Now That Is What I Call A Rest Stop
Driving a car in Croatia is fantastic. We rent a small compact car at Last Minute Cars in Split. The car comes complete with GPS and a pre-arranged pick up at our hotel in Zagreb.
Now we are driving on a well-maintained toll road listening to Claudia’s Croatia playlist at full blast. Claudia is slumped down in the front seat, trying to sleep off her hangover. Split with its discos and friendly natives is Croatia’s fun-land. Claudia has a “Split”ting headache from too many Long Island Ice Teas from the night before. She moans at me each time I ask her a question that I have to yell at the top of my lungs over the blasting music. I am really having too much fun being the self-righteous mom of a twenty-something. I love road trips. We are on the road to Plitvička Jezera, Croatia’s enchanted fairyland.
Continue reading The Road to Plitvička Jezera
I have been abandoned in Split. Claudia and I kidnapped a young Australian girl named Steph who we met on our walking tour of Diocletian’s Palace. At the end of the tour, I am surprised when Claudia turns to Steph and asks “Would you like to join us for lunch?” Claudia’s simple gesture of hospitality is one that we have seen repeated by Croatians and fellow tourists throughout our trip.
It is ironic that although I learn the language of the country before I travel, we usually spend our international vacations talking to waiters and shopkeepers. However, this trip to Croatia is different. Croatians are warm, friendly people. Their desire to connect with each other can be seen in their eyes and their smiles as they sit at outdoor tables sipping drinks and watching the crowd stroll by.
On our third day, as I sit sipping a glass of wine in an outdoor lounge, it finally dawns on me what is missing from Croatian coffee shops; electronics. Croatians are not hunched over, doubled chinned, staring at their phones. They do not look like androids with white wires connecting their ears to their laptop. Their phones are not on the table standing sentry to their social interactions. Their eyes do not nervously, continually glance at its screen in case some important Facebook, snapchat, Instagram, twitter, text notification might go unnoticed and unanswered for more than ten seconds. The eyes of the Croatians in their gathering places are on each other, not on their hand held devices. All you have to do is smile and say “Dobar Dan” or “Bok” and you will find an enthusiastic participant for an enjoyable conversation.
Continue reading The Split Welcoming Committee – Making Friends Croatian Style
Hvar: The Sexy Party Girl Island
Hvar is like a hormone filled teenager compared to sleepy Korčula. Hvar wants to get you drunk and reckless. Hvar is a sexy island scented with lavender. There is a sexual fire that burns deep within the core of Hvar. I can feel its heat the moment we pull into the harbor.
Lavender stand at Hvar habor
Our catamaran deposits us in front of the bar, Carpe Diem, at 7:30 PM. Carpe Diem, has a boat that whisks people from the shore to an island dance club. The club on this forbidden island disco does not even start until midnight. As we walk towards the square to find a taxi, we pass restaurants that line Hvar’s port. The lounge music pulsates from the interiors of the restaurants as the tourists flow by dragging their luggage. Hvar is Croatia’s Riviera. The dance music, the lights, the people; glamorous Hvar is just starting to wake up, stretch her long, tan legs and party.
Continue reading Hvar, The Sexy Party Girl Island
Korčula: The Shy, Soothing Island
Korčula is cool by design. It’s old town was designed by the Venetians. The ocean breezes weave through the carefully laid out streets designed by the Venetians to optimize the natural cooling properties of the wind. Korčula is shy and laid back. She is the friend who takes care of you when you need to be soothed and comforted. She is not fancy or flashy. She is intimate and cares deeply about her home and her inhabitants
We ride to Korčula via the catamaran ferry. Riding the catamaran to the islands is like riding a Hop On Hop Off ferry. The line runs from Dubrovnik to Split everyday with stops at Mijet, Korčula, Hvar, Brac and Split. We buy all our tickets for all our island stops at the Jadrolinija office in the port of Dubrovnik the day we arrive. The tickets are very affordable and easy to purchase up front. Buying them in advance makes island hoping easy and stress free. The ferry is air-conditioned, has food and beverages and plenty of indoor seating. There are shelves at the entrance on which you can store your luggage.
Continue reading Korčula, The Shy, Soothing Island
Island hopping in Croatia is like visiting different enchantingly beautiful women. Each island is beautiful in her own unique way. Each island has a very distinct personality, as if the island’s spirit breaths from the core of her island and intoxicates its inhabitants with her ways. As we travel from island to island, Claudia and I are the same people. However, each island evokes a different mood from us and castes her own unique spell on us.
Lokrum: The Bewitchingly Beautiful Island
Lokrum, the cursed island, is only available to receive visitors during the day. A short boat ride from the old City Harbor near the Ploce Gate in Dubrovnik, we buy our tickets from a stand in front of the boat. Lorkum rises above the sea with a sheer wall of tan colored rocks topped by a layer of green trees. The island is surrounded by rocks fitted with ladders that descend to the clear, cool Adriatic sea. From the small pier on the island, paths branch out with signs pointing to a cafe, botanical garden, beaches and the ruins of the monastery.
Claudia sitting on the Lokrum pier
Continue reading Lokrum, the Bewitchingly Beautiful Island
It is already 88 degrees in Dubrovnik and it is only 10:30 in the morning. We are standing at King’s Landing in the Old City of Dubrovnik. In front of us, workers are loading a dark brown pirate ship with explosives. They will blow the ship to smitherines in a few days as part of a historic film. Behind the ship are the towers of the wall and large jagged rocks. We are about to circumnavigate the island of Lorkum in sea kayaks with Adventure Dubrovnik.
Kayaking is a lot harder than it looks. In a few strokes, Claudia and I are in last place. Claudia is sitting in the back as the “engine” and I am in front as the captain. Kayaking takes great cooperation, something that is sometimes difficult for mothers and adult daughters to do. We glide out towards the island. The breeze from the Adriatic and the cool water splashing into the kayak finally stops the stream of sweat that has been pouring off my body for the past twenty-four hours.
Lorkum rises above the sea with a sheer wall of tan colored rocks topped by a layer of green trees. Darijo, our guide, stops us when we reach the island and tells us of its curse. The Benedict Monks had a monastary on the island. One day, Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg came to the island and fell in love with it. The spoiled Archduke ordered the monks to leave. On the last night, the monks walked around the island three times with their candles held upside down so that the wax dropped on the ground. They cursed the island so that anyone who acquired the island for their own personal pleasure would meet personal and financial doom. After Maximilian moved his family onto the island, he was assasinated in Mexico, his wife driven insane and his son bankrupt. Now the people believe that anyone who spends more than three nights on the island will suffer a similar fate. Today, the only creatures that live on the island are the peacocks and the bunnies. The island is covered with them as well as tourists and naked sun bathers during the day who come to visit the gardens and the ruins.
Continue reading From Sea to Sdr – 360 Degrees of Beauty in Dubrovnik
It is the hottest day of the year and we decide to ascend the steep stone stairs so we can walk the walls that surround Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is just past one o’oclock at the hottest time of the day. It is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At the top, the narrow walkway is almost deserted. Only a few panting tourists cling to small slivers of shade in the corners of the winding way. The heat is merciless.
From the top of the wall, the view is as spectacular as the heat is ruthless. Sweat pours down my back, soaking me shirt. Claudia’s shorts have a “v” outlined in water just below her waist. We cannot rush this promenade. Every few feet, there is a photo begging to be taken. The domes, the orange tile roofs and the grey granite stone creates new intricate puzzle piece mosaics below as the Adriatic sparkles beyond the walls. Dubrovnik is magical. Walking through the gates is like walking through a time portal.
Continue reading Heat, Heights and Heaven in Dubrovnik