dishes are served in a casual atmosphere. However, by the time I find Konoba Bak, the entire patio and dining room are empty. Inside, I spot a gentleman dressed in a chef’s jacket, pouring himself a glass of wine.
“You still serving,” I ask him. He holds up a plastic jug filled with red wine.
“You want?” he offers me a glass. I rub my stomach and tell him I’m hungry, looking for food.
He flashes a warm smile, takes a sip of wine, then grabs my arm. “Come,” he’s giddy. “Yes, I know just where you can get something good to eat.” He sets his wine glass on the counter and then walks me out of his restaurant and through a twisting and winding walk through the small alleys of Komiza he leads to Konoba Robinzon, a small restaurant down a dead-end alley with a courtyard tucked between two stone buildings, one which is the kitchen and dining room.
Though Mark, my new chef friend, doesn’t speak great English, I try to understand him. He tells me he used to be in the police, or maybe for the Croatian military intelligence. But he retired, and while he enjoys working in the kitchen at Bak, he reveals he’d rather not work so much, but he needs the money.
The young crew at Konoba Robinzon invite me to their table. Most customers have left, but a handful of stragglers still sip wine, drink beer, and munch on cured hams, cheeses, dried fish, and french fries. They make me a plate of prosciutto, sardines, cheeses, and olives and pour me a glass of vugava, now my go-to white wine on Vis.
It seems everyone knows each other here. Soon people bring more chairs and benches to our table. I tell my new friends about the theft in Split. They all agree it was likely the work of HNK Hajduk Split hooligans. I tell them about my journey and desire to learn about the wine of the Balkans.
One guy, from Split, finds my necklace of old Chinese and Japanese coins fascinating. He pulls out from under his shirt a similar necklace with just one round
The server opens another bottle. By the time we polish it off, he pulls a jug out of the refrigerator that looks like the bottle from which my chef friend offered me a glass, now a couple of hours ago. Then they break out the rakija (rakia), a type of brandy popular in the Balkans and one that you likely have read about on these pages before.
One young guy, who was way ahead of all of us with his alcohol consumption commanded the conversation, continuing to interrupt anyone else who wanted to take with me. He peppered questions, and though only 22 years old, he kept telling the older server, that “you know nothing.” And then he would address the others by saying, “Never mind that…”, repeatedly. It was embarrassing, but soon we all were making the young kid the brunt of jokes.
That’s when the server rolls a joint. A big one. He holds up the blunt, “you smoke?”
One guest seems knowledgeable about wine and the Croatian culinary scene. Suggesting I visit a restaurant in Split, he gives me the name of the chef and sommelier and some wine tips Sharing with me the somm’s Instagram feed; he also teaches me some Croatian and Slavic slang, tells me it may be useful.
I seem like a local. It’s 2 AM when the server takes me into the basement of the restaurant which is more like a house, than a commercial restaurant. Most everyone in Vis makes wine, he tells me, especially in years past. In the basement of the 100-year-old house, he shows the other guests and me three massive tanks built into the walls of the house. Each holds about 10,000 liters of wine, for 30,000 liters total or about 40,000 bottles. The tanks are no longer in use, yet the room serves as an ad hoc museum. He opens one tank, and the door is barely wide enough for all of us to climb inside. I’ve always wanted to climb into a wine storage tank.
Now 2:30 am, my server friend must close up shop. The inebriated youngster stumbles, falls and passes out just outside the restaurant. I bid my friends farewell and thank them for the best medicine for curing the woes and “poor me” mindset that rapidly fades as I make my way back to my apartment.
Tomorrow it’s off to Roki’s and from there? Who knows? Follow me. We’ll discover together.