What’s up everyone? R and I just got back from one of the best trips we’ve had, to Croatia. Also, it was a great way to say goodbye to my 20’s and bring on turning 30. I’ll be breaking this post down into parts, cause really there was so much to write about this time, and we have some amazing photos to share.
R and I really wanted to leave as much to exploration, adventure, and uncertainty as possible. Travel seems to be so structured these days.. we look online, browse pictures, read stories, and learn so much about the places we travel to before we even go there, that there’s little left to be surprised about. No mystery = no excitement. I’ve fallen into this category more than once – I’m not pointing fingers – but this time around, R and I really wanted to break the mold. I mean.. we didn’t waltz into Croatia completely ignorant – we researched how to get around, but that was about it.
DAY ONE, HVARTSKA!
First day, what a day! haha… First of all, our take-off out of Belgium was a great start. When planes usually take off, they line up on the runway, probably run a couple more hydraulic/engine tests, hold the brakes, then give it throttle and let ‘er go. But our pilot, before finishing the taxi way, GUNNED the engines, made a swerving right turn onto the runway, then gassed it like he was getting on the freeway!! LOL it was awesome 🙂 I wish all planes did that.
A short flight later..we landed in Rijeka. It was a huge shock stepping off the plane onto the Croatian tarmac into 80+ degree weather. We’re not used to that coming from Belgium 🙂
We had no specific plans as to how to get to our apartment in Ciovo. We only knew we had to get there within 24 hours. I did read that busses are the preferred way to get around in Croatia. It seemed easy enough – so we grabbed a taxi, and as I started to attempt pronouncing “bus station” in Croatian, the driver interrupted, “You wanna go to the bus station?” in perfect English haha.. so off we went. He dropped us off at a small town where we could grab the bus, and R and I were amazed at the views and how beautiful of a country Croatia was turning out to be. Little did we know that this small town’s charm was nothing compared to what we were going to experience in the next several hours.
The bus ride is a post of it’s own. What a journey.. We bought tickets to Split, which is in the ‘neighborhood’ of the town we were staying in. We still didn’t have any place booked to stay the night, and figured the bus would get us into Split with plenty of time to find a place to stay. But we didn’t realize the only road to Split was on the scenic route – Croatia’s equivalent to California’s highway 101.
The drivers were really helpful- we had reserved tickets for the bus, but we found out later that an older woman talked her way onto the bus for free, plus they picked up another extra rider before we boarded (= the seats that were reserved for R and I), so the backup driver gave up his seat at the very front of the bus to R. I had to stand for the first 30 minutes until the extra rider was let off. Was like riding a roller coaster standing up. R, lucky girl, got to stay in the front of the bus the whole trip, with the best views.
The coastal route our bus took is nearly indescribable. I mentioned it’s like Cali’s 101, but in reality blows the 101 out of the water. Croatia’s coastline is entirely rock and cliff face.. but is like nothing I’d ever seen before. That’s definitely one of the benefits of traveling to an entirely different region of the world – seeing something completely different. The road is built just at the point where the sea reaches the jagged rocks of the shore. The bus made wickedly sharp and windy turns around the rocks, left and right, at least a 1,000 times. Sounds fun?? HA! If you’re an adrenaline junkie – cause our driver was seriously hauling ass. You’d think that on a dangerous road, you would drive a bit carefully. Our driver – NOPE. Dude took every corner like it was his glorious last. A tour bus with 50 souls aboard didn’t even deter him. haha what was funny the whole time, I was just thinking about R sitting in the very front row and how she was probably coming to terms with her mortality.. making peace with god.. etc!! Especially that one BRIEF straight away where the driver decided to PASS somebody (!!) and as soon as he pulled out, an oncoming car came barreling around the corner. The car flashed his lights, our driver flashed his (still hadn’t overcame the car we were passing), and at the last second whipped the bus back over into our lane… LOL, R said she let out a small little yelp, and it took all she had to keep it from turning into a scream.
Well, long story short: Eight hours of minute-by-minute near death experiences along the most beautiful coastline we have ever seen.
We made it to Split just past 11pm. A few folks we talked to said “good luck” getting a hotel in downtown Split at that hour. I kept reassuring R that we’d be good – sure enough we were. Found a room right on the waterfront- it was the last room they had. We slept like two bumps on a log that night, falling asleep to the Brazil/Colombia world cup match. (I felt bad for Colombia.. they wanted it so bad, plus Germany took Brasil to SCHOOL the next game, so it was kind of a wasted win for Brasil.) People were parting hard in Split well into the night – but we slept through everything.
That bus ride took a lot out of us, but we woke up ready to go. We were up at 6am by chance.. woken up by the sunlight I suppose. We didn’t want to miss out on a minute of the trip, so got up and wandered around the waterfront and took in the fresh sea air.. damn it was refreshing.
Breakfast was our first taste of real Croatian hospitality. We grabbed a table outside on the boardwalk, and up came the waiter. He apologetically said, that all the hotel could offer us for breakfast for the moment was an omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, cheese, plus jam, bread & honey. He was especially sorry to say that all they had to drink was coffee and juice! HAHA… the dude must not have noticed our mouths watering 🙂 We both said at the same time “Perfect, we’ll take it!!” It just showed us how warm Croatian folks are, and it started the morning off on a great tone. Chow was served, we indulged, then moved on to find a bus to our main destination.
Split is so easy to get in and out of. There’s an airport, ferry terminal, bus & train station.. probably a submarine if you asked for it! So it was simple to find a bus to get us towards Trogir. We narrowly missed the bus, though, cause the busses here are labeled only with the final destination city (duh!) This time, no standing – R and I got to enjoy the ride together 🙂 What was even better, was that it was the same bus crew who originally drove us to Split! They recognized us, and it was cool to be able to greet them in their language also.. I brushed up on a few words in Croatian before we left; a few friendly words go a long way on trips like this.
CIOVO ISLAND – TROGIR & OKRUG GORNJI
The bus took the freeway this time, so it wasn’t as wild of a ride as the day before. We pulled into Trogir mid-morning. Very busy, touristy, but a LOT of old-world charm (was founded in 300 BC, so I read somewhere). We knew the general direction of our apartment, but specifically were clueless how to get there. So we set to walking 🙂
We wound our way through the city, over the main bridge connecting ancient Trogir and our island, Ciovo, and pressed on. The locals were really cool about giving directions – although for locals, their estimations for distances were WAY off (??). One gal was saying “just one kilometer”, and a TAXI driver (he knew the address exactly) told me not even one more kilometer about a mile after that.. Well, they both were considerably off, but it didn’t matter cause we were in exploration mode. It wasn’t until we were about four miles into our walk, with temps now hitting 85+, where we said enough was enough. I approached a tourist info booth, and showed the guy our address. He couldn’t get us a taxi (I actually tried waving down at least four, but apparently taxies go on reservations in Croatia, not on wave-downs). But he turned toward a table in the nearby restaurant and hollered at his group of buddies, and asked them who wanted to be a taxi driver haha.. one girl offered to give us a ride in her own car, which was really cool of her to do. It was another great example of local hospitality.
Our apartment was in the town of Okrug Gornji, not even 100 meters from the waterfront, overlooking the bay. For me, the best part was being right on the water. For R, I knew the best part was pretty much everything about the climate lol… She felt right at home the minute we arrived.
I’ll get to writing about the rest of the trip in the next couple posts. Until then, as we say in the Marines, “Standby to standby.” lol…
Thanks for reading.