Dublin, Ireland: Cheers to Niall & Karen!

Posted by Karie on Jun 14th 2008 03:22 pm

My friend Melody studied abroad in Ireland when we were in college.  There she met Allan, who introduced her to Niall, who introduced her to Neil.  Niall & Neil spent the summer after college in the U.S., so we were part of the crew responsible for showing the Irish boys a good time in California.  That was a great summer.

Over the last several years, we’ve all done some back-and-forth and met more of each other’s friends.  In 2003, Niall, Jay & Dave made the trip from Ireland for our wedding, and now, it was our turn to go celebrate the marriage of Niall and his beautiful bride, Karen.  Of course, Melody (along with her mother) also made the trip from California for the big day.  Even though I only lived a few hours from Melody in California, I hadn’t seen her in years, so this was going to be a great reunion all around.

Unfortunately, the Spanish postal service is not known for its efficiency, so our invitation never arrived.  I finally got the “are you coming?” email from Niall a couple weeks before the wedding.  “Of course we are!  I already have a flight & hotel booked!  So where exactly is the wedding?”  The directions I got in response were something like “leave Dublin, turn left at the split, and go around the pub.”

It wasn’t until the day before the wedding that I realized the church was an hour outside of Dublin, and there is no public transportation to that area.  Within minutes I get a text from Niall that “a guy called Damien will pick you up tomorrow at 1:00.”  I have never met Damien, and I wasn’t sure how much information he had about where we were staying, what we looked like, etc., but sure enough, Damien was outside waiting for us at 12:55.

Come to find out, Damien is a cousin of the bride, Karen.  He barely knows Niall, and we barely know Karen, yet he came out of his way to pick up two strangers and drive us all the way to their wedding.  That’s just the way these people are.  Sure, I’m blessed to know really great Irish people (both in Ireland and some living in the U.S.), but I get the impression that such friendliness and generosity is just part of their culture… or maybe a result of the Guinness, I’m not sure.  Either way, you can basically make a new best friend there every day.  Including the Groom’s brother, who after 5 minutes of conversation invited us to visit his home in Bermuda.  I’m sure he extended the same invitation to everyone at the wedding, but Scott warned him that the scary thing about us is that that we will actually show up!

So the wedding was in a quaint little chapel in the countryside of Kilbride.  It was simply perfect.  Niall never stopped smiling (then again, that’s just how he is), and Karen looked absolutely stunning.  After the wedding we headed to the Dunboyne Castle Hotel for the reception.  All in all, the entire event lasted 13 hours for us, and another hour or two for some of the diehards.

I was curious to see what (if any) customs would be different from a “typical” American wedding, but we are all really pretty much the same.  Here are the few differences that I noticed:

  • It seems the wedding is a bigger deal for everyone.  For example, being on a Thursday afternoon, most of the 150-ish guests had to take off work.  Yet no one handled work calls on their cell phones in the hallways, and very few left early because they had to work the next day.  In fact, many people stayed the night at the hotel where the reception was and made a long weekend out of it.
  • There was no easy-listening background music during the five-course dinner, just the sound of our own voices… and I assure you there was never a lull.  We made friends with everyone at our table and half the table behind us in no time.
  • Clinging your utensils against a glass does not mean the bride & groom are supposed to kiss.
  • The bride & groom cut the cake, but do not feed it to each other.
  • The groom does the Moon Walk. (Or was that just this groom?)
  • There was no last dance, but about 2/3 of the way through the dancing, everyone gathered in a circle around them on the dance floor while they danced to a song that I’m guessing is called “Congratulations”, which kinda reminded me of Happy Birthday.

I had originally planned to rent a car and drive up to Belfast for a day or two after the wedding, but I don’t know what I was thinking.  When we got back to our hotel at 3:30am, Scott decided there was NO WAY he was going to get up early and drive a car on the “wrong” side of the road to a city where we knew no one and had no place to stay.  Besides, this wedding was the main reason we came to Ireland, so we nixed Belfast for now, but will definitely be venturing to Northern Ireland next time we’re in the area.

Instead, while most of the other wedding guests were still recovering, we took a train to Howth, a little fishing village just outside of Dublin.  Apparently there are some really nice hikes with beautiful views on a clear day, but it wasn’t really a clear day, so we just wandered around the town and hung out in a café, where we discovered the wonder that is Eaton Mess.

We headed back to town and met up with a large group for dinner.  I don’t know why I thought we could go to dinner with a group of people (most of whom we didn’t know), and make it back to the hotel at a reasonable hour.  Of course we didn’t.  But, we didn’t come here to sleep anyway.  We came to celebrate Niall & Karen’s big day, see some old friends, and make some new ones, and that’s exactly what we did.  Maybe next time we’ll go kiss the blarney stone, and all those other things that good tourists are supposed to do, but this time around, we didn’t much care about any of that.  Seeing some familiar faces and having lots of laughs was better than anything else we could’ve asked for.  Oh yeah, and catching a few rounds of the Street Performers World Championship competition was pretty cool too.

To Niall & Karen: We are truly honored that you would invite us to share in this special occasion.  Thanks for going to such great lengths to make us feel comfortable and keep us laughing for days.  You are such a wonderful couple, and we are so happy for you!!!  See you soon in either Barcelona, Dublin, San Diego or Bermuda!

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The Local News

Posted by Karie on Jun 9th 2008 03:13 pm

Just a quick update about some of the things we’ve been up to in and around Barcelona…

Bon Jovi: The Lost Road Leads to Spain
C’mon, you know your jealous.   I’ve been a Bon Jovi fan for the last couple of decades (more last decade than this decade), so when we found out they were coming to Barcelona we couldn’t resist.  I convinced myself that the 56€ tickets were an early birthday present.

The concert was at the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic, and I was surprised to see how full it was.  I tried making friends with people around me, none of whom spoke English, but all of whom knew every word to the songs, so we all sang together.

Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of the show, because the back of the tickets said no cameras allowed.  As it turned out, EVERYONE had cameras but us!  Doesn’t anyone here follow the rules?  Or at least clue us in when it’s ok to break them?

We wanted to fit in one more day trip before Mary & John flew back to Los Angeles, so we headed out to Montserrat.  Scott & I have obviously seen the major sites around Barcelona, but we try to save some day trips to have something new to do when people come to visit, and this was one we had been looking forward to.

Montserrat (which means “jagged mountain” in Catalan), has several claims to fame, but the most popular reasons for visiting are:

  1. La Moreneta – the black statue of the Virgin Mary & baby Jesus, made of a dark wood
  2. Escolania Boys Choir, which gives free performances (almost) daily at 1:00.  Get there early if you want to sit, but the performance only lasts about 15 minutes so standing isn’t so bad.
  3. Some believe that the Holy Grail is hidden somewhere on this mountain, as well as hosts of other stories and legends about this mountain and its spiritual significance.

Not to mention the mountain it self is pretty cool!

Weekend Getaway with Friends
10 couples piled into cars and headed for some cabins up in the mountains.  We were supposed to leave BCN at 6:00 and arrive around 8:00, but instead we left at 8:00 and arrived at 12:00.  There’s not much need for a car in this area, so from a group of 20 adults and 1 child, we had only 5 licensed drivers and 4 cars + 1 borrowed car.  Bogdan, the driver of the car we were in, just got his license last month.  Apparently new drivers are given a provisional license that prohibits them from exceeding 80 kph (about 50 mph), so we told the rest of the caravan to go ahead & leave us in the dust, and we’d eventually catch up.

However, the one tool we had on our side was Giuseppe (our GPS).  50 mph with accurate directions is faster than getting lost at 80 mph.  We were shocked to realize that we were the first to arrive… by a long shot!  Unfortunately we didn’t know exactly where our camp was, so we drove around trying to capture the spotty cell phone reception, and then parked & waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

We were exhausted, but the minute we all got back together, we were revived again.  We all had that delirious type of energy which I think is intensified based on a combination of factors:

Number of People
Length of Time Without Food
Number of Hours Past Bedtime

Some people forgot how to speak their 2nd and 3rd languages, while others suddenly thought they knew how to speak a 2nd or 3rd language.

For the next 2 days we played, and played, and played.  Football (aka, soccer), monkey bars, cards, swimming, Marco Polo, hiking… Then we ate, and ate, and ate.  Fun. Fun. Fun.

The only bummer of the weekend was Sunday night, as we had to say goodbye to 2 couples who are both preparing to move to Australia (for separate reasons).  Since we were preparing for another trip, we realized that by the time we got back, they would all be gone.  I guess that’s the reality of moving abroad and meeting other people who like to do the same thing.  But overall we had a fantastic time bonding with great friends that we’ve only known for 9 months… and now we have 4 more reasons to visit Australia.

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Posted by Karie on May 30th 2008 07:12 pm

After I got our Croatia itinerary mostly ironed out, it occurred to me that a day trip to Montenegro was within reach.  I asked Scott what he thought about the idea and he said, “I’ve aaalways wanted to go to Montenegro!!!”  What???  When I asked him why he’s never mentioned this lifelong dream, he jumped up and dug out a magazine that he purchased in the airport as we were leaving the U.S. in September (I think “always” meant “for the last 8 months”).

The magazine was called “Budget Travel”, and on the front was a picture of Montenegro.  That settles it. We’re going.  We decided to rent a car versus taking the bus, so we could seek out the location of the photograph on the cover of the magazine. (Also, with 4 of us, renting a car was about the same price as bus tickets.)

I had read a comment in an online forum that said going into Montenegro makes Croatia feel like the west.  I suppose by “the west” the writer was referring to development of the land, economy, tourism, etc.  By that definition, I thought that Croatia felt very “western” even before our visit to Montenegro, but I still get the writer’s point.

It’s only about a 30-minute drive from Dubrovnik to the border of Montenegro, so it was interesting to see how things changed as soon as you crossed the line.  The landscape is obviously similar, but Montenegro feels about 10 years behind Croatia.  The country is undergoing a lot of changes, having just split from Serbia in 2006, and now it feels like the entire country is under construction.

We made it to Kotor in less than 2 hours, thanks to the car ferry across the bay that cut out a long, winding road (by the way, we heard it’s a beautiful drive, but we had a lot to fit in so we opted for the fastest route).  When we got off the car ferry, Giuseppe (that’s what we call our GPS device – he is our faithful traveling companion so he deserved a name) sent us in the opposite direction as the road signs.  We were hesitant to not follow the signs, but Giuseppe has never let us down, so we followed his advice.  It kinda felt like we were driving on a sidewalk around the bay, but it got us there in record time.  So, if you drive to Kotor with a GPS device, go ahead & follow its instructions even if they contradict logic, but only if you’re in a small car.

The base of Kotor is right at sea level, but the city walls climb up into the steep mountains.  It was a wonderful little village with really friendly people.  As soon as the man who worked at the Cathedral realized we were Americans, he said, “Oh, basketball!”  He was all smiles when he learned that I grew up near his favorite team – the Sacramento Kings.

After spending a little time in Kotor, we got back in the car and headed for the construction zone of Budva.  I can only imagine what this place is going to be like in 5 years.  I have a feeling it won’t be in the “Budget Travel” magazine anymore!  In fact, our photo destination, Sveti Stefan, (not too far beyond Budva) is in the process of being developed as a 5-Diamond Resort.  I guess the only reason it’s considered “budget” now is because it’s not yet open… but it sure is pretty to look at as you sit on the beach for free.

This was our last full day along the Adriatic coast, then we headed back to Dubrovnik to catch our flight the next afternoon.  None of us were ready to leave.  I’m not really much of a sit-and-do-nothing kind of person (Scott is trying to teach me that relaxing is not wasting time), but I could sit there and stare at that water for days (or weeks).  God is an amazing artist.

Huge thanks to John & Mary/mom for coming with us and making it one of our most fun and memorable trips so far.  We love you!

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Posted by Karie on May 29th 2008 06:54 pm

If you see a sign that says “Cold Drinks” with an arrow that appears to point nowhere, follow it.  We ordered some cold drinks and a can of Pringles just so we could sit there and enjoy the view.  The old town of Dubrovnik is a walled city set right on the sea.  You can actually walk all the way around the city atop the walls, which we had intended to do in the evening when the city was all lit up… but this was before we realized that you can only do that in the summer, and “summer” would begin 2 days after we left.

Since we had already spent a little time in Dubrovnik before heading up the coast, we decided to venture out to some nearby islands on a small day cruise.  After Mary’s failed attempts to rent one of these, we finally settled on this one.  We really wanted to take this trip, despite the Sales Prevention Force at the ticket counter, who delivered the following marketing schpeal with a smile:

“First you’ll stop at this island, but only for 45 minutes, because there’s nothing to do there. Most people just get coffee then get back on the boat.  Next you’ll go here for an hour.  This island used to be a summer vacation spot for the wealthy. There is a really beautiful home there that is now a museum, but it’s closed so you can’t see it.  It’s too bad it’s closed because it’s really nice.  Next, you’ll be going to this island for 2 ½ hours. You’ll spend the most amount of time here because it has a sandy beach with real sand.  Then you come back.”

We signed up anyway, with low expectations, but were glad to learn that the sales girl just needed some help with dialogs, as it was much more enjoyable than she led us to believe.

Our captain looked a bit like Bluto from Popeye, but he was very nice, and elegantly poured refreshments for the passengers about once an hour.  He offered us some of his home-made grappa, which we all declined except for Mary, who thought she’d give it a whirl… and ended up “accidentally” whirling the cup until its contents were spilled into the sea.  Oops!

Back in Dubrovnik, we decided to check out a restaurant recommended by our first hotel, which is home to the best mussels in the world.  My only previous experience in eating mussels was in paella, so I wasn’t too sure I was ready for an entire meal of them, so we split a pot for our table of four.  They were delicious!  If only they weren’t called mussels.  For some reason I have a problem with that name.  If they just called them “tiny bites inside shells cooked in garlic and white wine”, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  Our waiter wasn’t a fan of it either.  Or of any food in that restaurant, or any food that comes out of water, or the perfect weather.  Maybe we should’ve introduced him to the enthusiast who sold us the boat trip – the two most charmingly terrible salespeopele in the world – I think they’d get along well.

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Korcula, Croatia – Marco??? ………(say it!)

Posted by Karie on May 27th 2008 10:37 pm

Korcula is the birthplace of the world’s first known travel writer, Marco Polo.  Although there is a chance he was actually born in Venice but set sail on his famous journey from here.  Or, that his true birthplace remains “unknown”, but we for sure know that he lived in this house right here for at least a while.  Ok, well the original house is long gone, but it was definitely on this island, around this area, and probably looked something like this.

Either way, this house was one of the main attractions in the town of Korcula.  We didn’t have a lot of time on this island, as we were having so much fun in Hvar we sacrificed some time on this island to stay there longer.  It worked out well, as the town of Korcula is actually very small, and you could easily see the whole thing in a day.  Of course there are plenty of things to see and do on the rest of the island, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Our time in Korcula was spent finding good food, walking around three sides of the city to take pictures of the Adriatic from every angle, and of course, touring the infamous house museum (which takes 10 minutes, if you read all the signs and climb stairs slowly).

After the grand tour of Marco Polo’s home, we wandered into the Marco Polo shop across the street.  It happened to be the hottest day on our trip. However, it was still May, and all Croatians know that tourist season does not begin until June 1st.  It doesn’t matter how many people are there or what the weather is like, summer does not begin until June 1st.  No exceptions.  No fancy lights to decorate the city on warm summer nights (they have already been strung, but cannot yet be turned on), no extended summer hours, and thankfully, the hotels still charge off-peak pricing.  Basically, if it has anything to do with summertime, forget it, you’re too early.

This had a huge impact on the poor Aussie who wandered into the Marco Polo shop while we were browsing the magnet stand, asking to order some “Marco Polo Ice Cream.”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have any.”
“You don’t have any?  But it’s advertised right there on the door.”
“No, it’s not hot enough for ice cream yet.”
“It’s not hot enough for ice cream???” replied the Aussie in distress, as sweat literally dripped down his forehead.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 90 degrees and humid.  It’s not June 1st, so it’s not hot.

Apparently we were the only ones on our ferry back to Dubrovnik that got that message.  We boarded like good little passengers, fully clothed and prepared to stow our luggage and take a seat in an orderly fashion, just like on our previous (much smaller) ferries.  Everyone else came aboard in their bikinis, with a deck of cards, or cash in hand for food and drinks.  The boat was ginormous, yet there was not a row of seats to be found.  It felt like Reno, minus the slot machines.  Lounges, restaurants, sundecks, and ugly carpet.

It was actually a great experience, as there was something for everyone. Free-Spirited-Scott sat down for about 2 seconds before getting up to explore.  (In case you didn’t know, Scott can spend hours looking out the window, so getting to walk around outside when he feels like he’s supposed to be sitting is an extra treat.)

I, on the other hand, have two phobias: small spaces, and… large boats.  I could barely even look at the USS Midway when we’d walk by the harbor in San Diego, even though I’ve always wanted to tour it.  So, this was a growing experience for me, and it was actually (mostly) fine, as long as I didn’t look straight down over the side of the boat, or up at all the lifeboats.  Maybe visiting Marco’s house has given me the confidence to overcome my phobia.  They should add that to their marketing material.

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Hvar, Croatia Part II: Dumb & Dumber Style

Posted by Karie on May 26th 2008 10:25 pm

I have a newfound appreciation for windshields.  I’m not sure which is worse: getting a bug bite, or getting hit in the face by a bug at 40 mph.  The former usually goes unnoticed at the time of the event, but then you’re left with the itchy bite; whereas the second stings at the time but doesn’t leave any damage… that is, except the memory.

Scott was probably the most affected, after getting a bug in the mouth while driving the motor scooter.  I was sitting behind him and heard “Pppffftttthhh!!!! YUCK!!!”  I couldn’t stop laughing, but knew that I better keep my mouth shut for fear of karma.  It seems the Croatian bugs had a thing for me anyway, so I didn’t want to take any chances.

Other things I learned while riding a scooter:
1. Tunnels are really really cold
2. 40mph feels like 100mph (especially in tunnels)
(click here to see a brief example of #1 and #2)
3. Bikes with motors are better than bikes with pedals (people you pass on bicycles also know this)
4. Helmet head is worse than regular hat head

There are obviously millions of people around the world who ride scooters every day, but this was all new to me.  I kinda felt like a kid riding a roller coaster for the first time.  Ok, so I am easily amused.

John & Mary were on a separate scooter, so we followed each other through the hills and along the coastline, in search of great views and lavender fields – both of which are in abundance on Hvar.  It was beautiful.  In fact, if it weren’t for dirt, bugs, allergies, and lack of fashionable footwear, I’d totally be a nature girl.  The bugs were big enough to saddle, or at least as I recall.  Scott didn’t seem to notice them (except the one that flew into his mouth), John swatted them, Mary named them, and this city girl did her best to keep the squealing to a minimum.

Despite the bugs (and dirt, etc.), I still loved motoring around the island.  It was a great way to get off the beaten path and see what life on the island really looks like.  It’s also how we came across one of our best and most authentic Croatian meals… and I’m always willing to sacrifice a few comforts for a good meal and a cool photograph.

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Hvar, Croatia Part I: “Just Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale…”

Posted by Karie on May 25th 2008 08:54 pm

“Four passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour
(a three hour tour)”

If you’re not familiar with Gilligan’s Island, I recommend you have a listen to the theme song before proceeding. It was stuck in my head the entire time we were in Hvar, so I feel it’s important that you understand my inspiration in order to grasp the full experience here. If you’re lucky, it will stay with you for the rest of the day (or week).

Hvar is the self-proclaimed “Queen of the Croatian Dalmatian Islands.”  Ironically, the Dalmatian coastline resembles the Dalmatian dog… but then again it’s believed that the breed of dog is native to Croatia, so maybe not so ironic after all.  Anyhow, think tons of islands dotting the coastline, some big, some small, some inhabited, some not.  Hvar is one of the largest islands, and the Pakleni Islands are scattered about nearby.

I had originally wanted to kayak to the islands, after reading about how fun that was.  However, after seeing how far it was, Scott & John (who, let’s face it, would be doing most of the kayaking anyway), convinced me to take another approach.  We were able to get a good price on our own small boat (about $75 for a full day, including gas).  We couldn’t have rented anything larger even if we wanted to, as a boating license is required for anything over 6 horsepower.  Perhaps we were better off putting anyway.

We quickly settled into position on the S.S. Minnow (the boat needed a name so we took liberty), with the Skipper (Scott) at the helm, Gilligan (John) helping to navigate, while The Professor (Mary) and the Movie Star (me – hey, this is my story I get to pick my own character) enjoyed the ride from the bow.

The guy we rented the boat from told us that another group had recently ignored his advice and… you guessed it… “the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed…”  They ended up stranded in the middle of the Adriatic sea after the waves bashed their boat and literally ripped off the motor.   Needless to say we all listened very carefully and heeded his advice about where to go or not go.

First we headed around the far side of one of the islands.  Being on the opposite side leaves you exposed to the open sea, without the protection of the other islands.  We followed our boat owner’s instructions and went to a lovely cove, but made sure we were out of there by 1:00pm, as the winds were expected to pick up in the afternoon, and then the Minnow would be lost.  The Minnow would be lost.

A couple of stops later, we decided to break for lunch, so we followed some signs down a path lined with vineyards.  The restaurant was basically in a covered patio, with the owner’s home off to the side.  The main dining area (consisting of about 4 tables) was full, so we were seated on another terrace that only had one table.  It was all arranged through gestures, so we weren’t really spoken to, nor given menus.  A few minutes later, the owner returned and said, “hello,” to which we responded, and then there was silence.  He just stood there and looked at us, while we all sat there smiling.

John (breaking awkward silence): “Uh, do you have a menu?”
Waiter: “No, there is no menu.  I have not turned the generators on yet this year, as there are not many people, so we only have a little food.”
Mary: “Ok, do you have anything we can order?”
Waiter: “We have an octopus salad”
Mary: “Mmm. Ok, I’ll have that.”
Scott: “Do you have anything else?”
Waiter: “Um, we have an aubergine pie”
Karie & Scott: “I’ll have that.”
John: “Nothing for me, thanks.”

I’m still unclear as to whether or not these people actually live without power during the off-season, but our aubergine pie (aka, eggplant lasagna) was served nearly cold.  It was tasty, but I’m guessing they turn on the generator once a week and make a batch or something.  Apparently Croatians refuse to accept the fact that tourists actually arrive before June.  It’s not overrun, but the weather is beautiful and there are certainly enough people around to warrant having food at a restaurant.  I’m curious what everyone else in the restaurant was eating, but we couldn’t tell from our secluded table.  Luckily I think most people were there more for the scenery than the food anyway.

For the rest of the day we just hopped from cove to cove, usually stopping for a drink and/or snack while we admired the view.  The water is the most beautiful aquamarine color, and in most areas you can see at least 20 feet deep to the rocky bottom.  We had one of the smallest and least impressive boats around, but Mary and I liked to lay on the bow and look out.  From there, you felt like you might as well have been lying on top of the most beautiful yacht.  The view was so spectacular, even a dinghy would feel luxurious when floating (ok, bouncing) from island to island.  It was the kind of day that I’ll never forget.

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Dubrovnik to Split, Croatia

Posted by Karie on May 24th 2008 06:09 pm

I fell in love the minute we landed.  No, actually, it was before that – it was at my first glimpse of the turquoise waters dotted with islands that loosely follow the jagged coastline.  Ok, maybe it was even as early as the Michael Palin’s New Europe special we watched several months ago.

Croatia was one the top places on my “must see” list, and it completely lived up to my expectations.  Scott’s mom and step-father (Mary & John) are here from Los Angeles to visit and do some traveling with us, and I think it’s safe to say that they are also pleased.  To quote Mary, “I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is better.”

We toured the country in a big circle, as our flights were in/out of the same city.  We started in Dubrovnik for a couple of days, drove up to Split, then slowly worked our way back to Dubrovnik via boats, stopping at the islands of Hvar & Korcula.  There are literally hundreds of islands, as well as amazing spots on the mainland, so it was tough to figure out where we should go and for how long.  However, I now realize that it’s impossible to make a poor decision – it’s all breathtaking.

Croatia has had a pretty tough history, even as recent as 1995 when they finally succeeded in their fight for independence.  Bullet holes are evident in many of the buildings in Dubrovnik – as is the case in several cities around Europe – it’s just that these are the newest bullet holes we’ve seen!  We heard stories from a local tour guide who lived in the city of Dubrovnik while it was being seized during the war.  A taxi driver also told us how he moved his wife and daughters up the coast for two years during the worst parts of the war, while he stayed to work, sometimes living without water and electricity.  His daughters are around my age… so while I was preoccupied with trying to be cool in the early 1990’s (which is very difficult in a plaid uniform), their concerns were very different.

Croatia has always been a very advanced society, even as far back as its history records (including having the 2nd oldest pharmacy in the world).  However, with such recent turmoil, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.  What we found were beautiful cities, perfect roads, well-educated people, and land that just seemed, well, cared for.  I felt a great sense of pride from the Croatians, which I love.  There’s nothing better than being around people who love where they are.

We opted to rent a car to drive to Split, to give us a little more freedom in exploring the beautiful scenery.  Bosnia occupies about 10 kilometers of coastline right in the middle of Croatia, so of course we stopped three times to take pictures of ourselves in Bosnia.  The group is divided on whether or not we can include Bosnia on our list of countries visited.  I say the criteria to count a country should include a meal or at least a magnet, but John says he was there and has pictures to prove it, so it counts.  What do you think?

Anyhow, we made it to Split by early evening, and left again on a ferry to Hvar the following afternoon.  To sum it up, Split is worth seeing, but don’t sacrifice too much time on the islands for it.  It worked out well with our iternary and we had a great morning touring the Diocletian Palace before we caught the boat.

The trip started out great, and got better and better… more to come.

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