My last island in Croatia, Cres (pronounced Tres), or Cherso in Italian, is a long thin island situated between Krk and Lošinj. It has a very rugged and primitive feel to it and has a completely different vibe to its neighbouring islands. I don’t feel I did it justice at all but it has a very limited bus service and is a difficult place to see properly without a car. I only had fleeting glimpses from the bus on the way through from Krk to Lošinj and a quick overnight stay in the capital, Cres town, before leaving for Rijeka.
Cres is a big island covering an area of 405.78 km2, more or less the same size as the neighbouring island of Krk but with much less people. Cres has a population of about 3,000 compared to Krk’s 20,000. Once upon a time joined to Lošinj, a channel was built in the town of Osor and a bridge now connects the two islands. Cres is a wild and rugged island, popular with hikers and nature lovers. It has a large and very deep fresh water lake, Lake Vrana, which supplies water to both Cres and Lošinj and is carefully guarded and illegal to swim or fish in.
Famous for its lamb, Cres was apparently previously home to an estimated 100,000 sheep. The carcasses of dead sheep in turn attracted the rare Eurasian Griffon Vulture. Sadly, the balance of nature has been disturbed in recent years by the deliberate introduction of wild boar to the island to facilitate hunting – a popular pursuit in Croatia. The number of sheep has since diminished to about 15,000 and the vultures, without sufficient carrion to eat, are moving away too.
The sun shone when I arrived on the car ferry but the day I came to stay in Cres Town it wasn’t a very nice day and it had been raining hard during the night. I booked an apartment through airbnb but it wasn’t anyone’s home – airbnb is widely used here by agencies as well as private owners as they charge less commission than booking.com. A lady (silently) accompanied me from the travel agency through the winding alleyways of the old town to the tiniest little apartment I have ever seen! With nothing else to do on such a grey day, I went for a walk.
Cres Town is a quaint little town with an unusual shaped port. It has an almost toy-town-like appearance and its architecture is very reminiscent of the centuries of Venetian rule and the more recent Italian occupation. Pastel-coloured bars, restaurants and shops are arranged around the edges of the little port, their colourful façades reflected in the still waters. There are some attractive little squares, several churches and behind the port a warren of cobbled, medieval streets, alleyways, arches and stairways decorated with plants – lots of plants. A large blue clock adorns the tower overlooking the main square which, along with the old covered market building, dates from the 15th century. A decorated ship’s mast rises up from the square with no apparent explanation! The day I was there the bars around the port were full of bored-looking German couples in matching pac-a-macs having coffee and cake to while away the afternoon.
A broad promenade leads from the port out to the swimming areas. Groups of amateur fishermen stand around on the quayside and jokey signs advise people not to save beach space with beach towels! A lot of jolly dog-walkers from the campsite were watching the sea birds and I saw a beautiful cormorant drying his wings on the rocks.
Maybe because of the weather, but I found Cres Town rather disappointing and depressing after the last two colourful and beautiful islands. Everything seemed a little bit scruffy and down at heel. Maybe sunshine would have made a difference. I wasn’t too sad to leave.
I caught the same early morning catamaran to Rijeka that I caught from Krk to Ilovik, it gets to Cres at 0700 and there was quite a crowd waiting for it. The pink clouds were amazing. A large and beautiful sailboat, the Kralija Mora, was moored at the dock and the waiting passengers took selfies with it while they waited. I helped an old man with boxes tied up with string get on board and off we went – the sun came out just as we were leaving!! The catamaran goes directly to Rijeka from Cres and takes about an hour and 20 minutes. I sipped an espresso and listened to a lady originally from Mali Lošinj, who had emigrated to New York 30 years ago, telling me about her successful American life! I joined the crowds having coffee in one of Rijeka’s many open-air cafés before taking the bus directly to the airport, on Krk island – full circle!
NEXT ISLAND: Goodbye Croatia, off to the Maltese Islands next.