By Jene Cates
As the train rolled out of Vienna, I accidentally took a seat in a first class compartment. Two women were sharing a split of champagne en route to a yoga vacation in Croatia. Within four minutes, the ticket master shooed me to tourist class, but I tucked the details of their little piece of paradise into my pocket. It was time for me to stop, unplug, and get back to me. Twenty-four hours later, I stepped off the ferry in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar with a reservation for the last of nine spots available at the best little yoga retreat in Croatia. Stone pavers followed narrow alleys where cascades of bougainvillea spilled down walls of stone. Lavender exploded everywhere. Yoga Prema was nestled between an ancient stone chapel and stairwells of sleeping cats.
Stari Grad is a town most tourists miss. If you’re looking for the discos or big yachts that dot Croatia, don’t stop here. What you’ll find in Stari Grad is an opportunity to decompress, feel present, and escape the high-tech energy crowding your life. Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia, and it hasn’t rushed to keep up with the times and the tourists. The harbor hosts lines of quiet bars, small restaurants, and tiny bakeries where locals sit enjoying the warm breezes. The metal lines that clink against sailboat masts break the silence.
I began each morning of my 10-day stay at Yoga Prema with a bike ride to the edge of the sea for our first of two daily 90-minute yoga classes. An open-air bakery en route provided a hot croissant that I saved until after a morning swim. A seaside café is a minute’s walk down the rocky coast from our morning class where a wooden chair facing the sea would await my arrival.
Each afternoon, Milica Zegarac, the owner of Yoga Prema, organized an adventure. We took a boat to the beautiful caves of the Blue Grotto. We rode bikes to the village of Vrboska across the Stari Grad Plain, a World Heritage Site. We hiked across rugged hills to secret coves for picnics. We visited a 15th century monastery which houses paintings by various Venetian masters including Jacopo Tintoretto. Each afternoon was a treasure for the senses.
In the early evening, we lay our mats under a canopy of huge pine trees for another 90-minute class. By nightfall, the aroma of freshly baked bread, roasted potatoes, and sweet onions filled the kitchen of the Yoga Prema. Jams made from local peaches and plums sat in little glass containers. Each night ended with feelings of contentment, thankfulness, and laughter amongst new friends.
Sometimes, the best things in life happen by accident. A yoga vacation never registered on my bucket list. A visit to Stari Grad never jumped from travel articles I read. But when an opportunity presents itself, it is best to hop on board and leave the world behind.
Yoga Prema (www.yoga-prema.com) offers extended stays at their location in Stari Grad during July and August. You may want to reserve now for 2018 since there is a recurring clientele and only room for nine pupils per week. You can opt for the vegan menu served daily or enjoy all your meals on your own around town. Check out http://www.stari-grad-faros.hr/en/ for more information on Stari Grad. You can also email Mili directly at email@example.com.
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