Thursday, November 27, 2014

Croatia, or: My kingdom for a stairwell

Once we finally forced ourselves to leave Montenegro-- oh, that yacht-- we made our way by thumb and bus to Croatia.

Dubrovnik was a beautiful, if exorbitantly expensive, city-- think King's Landing from Game of Thrones, or Cair Paravel from Narnia, you pick your nerd poison.  The city, a maze of high walls and cobbled alleys, is built from warm sand-colored stone; the whole thing is perched over crystal clear water that shades, even in winter, to deep marine blue.  Sadly my camera battery ran out as soon as we got there, so I Googled a picture instead, dear reader, which has the added benefit of a helicopter view, which is more comprehensive than anything I could have provided.

The one picture I got, of the port.

That's actually not Photoshopped, although it is presumably in the month of July.
The city felt oddly empty; the entire economy is seasonal, and we were definitely there in the off season.  The majority of shops and restaurants were simply closed, and while there were other tourists, there were nothing like the crowds I imagine must swamp the city in warmer months.  In a way, I preferred it, as this allowed my imagination to wander more freely; the city has a rich history, not to mention having been more recently (and quite aptly) used as a filming site for Game of Thrones.

On the other hand, prices were no better for us than they would be for less penniless summer tourists, so we wandered around for the day before heading to Split, where we had found a hostel, the Booze 'n' Snooze. Our plans changed slightly: there was no 7:00 bus-- the Internet led us astray-- only a 9:00 pm.  We got into Split a little later than intended, around 1:00 am.

Split is also a stone-walled old city, and it took us some time to find the hostel.  The city was eerily quiet; like Dubrovnik, it is a seasonal port.  For a city of its size, it was shocking that there was not an open bar or a late night burek shop to be found.  We were in front of the Booze 'n' Snooze by 1:30, and were surprised to find that it, too, was closed.  A sign on the door directed late check-ins to go to somewhere called Charlie's Bar, open until 2:00, to ask for a key.  We found Charlie's at 1:53.  It was also shut tight, the lights dark.

Will, always the planner, had the address of a second hostel.  We found it, too; like everywhere else in town, it was closed tight, and no one answered the bell. 

I was freezing cold, tired, hungry, and devolving at this point into the worst version of myself.  I tried to play a diva card and go to a full-priced hotel-- anathema to our travel philosophy-- but even here I was stymied.  The only hotel I found was, once again, closed.

We were out of options.  The second hostel had a decent stairwell, so we posted up for the night.  I slept for about an hour curled into a fetal position on the icy tiles before waking up stiff and colder than ever.  I will admit, I was rapidly becoming whiny and dramatic.  Will-- and I owe him much for this-- hid his equally bad mood and talked me back from the verge of a meltdown, keeping his tone light.  We remembered we had a 2-liter plastic bottle of beer (they sell them like that here, like it's soda pop) in Will's bag, and sat up drinking and talking idly of this and that.  Somehow, somehow, the night finally passed.

At 5:45 we left the stairwell and found a bakery that had just opened.  We waited impatiently as they loaded the trays from the oven, then ravenously devoured warm cheese pastries.  The amused baker directed us to a cafe-- the first, he told us, that opened-- where I drank cappucinos, and Will more beer, until 8:00.  The 60-year-old bartendress smiled understandingly at Will, which was when we realized the other patrons, elderly men all, were also drinking morning beers.  Three points for sleep-deprived integration.

When we got back to the Booze 'n' Snooze, it was finally open, and we checked in before taking them up on the second half of their promised services and sleeping until the afternoon.  We wandered around Split for the second time (this time by daylight, and without heavy backpacks) and spent the evening with several people from the hostel at Charlie,s Bar-- again, this time when it was open. 

The Croatian cities we saw were beautiful, but neither of us felt particularly attached to them, so we felt fine cutting our nights in Croatia down to two and moving on the next day to Bosnia.  We spent a day travelling and reached the town of Bihac by evening, where we met up with Maya Kosovic, our local Couchsurfing host.  

Next up: Thanksgiving in Bosnia!

A border village where we spent a few hours waiting with our thumbs out, trying to catch a ride into Bosnia

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