Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia
August 23rd, 24th 2010

I think Split was the first place I’ve actually spent time lounging on the beach. Three times. Varna didn’t count as I just walked along the beach but after acquiring some serious farmer’s tan on my travels, I had to even it out a little bit. The guy running the hostel, Peter, recommended I go to one of the more remote beaches on the right side of Split, which I did once, only to find out it’s frequented mostly by older folk (and you know how older folk also have to wear their speedos and bikinis…). There wasn’t any sand, mostly smooth rocks. I hate walking on rocks in the water as I keep thinking I might step on prickly sea urchins. The water was nice and deep, perfect for swimming but I personally preferred sandy beaches so I left after a while to go back to Bacevice (the touristy but sandy beach). What’s nice about Bacevice is that everyone goes there so it’s nice for people-watching. The first time I was there, I would soak myself in the water at intervals, then go sit on the sand and stare into the open, thinking about all sorts of things. The second time, I would just sit in the ankle-high water as the tide was lower. I started to remember how much fun beaches were and I am now looking forward to the beaches in Nice, France.

Not much in Split, just usual tourist stuff (Dioclethian Palace being the major one but I was quite unimpressed because the insides of the walls are filled with every imaginable tourist shop). One cool thing was the fish market. Got to see all kinds of seafood being sold that I’ve never really seen in markets before. Later that day, I ate some amazing seafood at a popular local joint called ‘Fife’ (some sardine appetizers, fresh fish off the grill, and some good Croatian beer). Other times, I just had pizza slices from one of the many pizza joints all over the place.

My hostel felt like an apartment; it had rooms, a kitchen, a living area with flat-screen TV complete with channels to watch soccer (caught City vs Liverpool with some hostel-mates), a computer…but it was a small area and the guy who ran my hostel, Peter, told me how suffocated he felt working there. He was the only guy working at this place, so it’s almost like a 24/7 job for him, with no one switching shifts with him. The guy has spent the past year doing this and was going nuts. I felt sorry for the guy so I offered to help watch the hostel for him while he went out to relax or to get food/run errands. I didn’t mind, I was sitting in the living area watching sports and surfing the net anyway. If someone rings the doorbell, let them in, that’s all. I also cleaned up the hostel computer as it was super-slow. It made me realize how much I enjoy fixing, improving, and making things more efficient.

On my second night, at 1 am, the doorbell rang. No one was around so I opened the door and some Belgian guy was asking if there were rooms. Peter was gone for the day and I let the guy use the computer to find accomodation around the area. But it was 1 am, most places were closed already, so I told the guy to take one of the empty beds in the hostel. Funny thing, I had some Bosnian money that I couldn’t get rid of (exchange offices don’t take coins, even if they were worth €5, and this guy was going to Bosnia next, so I changed money with him. He told me he would pay the hostel but I think he left the next day without leaving anything, not even a note.

Split, Croatia Pics

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia
August 22nd 2010

The Adriatic coastline is stunning. I arrived and couldn’t figure out how to get to an apartment I was staying at for a night, as the directions weren’t very good. I should have borrowed a phone from a pair of travellers I have run into in Belgrade, Sarajevo, and now the Mostar-Dubrovnik bus trip. But I decided to do things on my own and ended up walking in the heat, following some rough directions from a helpful lady at the bus station. I walked up 600 steps, with 30+ pounds on me. I was soaked by the time I got to the top. With some walking, direction-asking from other helpful locals running pansions, and sheer luck, I ran into the guy who owned the apartments.


(Walked up with my stuff from where the sea is, in 35 deg C, tiring)

I walked down 600 flights of steps again to reach the bottom and took a bus to the Old Town. There are massive numbers of tourists. Dubrovnik used to the a hidden gem in Europe but now, it’s very well-known. Many Hollywood celebs come here for holiday and Oprah even has a house somewhere. But it is very beautiful from all angles, which I enjoyed while walking around the City Walls. The atmosphere was fantastic and watching the skies glow on the coast as the sun was setting was quite magical.


(People walking along the City Walls)


(Old Town)


(Open air market)

I enjoyed delicious seafood at a restaurant beside the docks. The first night, I had seafood risotto. I felt like I could taste the sea (in a good way). It made me feel alive, and that’s when you know the food is really good. I had mussels the next day for lunch, at the same place.


(Seafood risotto)


(Mussels)

When I walked into my room that night, the Australian guy from early in the day was gone and was replaced by an Asian guy. He had very long hair, tied up in a bun (without anything holding it), and shaved sides. I struck up a conversation with him and found out he was from a small village near Hiroshima in Japan. He was, at the time, traveling by bicycle around South-Central Europe. This form of travel intrigued me. He told me he would average about 100 km a day, and at night, he would find an open spot to set up his tent and camp (but this time, he left his bike with a friend in Belgrade, where he will be returning to soon). Once in a while, friendly locals he meets would invite him into their homes for some food, shower, and a bed. He told me stories of his bicycle-travels around the Middle East on bike and I kept listening in fascination. I could also see how much he derives pleasure being outdoors with nature.

Kaz (short for Kazuhiro) is 25 years old and went to school in Tokyo to learn how to make bags from scratch. He then moved to Florence to start selling bags he made. He would buy high-grade leather, and from the ideas in his head (no drawings or anything), make various kinds of uniquely designed bags (deriving his inspiration from nature, which he absolutely loves). He would then go around to various Italian boutiques and try to sell his bags to them to be resold. He told me a lot of store employees would look at him funny because he wasn’t dressed up formally (almost looking like a bum sometimes) when going around selling his work. I guess it’s ok because he’s an artisan. I looked at his work and thought they were extremely unique and wonderful. Imagine having a one of a kind handbag, hand-made with of some best Italian leather. I asked Kaz if he was planning to go mainstream and become a brand (like the Japanese Versace, I joked). He said that didn’t interest him at all. For him, money isn’t everything. His dream is to become an organic rice farmer (if not in Japan where rice is grown once a year, then a country where rice can be grown frequently, like India or Malaysia). He wants to grow enough chemical-free rice to support himself and also sell to his friends and family.

Kaz was one of the most unique and interesting characters I’ve met thus far, not just on my travels, but in my life. It was so refreshing to meet someone so humble, and who wants to live such a simple lifestyle. I told Kaz that when he goes back to Tokyo (he’s in Vienna until March 2011), I will join him for some sushi some time.

Dubrovnik, Croatia Pics