Hvar Smchar

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 29, 2006

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The hydrofoil settled into the harbor and after an extremely precarious walk across a catwalk with suitcases in one hand and a three year old in the other (a dockworker did help me and I gave him seven karma points) we starting wading through a group of people. Much of the crowd was composed of locals who had apartments to rent and they would hold make shift signs of cardboard in front of us and ask a retinue of questions like, "Hello, hello, Do you need an apartment?". They would ask in several languages if they saw some recognition in your eyes. I do the same during my lectures and try to explain a concept in enough different ways until I get a glimmer of understanding before their eyes glaze over again. I plowed through the crowd and waited on the perimeter for Christy to make it out. Fortunately she didn't throw any of my belongings off the ferry. 1 I met up with her about the same time an aggressive woman started discussing the merits of her apartment and how close it was to downtown and so on. We asked how much and did some quick bargaining as we started making our way to the apartment. I felt bad because I looked back to see an elderly woman in black with her cardboard sign limp in her hand and downcast eyes. She obviously did not get any takers and I immediately subtracted three Karma points from myself for not asking her how much her apartment was.

The woman talked the whole time as we bounced over the cobblestones along the harbor and then onto a large square. The harbor and square were busy with people, which was a shock after the tranquility of the hydrofoil. We turned off of the square and into a small alley. I looked up to see stone stairs and tensed my muscles for the weight of the suitcase. After two sets of small stairs we arrived at the apartment building and then to my horror proceeded up three stories to arrive at the very top of the building. The width of the staircase was inversely proportional to its height. So by the time we reached the last part of the stairs that went back outside I had to lead with the suitcase in front of me. The apartment had a slanted roof but also had a nice little terrace with a table surrounded by a few chairs. It commanded a view of part of the square, most of old town, and the mountain behind the town that contained a fort. The "weird thing" about the room, besides having a slanted roof, which I did not mind, was the key. Most of these apartments give you a huge metal key that is more befitting to a medieval jailor than a spastic tourist. I feel like I am locking up dissenting artists, Christians and general rabble in same dank dungeon. The challenge is then to open the freekin door. It's like a twisted game of Operation but at least in Operation there is a buzzer to tell you when you are doing something wrong. Twisting, rattling, lifting and cursing we would final open the door.

The first day's sky was streaked with potential rain so we spent half the day deliberating on a good time to approach the castle on the hill. A patch of blue appeared between two grey black dense clouds in the rapidly changing sky and we took our chance. Marching through the square and into the back streets we began our ascent up a series of wooded switchbacks. The castle had a beautiful view of the harbor and that's why the Venetians contracted the Spaniards to build it there. The actual castle was more interesting than anticipated due to different levels, all with spectacular views of the harbor and surrounding islands, and immense cannons. I didn't like how they had moved the canons from their original positions to new ones to provide tourist safety (subtract a half tourist star). Collette played on the cannons and as we were on our fourteenth no when the inevitable happened. Fat droplets began hitting the café's umbrellas like an out of tune drum. We took refuge in a smoky room with several other water spotted tourists and waited for it let up. It did after fifteen minutes and in my jacket we took a sweaty, humid jaunt down to the square.

One evening Christy volunteered to hit the internet café for our dose of bad news and liter nary of deceit. I was designated with the task of watching the Spastic Blonde Monkey. Luck was on my side because she fell asleep earlier than anticipated and as soon as the eyelids dropped closed I headed for a café and a warm cappuccino. The café was built on a sidewalk that boarded the water. The tide was high so the water would flow up onto the sidewalk like dunking a water mattress underwater and letting it pop to the surface. A sheet of water would cover the sidewalk and the tourists would gasp and run from the rushing water. Some with success and some others without. After reaching relative safety they would giggle at the situation and then their behavior with a lot of pointing to the wet parts of their bodies. The café had big red candles with a subdued atmosphere and I settled in for some café mind surfing, thinking profound thoughts that in reflection were actually quite stupid and immature but entertaining none the less. They played Jack Johnson and the music made me for he first time a little home sick. I did not necessarily want to go back but I did miss some ambiguous idea of home. Also, it made me miss my stereo and then all of my listening rituals that had brought me such joy.

The next day we decided to do a bus ride to other side of the island. Destination Jelsa. After our usual amount of stressing, is this the right bus? How do we know when to get off? Will the bus plunge off the cliff? We boarded the bus and immediately began a steep climb. I did not feel comfortable in my faded seat until the blaring pop music filled the bus and I could see religious icons dangling and swaying off of the rear view mirror with every turn. I was not disappointed. The countryside turned more barren and everywhere the topsoil had eroded away you could see the rock poking through like white scars. You realized that the rocks were the rule and the soil and plants where the exception and that the island was composed of one large rock. Through out the countryside somebody had made piles of these stones into fences which criss crossed the landscape.

We arrived in Jelsa and I ended up liking the place. I've noticed that I have become picky with my destinations. The town has to have a square, not too big or crowded, the square has to have restaurants facing each other so you can drink Cappuccino and people watch with minimal effort, it has to have a harbor that has colorful fishing ships but is also protected by the wind, and must have lodging that is on at least a small hill that has a view of the harbor. Jelsa had all of these things and was not riddled with tourists. We walked to the edge of town, removed most of our clothing and went for a nice swim in a small cove. Across the cove we could see a camp ground that I appeared to be a third full of Germans. Collette found an unclaimed floating tube and began playing in it. Not heeding my inner voice I started bouncing in it to entertain Collette (and myself) until I started hearing this shrill voice shouting, Nihn, Nihn. I thought it was impossible somebody was talking to me until I looked up and saw a rather rotund woman looking directly at me with a scrunched up face. I felt angry but I think it derived form embarrassment about being caught but she could've been a little nicer. It looked like God or Weiner Snitchel had already given her a permanent floatation device. In your face German lady we still had a good time and I am sorry I defiled your precious little tube with my Speedos.

Hvar is what I call a touristy place. I prefer vacation places. The distinction lays in how long most of the people are willing to stay. In a tourist location, the bus disgorges them on the outskirt of their destination and then they march in with camera in hand following the tour guide like a bunch of penguins hurrying up to catch their mother. These tourists only plan on staying a few hours while vacationers plan on staying several days. They both do stupid things, offend the locals and do obnoxious things but vacationers tend to have less urgency about them and tend to appreciate the place as opposed to its sites. Hvar was a little too touristy for us and the square was constantly being emptied and refilled with herds of White Haired Penguins. This is why Jelsa appeared to me to be more attractive than Hvar and we packed our bags one day early. However our destination was Bol and not Jelsa.

1. See "Banana Incident" for a summary of Christy's ability to throw my things off various forms of transportation.
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