It was raining when arrived at Rijeka airport (actually on Krk Island) and 3 buses later when I finally arrived in Krk town (Grad Krk) it was still raining! Even in the dark and the rain, the historic centre of Krk town is a beautiful place. The pale gold stone of the old town walls and buildings are skilfully lit up at night and the golden light is reflected onto the waters of the harbour. The wet pavements, without people, looked atmospheric and beautiful and I enjoyed wandering around the dark streets.
Krk is a big island – 405.78 kms² in size – with a population of over 20,000 people. It is close to the mainland and, since 1980, actually attached to it by a 1,430 m bridge. As I had no car, I was at the mercy of public transport and only able to visit Krk town and the surrounding area, the neighbouring harbour of Punat and the town of Malinska.
Krk town is the largest settlement on the island with over 6,000 inhabitants. It has been constantly inhabited since Roman times and has a colourful and fascinating history. The historic centre is small and fascinating, enclosed by thick walls and has a beautiful cathedral, a castle and many other remnants of the various civilizations that have built re-inforcements around the city over the centuries.
Tiny shops, bars and cafés line the narrow winding streets of the lower town with the upper streets still home to locals residents and their dogs and cats. The town is built on the edge of a natural harbour, today full of boats of various shapes and sizes and Krk’s boatyard. Cafés and restaurants line the waterfront and are a popular meeting place especially in the morning when locals and tourists alike assemble for coffee and a chat. Café culture is a big part of Croatian life and everyone smokes, everywhere!
If you take a walk through the winding streets of the historic centre you come out of the huge walls on the other side where, surprisingly, you can swim! The quality of the water is so good that it is a popular swimming spot – right there in the historic city centre – with metal ladders to help swimmers in and out of the water and plenty of room to dry off and sunbathe on the quayside. In the summer season, this area must be packed!
A highlight of my trip to Krk was the walk along the coast from Grad Krk in an easterly direction. The path winds around the pine-covered coast past tiny beaches and coves, passing well-manicured hotel gardens and finally through forests of ancient and tall pine trees. The colour of the sea water is an astonishingly bright turquoise and so clear you can see the sea bed. The path unfortunately runs out when you get to the campsite a couple of kilometres out of town and walking through is not allowed so you have to come back but it’s a lovely walk. I found a fantastic little café with outside tables and benches, a drinks and snacks menu and even a free book swap outdoor ‘library’ in prime position at the water’s edge under the shade of huge pine trees. I stopped for a coffee and some people watching.
The Glagolitic script – one of the things Krk Island is famous for – is the oldest known Slavic alphabet, invented by Saint Cyril, a Byzantine monk from Thessaloniki and his brother, Saint Methodius, in order to make the scriptures easier to read for the local population. This alphabet was widely used in Croatia from the 12th to the 20th century particularly in religious texts. Import historical inscriptions have been found on Krk Island and the people are very proud of this part of their cultural history. You can see the Glagolitic alphabet used in all sorts of places around the island. (Alphabet photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)
One (dark) night wandering around Krk town I followed some signs saying ‘Secret Garden’ and went up some stairs in the wall to a lovely space inside the city walls where an amazing garden space was hidden. Apparently found by the new owners when they began renovation works on a house they’d bought, there are excavations of earlier civilisations clearly visible and the whole thing has been turned into an atmospheric, candlelit garden bar with views through gaps in the ancient walls down to the harbourside below. It was a bit too dark for photos but I tried!
To leave Krk Island for the islands of Cres and Lošinj by public transport, you have to take a bus to the city of Malinska on the north east of the island to catch the bus from Zagreb which passes through on its way through. The crossing points on both Krk and Cres islands are in isolated spots nowhere near towns. I took the bus to Malinska and spent a couple of hours having coffee at the harbour, walking the promenade and the swimming spots of this beautiful little harbour town before leaving by boat and car ferry for Cres and onward to Lošinj.
Although beautiful and interesting, I didn’t love Krk Island and I left feeling that I hadn’t really done it justice – I think you really need a car to see an island as big as this properly.
NEXT ISLAND: Staying in Croatia, the next island is the monastery island of Košljun.