A frosted three litre bottle of Belvedere vodka sat in the florescent ice bucket which glowed at the heart of our private table.
Bouncers whispered into secret earpieces, cautiously lifting the thick rope divide which separated us from the rest of the throbbing nightclub to let in the privileged few.
Kicking back on the velvet couches I poured myself a drink, becoming increasingly hypnotized by the pulsating beats resonating from the dance-floor.
I have never seen a bottle this big!
I was in Hvar, a Croatian island floating just over an hour away from the port of Split.
Frequented by the rich and famous (Beyonce is an honorary citizen), Hvar Town is a catwalk for millionaire holiday-makers taking a break from their luxury yachts left bobbing in the harbour.
Families and couples alike swan along the waters edge, stopping to sample expensive cocktails in the shade of the beautiful bleached stone buildings. As a budget holiday-maker and anything but a billionaire tycoon, this initial view of Hvar was very worrying indeed.
Where were the throngs of rowdy backpackers and inter-railers for whom Hvar had become the obligatory party island stop? Where was the cheap beer and purse-friendly eateries?
Distracted by the amazing scenery and crystal waters by day, I quickly forgot my money-troubles but when night fell and the music started to thump along the shore, the worry set in.
How was I going to afford to survive on this luxury isle?
This trip to Hvar had been planned as a girls only post-university retreat, a chance to let our hair down and indulge in the island’s infamous nightlife.
Our first night in Hvar led us to Kiva Bar, a backpacker hangout hidden down one of Hvar Town’s winding cobbled streets. A place you can hear well before you can see it. Already shocked at the price of a shared cocktail (£15!), we braced ourselves for eye-watering prices at the bar. Luckily a bottle of beer came to the equivalent of £1.50 and happened to be the last drink we had to pay for all night… Since when did backpackers get this generous?
Tip number one: Come to Hvar with single and attractive girl friends!
Our new group of friends continued the party next door at Nautica Bar, a slightly more expensive but larger bar, playing a mix of cheese and top 40 tunes. When the lights flicked on at 2am we were shocked, wasn’t Hvar meant to be an all day, all night kind of town? Apparently not.We were told that the only places still open were the big clubs Pink Champagne and Carpe Diem. But they were for another night.
With nights spent at the bars and clubs, the days were reserved for soaking up the sun on one of Hvar’s pebbled beaches.
Now I’m not one to stay still for long and the obligatory tanning sessions after late mornings sleeping off the night before, left me restless. Unused to these sorts of girly holidays, I resented my banging headaches in the morning and craved exploration and adventure.
I felt guilty lying prostrate on a beach all afternoon when there was so much to see and do on this beautiful isle but alas, the budget and the persistent hangovers would not allow it.
I hung my traveller’s head in shame.
We had budgeted for a night at Hvar’s premier nightclub, Carpe Diem.
Accessed by a trundling boat journey, Carpe Diem inhabits its own private island, complete with a beach, woodland dance-floor and swimming pool where the partying only begins to kick off after 2am. The only problem with this particular venue is that I get chronically seasick.
Tip number two: Don’t mix quite a few drinks with a wobbly boat crossing if you’re prone to seasickness!
After paying the hefty £10.50 entrance fee I spent the rest of the night with my head between my legs on the rocky coastline.
Money well spent…
Taking a brief breather from the nightlife we decided to hunt down the cheap eats in Hvar Town.
TripAdvisor was the best source for whittling down the numerous restaurants and cafes, guiding us to Marinero’s first, where tasty bowls of seafood pasta come to just over £6 a head, washed down with cheap wine and half litres of the local beer. Our entire bill came to less than £10 each, bargain!
Another night we went to Alvis Restuarant, centered around a cute little courtyard. With similar prices to Marinero’s, I took the opportunity to sample Croatian Pašticada, a native beef stew dish. I was served a massive portion for £8.
I was beginning to believe that I could survive on my meagre £20 a day budget!
On one of our final nights in Hvar we eventually caved into heading to Pink Champagne, a dingy underground club positioned on the outskirts of the town.
As the only place in the town open post-2am, Pink Champagne is extortionate, charging the same £10.50 entrance as Carpe Diem and then £5 for a beer once you are trapped inside.
I do not recommend this place.
Luckily we had stumbled across some… wealthy benefactors… who were more than happy to foot the bill for the night. This is when the Belvedere made its appearance. A bill for £2000 also reared its ugly head. The guys barely batted an eyelid as they handed over their American Express.
Tip number three: Make rich friends! Pretty simple in Hvar.
After a crazy week in Hvar we headed back to the mainland for our final night in Split. Waving goodbye to the picture-perfect town was heartbreaking, even more so knowing that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of its long history or explored its pretty towns and villages.
Split, although beautiful in its own right, paled in comparison to Hvar’s untouched and pristine beauty. The grey clouds that greeted us at the port seemed like some twisted pathetic fallacy, although a wander around Split’s attractive and ancient centre coupled with cheaper prices, brought the smiles back to our face.
For our last meal we dined at Fife, a rustic restaurant on the harbour which serves up impressive portions of seafood and bulky side dishes. We followed it up with cocktails at a local bar as lightening cracked in the sky.
As the heavens opened I began to lament my time in Hvar. I had allowed myself to be sucked into Hvar’s hedonistic lifestyle, the yachts, the cocktails, the VIP experience had all been part of a tourist culture I have always tried to avoid.
I had been blinded by the trappings of self-indulgent luxury and forgotten my travelling roots.
What about Hvar’s culture and history? I knew the price of the beer in every bar but I didn’t know a single thing about the town itself. And I’m not alone. At the moment Hvar is still hopelessly stunning and host to a global clientele. With its natural and architectural beauty I find it difficult to imagine Hvar falling to the alcohol-fuelled and Brit populated destruction of resorts like Magaluf and Malia. Yet its booming popularity on the backpacker party circuit has potential to do it more harm than good.
Tip number four: Get to Hvar before it is too late.
Until next time Hvar.