You might think a lack of sand along its coast is Croatia’s comeuppance for hogging almost 1,800 km of mainland coastline while Bosnia Herzegovina and Slovenia get approximately 20 km and 50 km of coast each.
But sandless shores make the waters around Croatia some of the clearest, most inviting, in the world.
Still, our saddle-sore bottoms lamented the absence of soft golden powder to sink into on our free afternoon on Krk – our first Croatian island.
Not far from the stunning old town, bodies were strewn everywhere: on concrete slabs, busy promenades, large rocks, and uncomfortable-looking walls. It was as if there’d been a massacre minutes before we strolled along the waterfront.
After having lived in Islamic Malaysia for a few years, where bathing attire was conservative, it suddenly felt strange to be among so many scantily-covered bodies.
We tread carefully around the torsos, stepping over feet and between buckets holding beers instead of sand.
In search of a quieter spot, we walked on and came to similar sights. Around the corner of the bay, a family in colourful Crocs sat precariously by rock pools balancing lunch on their laps. A couple of bearded men lay like washed-up whales across the path. A bit further, a white-haired man nestled into the nape of a blown-up unicorn under a tree. Several children played with pebbles; some luckier ones had impressively built a sandcastle on the one sliver of grit-like sand.
There were more air mattresses being used as beds on flagstones than as floating devices on water.
Nobody but us wore more than waterproof underwear; everyone but us had what we came to realise were the essentials for any visit to a Croatian beach – rubber shoes, camping and yoga mats, a set of chairs, and a range of animal inflatables, the most popular by far being the pink flamingo.
Eager to assimilate, we found some free pavement and lay down our travel towels on the hard ground. Then, we gingerly undressed, revealing the oddity of cycling tan marks: half-tanned legs, blotchily-tanned hands because of our gloves, beautifully bronzed arms – up to our t-shirt lines – and pale feet.
Despite our reservations, it didn’t take long to recognise the benefits of sunbathing like seals.
We had shade from the branches of over-hanging trees, nobody kicked sand in our faces, and with clothes padding under our heads, we almost forgot we were on a grey slab of paving.
We didn’t stay still for long though. With temperatures in the low 30s and the most idyllic body of glistening clear water in front of us, there was only one thing we really wanted to do: join those pink flamgoes.