Croatia · 6 Days · 31 Moments · June 2016

Al Bates

Cruising through Croatia

25 June 2016

Being at the seaside meant we really did have to go to a seafood restaurant. Of course! This food was incredible. The prawns were mine and were delicious. We had another great evening in the city before heading back to camp. Quite sadly this is our last evening in Croatia. Tomorrow we start the long slog back to the UK. We then have a 10day visit to the UK before coming back to the continent for another two months. We didn't really have enough time in Croatia but that just means we have to come back right?!
Cat and Chris are also in town - but today we finally shake them off. They're joining four of their friends on a week's yachting trip. Kind of jel! We met them down at the wharf to help load them on and wave them off. Apparently there is grand plans to attach the inflatable animals to the back of the yacht. Epic.
We did the classic wander and people watch combo that we love so much.
This made me smile.
This was unexpected. It's a Croatian art exhibition but with no English explanation. Just an angry man flashing his penis....
Back on that touristy thing today. With the heat pumping out we ventured into the underground rooms of Split. Split started life as a Roman ruler Diocletian's Palace (built in 296-305AD). Over hundreds of years the top has been inhabited and built on by thousands of different groups. Whoever the underground rooms have never been altered and were discovered last century. Quite amazing for history nerds like us. Is just so old. Even the original sewers were found. Crazy!

24 June 2016

Split is just as wonderful as the rest of Croatia but a bit bigger and bit more raw. I really like it. Joining the majority of my peers across the globe (bar one who's getting struck off the Christmas card list) we decided that drowning our sorrows was the best course of action. We met a couple from Singapore (he was actually a kiwi) who we chatted for a couple of hours about everything (avoiding BREXIT as much as possible). They seemed genuinely interested in our stories of this year. Both were seemingly very well travelled yet told us how impressed they were of our journey. This sounds like one of the most smug things to write but I am proud actually. Really proud of us. So it was lovely to hear a stranger say it too. Great evening.
The rest of the day we sat relaxing in the sun in the queue for the ferry to Split. You can't book so getting there early is the only way to guarantee a place. Trying our best to ignore the fact our country is falling apart (bye bye prime minister) we enjoyed the sunshine. Albeit rather hot. We boarded the manic ferry and enjoyed a beautiful three hour cruise to Split. On the way a Croatian guy got talking to us as he was buying our camera. Great guy. He told us about his memories from the Yugoslav wars and how is Great Aunt was murdered. Horrendous. Seems crazy this happened in such a beautiful now peaceful part of the world. That's kind of what happens when mad men get power. Terrifying. His reaction to BREXIT was a bemused "but what's the benefit? I don't get it?". Yeh you and me both.
We wasted time this morning scrolling our newsfeed of shocked peers. How just how could someone have voted leave? It didn't make sense, it still doesn't make sense. Surely whatever fantastical xenophobic view you've invented in your mind wouldn't be enough for you to help our country commit economic suicide? Jon and I both have careers that rely on a buoyant booming economy. Something which will now be well on its way to recession by the time this great adventure has to end. And in the short term we live on savings that we've worked so hard for. A falling exchange rate will see fit we won't be able to see and do everything we wanted to. We're just so angry. We've seen so much wonder in Europe and we've learnt so much about how a fragmented Europe causes so much suffering. Why would we ever want to leave one of the greatest humanitarian unions in history. Just why. 😢

23 June 2016

Back at camp we bought a bottle of home brew and sat chatting to the family. Their wine is absolutely delicious! Very impressed. We were then bought out some of Mum's cake. Very tasty. And in classic Balkan fashion ... The schnapps got poured. 'Dad' said to us "tonight is a big night yes?" - referring to EU referendum. We nodded and said we're crossing everything for a remain result. He looked at us with sadness "you are both young, if you leave this will be very bad for you especially. You are part of our European family". We toasted to remain to three glasses of schnapps. Thankfully we didn't have far to walk / roll back to the van. It was such a boiling hot night and we both woke at 4am. Checking the BBC website was a bad idea as then we couldn't get back to sleep. Jon sat outside the van from 4-7am staring at his phone in disbelief. I drifted in and out of sleep. When we found out the leave result I cried. It felt like our world was falling apart.
The bay was totally empty - all to ourselves. We swam in the warm waters as the sun set. Paradise. I posed for a classic 'looking out to sea' pic. However Jon had changed into a towel after swimming, he crouched to take the photo and I could see right up the towel. Hence the laughing hysterically photos before I sat down. Cheeky! Such an ideal evening after such a stupid day.
I enjoyed the cacti on the way to the beach
We then arrived at my favourite campsite so far. A little outside the small town of Vela Luka, this family run campsite is nestled in amongst olive trees. We were waved in by a smiling elderly man who helped us get water and set up. He spoke little English but his lovely Granddaughter Anna is fluent. She's our age and has lived here her entire life. We've never felt more welcome at a campsite! Anna told us to get ourselves down to the bay to chill out after we told her our tales of woe. Great plan.
A much needed refreshment needed after the stresses of the day. Happy husband that we're not completely stranded.
We now had a running engine but with a loud fan annoying everyone. Unbelievably after another hour of talking to the RAC they admitted their Croatian partner was useless. The poor RAC call centre girl gave her own advice to just try sort it ourselves. So we did. RAC is pointless is today's lesson. Using the wifi we found a professional looking garage 30km away on the island. We rang and booked in. Being careful not to stall we drove there. And guess who was there?! Yep... The angry French people. They didn't look pleased to see us haha. And the tow bloke from earlier - he smirked at us as we arrived. Yes. We should have used you earlier. Then guess what... We turned the engine off and the fan stopped. What!! Haha. We had the mechanics look it over and they did say the thermostat needs replacing but can wait now - as it has fixed itself. They gave some helpful advice too. Still thanks to RAC we've lost a day on the island. Annoying. Basically RAC breakdown doesn't work.
We waited up by reception patiently for our actual recovery vehicle to arrive. In the meantime Jon had some more irritating conversations with the RAC "oh haven't they arrived?". Then an hour after the promised time we had a call. "I'm here" "where" "I'm in an Audi A3". Now I'm not a recovery expert but I'm not sure an Audi A3 is the most traditional of breakdown vehicles. We were greeted by a portly chap in overalls. His English was good and Jon explained the problem. He jumpstarted us (immediately the fan whirred). He fiddled about and then classically sucked his teeth. "Hmm I might be able to look at this around 4pm today". Jon sort of lost it at this point. "We've paid for recovery?! You're suppose to take us to a garage!". To which he replied "I don't work for the RAC, I'm just doing a favour for a mate on the mainland". Penny dropped. The appointed RAC company hasn't bothered to turn up. Utterly useless. Jon then commenced angry RAC phone conversations. Not cool RAC!
A little later than 10.43 (the promised arrival time) this recovery truck turns up. This is when everything got weird. The bloke, friendly enough, didn't speak any English (which is acceptable - we are in Croatia!) but also didn't seem to understand what we wanted. Which was for someone to understand the fan needed to be fixed. I.e there would be little point jump starting us for the fan to then still run the battery flat again. After some gesturing, and him seemingly wanting to tow us somewhere, some angry looking French people appeared waving bits of paper and correspondence at him. I got the campsite owner to help translate. Turns out this dude has nothing to do with the RAC - the French campervanners called his company this morning for their problem!! What on earth are the odds?! Which left us wondering where our bloody recovery was... And getting angry in the process.
So today was one of "those" days. We informed reception of our problem. Immediately they decided they would try and jumpstart us using a little red Renault cleo. Sparks flew... The car is far too small for the job. She also couldn't understand the fan issue. Anyway... Jon phoned the RAC at 8.30am to get the ball rolling. RAC uk call their partner in Croatia (turns out Slovenia) who then called us to tell us recovery was on its way. Brilliant stuff...

22 June 2016

Luckily there was a campsite right next to Korcula town and we set up camp. We then discovered the van's cooling fan wouldn't stop running after the engine was off. Ah. We decided to leave it and go into town. Korcula town is like a mini rustic Dubrovnik - gorgeous! We had a delicious ice coffee and cycled about admiring the scenes. By the time we returned to camp Jonah's battery was of course completely flat. Sigh! One for the RAC in the morning. We spent the rest of the evening reassuring each other that there were many many places worse to breakdown (remote Apuseni mountains in Romania for example!).
Today is time for... Island hoping! Hurrah! We drove up the peninsula as far as we could go before getting the ferry across to Korcula island. Jon decided he was going to eat a tin of herring about five minutes before boarding commenced. I then had to hold a plate of herring whilst we had our tickets checked! Eccentric Brits enter... It was rather blowy but a very smooth crossing. And of course, Croatia is still stunning.

21 June 2016

Hamlet was brilliant. Hamlet himself was played by a female actress who was outstanding. It was brilliant to see the lead role played by a woman. The space was fantastic for Shakespeare, although I was worried they'd fall off the walls they were hanging off! Thankfully blankets were provided when the wind got up. What a great evening.
Found them!
There are lots of lovely places for drinks here and so we had a couple before meeting the Jeffersons for dinner.
More wandering took place after and we walked the other side of the fort for drinks and pics. It's rather hot but pleasant by the sea.
We had a lay in this morning just because. We've also bought tickets for Hamlet tonight - Cat and Chris are coming too. So cultural right now. Our first activity today was to visit the War Photography exhibition. I must Google and add on some of the pictures we saw. There were two excellent exhibitions - one was called the "Balkan Route". The photographs documented the recent Syrian refugee crisis running up til October last year. Accompanied with a photographers commentary it covered a topic that has been talked about in the news constantly. Some fascinating themes on European privilege . The second exhibition was focused on the Yugoslavia war in the 1990s. It includes photographs of a bombed Dubrovnik. Extraordinary that it all happened well into our lifetime. No wonder nato bombed Belgrade! Very harrowing images.

20 June 2016

All this wandering about called for a cold beverage in a bar on the wall. We watched the sunset whilst listening to two young backpackers contemplate the meaning of life. The atmosphere in the city in the evening is wonderful even if it is full of gawking tourists and random blokes dressed up in medieval costume.
The city truly sparkles with its marble floors. It's like Las Vegas... But real! Another dress rehearsal- this time for an opera singer! We wandered the streets and marvelled at all the little alley ways.
Opposite the city walls is the old fort - giving cracking views back towards the city. So pretty. Bizarrely we walked through the middle of a dress rehearsal for a production of Hamlet - opening night is tomorrow! Quite tempted... To buy tickets or not to buy tickets - that is the question!
Much posing to be done.
I mean... You just can't stop photographing the thing!
We found ourselves in the "woaaaahhh" city of Dubrovnik early afternoon. After stopping in a lay by for a bite to eat and subsequently given some free watermelon from a random motorist we set up camp just outside the city. It's scorching here, well into the 30s, so our first explore took place early evening/ later afternoon. Everyone had recommended walking the walled city and we weren't disappointed. It really is quite incredible. Its 2 km around but every few steps has another epic photo waiting to be taken.