Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The old city of Dubrovnik

We woke up brimming with exploration in our heads. We'd received a map and some great instruction from the owner of our apartment about what to see and do during our time there and needless to say, we wouldn't have enough time for everything. Shame. This always seems to be the case.

So we took off the next morning, prepared for the beach (since we wanted to squeeze in at least one more day of glorious sunbathing before we headed back to our respective homelands before this trip was done), snacked a little to keep the hunger at bay during the 20 minute hike to the old town, and started on our way.

Turns out this hike was pretty scenic, and we took our time. The feeling of Dubrovnik is completely different than that of the other cities we'd been in. The architecture is pretty different, I'd have to say. Also the foliage. Much more leafy green and lush instead of stones and sea. It is also by the sea, of course, but the feeling is completely different.

The gates into the old city are pretty gorgeous, and guarded by St. Blaise, the protector of the city. He's seen around the city 21 times. Although he's looks different in every depiction (since he was created by different art masters at different times), he's always seen holding the city in his left hand.

After wandering around for just a little bit (and me finding a post office box), Hong Kong P thought it would be a good idea if we paid for a walking tour to get a fuller picture of the city and all its historical offerings. Never one to shy away from some useful information I heartily agreed and we joined a walking tour that was just about to start nearby.

It was pretty informative and we learned a lot about the city as we walked. Like the city walls are about 2 kilometers long and really did encapsulate the entirety of the city and its population during most of the golden age of Dubrovnik. Unfortunately though the water source was pumped into the city from sources outside the city, leaving the pipes unprotected so they had to build other systems in order to ensure that if they were under siege they could still get a reliable source of water during that time.

There was a devastating earthquake that took place in the 1700s that destroyed most of the original buildings. This church was one of the few that survived, along with a singular house near the end of town. The original buildings were extremely ornate and were built like palaces. Because the town had to be rebuilt so quickly after the earthquake and resources and money were limited, the buildings you see nowadays reflect the limited means and quickness with which they were rebuilt. They are much plainer now and were easier to construct.

The entirety of the old town of Dubrovnik has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site, despite real people owning the apartments and property that is there. This means that anyone who lives there has to adhere to strict rules to keep it a heritage site. All shutters must be made from wood and painted a specific green color, etc. As Hong Kong P and I walked the city walls later that afternoon we also noticed that most people hung their laundry out to dry. We assumed this is because UNESCO did not allow electric/gas dryers inside the historic buildings.

Almost all of the city is built from limestone, which is an extremely porous and common stone for the area. Though it is a great stone to work with it also is difficult to maintain and does wear down. The floors were not polished intentionally but have been worn down by the millions of visitors that have visited the area over the years. Because it is a UNESCO Heritage Site they have to constantly maintain and fix the stones in order to keep them in good working order.

One of the first synagogues (the second, I believe, in Europe) was founded here and is still available for visiting today. Dubrovnik was one of the few places that allowed Jews to settle and have their own space. They were given their own street (I don't have a picture of it) and the gates were locked from 6pm-6am everyday. They were also given a smaller designated fountain with which to fetch their water in order not to use the one that most people used (so no one would have to use the same fountain as them).

Though Croatia was very tolerant of Jews and wanted to welcome them they still had to maintain these rules because overall Croatia is predominantly Catholic. In order to maintain good ties with Rome they put these rules in place in order to make it clear they were still devout.

There were only 49 members in the synagogue. 27 of them perished in the Holocaust. The nearest rabbi is stationed in Zagreb, where the Jewish community numbers in the thousands. He only comes to this synagogue for special occasions, which unfortunately for the past several times has been for funerals.

All of the apartments above the storefronts are in fact, privately owned. Though initially they were only owned by Croatians the rising price of real estate made it worth it to sell to foreigners, which most did with relish. Now almost all of the apartments are the private vacation homes of foreigners and have the price of several thousand euro per square meter.

Because of the rising prices of real estate most shops have converted from selling traditional Croatian crafts to tourist-related souvenirs or other industry items. In an attempt to reverse this effect the Croatian government is offering free rent to any store that sells traditional crafts of any kinds. So far not many have been able to take advantage of this offer though, as not many people still have the skills to make traditional crafts.

Dubrovnik at its height was known for being the biggest distributor of salt in the area and because of this, was an extremely wealthy city. It used to trade salt for gold.

I could continue spitting interesting historical and relevant Croatian facts for awhile, but I'll stop there. If you'd like more, hit me up in the comments section or send me a message and I'll continue rattling on. ;)

After our city tour we decided to finally get some much-needed lunch. We walked around the small alleyway-like streets until we found something appealing. This, happened to be an adorable restaurant at a four-way intersection of a bunch of alleyways that was offering some mussels in the "Buzara" style - that is, cooked in a stew-like sauce with breadcrumbs, olive oil, parsley, garlic, and white wine.

In other words, incredible:

We each ordered a bowl to ourselves and munched away in silence. Literally, no talking happened as we were eating. This rarely happens between good friends except when there is good food in front of them. I cleaned the entire thing out...only freaking out once or twice (sometimes this happens with me and certain kinds of foods...seafood is sometimes one of them).

After this we walked around just a little bit more before deciding that lunch really wasn't that filling and we could splurge on a treat. That treat? Ice cream.

Ice cream shops are as ubiquitous as coffee shops. I read that online somewhere as we were looking up food one time. It's 100% true. Ice cream shops are everywhere around Croatia and this was the first time we actually made it to one. It didn't disappoint. Especially not on this boiling hot day surrounded by stones.

I got coconut flavor.  It was between that and mint and the shop keeper didn't really look convinced about my interest in mint. Plus coconut was more gone than mint. I feel like consumer's choices are not always right, but in terms of flavors...could be a good indicator.

After this our actual plan was to hit the beach. It was supposed to be a fairly close walk outside the further city gates to the nearby pebble beach.

...admittedly we took a look outside the gates, thought about how hot it as and how heavy our bags were (and how sleepy/tired we were after all the walking and food) and exnayed the plan.

Instead we were very easily convinced to take a glass bottom boat tour around Dubrovnik. Easy sell to tourists who are hot and lazy and tired of carrying heavy bags filled with beach stuff. Hilarious. I am never carrying too much stuff again. Period. As my family's saying goes, "If you can't carry it yourself, it's not coming with you."

The boat tour was just what we needed - sitting in the shade with an ocean breeze on our faces. 45 minutes of beautiful views and not much going on. Definitely worth the money. Relaxation, I salute you.

We were a bit more refreshed after that so decided it was time to check out the city walls. Our walking tour guide recommended doing it only when the heat of the day had died down a little bit so by the time we got to it we had 2 hours before they closed. Good enough.

It was definitely worth it. Gorgeous views, nice walk, and though it was still a bit too hot...definitely bearable.

Btw I can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet in this post - Dubrovnik is where they shoot the Game of Thrones scenes for King's Landing. The southern lands are mostly shot in Dubrovnik. The photo above look familiar? I recognized it as the area where after Joffrey has all of the bastards killed the Kingsguard drowns a toddler. This is also where, at various times, Sansa sits (the camera pans out to the sea) and stares at Littlefinger's boat.

Oh yes, I definitely dorked out on the GoT possibilities here. And we were definitely told by our guide that they would continue shooting season 4 here soon. Oh the glory, the sweet sweet glory. I am so thrilled that I have now been somewhere the GoT cast has been. Still got Iceland high on my list (that's where they shoot all of the "north of the Wall" scenes during winter...that's actual winter they're dealing with).

Beautiful panoramas of the city. And now that I'd finally gotten the settings on my camera a little better, definitely more realistic colors.

I definitely saw the differences in the pictures of my friends' phones versus my own though. I had been thinking of bringing my Lumia920 as well as my current line phone (the Nexus4 I'd won at CHI in Paris). Unfortunately I forgot to pack the Lumia and was stuck with what I had. The Lumia photos that my friends took were definitely a lot better than the ones I took. Compositions aside, the colors were more lush and the clarity of the pictures were just better. I'll know for next time. :)

After hike on the glorious city walls it was time for a relaxing refreshing drink. I ordered ice cold blueberry juice. Glorious. I do love me a good glass of antioxidants.

And then it was time to search for a dinner restaurant. Since it was going to be our last big dinner (the next day would sadly be a partial travel day since we'd need to get back to Split before end of the night) we decided to go all out. So it needed to be chosen with special care.

We walked down the entire second major street of the old city in order to choose the restaurant we did. Hilariously it was called...

Yes, we chose the restaurant called Moby Dick.

Admittedly it was the most convincing for what we wanted. We wanted fresh seafood (or meat, we hadn't really decided...we'd heard that Croatian lamb was quite good but oddly none of us had ordered it so far and it wasn't widely available on all menus) and this one had great meals for two that offered a goodly amount of variety. Plus we watched as waiters brought out fresh platters of fish for their patrons to choose from. Just like in the Chinese restaurants! Except that the fish were already dead instead of alive...but at least you got to choose it yourself.

So we were convinced. And so we sat down. And ordered the most ridiculous thing ever.

It started with a nice fresh salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, and iceberg lettuce, all in olive oil and balsamic. Nothing to shout about but a step up from any salad we'd had so far. Salads: definitely not a big thing in the Croatian diet, despite it being on every menu. Don't order the salads (they're all disappointing).

And then...


I believe this was called the Columbo Dinner. Lobster, shrimp, and crayfish for two. Yes, yes, and yes.

Hong Kong P and I definitely smacked and pillaged that village of shellfish with delight. I of course took forever but I delighted in every bite. It was a bit more cooked than I'd liked and I'd had fresher in other places (we're talking top of the line places) but the flavoring is what made it incredible. I'd never had spices like this before. This is what I'd been seeking everywhere else on this trip and been missing! Flavor! Incredible juicy, spiced flavor! And it was abundant in this dish.

To be honest I'm not really sure how they cooked these guys. From what I can surmise it seems like they might have flash fried them and then baked them somehow. They were definitely greasy (in a good way) and extremely flavorful (so marinated most likely) but also fulled cooked and with no batter.

In any case, extremely tasty. And so lovely. We ate them all (of course). And a jug of white wine. House white.

It was brilliant.

We then spent the rest of the night dancing at a nearby bar that was very oddly similar to the Kiwa Bar on Hvar, but the music was worse. Far worse. After we got fed up we taxied home and called it a night. We had more Dubrovnik exploring to do in the morning.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hvar and the great trek to Dubrovnik

The next morning we took our time getting out and ready. The only ferry leaving directly to Split that day was a speed boat in the early afternoon and we had lots of time to enjoy the gorgeous city of Hvar before then, especially since German K had kept to her anxious word and woken up at 6am to buy the tickets for us.

First order of business for me? Raiding the exceptional free breakfast buffet that our nicest hotel had to offer. It was an incredible spread of hot food (scrambled eggs (again, amazing), sausages, hot dogs, bacon), grilled veggies, a cold cereal bar, fresh fruit, yogurt, rice puddings, breads of all kinds and sizes, cakes, cold cuts and cheeses and juices of all varieties (including a very excellent homemade sweetened mint drink that I became rather fond of).

Needless to say I ate a gargantuan amount of grilled veggies, fresh veggies, this weird but delicious herbed cheese concoction, and some of the hot meat selection. I had two plates' worth.

After our wonderfully filling and free breakfast, we checked out and left our luggage at the hotel. Amazingly after we told them our plans to take the speedboat ferry later that day they said that they would transport our luggage via electric cart to the dock 15 minutes before our boat was to depart. We said okay and decided to explore the island for the rest of our time.

(Btw please forgive the blueness of my photos, I've had many comments about them already on FB - I figured out a better setting for my camera later in the trip that dealt with the bright the meantime I have slightly blue photos).

At the furthest point in our walk we came across a rather secluded resort. We stopped to get drinks and refresh ourselves when we noticed these amazing shore-side platform beds. Yes, these really do exist in real life and are rentable by real people. We quickly discussed how all of us are used to seeing this kind of beautiful travel glory in travel magazines but had only rarely in real life seen such beauty. Yes they exist! Ah, one of these days I will experience something as grand as this! We watched as the lucky lucky people already renting them dived off their platform beds into the crisp water. Ahh...

Before we were ready it was time to go again and onto the high speed boat we went. I fell asleep (as is my wont nowadays, it seems) and we landed in Split. Unfortunately we only had a few hours before it was time to say goodbye and we watched German K board her bus to the airport.

Our bus to Dubrovnik was supposed to take off only 15 minutes after German K's airport bus but as we waited and never came. After half an hour of delay and shenanigans we went into the ticket office and found out that naturally, it was running were all of the buses. No one could give us any good explanations but from what I understand there was a road jam or something. Anyway, it was supposedly going to get there in another 10-15 minutes.

It arrived basically an hour late. But it did arrive, so I guess no reason to complain. We had plenty of time to eat the snacks we had bought for the trip (it's a 4-5 hour busride from Split to Dubrovnik) and talk about various girly things again.

We finally left and the journey was smooth. We got window seats near the front so we could enjoy the views of the coast which were visible for basically the whole ride, since we were leaving around 5pm. Gorgeous.

Along the way we were stopped at a guard station and asked for our passports. We thought this was odd since we weren't expecting to be leaving the country or be crossing any borders. As we got our passports back and our bus started moving again I saw the sign, "Welcome to Bosnia/Herzegovina!"

Holy crap! I had entered into an entirely different country and had had no idea. We quickly turned on data on our phones to check out the action.

It was true. To go around Bosnia would be ridiculous - Croatia actually has all the coastline except for this little tiny stretch that belongs to Bosnia. It's the silliest thing I've ever seen. But it did make sense now why our passports were being checked, though unfortunately we got no stamps.

We got really excited. Another country to check off the list! Though technically it didn't count (since we weren't really in the country except on a bus) we were still entering new territory.

...and then our bus did stop. At a rest stop. We were given 20 minutes to explore around, buy food, use the bathrooms, etc. We definitely did.

Here is a picture I snapped while looking off the cliff near the rest stop:

This, is Bosnia. Admittedly I have weird associations with Bosnia. As a small child I remember my neighbor's son going to Bosnia with the armed forces. Bombs were dropped. It was a very uncomfortable time. Granted this was 20 years ago but I was worried after they checked my passport that they wouldn't let me through, being an American. They didn't seem to care. I guess time can heal all wounds. At least these wounds.

Anyway, since we were stopped for a bit of time we decided to check out the supermarket that was there. They accepted kunas and euros, which Hong Kong P and I thought a bit strange since they were neither Croatia nor part of the EU. According to my google search the currency of Bosnia is the convertible mark (which is divisible into 100 fenings). They definitely had no prices for their own currency at this rest stop. Maybe it was just understood that this was a crossing for Croatia and that was it. Interesting.

I decided to buy some snacks - I bought myself some jumbo golden raisins (these made me squee with delight because jumbo raisins are so hard to find outside of the US and I love them so much) and rice cracker mix. After I brought them back to the bus with me and was eating them (especially the rice crackers), the bus driver and his assistant were laughing at me. I definitely said to them, "yeah, leave it to the Asian girl to find the only Asian snack in all of Bosnia to buy, right?" They didn't speak English, but they definitely laughed harder.

So now it's official - I've definitely peed and bought food (and even eaten a little food) in Bosnia. I think it sort of counts as being more official now that I've been there. And we crossed over on our way back as well (where I bought more food, and peed again). Kind of like I was really there. And I got a stamp on the way back. But I'll discuss that for the trip back.

We arrived in Dubrovnik at 10pm. Totally different vibe than all of the coastal cities we'd been to so far, though we'd get to experience that to the full over the next 2+ days. Hilariously our apartment was up some pretty steep stairs (there was great comedic commentary about that at 10:30pm that first night), but we made it with all of our luggage and checked in to great comfort.

And thus ended our journey to Dubrovnik.

Monday, July 29, 2013


After cleaning ourselves up after the day at the beach and all of our traveling, we were ready to go out for a night on the town. Unfortunately we were also celebrating German K's last night with us, as the next day we would all take the ferry back to Split and part ways. This meant that we weren't going to allow ourselves, as we had previous nights, to take the easy way out and behave like old people. We were actually going to dress up and go out for a girl's night out on the town.

This, of course, started out with a good meal. And after a quick look at TripAdvisor, I determined that we should check out Dalmatino, rated #1 of 83 for Hvar, and very oddly about 100feet from the entrance of our hotel. It was like fate was telling us to go there. The menu looked shockingly unique as well - things like octopus carpaccio, squid ink gnocchi. Yes, yes, and yes. I wanted all of these things.

We also decided, in the spirit of being silly and on holiday, that we were going to pretend that it was German K's bachelorette party that night, just to up the ante on how ridiculous we could get that night. Yes, you read that right: we were going to pretend that three single girls were bridesmaids to a girl who was going to get married.

The story was actually quite elaborate but I'll not get into that. We wanted to see how far it could go and how fun it would be to live in a slight fantasy for awhile. The answer was: an incredible amount of fun. But I'll get to that later.

First order of business, dinner at Dalmatino.

It literally was just 100feet away from our hotel's front door and we found it with almost no problems. Lucky for us they didn't have a wait that night so we just paused for a few minutes as they got a table ready for us (this just meant putting down the right number of place settings and arranging the menus just like so) and then we sat down.

The menu really was just as extraordinary as the TripAdvisor reviews had said it would be. I zoomed in straight on the aforementioned items but had the most extraordinary experience as our friendly (and very cute) waiter came over and we were ordering.

He first asked if we had read the TripAdvisor reviews, which we said yes. He then said he would recommend (although the octopus carpaccio was excellent) something a little different. The veggie carpaccio. Interesting recommendation, considering veggie carpaccio is really just...well, raw veggies. Although this one sounded a bit fancier (I'll get to that in a minute). He described it to us and we agreed that that sounded good. He also said that although the octopus carpaccio was good, you could get octopus carpaccio in a lot of places. But this veggie carpaccio was unique to them. That's what pushed it over the edge for us. It wasn't by a landslide, but a 55-45 win. Just enough to be interesting. Okay, we'll take that.

It actually wasn't just straight raw veggies, despite its name. It was shaved strips of zucchini that had been dipped in boiling water then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking process (so basically blanching as far as I've understood). Then dried, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with shredded parmesan cheese, salt, cracked black pepper and finished off with some toasted pine nuts and pistachios.

Lovely. It was lovely and tasty. I would definitely make this at home. Seems pretty simple, though I'm sure there is some magic here that I am missing that restaurants always seem to have with food that you can never recreate at home (usually it's butter). of these days I will try and hopefully succeed. Yes.

It came with a tiny little piece of garlic bread as well, though I'm not sure to the strategic food advantage of this piece of bread, to be honest. It was toasted french bread that had been vaguely rubbed with a clove of garlic. It was fine and all but nothing special. Again, not sure of its significance or advantage by being present. There was normal bread on the table already so it's not like it was adding relevant filler (this doesn't mean I didn't like, merely did not understand its necessity).

And something I forgot to mention that was presented at the beginning of the meal: little pieces of carob for our enjoyment. Carob is actually a pod that grows natively on Hvar, along with lavender (in troves, by the way) and truffles. Unlike how carob is unfortunately marketed in the States, carob is loved for its full fruity and tasty form in Croatia, allowing it to be loved for itself, not as a fake chocolate substitute. Taken in this context it is actually quite enjoyable. Tasted sort of like a really dry raisiny fig with the texture of slightly chewy bark. Supposedly good for you in some way.

Also presented to us was brandy to get our appetites whetted. Very nice and mellow. None of their alcohols were particularly astringent here, something I especially enjoyed. Again on the sweet side and quite nice. The glass on the left is water, in case you were wondering.

After we ordered (main dish will be described next) I told the waiter I'd like a glass of the house white wine. I was used to just ordering the house white because most restaurants had not too many choices. Croatia does make its own wine as far as I can tell but beer seemed to be more the drink of choice. I'm more of a wine drinker though and lately I've stopped drinking beer as much because I find it has a higher chance of giving me headaches.

The waiter looked at me and asked me what kinds of grapes I typically liked. Chardonnay? Sauvignon blanc? I said between the two I liked sauvignon blanc better. He said he had something that was not too dry and not too fruity, had a nice nose and was not so sweet. I commented that it sounded oddly too perfect. So he said he would bring over a taster for me. Okay then, sounds good.

Another waiter brought over the taster a few minutes later. It was...not to my liking. A bit too musky, cloying. Not what I would describe as having a nice nose, to be honest. This could also have been affected by the fact that it was quite warm. I didn't say this though. I called the waiter over again and he asked if I liked it. I said that unfortunately I didn't but I didn't want to make a fuss about it.

He then asked me what word I would use to describe the characteristic in this wine that I didn't like. I said that it was too musky. Perhaps I could have something lighter, with brighter notes in it? He said he had just the thing.

So he brought me another taster. This one was actually way too light. Tasted almost like nothing, and I took a taste, looked at him and he said I should tell him the truth. He said he thought it might be too light but that he thought he would try. He said he had another one that he wanted me to try.

At this point I was feeling a bit awkward about the entire thing. I love choosing wines and yes, I do considering myself a wine snob sometimes but this was getting a bit out of hand. Plus it didn't allow Hong Kong P to order her wine. Or German K the drink I had promised her (a Campari orange).

The next wine he brought me was...fine. It was alright. I didn't find any huge objections with it though I didn't think it was outstanding. I figured at this point it was not worth talking about anymore. I said I would take a glass of it. My conclusions at this point were that the service here was excellent, the wine selection...very so-so perhaps. The glass of the wine he brought me was quite cold and that made it alright.

Hong Kong P had a similar experience with her wine selection but decided after the first tasting that the wine he brought was "good enough" and settled. I guess she also thought the wine selection in Croatia was drinkable but not outstanding. I guess maybe this is why we haven't heard of Croatian wines before. ;)

And now to the entrees. Hong Kong P and I ordered the same thing after a recommendation from the waiter, but I was already rearing to order this anyway, since I can't remember a time I've had squid ink (though I feel like this is unlikely, given my culinary curiosity):

Black gnocchi with Croatian truffles in a cream sauce. Delicious. And extremely filling.

They make the gnocchi with squid ink to give it the unusual flavor and color. The waiter was saying it's less intense than black risotto, which uses a lot more squid ink and allows the full flavor to the experience (which sometimes can be a bit intense). I found this to be extremely pleasant. I would describe the flavor as...sort of like sea blood. Perhaps that's a morbid description but I don't have anything really to compare it with that wouldn't sound even worse (and I don't think I need to go into descriptions of that unless anyone wants to hear them).

Think of the smell-taste that you get when you're in the ocean mixed with the slight iron taste of blood in your mouth. That's kind of what it's like. It's a very internal body kind of flavor. Sort of like the lingering aftertaste of organ meat. Given what this liquid really is (the defense liquid that a squid squirts to get away from predators), it sort of makes sense. An animal created this liquid for a purpose. It just looks like the ink we manufacture for our writing instruments.

The cream itself was divine and the truffle flavor was very subtle, since these were black truffles (not white truffles, the younger of the two). The cream sauce was lovely. And very thick. I sprinkled the parmesan on myself.

I thought at the end of the meal, given the small quantities that we were given, I would still be hungry, but I was definitely not. Gnocchi is sort of like mantao (Chinese rice buns) in that way - continues expanding in your stomach.

And as an ending treat, homemade limoncello. This was much more subtle than any limoncello I'd ever had previously, which in my mind meant they'd aged it somehow. Sweet, citrusy, and refreshing.

Oh and after this they also gave us (which oddly I don't have a photo of) a glass of something that was sort of like a mix between port and brandy. Lovely stuff. Still liquidy though, nothing like syrup.

After this lovely meal we were ready to rock. And continue with our bachelorette party charade. We asked our waiter where the best night spots were for the night (it was a small town after all) and were told that Kiwa Bar would be happening with "alternative music" until 2am until the real clubs opened.

2am!? Jeebus. Well, we'd see if we'd make it that late. That's kind of pushing it. And German K had vowed to get up at 6am to buy the ferry tickets because she was afeared they would sell out for the day (Hong Kong P and I were not so worried but said she was free to wake up early to get them if she liked).

So we headed to Kiwa Bar and proceeded to have an excellent time dancing and playing on with our charade. Turns out "alternative music" really meant top 40 hits that we all recognized mixed with popular hits from all eras going back to the 80's and 90's. Whatever, all singalongable and all danceable. And that's what we cared about as we celebrated German K's fake bachelorette party.

Did we make it to 2am you ask? Oh definitely not. But we did make it to 1:30am, when we then left Kiwa to see if the real club was open yet. We walked over to find that the venue was completely empty and abandoned. Like literally the place was closed; no one was even working the place to let us in. I guess when the waiter said "doesn't open until 2am" he meant it literally. Just goes to show, you never know.

So we walked home with full hearts and crashed until the next morning.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Beach beach beach

Brac is actually known for its gorgeous beaches. It has one beach in particular that it is known for: Zlatni Rat. Since we had had such crummy weather the night before we were determined to get in some dedicated beach time before we hit the next island, which we were due to get to that evening (Hvar).

Though our hostel had been planned with precision to be near the ferry port, unfortunately the ferry we needed to leave from to get to Hvar (without needing to go back to Split) was on the other side of the island in Bol. This would take about 40 minutes by car.

As luck would have it, we had in our possession the business card of a very willing and friendly taxi driver who would likely drive us all the way there. And hopefully by discount. Also, what the hell, we were on holiday! And split three ways...well, couldn't be that much.

And it wasn't. We called him up and scheduled him to come pick us up after free breakfast at the hotel.

What was the breakfast you ask? The cutest little thing a privately-owned hotel has ever offered: yogurt, fresh fruit, bread (if you liked) and eggs, cooked scrambled or fried (whichever way you liked). Hong Kong P got them scrambled, I got them fried.

I don't know what it is about Croatian eggs, but these are seriously the best eggs I've ever had. Their yolks are more flavorful than almost any other I've ever had before. They're just...better, somehow.

I did enjoy this hotel, despite it being sort of out in the middle of nowhere. Supetar is great, but quite small. If I stayed here again I'd probably stay in Bol, where more of the beach action is happening.

The taxi driver came right on time and we agreed on a discounted price. Not too shabby.

And because we had gotten him a good fare for the day, he was extremely helpful (I think he would have been helpful either way, to be honest). He dropped us off at the beach we wanted to go to, but not before showing us where we could take the train back into town and where that train would drop us off back in town and where the ferries left from. He drove us by all of these places first before dropping us off. They were not along the way. Now that's what I call real service.

And then we spent several blissful hours at Zlatni Rat. Gorgeous rock beach of Brac.

What was one of the first things I spied which I then told Hong Kong P about? Beach-side massages. Oh yes. There was a little hut right off the path down to the beach that was right there for our buying pleasure. Massages (45 minutes to 60 minutes each), different types for different needs. We had them explain the services to us before we even found our spot for towels. I was definitely coming back for a much-needed massage. So was Hong Kong P.

And true to form as soon as we had paid for some chairs to park our stuff (you pay for the reclining chairs or you can just sit on the rocks for free...looked painful), Hong Kong P and I went back and got 45 minute massages. It was blissful. They rubbed us down with pure olive oil.

Admittedly the massage was a bit different than other ones I've gotten, including the beach-side massage I'd received in Thailand. This was the first massage where my stomach was massaged, for example. I'm fine with that but that's usually an area reserved for my person to rub. Very interesting.

All in all an excellent experience, and very worth the money. I then went back and sunbathed and took a dip in the water, alternating to keep myself from roasting (though it was a very pleasant 26degrees or so that day).

I definitely got brown.

Around 4pm it was time for us to catch the train back to town (and by "train" I mean a car that has multiple cars behind it, sort of like the kinds you ride in zoos with kids...though this one was dressed to actually look like a fake train...quite hilarious). We all squeezed into the last car with our luggage so we could see the gorgeous view as we left the beach. We must have looked ridiculous. We didn't care, we were on holiday.

At the port we found out that we'd actually missed the last ferry to go directly to Hvar. Instead we'd need to take a ferry to Jesla and then a bus. Whatever, all good still, we'd still make it.

The ferry to Jesla was pleasant and short. We got to feel the breeze off the water and delight in the sunlight some more. And before we knew it we arrived in Jesla.

Beautiful city really, wish we could have had some more time to explore. We just had enough time to buy a few postcards, use a bathroom and for German K to get catcalled at by a bench full of older gentlemen after her skirt was accidentally hiked up by her bag and Hong Kong P yelled out "your ass is showing!" Hilarious but perhaps not the best thing to do around a bunch of older sunset watchers.

The bus was likewise a nice experience. Nothing really to talk about there. We arrived in Hvar around sunset. Our hotel (the most expensive of the trip) was located right off the main square, in the middle of the action.

Gorgeous views from the window. Hvar is a beautiful port city with lots happening. Definitely one of the places we got the most familiar with, but that's probably just because we stayed awake the longest in it. And had the fanciest meal. But I'll get to that in the next post. The food adventures in Croatia just kept getting better and better.