Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lokrum and the journey back to Split

We definitely took our time getting up the next morning. There's something about nearing the end of a vacation that makes you want to soak it in even more, stretch out every possible second. You think maybe if you move slower, time will slow down too. Sometimes you're right.

In any case our apartment owner wasn't in any rush to kick us out. In fact she let us keep the keys and lock our luggage in until we were ready to come back to go to the bus station, which she drove us personally to. Man these wonderful nice Croatians. There should be more people like them in the world. The world would be a much better place instead of all these suspicious city people (I'm one of them...sigh).

Anyway, we decided that with our last remaining hours in Dubrovnik, we'd spend it on the glorious nature reserve Lokrum, a nearby island. We'd been recommended it several times by several people and since we'd done such a good time with the old city the day before...why not? It would be a sort of quick trip, but we could make it work. We could make anything work.

The ferry across was pleasant enough; slow moving, breezy, full of tourists about to spend the day on a national reserve known for its wandering peacocks and weird sites.

And it was absolutely true.

First order of business off the ferry though? Food.

This seems to be our constant problem. Or constant excellence. Depends on how you look at it. In any case, our mission was food. And there were only two places of food on the island: a sandwich shop and an actual restaurant.

As it turns out you pass the sandwich shop as soon as you get off the ferry. We checked out the menu, since the place was surprisingly cuter and more chill than we expected, but no cigar. We wanted real food. Especially since this would likely be the last real meal we had together as we'd be getting into Split pretty late.

We found it after following some rather hilariously spread-apart signs and took our seats. What they said on TripAdvisor was true; there were peacocks wandering all over the place. Especially around the restaurant, where they could potentially get food from silly tourists. 

Hong Kong P in particular was terrified of looking them in the eye, thinking that they might attack (which is fair enough). I reassured her though that this would not happen. I'd spent enough time around wild peacocks when I dated my highschool sweetheart (he'd had them all over his property) and trust me, they're nothing to be afraid of. In fact mostly I just find them annoying. They make a lot of noise.

So what did I have as my last real meal with Hong Kong P? Unfortunately I didn't go that adventurous. For whatever reason the chicken with pancetta and cheese really appealed to me.

It came with fries on the side and something that resembled warm tartare sauce (very vinegary, whatever it was).

It was a massive piece of chicken (very much a breast). The conclusions I had about this dish: I shouldn't crave chicken that badly. And yes, I still do truly believe in dark meat over white meat.

It was filling though and that was the important part. I wouldn't really be hungry for the rest of the day, which was the goal.

We had a little bit of time left (about an hour) so we wandered the island looking for The Dead Sea (which I'll describe when I get to it) and other various treasures on the island to be found.

It was a gorgeous national reserve. I wish we'd had more time to be there. And the right equipment to go into the water (still more pebble/rock beaches here). I'm pretty sure the water was still just as chilly as it was at Zlatni Rat (that water is not what I would call warm...though of course it's not as cold as northern California or even San Diego). But it sure did look refreshing.

The entire island smelled of eucalyptus and pine, which oddly grow naturally there. I didn't see either one of those trees on the mainland so it's strange that they should be on an island far from shore. I'm assuming the bird-eats-seed-poos-out-seed scenario happened and that was that. Something something mild climate and boom, forest of non-indigenous trees.

And at long last...

We found The Dead Sea. Funny, I know, since this is nothing like the real Dead Sea (which we are in the midst of planning to see in August, if all goes well), but that's what it's called nonetheless. It was beautiful. Like a jewel someone had left behind.

Complete with wandering peacocks and even a swinging rope for the more adventurous (and extremely well-balanced and toned). Once again I envied the tourists who had the time to just sunbathe and come armed with their swim suits.

They even had the convenience of a nearby bar hut. And who doesn't love a bar hut?!

Unfortunately as we sat there in the sun, enjoying the sights and sounds of The Dead Sea, it was time for us to go as we did the backwards calculations of how long it would take us to get back and then get to the bus station. So we left pretty soon to get all those plans in motion. Everything worked out smoothly and soon we were on the bus back to Split.

It had been a discovery the night before that while we had entered Croatia when it was not part of the EU, it had silent ascended as part of the union while we were there. Yes that's right - entered with a different stamp than we would be exiting. It's a weird though, to have been in a country that changed its status while I was there. And it was so...uneventful.

There were signs everywhere, in Croatian, that clearly celebrated its status change in joining the EU, but there were no dates for anything. We understood that it was all in Croatian but really? No dates to celebrate your joining a union? Well, turns out they won't be able to take advantage of a lot of the EU benefits for the first several years - like having their citizens work in other EU countries without a work permit for the first 7 years. That's kind of bunk. But I guess when your unemployment rate is 18% maybe the other countries would want to limit how much migration happens.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up: as we were going back through Bosnia, our passports were once again inspected as they were the first time going through. But this time they actually took them away. We weren't really sure why until I saw the officer hurriedly stamping everyone's passport and passing them back. Yes, I got a stamp this time. What was it of? An EU stamp saying I left Croatia by car. By car! First time for one of those, that's for sure - train, sure, boat even, yes. But car? Nope. There's a first for everything I guess.

And it was an EU stamp. No more non-EU stamp for you, Croatia. Welcome to the party.

Hong Kong P was disappointed to see that despite her passport being collected (oddly not all people on the bus had their passports collected...seemed rather haphazard), they didn't stamp hers. I guess the benefits and disadvantages of being a UK citizen (in her case).

We slept most of the way back, arriving in Split around 10pm. We checked into our apartment (nothing to yell about) and made our way out on the town one last time.

We weren't hungry still, having snacked our way there on the bus, so we had a drink and reminisced about everything that had happened, everything that would happen. We found a wonderful spot right near where we'd heard the concert the first time we'd passed through Split.

On our walk back home we stopped once again in that area and got a free fire show. Gotta love those fire performers. They're everywhere nowadays. Reminded me of my San Diego folk who are very much into this scene. They're just something so visceral about fire that one just can't deny.

And after that we got ready for bed, talked late into the night and wished Croatia a good night.

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