From the top of the muscular white swan of the Jadrolinija Split–Vis ferry I watch the wake striating the deep-blue-sea navy of the water, but any thought it could have of creating a lasting tide is naive: its stark white crests dissipate into a sort of piping on the folds of a great skirt before transforming into swirling aquamarine, blending into the two halves of the Adriatic momentarily left behind the ship. This shade of blue I have never encountered before, neither tint nor intensity. It’s a hue that ensorcels, that has ways to make you talk, yet, in the end, leaves you speechless.
Once on Vis, the island, we are whisked by a local couple – Jélena, a former triathlete with the finely defined musculature of a thoroughbred and a tired smile, and her beau Alf, née Hrvoje, a balding, thin, silent, efficient type who chain-smokes hand-rolleds – along a twisting road to a beach featuring large white pebbles and extra-clear turquoise water. А few feet in, the bottom drops out, but since you always see it, you never know the depth. We dive with eyes open, legs flailing, yet at 30 meters from shore we never reach the porous white rock below, though it seems ever within reach.
Next is a short hop to Alf’s clifftop cabana bar overlooking a placid lagoon. There are nine of us, and we take two cars. I am here with my friends, masters of yoga masterclasses and spa retreats, who travel the world and even run a destination travel company, Qi Yo Travel, but even they are in a for a surprise. What we see as we arrive, entirely unexpected – as I, at least, did not prepare for this outing by reading any Lonely Planet literature on the Blue Grotto or environs – is, essentially, a 360-degree postcard. I notice that the benches we’re sitting on are made of long army-green ammunition boxes with writing on them in English, an incongruous echo of the war that raged here over 20 years ago. Later, as we skip down a lava-rock slope, pile onto a little white cutter, make it to the famous grotto and then back to the cabana to flowing cold drinks, huge vegetarian salads in the making, and the promise of fresh-caught grilled fish, the whole enterprise threatens to devolve into a too-good-to-be-true version of a Mediterranean paradise.
Dusk comes first to the sea. The lagoon ripples with the gentlest of shimmers, and a gossamer net covers the water, its top-surface a luminous ginger, inside each rhomboid opening a colorless dapple of sea. I look ahead to a yellow-green fire engulfing the trees massed on the opposite hill. The net is its reflection. And still, the color of water that stays with me is the one I saw spreading as far as the eye could see that morning, on the Jadrolinija.
In the dark, by the light of ancient cast-iron-and-glass lanterns smoking to high heaven, there is ground-walnut strudel and – this cannot possibly be, and yet – homemade sour-cherry liqueur that is nothing less and little more than the quintessence of that most noble of berries, and even fruits. Sated, intoxicated, we crane our heads up to see stars galore and the yogurtous swirls of the galaxy, and if we could just extinguish the fuming lanterns, the sky would be crisp and deep-blue-sea-dark enough to perhaps see the future.
But if someone extinguishes them, it won’t be clear who has pilfered the last of the strudel, drained the remaining liqueur, and so we strain our eyes, seeking our next falling star, and I wonder what all of this means; whether I could recapture that shade of blue, furrowed by lamb-crests of wake, that I had seen from the top of the ferry, and whether one should even try.