Right… I know I’ve been slack at getting the holiday comments up to date. Sorry… but it’s been a funny six weeks. So first to the holiday.
Having left Ljub, I got the train back to Zagreb for a couple of days. I ended up staying in a hostel a bit out of town, but as is common in old Europe, it was on a tram line which was regular and cheap – and in some trams, 21st Century modern. Zagreb was an interesting place, however, I get the impression the city isn’t really a tourist trap. Apart from it’s Cathedral – which is a ridiculous size – and Boban’s Restaurant (if you’re not into football never mind) there didn’t seem to be that much to say for the place apart from some interesting architecture. The Main square was, as is common in these parts, patriotic, with flags & statues to former heros. That said, the food in Zagreb, particularly the local cuisine was good & well worth the effort in finding. Again the weather was great, with it touching 31 degrees at noon on my second day!!
The people in Zagreb were really good too. The hostel where I was staying was owned & run by young Croats, who loved their football – my kind of place. On the second night, they persuaded me to stay in & take part in their ProEvo2 football tournament!! I did my best, but will lack of experience I managed to lose… but it’d have been rude to beat my hosts!! We talked a bit about Suker, Edwardo, Sir Healy and the Euros… they didn’t half fancy their chances!!
Still, time came to move along & I got a flight to Dubrovnik.
My first impression of Dubrovnik was the airport… seemingly hewn from the hill, in an impressive engineering feat. The 30 minute bus journey to town takes you along winding coastal mountain roads, with beautiful views of hills & sea… and then Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Simply put, a beautiful city, which I believe wouldn’t exist anywhere else on earth. Indeed, given the pounding it took in the Balkans war, it’s amazing it’s there at all. It’s fortifications, walls, streets, passages, buildings, everything about it is incredible. Perhaps the most beautiful city on earth. Seemingly, this tourist mecca, is also a working city, where locals come to Church, shop & eat. The restaurants overlooking the harbour were a wonderful setting to lunch or dine. I also had opportunity to try some Bosnian food (well, it is only a few miles away) and have to say, they’ve got the portions sorted at least!!
In Dub, I stayed in a Guest House with a guy called Tony. We talked about life, Croatia, Football (they do like their football) and the city. He was a wealth of knowledge, and his home was incredibly beautiful. Hidden behind a garden wall with what I can only describe as a typical Mediterran garden with dozens of vegitables, fruits & flowers growing. You’d never have guessed there was a city the other side of the wall. There were some interesting characters in the guest house as well… the Norweigan Couple who seemed to be having an affair the other side of the continent on a yearly basis, the Drunk Swede who wanted to argue about everything & a couple of Kiwi girls who appeared normal enough (well, for a graphic designer at least!!).
There was also a Dutch guy who was planning to open a hostel in Dub, and was doing market research… 6 months of it in fact. By living in Hostels in Dub. Nice, eh?? Anyways, one evening I headed out with the Dutch kid, to a cafe / bar where apparently a big crowd of people would be… in the end, I spent the night with Dutchy and two Amercians – a Magician who worked in Afghanistan (I kid you not) and an unemployed footballer… who had been made unemployed by LA Galaxy… yes, the same LA Galaxy where David Beckham plays. It all was a bit surreal.
Of course, I had to move on again so I caught the bus to Split (I’d liked to have got the ferry, but apparently May / June is considered Winter and the sailing times are a bit funny). That 7 hour marathon was a bit of a chore, but the driver did his bit by keeping us on our toes with dodgy overtakes & ridiculous speeds on bends. And the route wasn’t exactly direct!! That said, the secenery again was breath-taking… from coastal shores to inland mountain ranges & valleys. This place has it all.
Along the way we pulled in a bus station where the route in was surrounded by high rise flats with the war marks still visible. Bullet holes in the walls (what look like high velocity bullet holes at that) and old forts which were apparently utilised by both sides as the battle ebbed & flowed. You also start to see Hadjuik Split murals on the road… some 100KM from Split. This club means the world to these people… again, they love their football.
Eventually I got to split. Certainly a rougher city that the other Croatian cities I’d been to, in terms of rough & ready… but it had a charm. I managed to get lost in my first hour there… which was good work I thought. But it also, like Dub, has an old city, with narrow streets and ad hoc squares… but also a Palace dating back from Roman times. All of which was very pleasant & although not as pristine as Dub, exciting & thriving.
The hostel this time seemed pretty good, but again a character or two existed. A German guy, who was a bit old to be staying in hostels, in our room created havoc… first by snoring, then by coughing like he had bronchiatis, then by falling out of his bunk & finally by urinating on the floor… 3 minutes later he was on the street as we complained & had the floor disinfected. The stories you tell, eh??!!
Split was really a wind down city for me as it was my last stop before flying back – I flew back from Zadar, but I didn’t actually spend any time in Zadar town. The flight back was a quick one too as I got chatting to an English bloke who was buying up property in Croatia on the cheap in expectation of their entry to the EU. Seems like he’s on to a winner… Credit Crunch or no!!
And so the holiday came to an end… I did manage to get home before all my post cards… two weeks before my postcards in some instances, so a bit shout out to the Croat Postal Service. Keep her lit guys & gals!!
And so back to life in the UK… for now. Well, until 2150 to night actually, as I emigrate to India this evening. Yup, I’ve managed to get a job out there, and I promise to tell that story in a bit more detail when I get the chance out there with a decent net connection. So cheerio UK… me love you long time.