When I first imagined renting a cottage on an island of the coast of Croatia, I had visions of sparkling waters, warm sunshine, and a quaint village. My cousin, friend, and I arrived in Croatia after a long travel day on the ferry from Italy to Split, Croatia, then navigated days of heavy rains, and now we’ve had a few sunny days and explored. And Milna is different than I expected. It’s a touristy hub for part of the, and then it transforms into a sleepy village by mid-afternoon.
Small cruise ships pull into the harbor by late morning and a few dozen tourists disembark. They spread through the town like a colony of ants, converging on the single strip of shops along the harbor. And during that time, it’s a crush of people and hard go about daily life. But nobody stays long. This is a cruise port and has few other tourist facilities. Only by renting our little cottage could we see an alternate side to Milna, Croatia. Once the cruise ships motor out of the harbor, an eerie and quiet peace settles over the town. Each evening, I would stroll along the harbor, eat ice cream, and chat with any locals who happened past my spot.
But mostly, everyone just passed by with a steady stream of Croatian conversation between them. English is not a given in Milna, nor in all of Croatia. When I would later travel the rest of Croatia, I noticed that the older generation in particular hasn’t taken on English as the tourism language. Or perhaps there is no need since the cruise ship tourists are so fleeting.
According to Magda, the hair stylist in Milna (she gave me a fantastic haircut), the coming generation of kids learn English in school, but that is only a recent development.
One of the funniest interactions of the trip happened on my very first day in town, when the rains drenched the town and my cousin, Jenn, and I popped into the local pizza parlor for a quick lunch. We were all eager to learn basic pleasantries in Croatian as a way to ease the communications with the locals and make the trip more enjoyable. It was our first day in Croatia, and as the waiter served our food, we thanked him in English, and then ask him how to say, “thank you” in Croatian. We hadn’t bought a guidebook yet, so we didn’t have a single word between the three of us.
We confused the server with our question, so he was puzzled and asked us to repeat the question.
In response to our repetition, he told us something along the lines of “Žao mi je,” with a bit more after it.
We dutifully repeated the phrase when he said it again. This went on a few times, and we always repeated it. We were quite pleased with ourselves.
Then as we paid at the register, we busted out our new phrase when a different man handed us our change.
And he burst into laughter. Gales of laughter. Great eye-crinkling and tear-inducing laughter.
We repeated the phrase and asked him what it meant.
Delighted, he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
For the briefest second we were confused, and then we joined the guffaws. The poor waiter hadn’t understood a single word we were saying! Then he must have been completely confused when we started repeating him in Hrvatski (Croatian).
As we all recovered from the side-splitting laughs, the cashier informed that a simple hvala would take care of our future thanking needs.
The language difficulties were very real, and while they added fun, we were also ready to relax and enjoy sunshine — which is why we traveled to this tiny island in the first place!
Things to Do in Milna, Croatia on Brač Island
The weather cooperated and rewarded us with clear skies and warm, fresh air. Our Croatia guidebook covered few things forBrač Island, so although we knew it would come in handy on mainland Croatia, we decided to ask the locals for advice on what to see and do. With their help, spent a day exploring. We walk to a nearby beach, visited the cemetery, and also spent time visiting the historic and older parts of Milna.
Just a 30 minute walk from Milna’s harbor is a secluded beach area located on the other side of the bay. Jenn loves laying out and when she saw sunshine through our window, we knew it was the perfect beach day. I usually hide from the sun, so I wore a coverup over my swimsuit and lathered on sunscreen. We gathered our books and set out for the easy walk to the beach.
The water was a fantastic shade of blue and the Adriatic sparkled in the beating sunlight. Brač Island is pretty and well located, with coastline and ocean views on one side, and coastline and city views on the other side. We loved the beach spot the locals had recommended. We found a small inlet from the road and it had a huge slanted rock gently dipping into the ocean. With few others in sight, we spread out and soaked in the much-welcomed sunshine and vitamin D.
While walking to the beach, we passed a beautiful cemetery. It’s placed on the hillside that overlooks the harbor, allowing the city’s ancestors to watch over their descendants. It’s also one of the higher spots in the area and would surely make a beautiful and tranquil place to watch sunset over the harbor.
The cemetery is over 200 hundred years old — we found a gravestone dated 1817! Cemeteries provide insight on smaller communities and often reveal everything from the dominant religion to the the language. They can also reveal periods of famine, art trends, and more. This cemetery is small, but with many pretty and tended gravestones to respectfully observe.
We puttered around and enjoyed the serene setting with fresh air and sunshine and views of the town.
The row of shops and bobbing boats in Milna harbor is about as far as most tourists venture. And it’s understandable — the harbor is surely the area most built for tourism. We sampled all of the restaurants during our week on the island, and we most loved hanging out at Cafe Bar Mille Naves and we all craved pizza, so we made a habit of eating at Pizzeria Slika.
There are many high-end seafood restaurants along the water and harbor and they are similar in price and quality. Your best bet is to walk along and find one with open booths outside so that you can enjoy the fresh breezes and harbor views.
As our time drew to a close, the three of upped our outings to the ice cream shop. His gelato is tasty and provided a lovely reminder of our past weeks traveling in Italy. We would venture deeper into Croatia to visit Plitvice National Park and Krka’s gorgeous waterfalls, and we all knew we would miss our quiet week on one of Croatia’s many coastal islands.
Friends and family: Check your mailboxes, I postcarded a lot of people from Bosnia, so you should have one arriving any day now.