Monday, July 09, 2007

Croatia... Part 1

It’s going to be a long one.

After queuing in queues that should only be found on the subcontinent, we arrived safely in Vienna where our connecting was delayed. A few hours later we popped over the Koziak mountains and were greeted by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic in front of Split. Bee-yatch-iful.

Desperate to lose the jeans and jackets, we searched for our hostel (booked a month earlier in preparation for our one dry night on land before boarding). We were greeted by a very friendly, but completely surprised, manager who informed me that he had no such booking for 6 people for the night. Indignantly, I slapped my printed email confirmation on the table between us. With patience and politeness, he pointed out that I had booked for 29 July, not 29 June.



Well, then.

I pictured how kindly my friends would take to sleeping on the beach, or a bench, for a night.

Fortunately, Martin (everyone in Croatia seems to be called Martin or something similar) was the most patient man and within minutes of telephonic negotiation with other hostels, we were on our way up yet another steep hill to find our impromptu accommodation for the night. This turned out to be a privately owned flat, which was rented out to desperate tourists. Literally, the place still had washing in the machine and leftovers in the fridge. Our costs were 30 Croatian kuna more than first anticipated, but what’s an extra €4,25 in the big scheme of things?

That sorted, Mills and I decided to expose our pasty white skin and had our first dip in the Adriatic. We noticed that most people were playing ball games in the water – and soon realised why. Swimming in swells gets pretty boring after a while. If there aren’t waves, you’ve got to bring your own entertainment to the sea.

By evening we had been joined by the rest of our group and had a couple of drinks while strolling around the retirement home of Diocletian. Built just 17 centuries ago, Diocletian’s Palace was initially meant to be a home for the then-abdicating Roman emperor of the day. The architecture varies from Roman ruins, to medieval, to modern. The overall affect was something similar to Monte Casino. We had to remind ourselves that the washing hanging out of the windows was actually someone’s laundry – not just a backdrop against a painted ceiling of clouds and stars. People live in these buildings.

The next morning I was up early to hit the markets lining the streets against the walls of the palace. By 9am, I had invested in a new pair of slops, a sun dress, a sarong and a few packets of fruit. Bargain, bargain… Cheap, cheap. It was hard to tear away and remind myself that I would be in the country for another week. I would advise going to Croatia just for the shopping… forget the coastline.

That day we boarded the boat Mihovil – our home for the next 6 nights. Our crew consisted of ‘El Capitan’ Martin, ‘Always’ Martin (waiter/overall crewmember), ‘The captain’s son’ (we never did get his name), ‘Chef’ (who also shall remain nameless) and ten-year-old Carlo (also captain’s son – otherwise known as The Eel and/or Monkey Boy).

We were introduced to our respective bunks, quickly decided that we would be spending as little time as possible below deck, and we set sail into very choppy waters. Sitting in front of the captain’s bridge we clung to the railing and stumbled around the deck trying to find our sealegs, no doubt giving the captain endless entertainment.

Ours was one of several boats cruising the same route from Split to Dubrovnik and back. Setting out in a modern day armada we soon realised that we were on the chugboat of the lot as other boats drew level with us and cruised past with ease. Not that we were in a rush to get anywhere, of course. But the other boats contained Kiwis and Aussies, and lord knows we hate losing to them. At anything.

Our waiter, Martin, became a favourite with his catch phrase…

Martin, can I have another bottle of water?
Hey Martin, we need another four pints of Ožujsko!
Um, Always… we appear to have run out of loo paper in the toilet…

I also established that I was (yet again) one of many ‘Koekies’. This time there were two South African Koekies and two Kiwi Koekies on our boat. I cursed my parents again for their lack of originality and swore to name my children Pontius the Third and Bikinibottom.

Sticking with the topic of bottoms… we were about to get more than our fair share of nudity and topless bathing, as well as a lot of speedos. Banana-hammocks aplenty, especially in the 40-years-and-older category. Not just a plain speedo, but bright orange, tiger-print pieces, proudly putting their pinky-sized cocktail wieners on display. So unnecessary. But there is just too much to write in one post. Well, too much to be read. Still to come: Markaska; Mljet; Dubrovnik; Trstenik; Korcula and Hvar. Stay tuned folks.


Pic1 - Diocletian Palace by day, from the market looking in

Pic2 - Diocletian Palace by night

Pic3 - Always and Chef pushing off from Split

Pic4 - Leaving Split

Pic5 - Poenani

Pic6 - The local Borat


Peaches said...

And the floral gwarrah pic. V artistic angle Koeks.

The holiday sounds fantastic, proper jealous!

ChewTheCud said...

Good to have you back Koeks! Holiday sounds awesome.