Dusk over the Dalmatian archipelago. I'm sitting on the terrace of my Guesthouse under a canopy of vines, the soft bells of
St John's chapel calling in the fishing boats. My hosts, Lidia and Josko Ivanovic, have opened the travarica, a herb-infused liquor, and I'm grazing on dried figs and nuts as we chat about Croatia's changing fortunes since they first opened their rustic, family-run guesthouse in 1967.
"We closed for four years during the Balkan war and went back to the land," Josko says. "But we missed the guests."
"Because we all cook together, I enjoy swapping recipes with our visitors from all round the world," adds Lidia.
But my hosts know that even more changes are in the air for Croatia. The country's bureaucrats are keen to join the EU and replace the native kuna with the euro, while increasing commercialisation of the islands is threatening Rural traditions. That's why I've come to Brac, the third largest – but one of the lesser-known – islands, for a grass-roots glimpse of Croatian culture before the inevitable march of progress becomes a full-blown stampede.
Brac is good Walking country and, thanks to a mercifully minor role in the war during the Nineties, free of landmines. Sandwiched between Split on the mainland and the better-known island of Hvar, the stony outcrop of olive groves and pine forests enjoys the tortoise-paced rhythm of a typically Mediterranean village. But I'm not here for siestas and seaside. Travelling with Footsteps in Croatia, a small independent tour operator from Britain, I'll be following a series of day walks – some gentle strolls, some more challenging hikes – to capture a late-season feel for island life. The company's ethos is simple and successful: walk with local guides, stay in simple but homely family properties and enjoy a more cultural experience than your average beach holiday.
Read more about walking holidays in Croatia >
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