It’s a Hard Rock Life
When one thinks of going to the beaches in the USA, namely the ones in Florida near New Orleans where I am from, sand is uppermost on your mind. Towels and beach chairs are there to protect you from this gritty nightmare that sticks to anything and everything, especially your freshly applied sunscreen.
But the warmth when you dig your feet in the sand or the way it molds to your back when you sunbathe is quite a pleasurable feeling. And let’s not forget to mention that building sand castles is one of the joys of summer in the states.
In Istria, and on most of Croatia’s beaches, things are a little harder. Literally the beach, that is. The beautiful rugged coastline that hugs the Adriatic Sea and gives it its sweeping beauty presents challenges to sunbathers and swimmers alike as it is made of hard white stone. The Istrian stone that has been used for centuries to build Venice and other gorgeous buildings around Italy and Croatia may be beautiful, but it can be a problem for your average beach goer. The sand is a sought after commodity in Croatia as the sandy beaches we know and love are few and far between here.
Fear not though as there are options that make things a lot more comfortable. Beach cushions that put a layer of foam between you and the stones can be quite comfortable and are used by many tourists. The cushions can be a little bulky to carry but are light and well worth the effort. They’ll set you back about 100-150 kunas ($15-$18 usd), but your back will thank you. A true Croatian will balk at such measures for comfort. They have been navigating the stony beachside since childhood and seem to be immune from the hard rocks along the stony beach.
The same stones that dig into your back will also dig into your feet when you walk and these stones get slipperier when you get into the water, so water shoes are also sold along the quayside. Sea urchins can also be a problem, so the shoes are practical in more ways than one.
Because of my tender feet, I’ve gone through several pairs of these shoes since I’ve been living here in Croatia. But you can always tell a Croatian on the beach because they almost never have them on, and they usually place their towels directly on the stony beach. They seem to glide gracefully across the stones, young and old alike. They must have super calloused feet as I can’t walk one or two feet without buckling or saying “ouch!” And their backs don’t seem to mind the rocks either.
I will never forget the time on Levrnaka Island when we were told that there was a beautiful sandy beach over on the other side of the island from where our boat was docked. We walked a long stony dirt path over to it in our tennis shoes, and I hadn’t brought water shoes because there was supposed to be “hello, sand?!! ” Much to my surprise as my knees buckled along the rocky (not sandy at all) terrain to the gorgeous water, I looked at Mike in shock, “what kind of freaking sandy beach is this?”
As we made our way out into the water I stumbled over some stones but then something magical happened, the rocks gave way to soft mushy sand and my feet were happy again. The sandy part was underwater!!! So I was really content, until of course I had to get out and walk (or should I say stumble?) back to our towels.
So this is what they consider a sandy beach, I thought. I surveyed the area, the gorgeous turquoise water, the shiny white stones and the twisting olive groves in the distance and took a deep breath. Looking out at this beautiful sparkling clear blue water that was as cool as a cucumber in the middle of August, I thought, I’ll take it, sand or no sand.
But I’ll take my water shoes, too. And my beach cushion.