|And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be….
It’s August, in Europe, I’m totally burnt out on being a tourist with all the other tourists, I need a plan. Okay so work backwards, I need to be in Connecticut to Officiate a Wedding in early September, so I need a flight back to the USA. Hahahaha…. not so easy, every things booked. I even started checking cross Atlantic cruise’s. Nothing. Finally I found a flight out of Turkey that would work. Okay, now get myself to Turkey. Well not so fast, I do have the better part of a month to get there. So….
Croatia! I had heard nothing but good things about Croatia and figured it was the road less traveled so off I went. I flew form Prague to Split. Which is in Dalmatia, along the Adriatic Coast. Sounded good. Hahahaha… to me and a million other punters who had heard that Croatia was a beautiful place. So, no longer the road less traveled.
I Landed in Split (Dalmatia) and took a taxi to my “Apartment”. (An interesting side note for me was that my drivers name was Zoran, who knew? I have a good friend named Zoran in San Diego, we call him Z because it’s easier, and I thought he had to be the only guy in the world named Zoran. Nope. Turns out Zoran’s are all over Croatia!) So back to my Airbnb Apartment in Old Town down some tiny little street. WOW! What an amazing place to live. It was literally in some medieval building but had been redone to have all the comforts of the modern world. The way they blend the old and the new fascinates me.
Immediately I went out walking and got blown away - first of all the whole town was heading to the Local Football Match (I almost went but was afraid I’d cheer for the wrong team and that would be the end of me). But they were all eating some sausage pita kinda thing that looked delicious. So I followed the hoard backwards to where they were lined up 10 deep to buy this sausage pita thing and carry it away to eat as they walked to the stadium. I got in line. Oh am I glad I did. there is a Croatia name for this local delight and my friend Z will be disappointed in me that I can’t recall what the heck it is called right now, but what I will never forget is my first bite into my first sausage pita thingy, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the…well you get the idea.
Sausage sandwich in hand, off I walked to the water front where a rainbow shone down on the old town of Split. So I followed the rainbow, to the walls of city and through some ancient underground entrance and then into the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace WOW, WOW and WOW! Just when I think I’m done with this traveling around during August thing! I was absolutely blown away. Diocletian had this place built in the 3rd Century as his summer residence and it has existed in one way shape or form ever since. Today’s version is a mixture or jumble of the old and the new and everything in-between. It is mind-boggling. It is beautiful. It is fascinating. I wandered and wandered and wandered.
An interesting fact is that Diocletian fought to end Catholicism and after his death and the subsequent demise of the Roman Empire there were then churches built in his palace. Damn religion. It just ain’t right.
Though these days the vibe is anything but religious. There are impromptu Croatian versions of the Barber Shop Quartet breaking out in these acoustically wonderful courtyards. There are hotel and restaurants amidst museums and galleries. There is one of the coolest outdoor coffee joints I have ever had the pleasure of sipping a cup of joe at. You order and drink while sitting on the steps of one of the original buildings that existed during Roman times, with the mishmash of everything since then built up around you. What a spectacular place to sit and sip and watch the world go by.
Another interesting fact is that some of the Game of Thrones series is filmed on location here. (A fact shared with many of the Old Towns throughout this part of the world). And wether you are a fan of the series or not, you can’t help but imagine life (fact or fiction) in ancient times within these walls.
My journey continued south along the coast and down to Hvar, I took a catamaran/ferry and as we pulled into the harbor at Hvar I again was taken aback by the beauty. There is this big old fort that overlooks the whole city with the Old town nestled in below it. Hvar is smaller then Split, much smaller, but is that much more intimate and charming. I again hit the jackpot on places to stay and wound up in some sweet little boutique hotel - Villa Nora - smack in the middle of Old Town. I spent the next day or so wandering around St. Stephen’s Square and exploring the little alley’s and streets that branch off from there.
I was told that supposedly there are some really amazing islands to go check out form here. So I took the Water Taxi to the Pakleni Islands “Hell’s Islands” and decided to hop off at Palmizana. Ouch! I mean it was beautiful, but it turns out it was also Yacht Week. For those of us over 30 years of age we may not be hip to Yacht Week, but ask my Niece…she knows. It is a non-stop party on a slew of sailboats that head from one port to the next while throwing the biggest party possible. Fun, if you’re under 30, for me, not so much. I wound up spending the day on a beach? (well more like a little patch of rocks) with about 10,000 others! I did eventually retreat to a sweet restaurant up on the hillside and had a relaxing lunch overlooking the bay.
Continuing on, I again took the catamaran/ferry farther south to the island of Korcula. And again Wow! At least at first. It is another beautiful Old Town, same charm and cobblestone streets and ancient church, etc… But my luck with places to stay had run out. This time I had booked another Airbnb and when I arrived at the Port, where the women whose house I had rented was to meet me, nothing, no one. So I waited, and waited and finally this lady shows up and with a big smile informs me that she was overbooked and didn’t have a room for me! But….always a but (and I was always told that everything after but is bullshit!)…she knew someone else who had a room for me. Oh yeah, by the way, the entire town was packed and sold out. So what choice did I have? Off I went to this families house way up on the hill, way out of the way. And they had a room alright, in their house, it was just like they threw one of the kids out and quickly made the bed and rented out to me. Yay! I am huge fan of living in strangers houses on their kids bed. But not to worry they tell me, there is a great beach nearby.
Okay, so I do the requisite lap around the Old Town, find some decent but overpriced food, and then go to look for this beach. I figured a good soak in the sun and a dip in the water would be good for the soul. I found the beach and it was a pebble beach. Pebbles, as in tiny rocks, that really don’t feel so good to lie down on. Not at all. But I tried. I really, really tried. To no avail. I had to finally give up, what, with the pebbles, the fact that there was about 1 cm between me and the next person in every direction, and on top of that the screaming kids, there was no "good for the soul" going on.
When all else fails…move on. So down to the Port I go to book myself on the next boat out. The next boat is the next day, and I am informed that the One Way Tickets are Sold Out. But if I want I can buy a Round Trip Ticket. I don’t need a Round Trip I only need to get there, I am not coming back. Okay….nope! The only way to go is to buy the Round Trip and just not use the Return. Retarded.
The following morning found me on the catamaran/ferry with my Round Trip Ticket in my pocket. My next stop, and supposedly, at least according to the Guide Books and everyone you talk to, the crown jewel of Croatia….Dubrovnik!
The ferry pulls into port in Dubrovnik and off I go to find my way to Old Town, where I have booked (this time through Booking.com) a sweet Apartment smack in the middle of Old Town. As I approached the Old Town Walls I started to get a little nervous. It was a zoo! Packed. People everywhere. Now, I was hot, it was the middle of August, and my back was starting to hurt, and I had no idea where I was going and the last thing I needed was the anxiety brought on by the masses. I stiffened my back and held my head high and despite the sweat dripping in my eyes, found my way to the address I had been given. And….closed, no one home, nada, nothing. There was a little note on the door directing me back across Old Town to some Restaurant where I could enquire about whatever it was I needed to enquire about. So off I go, not a happy camper. I eventually found the Restaurant and enquired about the room I had booked and paid for well over a week ago. And was informed, with a big smile, that they had overbooked and didn’t have a room for me. But…(there’s that but again), they knew someone who had space and if I would just be patient they would take care of everything. Yikes!
Hahahaha….fortunately for me, I have mellowed some in my old age, so after a while of being patient, I was met by some women who walked me all the way back across Old Town to meet some guy who had a flat that his Mother owned and that I could use for the next few days. Yikes! Actually it turned out okay, not great, but okay. It was a decent enough place and I was informed there was beach near by.
So I did the requisite lap around Old Town, which despite being overcrowded, is a pretty cool place. There are all sorts of old churches and buildings and squares and well the same things you find in all these Old Towns. I found some good but overpriced food, hung in a cafe or two and then retreated to go find this beach I was told about.
The directions to the beach from my flat (which by the way was in some medieval building, which was kind of cool) were to follow the Old Town Wall to the left and I would come to a door, go through and there would be the beach. Easy enough, I found may way to the wall, followed it to the left and found the door which led to the outside of the Old Town Walls and….hahahahaha….the Beach was a cliff of rocks that formed the foundation for Old Town. Yay! No pebbles….just a big sold, hard, rock! So there I was, lying on a rock, with about 1cm between me and everyone else around me, and to make it even better, every so often a wave would hit the cliff just right and hot salty water would blow up and soak me. I was batting a thousand.
I was ready to go, to move on, next country. I was done with Old Towns and I was done with Tourist traps, I was definitely done with the Croatian Beaches!
Now in defense of Croatia, Split was really spectacular, and Hvar was really cool. I would highly recommend both to everyone. And if you go when it isn’t the height of tourist season I am sure the islands off the Dalmatian Coast are worth the trip. Oh yeah and they have these really delicious sausage pita things! Now Dubrovnik? I don’t know, maybe if I had stayed out of Old Town and tried to see the real heart of Dubrovnik and mingle with some local people, maybe. But Old town Dubrovnik….highly overrated…leave it for the filming of the Game of Thrones. Winter is coming!
Off to the bus station….next stop…