Unless you get stung by a sea urchin, every beach day in Korčula is a great beach day, and every great beach day calls for a night out. Here, free of charge, is an insider’s guide to Korčula’s nightlife — the guide they don’t want you to know about.
Step 1: Roombooze and the Tale of the Goldilocks Wine
As any budget traveler (or indeed student) knows, the key to a successful night out is, firstly, a successful night in. Whether you’re in a hostel, tent, camper van, cheap hotel, or apartment (or indeed dorm room or frat house or digs), the key to a successful night on the town is roombooze: the alcohol you drink in your hostel/room/camper/tent/hotel/apartment/dorm/alleyway-near-the-bicycle-stands-behind-the-train station before putting your wallet through a get-slim-fast regimen at expensive bars… for simplicity’s sake, let’s call it, collectively, roombooze. *Usage guide: roombooze is a portmanteau that I just invented and is used as a noun. Pre-gaming is the verb everyone already knows.
We had settled on wine as a good middle ground between beer and hard liquor for pre-gaming, not least because the supermarket in Korčula has a surprisingly various stock of wines on its rack. The only problem was the prices. Not that the prices were too exorbitant, necessarily, but rather that the prices weren’t there. An entire wall of wines; nary a price in sight. Since the whole point of roombooze is that it’s much cheaper than barbooze, it’s imperative that one knows the price.
So be forewarned should you choose wine as your roombooze. Getting to know the price of a bottle involves taking it off the rack, carrying it over to the cashier, having her stop midway through ringing up someone else’s purchase, so that she can press a few buttons, scan the barcode, then show you the price on her screen, before continuing to ring up her current shopper’s merchandise. Don’t be put off though — the cashiers have it down to an art. We chose, at random, our first bottle, and took it to the cashier, looking puzzled and doing the international sign language for ‘how much?’ (both palms open and facing upwards, slight shoulder shrug). She didn’t blink. Took the bottle from us. Stop-scan-show: 166 kunas. Too much. Back to the shelf. Back to the cashier. Second bottle, stop-scan-show: 9 kunas. Suspiciously cheap. Was it even wine? Back to the shelf. Third bottle: 33 kunas — juuuust right… a Goldilocks price.
‘The Price is Right’: way more fun in real life than on TV
An underrated advantage of roombooze is that it can be enjoyed while listening to the soundtrack of your choosing, and not (necessarily) 80’s rock. Not that there’s anything wrong with 80’s rock. It’s just very hard to get away from in Croatia.
Listening to 90’s rock, drinking roombooze
Step 2: Follow the Noise
Warmed up on roombooze? Good. You’re ready to step outside. But where do you start? Simple: follow the noise, but bear a few things in mind. It’s likely the loudest noise of all is emanating from a boat down at the marina. Don’t be fooled. This is cheating. Everyone knows sound travels better across water, and the party boat you can hear (and probably see by now, with its strobe, search, and disco lights nullifying the glow of at least three hundred stars) is using this trick of science to its advantage. You’ll wander down toward the dock, and from a distance you’ll begin to say things like, “Is that a private boat? We should head over there and see if we can either sneak on board or get invited to join”. Save yourself the walk. The boat has seven people on board, and one of them is the DJ. The other six are a bartender and five punters who have an extraordinary tolerance for deafening bass in close proximity to them. It’s not a party worth joining. If you’re still curious though, by all means go there, take a look, then turn around and head back to the herringbone streets of Ko-town. (Note: if you’re starting to call Korčula ‘Ko-town’ or anything similar to that at this point in the evening, that’s a good sign, it means you have sufficient quantities of roombooze in you.)
Step 3: To the Battlements!
One of the greatest features of Korčula is a rampart from the old walled city that still stands strong, and functions today as a cocktail bar. Getting to the top is not for the faint of heart, the slippery of shoe, or the drunk of head, but once you’re up there the views are second to none (and by none I mean one, but the tower at St. Mark’s Cathedral doesn’t double as a bar at night). From atop the battlement, you can order an overpriced, sickly-sweet cocktail replete with curdled cream which has, baked into its price, the sheer joy of climbing a ladder to get to the bar, having your drinks brought up to you via a pulley system, and of course the view. You can’t order a beer or a straightforward mixed drink up here (don’t be stupid). Go downstairs for that. I’m telling you this now, with a friendly smile on my face, so you won’t have it barked at you by a waiter who is sick to death of hearing “holy crap that’s steep” in eleven different languages night in and night out.
Sit, relax, block your nose and drink your cocktail. Use this is a chance to regroup and contemplate your next move.
Superhero structure: a sort of roundish-on-one-side-and-kind-of-flat-on-the-other wall by day…a cocktail bar by night
As sure-footed as a mountain goat before the cocktails kick in
A decent vibe
But the drinks are lousy
Step 4: Follow the Noise (Reprise)
By now it is probably shortly after midnight, and the party boat that was trying so desperately to get people on board has given up, leveling the noise-factor playing field in town. Hold on tight as you descend the ladder and the narrow spiral staircase. Empty out onto the street, say “holy crap that was steep” in your native tongue for the second time tonight, and then follow the noise. I can’t tell you which bar exactly it will be coming from, because different bars are better on certain nights than others, but you’ll soon figure it out.
For us, it was Dos Locos, a bar that spills out onto the narrow street outside, and has a projector beaming a live video stream of what’s going on inside the bar, onto the wall of the adjacent building outside the bar — presumably so those drinking in the street aren’t left with that “hey are people partying in there without me?” feeling.
Dance like nobody’s watching, but know this: lots of people are.
For beers, I recommend the Karlovačko — it’s bitter, cold, and excellent at getting the saccharine aftertaste of salaciously-named cocktails removed from your mouth (and memory).
Dos Locos begins to take a turn for the worse as soon as anyone in the bar starts kissing. The whole street, watching in 2D, erupts with an adolescent “wooooooooooohhhhh” (or “Bravo!” if you’re the Italians at the table over in the corner). Being amid this throng of musk and other hormones on a warm Croatian street, approaching the business end of 3:00 in the morning, makes you realize it’s time for
Step 5: Dude, you were in the sun all day, it’s late, you’re not 22 anymore, put your beer down, go home.
Seriously. You’re on the 8:30AM boat to Mljet — go home and pack.