Monday, August 14, 2006

Croatia - It's the balls!

Quite simply, Croatia is a stunning country with stunning people and not many tourists ruining it yet. If you’re earning the pounds, oh baby this place is your playground!
Landing in Croatia I was somewhat surprised by the countryside. First, the south of Croatia is simply a tiny strip of land that borders the Adriatic Sea to it’s west and huge mountains to its east, which leaves a tiny sliver of land running down the coast. So this means coming in to land is a series of sharp turns, flying through valleys before slamming down in Split airport a little harder and faster than one would like.

Here’s a short history lesson, as we all know the Balkans are confusing.

Like nearly all of Eastern Europe, Croats are descended from the Slavik tribes, which came to the Roman’s lands in the in early 7th century. I’m sure there’s more history in here somewhere, but let’s cut to the chase. After WWI, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia formed the State of Slovenes, which was made up of Croats and Serbs and would later become Yugoslavia in 1929.

After many moons, the Croats were sick and tired of the Serbs and everyone was really just ready for a good ole’ blue. So on 25 June, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The Slovenians got out of this pretty easy, but the Serbs who lived in Croatia, backed by the Yugoslavian Army, revolted against the Croats and the shit hit the fan.

The Croats weren’t really ready for this war and all the way up until 1995, they were pretty much volunteers and a police force. Enter the Germans. Around 1995 the Germans decided to help out the Croats and started providing them with weapons and training. It wasn’t long before the Croats pushed back and won the war in 1995.

But now they’re all happy and the country is prospering.

When it comes to accommodation in Croatia, you really do get the full local experience, as the main places to stay are at a family’s home in a spare room. As soon as you get off a boat or bus, you are attacked by people wielding flyers, photos and maps asking you if you need a room. Sometimes you luck out and get someone who speaks good English and is really friendly:
And sometimes you get someone who is equally friendly, but has no idea what you are saying.

We were pretty lucky with the families we stayed with, even getting free Croatian Grappa at one place.

Before Grappa...

...after Grappa

However, we were asked to be quiet at 2am in nearly every place we stayed in by a variety of methods, including turning the lights on and off, tapping of the watch, ringing a telephone and my personal favourite, just barging into the room.

Split
Split is the second largest city in Croatia. Located down in the south it is a staging point for those travelling the islands, and therefore has a buzz about it. The place is full of markets where you can get cheap rip offs and restaurants/bars and cafes that serve cheap food and cheaper drinks - and shit loads of ice cream for some reason.


One lively night I won myself so much Corona merchandise at a bar I had to leave it behind - except for this bad boy below!
I was the only one in the bar who got one so I was holding on to that.

We met up with Blake and off we went.

Hvar
Hvar is to Italians what Ibiza is to English. Arriving in Hvar (which is the sunniest island in Croatia apparently) we decided ‘when in Rome’, so it was off to the beach for some water sports and the bar for some drinks. Countless hours slipping in and out of the water and basking in the sunshine were taking their toll and we thought maybe it was time for that Mediterranean siesta followed by a 11pm dinner. However, in the distance we could hear some DJ doing something that appealed to the ears.

Upon closer inspection we stumbled across a bar perched up on a hill overlooking the water, a bar that was having a Sangria party (1 litre of sangria + 3 straws + 16 = fun times for all).

After relaxing in the sun, having a boogie over looking the water and getting pretty well sloshed, it was off back to the rooms to get ready for dinner and a club called ‘Carpe Diem’. Now Carpe Diem is a club split into two sections: VIP (in other words you have a massive yacht moored directly outside the club) and everyone else.

While sitting with everyone else, we noticed two older Croatian men – who had recently moored their 90 foot luxury yacht just outside – chatting to two large breasted young ladies with Aussie accents in one of the best seats in the VIP area. Bit by bit, we started to make our way to the velvet rope that separated the rest of the club to this section. Slowly, and one by one, we tip-toed over the rope, positioned ourselves near the table, and pretended to be shocked and surprised that these girls were countrymen.

“Sit down with us,” they told us.
“Oh okay, if we must,” came the reply.

The two Croatian men, not really wanting to stuff up their chances and look bad in front of the girls, had to accept it. What was even better was when the security came over as they had seen our somewhat James Bond like moves, the two fellas paid them off to let us sit there – gold!

In the VIP......After the VIP


Brac
Arriving on the island of Brac we headed for Bol, rumoured to have the best beach in Croatia. After some searching we found the so-called best beach, which did leave a lot to be desired. However the island is that damn beautiful it doesn’t matter.

After the two nights of partying in Hvar, we took it easy in Bol, buying a bottle of local vodka and playing cards. That didn’t last long so headed out again of course, and were rained on the hardest I think I have ever been rained on before.

Back to Split
After heading to the north of Brac to Supetar harbour, we caught up with Bri’s friend Georgia. She lives in Italy with her girlfriend, so Croatia is just a hope, skip and a jump for her. Arriving back in Split, we noticed that some country’s navy was in town (think it was Russian) – so the calls of ‘hello sailor’ were being shouted from the rooftops by both Blake and myself (although we were looking at different uniforms I suspect). It was going to be a funny night. Unfortunately this was were Blake had to leave for Italy, so off he trundled, but Georgia made up for where he left off.
Next day it was off to Dubrovnik for Bri and I, and Georgia was heading home to Rome.
As we parted her closing words were: “if you are ever in Italy and need a place to crash, there’s a double bed in Rome with two lesbians you can stay in” – Jackpot!


Dubrovnik
The 5 hour bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik was just one long scenic tour, with the road winding along the coast line.



At one point we did pass through Bosnia Herzegovina, for which I really needed to get a shot, as I don’t think I know anyone that has been there?


It was at the border that you really got to see the difference between the coast dwelling, fish eating Croats and the inland dwelling, kill a bear with your bare hands and eat it raw Bosnians.

Croatian

Bosnian

.

Arriving in Dubrovnik you realise a) how stunning it easy and b) how many tourists are here. The city is actually a UNESCO world heritage site – not because it’s pretty, but if anything happened to it, it would affect every damn nationality. George Bernard Shaw once said: “If you want to see heaven on earth, go to Dubrovnik."

The city walls of Dubrovnik have never been breached in battle, expect for once, when Napoleon promised he wouldn’t be naughty if they let him in. That’s kind of like giving your teenage daughter to Colin Farrell, so he got in and was obviously not the nicest of fellows, so the Croats forget about him.

We explored Dubrovnik inside out and upside down, walking the walls, around the city and even by sea. It’s hard to describe it really, so I’m just going to put up some photos.




Now these walls may have been great to stop advancing horses, but they don’t really help when Bosnians are shelling the shit out of you from the hills above with 19 pound bombs.
There are still scars around the city that show the damage caused in the 90’s, some subtle:

Some not quite so subtle...

The main sign is really old buildings all with brand new roof tiles or ones with differing colours.

The next day we were due to catch the 8.00am bus out of Dubrovnik and back to Split - which was rather difficult seeing as I got back to the apartment at 6.00am. So with no sleep and a five hour bus ride ahead, I slept and have no more stories or photos from Croatia.

Hvalla Croatia – you’re the duck’s nuts!

12 Comments:

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