15 June 2012 – the day that began an awesome 6 week journey through Eastern Europe.
It began with the sound of the alarm at 2:30am for Sarah and I to head to the airport.
We left Stansted (and cold, rainy London) after running for our plane courtesy of the long lines at customs. Fortunately, everything was delayed so we hopped on our flight with no issues. Before we knew it visions of the snow capped Alps could be seen out the plane window as we headed for the amazingly warm, sunny and blue-skied Dubrovnik!!
We were pointed in the right direction of our hostel by a lovely local on arrival, dumped our bags and then headed into the old town, scaled the city walls through Pile gate (so many stairs!), sweated our bums off, caught the cable car up the hill for some amazing views and ate the first of many 7 kuna icecreams.
The following day we made our way to Dubrovnik Harbour to begin an 8 day sail around the Croatian Islands. We had the smallest boat of the fleet called Istok with 12 passengers and 4 crew. It was no surprise really that all passengers were Australian. Egh…… 19-22 year old Australians… double egh.
Sarah and I were lucky enough to get the bow of the boat which had the most room even though it was still cramped and we constantly hit our heads on the ceiling.
Everyone quickly began on their tans by claiming positions on the top deck whilst asking the crew to pass beers from the kitchen below deck through the hatch.
I’ve always wanted to jump off the top of a sailing boat into the sparkling, crystal clear water beneath. It is my version of true holiday bliss – the sun, swimming and crunchy salty hair. Love it.. First day in had me jumping from the top of the boat into water so deep yet so clear beneath. No words can express how amazing this was so I won’t even try.
It was scary but I did it again and again… at pretty much every swim stop.
We ended the day with a Captain’s BBQ dinner, learning how to flush the toilets and getting to know “Jemima” the pot lid that became a frizbee water toy!
In the following days we visited the islands of Mljet, Korcula, Hvar, Stari Grad, Piscano, and Armish.
On day 3, I learnt all about Sea Urchins and how they can puncture soles of feet. By accident, during a swim stop off shore, I stood on one of the pesky things which left 10 spines sticking out of my right foot. A trip to the chemist, speaking broken conversational English, I learnt that they are not poisonous (thank god!) and spent the afternoon picking them out with a needle and putting on antiseptic cream that smelt like engine oil. I was told that if I couldn’t get them out to not worry as they would eventually work their way out like a splinter. Just for the record- it is really hard to hike up Pirate fortresses, dance at the Kiva bar, walk for kilometers in the 35+ degree heat to a Vineyard and generally sight see with spikes in your foot. Cocktails and icecream helped.
Speaking of icecream and cocktails – I think the best night of the whole week was when we had a free day in which Sarah and I ditched the group as soon as humanly possible and had the day to ourselves indulging in the most wonderfully delicious sundaes one has ever eaten – so good in fact that neither of us took a photo! – and having (numerous) cocktails on the beach overlooking the water and talking crap with an increased amount of giggling after each beverage. Haha.
We were on the Island of Hvar when there was a Croatia vs Italy football match on. All the locals were in their team colours, EVERY restaurant, pub, and visible house had their tv onto the same channel and people were setting off flares when something good happened. It was a pretty cool atmosphere to be in. We got back to the boat at about 2:30am, others wandered back at 4am….boat engines began at 7.
I think my favourite swim stop was at Bol beach (otherwise known as G-string beach because that’s what the trees and shore look like from the air)– where we anchored and had to swim to shore. We got a little excited that the pictures looked like the beach was sand, but as we got closer we realized it was made of pebbles instead. It was still amazing though – and there were no sea urchins.
The tour ended back on the mainland in Split. This is where I bid farewell to Sarah as she had to head back to London to go back to work (sucker!).
I ended up organizing a meet and great with Daniella and Miljenko (Mike) who I had met earlier in the year whilst staying in a hostel in London. It just so happened that they live about a 20min bus ride north of Split. They were AMAZING gracious hosts. They showed me around their home town of Trogir, took me to beautiful national parks that were jaw dropping picture postcards of nature at its finest. I got to eat traditionally, home cooked Croatian seafood and experience what life is like living on the Dalmatian Coast. Daniella’s mum even did my washing for me! Spending time with Daniella and Mike and Daniella’s family has been a highlight of my adventures to date.
I had a week to fill before my next planned trip so on recommendation I went to Plitvice National Park on my way to the Croatian capital, Zargreb. Plitvice is a nature lover’s paradise, and the photos don’t do it justice. The rush you get seeing views as spectacular as these erases the effort of the hike to get you there.
I wasn’t as impressed with Zagreb as the coast. It just felt like another city to me. Maybe because I was now on my own and in a place where even less people spoke English, but it just felt less friendly. I can’t remember anything that stood out during these few days... but I did sleep for a whole day and night on my second day. I guess I was a bit sleep deprived. Lol
I did meet two Swedish boys in the hostel though who were nice enough to keep me company and persuade me to go to Stockholm one day.
I returned back to Split by bus around 29th June…only to be surfing facebook in the hostel and find out that Victoria –my old uni housemate who I had been trying to organize some travel with for like MONTHS – had just finished a tour and was also in SPLIT! Awesome!! So I joined her and her fellow sail tour buddies for dinner. oh I love how things like that happen!