Croatia (2008)

After leaving Slovenia, I decided to take a train to the coast of Croatia and then sail down to Split to meet Jenny and Courtney.  It was a beautiful ride for the first hour on the sea, but then a rain storm drove us all inside, and I was glad I got myself a sleeping cabin (as most of the passengers had sleeping bags and were going to sleep on the deck.  Lucky me to be inside.

So at 6am, I arrived in Split and had 5 hours to kill before I met Courtney and Jenny and decided to walk the town and see the Palace (as one local said to do it now before all the tourists come into the city and it gets too hot).  So off I went to see very little, but I got a little exercise and then spent time to catch up with friends on email until they arrived.  Split is really a port town and no main reason to stay.  But man it was getting really hot before 9am!

at 11:30, Courtney found me waiting at the ferry booth, funny as I was waiting at the large and main booth and they were at a different booth as we were each given different information about where the main one was, but I followed directions and stayed put and Jenny and Courtney wandered and found me so we were set and I was so excited to see them both and knew the next week would be a lot of fun. We had some time to enjoy lunch as our ferry didn`t leave for a few hours and I got to catch up with both of them which was my treat.

After some lunch and gelato, we were off on the ferry to the island of Hvar and it was such a cute little town with lots of cobblestones.  I don`t think Courtney (nor her suitcase) liked the cobblestones and her wheels kept getting caught, but we finally made it to our hotel and settled in.  I didn`t know much about Hvar, but our plan was to relax, enjoy the beaches, and food and all that sounded great to me.

Our time in Hvar will filled with entire days at the beach, but when I say beach its not what you may thing (white, soft, sandy beaches….no it was rocky beaches, but still really nice.).  Since it was so hot, we found it better to just stay in the water and chat.  I think I got caught up on all the news and gossip and couldn`t believe how much has happened with celebrities and TV shows in the past 3 months.  Plus Jenny and Courtney brought me People, US Weekly, Cosmo, and Glamour so I have lots of new magazines to keep me entertained and I was so excited!

That night, we decided to go out to a bar after dinner and met two guys from Norway.  Since the only seats left in the bar were with these two days, I thought we should ask if we can join them and then we ordered a 3 liter tower of beer so we had some to share.  It ended up being a lot of fun, and I made sure we finished the tower of beer.  We talked with Felix and his friend for a while.  We spent a lot of time talking about smoking and how bad it was for you and Felix was surprised the 3 of us felt so strongly against it and was surprised that more Americans didn`t smoke.  He thanked us for sharing and said he would try to cut back.  Regardless, we must have left a good impression as they told us we were the nicest Americans they have ever met so we did our country proud!

On our second day in Hvar, we decided to take a boat cruise to another island called Brac and go to the beach of Bol.  From the photos we saw, it looked like the longest stretch of white, sandy beach and quite heavenly.  I think Jenny described it best to someone else after we came back, “It was like Disneyland on the beach”.  There were so many people, food stands and chaos, but it a nice day all the same and great to get to see more islands.

One thing we started to notices (and later became a theme), is the people in Croatia kept trying to short change us money.  At first, we thought it was a mistake, but then when it happened to me 4 times in 3 days and Courtney 3 times in 2 days, we were suspicious.  It was always just a little bit like 10-50 Kuna ($3 was the smallest time and they tried to short Courtney $15 for a bottle of water), but I was quick to count the change and caught it and when we went to ask about it, the cashiers never argued and always said sorry and gave the rest of our change back.   We realized that night when we tried to pay for our hotel, they did it again.  It was tricky as the hotel quoted us a price in Euro, then charged us in Kuna and we were thinking how much this would be in dollars.  I took the bill upstairs and ran the numbers myself and realized they tried to over charge us 600 Kuna (or $150).  That`s a lot of money (especially on my tight budget for the year), so I went down to discuss it and the reception told me it was correct, and I showed her my numbers and she looked and said to come back in 15 minutes.  All in all, I was right, they adjusted our bill and we were set.  It`s sad as most people would have looked at the bill and assumed it was right and paid.  We later found we kept getting the wrong change in Dubrovnik as well, so maybe it`s a fun game they play with tourists?  Regardless, its keeping me on my toes and keeping my mind thinking so that`s my silver lining.

Friday we were off to Dubrovnik and didn`t realize what a journal it would be.  6:30am wake up, 7:00am shuttle to the ferry (as the walk with cobblestones wasn`t appealing to all, so it was a nice treat for the shuttle).  7:30am ferry to Split, kill 2 hours to wait for 10:30 bus down the coast to Dubrovnik (crossing into Bosnia) and dealing with border controls.  The drivers were taking the curvy coastline roads so fast, it was better not to watch.  I kept saying they are in control….So at 3:30pm, we finally arrived in Dubrovnik and were off to find out apartment.  The wait for worth it as we had an amazing view of the harbor and the old town from our balcony.

We had a few nice quotes along the way that I had to jot down:
1. I was trying to leave my bag at left luggage and a man selling news papers walked pasts me, looked at me and said “F_ck You” – for no reason at all.  We think it may have been a new word he used (thinking it was excuse me???)
2. Once we got on the bus, we all grabbed a seat and a family got on and made everyone move as they had a seat reservation.  After some talking, he turned to Courtney and said quite sternly “just sit down and be quiet!”.  She was just trying to understand what has happening and there was no need for that.
3. Back in Hvar, Courtney went to go shopping for some items on the street stalls as they stay open until midnight or so.  When she came at 10 or 11, a lady barked at her “Why you coming so late”.  Not really the customer service nor someone that wants to sell things.

These things made us laugh as over all, the people in Croatia were not too friendly, but we think its because they have had to go though so much with all the wars here.  We just kept a happy face and always said our pleases and thanks yous and tried to kill others with kindness.

Our time in Dubrovnik was short, but we quickly rallied to go explore the old town and see what all the buzz was about.  It was amazing as the old town was surrounded by a huge curtain of a wall that surrounded the old town and has such charm.  The city is nicknamed the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and the city is really special.  The streets are made of marble (very slick). We all slipped and almost fell a few times.  Within the walls, there were steps everywhere and we made sure to climb our fair share!  We spent the first night sampling food, drinks and getting our bearings.  We were on the hunt for a secret bar we heard about that sits outside the city walls in the cliffs.  We were told to climb up one side of the town, to the very top (about 200 steps or so it felt) and then after passing about 20 alley cats we found the sign that read “Cold Drinks” and went through a narrow door (when I almost hit the top as it was so short) and we found it.  It was a bar built on the cliffs of the sea and into the wall and it was the perfect place to watch the sunset.  It was worth the hike to find it.

We were motivated our next day to walk to the city walk before it got too hot and we were advised to be there by 9am and even then, it was super hot.  But we climbed the wall, took our time to walk around and admire all the views of the town, the water, the wall and enjoy it.  The whole time, we were all dripping in sweat, but it was a nice wake up for us and we knew we would be rewarded with a boat trip to Lokrum Island for a day at the beach.  Little did we know there were no sandy beaches here either.  After walking through a forest for one side of the island, we stumbled onto the nudist beach, but decided to turn around as that was not our scene for the day.  We read this island had the best of the beaches in Croatia, but again it was big slabs of rocks, but we made the most of it and swam around and soaked up the sun.  Courtney kept calling us the “little brown bears” as we kept getting darker and darker.  After enough time, we came back to the main land and found another beach club to enjoy for a few hours before climbing the 400 steps up to our apartment.  We really got our exercise from walking to town, the city walk, walking all over the island and then hiking back to our apartment, but it was a nice day and felt good to get the blood moving.

So our last night together, we had a nice dinner, cruised around town more and finally settled in at a wine bar for wine and dessert.

The next morning Courtney and Jenny were off and I was sad to see them leave as I had a very fun time with them in Croatia.

I planned to stay one more night, so I moved to my hostel and within 30 minutes met a nice girl from Sweden, Sabrina, and she and I were off to explore other beaches in the Lapad area of Dubrovnik.  We found a local bus, that was driving way too fast, and finally got off when most of the bus did.  We wandered through a cute promenade until we hit a beach and this was a place the locals went.  Lots of families and almost no English was spoken. It was perfect!  We enjoyed my last day of beach for a while and later met some others from Australia and England and had a nice dinner and beers out.

So all in all, wonderful time in Croatia.  I would highly recommend it and wish I could have stayed longer as there were other islands I heard great things around.

Logistics:

Hvar Dinners:

  • Maconda – wonderful seafood and risotto dinner
  • Paladini – great pasta and seafood dinner
  • Luna – simple seafood dinner, but good.

Dubrovnik Dinners:

  • Mea Culpa – great pizza

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