Now to relax on a beach somewhere

Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 25, 2007

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Woke INCREDIBLY early in order to get my flight to Croatia. Tried my best to wake all the other guys up so that they could suffer a bit too. Snags kindly lightened my load by taking some of my unwanted crap with him back to Australia, we said our teary farewells and then I breezed out the door to catch the much-loved train. Yes, I bought a ticket this time, simply because I didn't have a spare few hours to shoot the breeze down at the cop shop again. I'm a big fan of their "line transfers". As a reference, in Japan to change lines the most you'll have to do is go down an escalator, walk 3m and then up another escalator. Not in Berlin. Instead, they've devised a system where they essentially build a 2km tunnel between two stations and then call it a "transfer". I call it an entirely unwanted hike at some ungodly hour in the morning. Amazingly, Ben & Nico were at one of the stations along the way and happened to jump right on my train - very spooky coincidence.

Flight to Split sucked slightly as it involved a 3hr stop in Stuttgart, but before long we had left the choking heat of Germany... for the choking heat of Croatia! Dare I say it was actually hotter in Split? Not to worry, because unlike Germany they actually have a clue on how to deal with heat. It's called air conditioning people. If there are any Germans reading this, get going right now (this blog is not that interesting anyway) and buy a friggin air conditioner! You know, I'd even be happy with a ceiling fan, but it seems winter comes around so quick that all the lessons learned from summer have been forgotten... until next year!

Frank and one of his 800 godfathers met us at the airport. Frank is our Croatian connection you see - Aussie/Croatian with family living just outside of Split in a place called Vodice. So that's where we headed, and stayed with another one of his godfathers in a brand spanking new apartment - with aircon!

A few things struck me right away about Croatia. None of them seemed to care about their dismal World Cup result. This meant I was forced to bring it up to remind them, but even then they would just dismiss it completely rather than getting fired up - disappointing. There are rocks. Everywhere. It's like a desert just littered with head-sized rocks. Brilliantly, to clear the troublesome things away in order to make the land vaguely useable, they are stacked up to form walls all over the place. The people are nationalistic (for obvious reasons) to an almost scary extent. Almost. Within an hour of landing we devised a clever plan to avoid being killed - namely, when mentioning anything about Serbi*ns we would substitute in the word "s-benders". This seems like a strange selection, but it was in fact the first thing I could think of that started with "s", and it stuck. There is a fantastic disparity of hot chicks to hot blokes, probably a byproduct of the war. Apparently the hotter you are, the bigger your sunglasses must be.

Croatia was to be my Land of Rehab after the alcoholic atrocities of Germany. On closer inspection of course, it seemed beers were still relatively cheap, and there was plenty of local red wine to get blind on. So that's what I did a few of the nights, but for the majority I took it easy - in bed reading a book, down the beach for a swim, over to a cafe for a snack and a sit... a well needed break.

The beaches are just like back home, only there are no waves, no sand, and you have to negotiate your way through 4 million people and jagged rocks to get to the water's edge. Other than that, almost identical. Oh, and all the women have their tits out so ignore the first bit.

Oppressive heat aside, Vodice is a nice little harbour town that enjoys the fruits of an economy boosted by a rise in tourism. Apparently this fact is lost on the locals, who make little or no effort to help in any way - they instead seem to ignore you in the hope that you might leave and let them go about their smoking and drinking in peace. Official description: surly.

Yes, yes, yes, admittedly they are a recovering country after fascist rule and plenty of wars (apparently an incident as recently as 2004). Every town I walked/drove through had remnants of war - burnt out and abandoned houses, bullet-strewn walls, collapsed roofs. I was also pleased to hear that plenty of areas are still yet to be cleared of land mines. That always keeps things interesting.

I'll be honest and admit that over the course of the week I did very little. Sometimes someone would come by and poke me just to make sure I was still alive. We all managed to go for a boat cruise which was pretty great - a combination of booze and sitting on a sea urchin did a number on me, but not before we were reprimanded for doing huge bombies off the side of the boat. Frank's family helped us out by driving us around to some of the sites (see photos).

I did manage to spend a day walking around Split on the way to the airport, just to have a look. The bus was comfortable enough (after I was told to expect bad things), but the fare system seemed to depend on the weather, the bus company, the kind of bus, the mood the conductor was in, and what shoes I was wearing. In summary Vodice and Split were both completely chockers with tourists to the point that sometimes I thought we were in one huge, slow-moving queue. To make matters worse, it always seemed that they were surprised to see tourists, and hence totally unprepared to offer any assistance... even in the actual tourist information places. Still, there is a sense that they are just new to this game and the economy is still recovering - hopefully they'll improve things in the years to come so that they can really capitalise.
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