Just Passing Through
Near Far Airports and Dazzling Stair case to Heaven
I fly direct from Dublin to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Bonus point, the bus from the airport takes less then a half hour. Amazing. The view is pretty good too as the road from the airport winds gently down the mountain side, giving you an amazing panoramic view of the ocean and the many coastal islands at all times. Dubrovnik consists of Old Town and New Town. Old town is basically the city that is within the famous city walls dating back hundreds of years, anything that has since been built outside of this is considered New Town. The good news is, the city is relatively small and staying in either one is about 5 minutes on a bus of each other. As we were staying in New town directly across from the Ferry Port / and Bus station it was easy to get to. Well that's what we thought. Do not be like us, print off directions to ensure a prompt arrival. After walking the road across from the bus station up and down for a full 30 minutes, a very helpful local in a bar alerted Sinéad to the fact our apartment was in fact directly across from the bus station and our long walk was a wasted one. Oh well at least we know now. Remember when I said it is located on the side of a mountain? I wasn't lying. We did not anticipate the extremely steep stairways that seemed to be standard to get to any sort of hovel. We got to our street. We now faced the longest stair climb I had ever seen. This would be fine, if it wasn’t for the big suitcase we both were carrying. Below see the Staircase.
No matter, we were here now and ready to explore. To get to Old town we took a bus. Let me tell you now so you know and are better warned. There is only one rule on buses in Croatia and that is; everyman for themselves. Those bitches will stand over your dead body to get ahead of the queue. There was no fairness what so ever. Lucky for Sinéad i was used to this brutal mentality when it comes to public transport due to my daily London commute. While Sinéad stood back patiently letting people go ahead, I would bust through and save us seats in prime front of bus locations.
No danger Water Zone
From all our years of travelling we are all extremely accustomed to the old rule of ‘do not drink the water’. This stems from the first Irish couple who went abroad to Spain, remaining the entire time strapped into the toilet while Uncle scutter bum, took full control of all bowel movements. Imagine everyone’s surprise when you find out, you can indeed drink the water and further more there are enchanting stone water fountains that have stood for decades located all over the city ready for you to fill your water bottle. Even with my assurance of safe drinking zone, i know many of you will clutch your bottle water to the death. Be on your head. The bottle water seems to be filled from the same source as the free stuff so enjoy spending unnecessary sums of money.
Outsides the city gates there are numerous locals punting their idyllic getaway day trips. I know what you are thinking, ‘ Come in here love and you will get 3 vodkas for a fiver and 2 shocks and a fish bowl’ says Pam who wears too much tan even in this heat and refuses to shave her armpits. No, to the contrary, these locals were friendly, dressed well ( all in matching fashionable stripy navy and white t shirts), were singing the praises of local cruises and the likes. There was a kayaking trip that involved a trip over to the island across the water and then to a secluded beach where you were given lunch and then some time to enjoy snorkeling in crystal clear waters. We were sold when we heard about the free lunch, annoying we had to listen to her drone on for a full 5 minutes on why we should choose this trip even with already agreeing after 30 seconds. Sinéad kept trying to cut her off, but the lady had a speech all ready to go and she was determined to use it. So while she continued to chatter, i envisioned myself as a pro kayaking champion of Olympic proportions. Cut to me realising you are only as good as your partner and lets just say Sinéad and I in the middle of the sea trying to get in sync took a lot of getting used too. Our incessant bickering at the start of the trip out seemed to get on the nerves of one of our instructors, who was supposed to be positioned behind us and took off into the distance. We finally got to grips with it and started to enjoy ourselves. My dreams of being the next Olympic champion for Ireland however are forever dashed.
Ignorance is not bliss
If i can give you one piece of advice is to read up on the War and stuff before taking your trip. You do not want to appear as ignorant as myself. While the instructor on the kayaking trip droned on about the various clashes of countries for the dominance of the city of Dubrovnik, I was luckily in a kayak behind him so he couldn’t see my bemusement. Along with a quick read of the history, try and have a look at a map. You do not want to be like us going through a passport check to another country when on a bus and not know the country you are about to travel through (It was Bosnia and Hertzigovina). I was also excited to get a stamp on my passport but the bastard spotted the Irish emblem and passed us on by with it.
Travel Buses and Ferries
Remember when i said it was every man for himself when it comes to the buses? This was true for even the long hall buses. We took a trip from Dubrovnik to our next destination of Split via Bus. You would think that your bag comes included in your ticket to get on the bus wouldn't you. You would think it yes, you would be wrong. Bags are separate. We had to pay extra to store a bag on the bus even after paying for the ticket. Take that into account people. Coming back on the bus there was a whole episode where people were taking the seat allocation serious. Having taken the journey before, we knew it meant nothing and people took what ever seat was free. Someone should have mentioned this fact to the Asian tourists that piled onto the bus and caused a scene looking for there seats. As myself and Sinéad seemed to be suitable hung over and tired each time on a bus, we slept and dozed the majority of the time. For some inexplicable reason the journey from Split to Dubrovnik took a extra hour to get home ( 5 hours in stead of 4). So if time is factor take this into account also. Time keeping is not a priority to the public services in Croatia.
After a night in split we when on a ferry ride to Hvar to stay on the island for 2 nights. The ferry going over was a calm journey. The journey back however was incredibly choppy and would have put the Irish Seas to Shame. Poor Sinéad, tricked by the previous smooth sailing trip thought her past sea sickness was just that, a thing of the past. Cut to her hunched over, trying her best not to pass out from sea sickness coming back. The only blessing is that the ferry is both frequent and fast and cheap as chips compared to travels at home. A trip costing less then 20 euro.
Always book your Accommodation
A daily coffee while looking potential apartments seemed to be a trend of the holiday having only booked our first and last night accommodation before hand. Prior to taking the Ferry to Hvar, we decided that we would wing it and maybe take the locals up on the offers of room for the night as it was rumoured they rushed to the shores as a ferry came to dock and offered rooms and very reasonable prices. Sinéad and I, at first bombarded and overwhelmed by this factor, by passed them all rather snootily and then, realising our error, back tracked with our tails suitably between our legs to the first local holding a sign ‘NICE ROOM TO STAY’ to inquire. After a quick chat, we decided to follow this little old lady to her suitable standard accommodation with the promise it was close and by a beach. Half way into the walk a man joined her and looked back at us shiftily. Further on they advised we would need to get in there car. This is when Sinéad put her foot down. ‘no no we are not, we will walk you said it was close’. After much persuading and granted ill advice and pressure from me, we got in the car, and were dropped out at there house which as it turned out was very local and a 2 minute drive, but the little old lady had revealed to me she had a bad leg literally covered in bandages. Sinead and me did joke that they could have murdered us and no one would miss us as we were literally travelling with no plan across the country. Lucky for us they didn’t. The man with her did charm me by asking, ‘Ireland yes?’ Oh wow i thought he recognised the risk brogue. Then he double disappointed me by stating. ‘Ireland, yes, in London yes’. Ah bless no sir, no.
The best thing about Hvar was the fact you could literally sunbathe anywhere. Everywhere you looked there were bikini clad Swedish folk lying on a cliff, up a tree, on a bike spread eagle sunbathing. We took to the various rocks clustered around the water where they had welded in handle bars to lower yourself safely into the water. There were also sun loungers that were lowered onto the rocks which you could pay 1 euro to use for the entire day. We chose ones closest to the water on our second day. We did not factor the tide coming in , after coming back from lunch we realised the tide was a factor but it was too late. We tried to lay out in them, but with the water splashing up the rocks we were getting wetter and wetter. Oh well still good fun.
Stuck in a Storm
After our 1 Day in Split and 2 Days in Hvar, we decided to travel back to Dubrovnik which was by far our favourite city of the holiday right off the mark. When we arrived, we did not take into account a monsoon worthy storm where by we could literally see lightning hit the ocean as we struggled up the hill towards our apartment. Another factor we did not take into account is the fact that while our previous accommodation was located at the top of a huge staircase our next accommodation was at the top of a staircase 10 times the size of these steps which were split into secret alleys with encrypted sign posts designed, it seemed, to confuse on purpose. Why didn't you get a taxi you say? Well because everyone else in the city was trying to get a taxi and they were nowhere to be seen. So we struggled up with our suitcases and began the monumental task of lumbering up these rocky uneven staircases hidden amongst the shrubbery and local town houses. It rained harder then i can describe. I was wearing a white t-shirt with my always handy wine coloured back pack which i have had over 3 years. For the first time, the water seemed to be too much and the dye ran into my t-shirt destroying it and giving me the look of someone who was stabbed several times in the back. I had taken to carrying Sinéad's giant suitcase when needed up stairs but with the rain, it obviously turned into ‘ on your own’ sort of situation. On the verge of giving up and climbing what felt like 1000 steps, we arrived after a man we passed was so startled at our appearance came out of his home to offer help. When we arrived at the apartments. the lady gasped and rushed inside to grab what i presumed was a cup of tea and food for us. Instead it was a hair dryer and more towels and a urge not to come in and soak her hallway. Charming.
Me myself and Bag
One thing you need to seriously consider if you opt for a travelling holiday is your luggage. When travelling this is usually welded to your hand, and if you have a holiday like we did and your trip was dictated by check in times, your bag will need to be your best friend. By the end i didn’t mind it much it was just as much a part of me as my blue eyes. On the last day Sinéad and I considered getting a table for four and sitting our bags on the opposite seats dressing them up with sun glasses and ordering them coffees to hide our caffeine addiction.
Don’t Mind Us
After one night in this location, we were to move to our final hotel which was booked in advanced thankfully. It was to be a night of luxury after all our random bedsits. The hotel ironically was located a 5 minute walk from the apartment we suffered a tidal wave of water to get to. The one good thing about this apartment was it had a private staircase that got you to the lower section of the mountain where you could walk to Old town in ten minutes. We decided to take advantage of this one more time while staying at the hotel and popping into the centre for our last night. We didn’t realise she would be eating outdoors with family at the time and awkwardly had to walk past her shouting ‘ hey don't mind use just passing through’ as she looked bemused i added our new accommodation for the night was near her one’ this probably added insult to injury as when we were leaving her place we avoided telling her where we would be staying next and i think gave the impression we were leaving for home. Oh well.
All in All i cannot recommend Croatia enough as a holiday destination. If you, like i are in your mid twenties and are considering travelling like all our peers then doing a holiday like this is a great test to how good you are on your feet. I discovered i could do it quite happily. I also discovered you can get carpel tunnel from dragging a wheeled suitcase around the place. I also discovered i care more for my iPhone then my own health as that got the most cover in the rain.