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"It's not like I'm clinically depressed that we're in Bosnia..."

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA | Thursday, 10 November 2011 | Views [1410]

Despite our Croatian sojourn being Alex's last holiday before four years of intense PhD-ing in Organic Chemistry, we found ourselves getting up at the crack of dawn for a second day in a row to catch an early morning catamaran to Hvar. While I would have been quite happy to spend the entire holiday in Vis, both of us had flight reservations that prevented this. In typical Alex and Rach in Croatia fashion, we bought our tickets at the very last second - so last second that as I stood there anxiously fidgeting, waiting for Alex to emerge with tickets, everyone else boarded and they started making preparations to leave. One sprint down the pier later, the second we got on the catamaran it pushed off and left dock. And thus our tradition of last minute hop ons continued.

One catamaran ride later and we were deposited in Hvar. One of the bigger islands in Dalmatia, Hvar is a mesh of fancy techno nightclubs and seen to be seen places mixed in with smaller rural areas. When we rented a car and made it clear we weren't that interested in Hvar Town's flashiness, the party girl who ran the agency couldn't contain her disgust. Pointing at the map to Camping Vira, our chosen campsite for the night, she sniffed "But vere is noffink vere!" disdainfully.

In our new convertible we zoomed off to Vira and caused quite the scene with Alex driving around the loop a good 5 times to pick out which of the many vacant, identical campsites were best. One pitched tent later, we hopped back in the car to make the most of our one night in Hvar. With all day ahead of us and a car full of petrol we decided to drive the entire length of the 68 km island and visit all the towns along the way. First stop Stari Grad, where I fought my overwhelming desire to buy a sailor's cap, we dined on ice cream and fruit from the market and Alex made a scenic detour past an electric substation. Stari Grad was also the scene of the Dominican Monastery, which Alex professed to be deeply interested in seeing until he found out the admission price had risen from 5 kuna to 10 kuna (2 NZD). Storming out, he exclaimed at how outrageous a "100% rise in admission" was. The Dominican Monastery remained unseen.

The inside of the monastery, which we did not see because of Alex's temper tantrum

Next up was Jelsa, a lovely, lovely place where we wandered the rocky outlook until we found a nice set of rocks with sparkling, transparent water ideal for an afternoon swim. This was one of my favourite memories of my six month trip - swimming in deep blue and clear water with the sun shining down and the antique brown roofed town behind us. After sunning ourselves dry and a quick, delicious lunch we made the big trek to Sucuraj at the very end of the island, which is a lot less touristy than the towns bunched up on the west side. Picking up three German backpackers en route we arrived at the opposite end of Hvar, with the mainland of Croatia clearly visible across the way. We decided to shake things up by going for another lovely swim with yes, clear water and sun. Once can never have enough Adriatic Sea swims in a day.

Swimming in the sun with Jelsa in the background

While Alex had brought a sleeping bag for himself, I had naively assured him I be would fine without one. All those swims meant we arrived back at our dark campsite with me already freezing from sitting in a cold swimsuit and I spent the night in a prolonged state of early hypothermia, teeth chattering. My blurry memories of the night include attempting to sleep curled into a little ball sitting up, wishing evil thoughts upon Alex's clearly blissful and warm sleep and pondering just how time passes when you are cold, still a little wet and sans sleeping bag. The next morning as dawn emerged, I went and slept in the bathroom standing up before falling asleep on a bench outside the tent waiting for Alex to wake up. Mr "Oh I feel so rested, I had a great night's sleep" awoke to find me sleeping in a sitting position and had to atone for his sin of havinga  great night’s sleep by having to deal with a sleep deprived, zombie like Rach who for the next few hours. A grossly overpriced Red Bull for breakfast had no effect, although a session in the sun on the rocks did the trick and by midday I had resumed my ability to function like a normal human being. Poor Alex spent the morning effectively coaxing me up from wherever we sat and furtively wondering if I'd had a lobotomy during the night. Two nights of very little sleep coupled with one night of no sleep at all and extreme cold is clearly the perfect recipe for a deaf and dumb version of me.

The island of no sleep

We managed to buy our catamaran tickets with plenty of time to spare and bid farewell to Hvar, arriving in Split a few hours later. I'd been pre-warned of Split's touristy nature and the glut of cruise ship crowds and outrageous price hikes were a shock to the system after the serenity of Vis and Hvar. We only spent a few hours in Split before hopping on a bus to Dubrovnik. We were both hugely excited for the bus trip because as a result of Balkanization, Croatia is split in two by a thin strip of Bosnia, requiring border controls and the ability to claim time spent in Bosnia. Hyped about a new passport stamp and still bitter about the crappy ink used for our Croatian entry stamps, we were outraged to discover we would receive no stamp, thereby ruining Alex's highly sophisticated plan of rating the Balkans by coolness and ink quality of passport stamp. This outrage lasted our half hour pit stop in Bosnia, where there were no signs or veritable proof to photograph the fact that we were in Bosnia. Despite the disappointments of our Bosnian border crossing, it did lead to the following amusing conversation;

Rach: “Is that the Bosnian border?!”

Alex: “No, that is a corner shop.”

5 minutes later

Rach: “Is THAT the Bosnian border?!”

Alex: “...No, that's a petrol station.”

as well as Alex's remark upon being accused of not showing enough excitement about where he was - "It's not like I'm clinically depressed that we're in Bosnia"

Eventually we left Bosnia behind and arrived in Dubrovnik late at night. Despite the horrors of the previous night's camping, I was low enough on Croatian kuna that it looked like we'd be camping again. Met by the usual mob of grannies at the bus, we stopped to ask the price and found a lovely lady named Ivana who offered us a reasonable rate and a free car ride back to her place. Upon discovering I was a New Zealander she was so excited that she offered a massive price reduction (I am very grateful to her Kiwi son in law, who has clearly made a good impression) For Alex, who bases so much of our friendship on his dislike of my New Zealand accent and culture, it was a bitter pill to swallow and I took great delight in continually referring to my nationality saving him money for the remainder of the trip. Dubious at what we would find, Ivana turned out to have an amazing old house and we had a spectacular room decorated with flowers and colour, a short walk away from the Old Town. It was an amazing find.

The beautiful Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia

We spent the next day in the Old Town, feeling rather claustrophobic and crowd shy by the hordes of cruise ship passengers after our days of solitude in Vis and Hvar. The Old Town was beautiful and we really enjoyed walking around the City Walls, catching a gondola to a mountaintop to gaze over Dubrovnik and visiting a War Museum. Sadly, one day in the Old Town was enough to financially ruin us and our last night dinner had to be put on Alex's credit card. We still managed one last night of enjoying Croatian red wine, having bought a bottle from Roki's (the nice restaurant we went to on our last night in Vis) Thus our last hours in Croatia were spent drinking red wine and playing with Ivana's pet store number of cats.

Learning about the atrocities of the Yugoslavian conflict, something I knew very little about before coming to Croatia

Tags: bosnia, cable car, camping, catamaran, croatia, dubrovnik, hvar, split, vira, yugoslavia



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