Throwback Thursday: Hvar, Croatia

Croatia never sat of on the top of my must travel list. What I knew about Croatia was mostly from news casts about the war when I was a child. I was too little to understand. Fast forward many years later, my current roommate Aida, a Bosnian, shed light on that part of the world. After hearing her powerful story, I became curious; after she showed me pictures I was ready to get on an airplane. Croatia was where her family had vacationed before the war. All three roommates decided to go together with Aida as our local guide. I fell in love.

With our heart set on traveling to Hvar, we found accommodation at a guesthouse which checked off all of our must-haves in our price range on booking.com. After climbing what seemed like 100,000 stairs with a backpack, we were greeted by the sweetest old lady. Her English was limited, but Croatian and Bosnian are essentially the same language. She was over the moon when Aida greeted her in familiar words and immediately asked us to join her for coffee and cookies. Our stay was wonderful and we promised to come back….. And we did; a year and a half later, we booked the same apartment and that wonderful lady immediately remembered us.

On the morning of our second day, we decided to have a group run to the fort on the hill overlooking Hvar town. It was an uphill battle, but we conquered. As we were leaving the apartment, the owners’ son waved hello. He ran a car and moped rental business attached to the guesthouse. We noticed a cooler lined with beer for sale: our planned reward for after the workout. Upon our return we ran over to quench our thirst on crisp cold Ozujsko. The group had grown with men from the neighborhood settling down for their afternoon gossip. We sat down with our beers and joined the group’s conversation. We tried the best we could to understand everyone using half English, mixed with some Croatian, some German, some Italian, some French. Essentially everyone shared a common second language and well, laughter and smiles are the same no matter what you speak.

Soon enough rain clouds closed in and we all huddled together, opening more beers, each person taking their turn buying another round. We spent three hours making new friends and laughing at each others half understood jokes. The family dog Dzeko (Jako), a silly black lab, was running back and forth to each new friend hoping for a treat. My favorite was this little old man; he and I both spoke some German, so I learned about his life. He had seen it all– WWII, the Russians coming into former Yugoslavia, and then the Yugoslav War itself. His demeanor was so light and pleasant. Every once and a while he would sneak off only to return 20 minutes later in a new outfit complete with fun hat. Eventually a bottle of Greek liquor was produced and sticking with proper European etiquette, we were all expected to take a shot. It tasted like paint thinner, but how could we say no!

This is why I travel. These memories are the ones that will stick with me until I’m that sweet old lady, sipping bourbon in the afternoon with Anna and Julie, of course. Hopefully then too, I can sit with a group of young tourists and laugh for an afternoon. Tell them my stories and adventures, tell them personal accounts of what they learned in history class. While seeing the castle, going to the popular museum or hiking that trail can highlight a trip, it’s when you get to know the people and truly see the culture, that you have graduated from vacationer to traveler.

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~By:  Amanda

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Apartments Bodlovic: SimeTome Buzolica 9, Hvar Croatia 21450 booked via http://www.booking.com

The Balkans

~By:  Damir

One of the most beautiful areas of the world is the Balkans. Overshadowed much of the 90s and early 2000s by a civil war with the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Balkans are back and now is the time to travel through this historic part of the world. What was once a large nation (Yugoslavia) separated into six nations (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia) after the Yugoslav war was officially ended in 2001. These are all safe nations for travelers and backpackers currently and each nation offers its own culture and plenty of sight-seeing. Main way of transportation in the entire area is with buses which are cheap.

 

In this post, I will focus on Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

 

Montenegro: KOTOR

A beautiful and scenic old port located on Montenegro’s Adriatic Sea coastline.

 

Things to do: Wander around the old town. Hike to the top of the San Giovanni Castle and witness one of the most picturesque views of the Bay of Kotor.

 

Place to stay: Hostel Old Town Kotor – In the heart of the old town where you will feel like you’ve just stepped back a thousand years in time. Make sure to reserve in advance if visiting in peak season (May-August). Hostel Nightlife is a must!

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina: MOSTAR

Bosnia’s fifth largest city located on the beautiful Neretva River with its iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge). This bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian War in 1993 and rebuilt in 2003. The medieval architecture of this town is a must see while traveling throughout the Balkans.

 

Things to do: Witness Stari Most (Old Bridge) and watch daredevil jumpers jump into the shallow Neretva River below. Experience the old town and medieval Mostar by walking through its old stone streets and markets. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants overlooking the bridge and river.

 

Place to Stay: Literally anywhere in the old town of Mostar. Nightlife is very fun on the weekends in the old town.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina: SARAJEVO

Bosnia’s capital and largest city is one of the most historical cities in Europe. The city hosted the 1984 Winter Olympic Games but much of the venues now resemble more of an apocalyptic look with the war destroying much of the venues. There is a bridge located in the center where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Frank Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which in turn started World War I! It has a very large Istanbul-ish vibe to the city much to its formal rule by the Ottoman Empire.

 

Things to do: Visit the old and ruined Olympic Venues to really appreciate life. Check out the bridge famous for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Wander through the markets in Bascarsija, Sarajevo’s old bazaar and historical center. Look at the many beautiful mosque’s located throughout the city.

 

Croatia: DUBROVNIK

Dubrovnik is located at the very southern tip of Croatia bordering the beautiful Adriatic Sea. This is one of the most visited places along the entire Mediterranean and once you arrive you’ll know why. The old town of Dubrovnik features a massive wall around it that captures its once dominant force on the Adriatic.

 

Things to do: Walk around the entire old town on top of the wall (2-3hrs). Rent a kayak from the old town and go kayak around the island of Lokrum which is right off the coast. Take the cable car up from the old town to get an incredible view of the old town, Lokrum, and the Adriatic. Walk for countless hours around the old town and join in on a tour to learn about many of the buildings and their significance. There is so much history to learn about Dubrovnik’s old town. Have a drink and watch the sunset at Café Buza (located on the edge of the walls down the entire side of a cliff).

 

Where to stay: Hostel & Rooms Ana – Old Town Dubrovnik (enjoy the party) Make sure to reserve a spot before arriving in the peak season as the entire town runs out of rooms. This is located in the heart of old town and Ana is awesome!

 

Croatia: SPLIT

Split is another large city located on the Adriatic coastline of Croatia. Split also features an impressive old town with Diocletian’s Palace and Clock Tower being the main sight to witness. This is a major port so a lot of cruises and ferry’s come through here. This is where you will catch a ferry to Hvar Island. This is also home to Ultra Europe Music Festival which gets insane. This is a big backpacker party town and is famous for its legendary pub crawl.

 

Things to do: Wander throughout the old town. Walk up to the top of the clock tower at Diocletian’s Palace in the old town to get a magnificent 360 view of Split old town and harbor. Hostel Pub Crawl. Sail Croatia/Yacht Week. Ultra Europe Music Festival.

 

Where to stay: Find and pre-book a hostel in the old town of Split. Take part in the pub crawl.

 

Croatia: PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Plitvice Lakes is a world-famous park featuring its sixteen lakes and magical lake colors. A beautiful scenery very difficult to describe.

 

Things to do: Walk around the lakes. If on a tight schedule focus only on the lower lakes and waterfalls. The upper lakes are great but larger and a little less scenic.

 

Where to stay: Doable in a day trip. Very long day but worth it. Grab a bus from Split and then once you’re done with the park take another bus up to Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city.

 

Croatia: HVAR

One of Croatia’s most beautiful and most visited islands in the Adriatic. Grab a ferry from Split and get ready to party!

 

Things to do: Hike to the top of the fort located in Hvar City on the island of Hvar. Wander throughout Hvar’s epic old town and harbor. Start the night with drinks at the hostel, then move to Kiva Bar in old town, then take a water taxi to a small island off of Hvar to continue the night and watch the sunrise at Carpe Diem Club.

 

Where to stay: Anywhere in Hvar(City) on the island of Hvar. Make sure to pre-book during the peak season (May-August).

 

Croatia: PULA

Pula is located on the Adriatic in Croatia’s northwestern area called Istria. Pula has a lot of Ancient Rome comparisons due to its close proximity to Venice. Arrive here either via ferry or bus from Venice. If you’ve visited the coliseum in Rome, you’ll have to visit the one in Pula which still hosts concerts and movie festivals! A very historic town as well as many other towns located in the Istria part of Croatia.

 

Things to do: Walk around the old town. Go inside Pula Arena (coliseum) and explore both above ground and below ground. Sight see throughout the old town famous structures such as the Arch of the Sergii, Golden Gates, and Temple of Augustus. In the summer, grab a local bus and head to Verudela Beach and cliff jump, swim, or just relax. Explore other smaller places throughout Istria.

 

Where to stay: Find a hostel near the coliseum (Pula Arena) or anywhere in the old town will for sure not disappoint you.

 

Check out our other blogs about Croatia

YACHT WEEK: A True Picture

 

It has been a month and two glasses of wine and now I’m finally ready to write about The Yacht Week. Keep in mind Croatia sits on the top of my favorite places list and The Yacht Week ruined Croatia. In all fairness I also feel my previous expeditions and knowledge of Croatia also ruined The Yacht Week.

As a group our travel philosophy is epicness on a budget, basically don’t get too crazy. It didn’t work this time, The Yacht Week is an amazing party, however the YouTube videos are not as they seem. Would I use Yacht Week again, probably not, but I also don’t want to steer interested individuals from the experience. I just want to give my perspective of the realities of The Yacht Week.

 

The “Yacht”:

This is not a Jay ­Z music video, sooo…..The first thing you must ask yourself and friends before booking “Do I like camping?” If you answered “yes”, hooray you may continue to browse the yacht cards on the website www.theyachtweek.com This is basically camping on a boat, while still attempting to look fantastic for the parties every night. We embraced mermaid baths, no AC, pumping the toilet, washing dishes in the ocean, spooning with friends and other hardships that come when basic conventional amenities are absent. It is true you will not sleep for a week, if you can find a good sleeping pill script before you depart; they will become best friend and don’t forget earplugs and eyeshades. The shower situation is dismal; we ended up bathing in the ocean and then rinsing off in the small cramped shower on the boat, who knew that beer pong raft would double as a shower caddie. In the marinas shower facilities are available, ALWAYS use them when you can, although hot water is scarce #firstworldproblems. The conclusion on the “yachts” is they are cramped and short the modern amenities we all know and love. YACHT WEEK 15

 

 

My suggestions are:

* Book the biggest boat you can afford and don’t fill it to max capacity, if you can avoid anyone sleeping in the living area, this is best.

* Don’t bring too much stuff, Anna and I are epic over packers, we are American dammit and maybe we need those floating flamingo beer Koozies, thank you amazon.com. You don’t need a hair dryer, straightener or curling iron either, no power for it, buy some salt spray and get over it.

*When it comes to food and drink, purchase breakfast and lunch items, maybe plan for one dinner on the boat. Think basic! Kitchens on the boat are small and storage is limited, besides that precious space in the refrigerator should be reserved for beer and mixers and champagne.

 

Let’s start with the basics:

The storage compartments are small no matter how large your yacht, we suggest investing in a backpackers backpack, 45-­55 liters is usually a nice size. Other options are duffel bags or soft sided luggage, there is nowhere to stow a large hard side roll bag on the boat.

 

What the ladies should pack:

A different bathing suit for everyday with cover ups, shorts etc.

A fun dress or outfit for each night

One pair of pjs that are not scandalous and maybe one that is

Flat shoes, no heels necessary

Whatever you need for effortless hair, thank god I had Dano the braid master

Basic make­ up, this is not the time to perfect cat ­eyeliner. A little pop­ up folding mirror will help immensely.

Small and cute clutch or wristlet that holds the basics, not three Longchamp purses (guilty)

 

What the guys should pack:

Bathing suits and board shorts

Tank, tees and chill stuff

A nice shirt for each night to pair with 2­3 shorts

Topsiders and flipflops

You’re a guy, this really is not hard.

 

As a group, you should pack: 

Fun rafts: I would suggest sharing with a friend, everyone from our group bought a float and two were never even blown up.

Towel clips: The boat provided a few, however this is how you dry everything. The extra towel clips are great for hanging bathing suits and cover ups. No one wants to sacrifice that $150 J crew bikini to the Adriatic Sea.

Personalized cups: before yacht week I ordered plastic cups with everyone’s name, you can find a variety on etsy.com and they kept the drink mess at bay. We had one made for our skipper, as well, he loved it. A sharpie and a solo cup will work also, but its def not as fancy!

Play list, play lists, and play lists!!! New boats have the aux; you can use an auxiliary cable connection you can purchase a cord from amazon for about $5-­7 they connect straight into everyone’s phone or MP3. Older boats only have cd players. Our boat was a 2011 model, we had the aux connection, (note: 2011 standard does not include air conditioning.)

Flags and lights: Country flags, State Flags, University Flags, whatever.YACHT WEEK 2

Battery powered Christmas lights, they make finding your boat a breeze from the shuttle boats when you’re drunk and its dark.

Enough alcohol for a small army, mixers and don’t forget beer and a lot bottled water; enough said.

 YACHT WEEK 7

It’s the little things: We brought out the body paint and it was an instant hit, glow sticks are also fun, be creative!

 

Don’t even think about it:

High heels, pants, running shoes and work out clothing (no you won’t use them, seriously), laptop.

Keep in mind you’re on a boat and your drinking, things get lost easy. Be prepared, someone will sacrifice something to the water. In our boats case it was an Iphone, buy a buoy buddy and every other phone protection device. I also recommend taking knock off sunglasses, you can purchase fake Ray Bands in an assortment of fun colors pretty much everywhere in the world.

 

The Parties:

This is where they lost me. The parties are fun, but def drink before you go! I have traveled in Croatia before and drinks are relatively cheap, compared to the rest of Europe. Not so the case at Yacht week parties, at least in NYC when bars rape you with drink prices the drink actually tastes good and is strong. The transportation to and from the marina or your boat is also usually double the cost you would pay as a normal tourist. That said the Fort Party is pretty amazing, how often do you party in a fort? There is a piano player who can play any song ever created and this point I had learned just buy beer or a shot. Also pack a flask, they never checked.

As for the other parties I could take them or leave them, they are okay if you have never been to Thailand.

Everything said, I had fun at The Yacht Week and had an experience I will never forget. I’m glad I went and experienced the week. My review is not meant to bash the week or steer people from the fun, yet to paint a honest picture of the week from someone who was not paid to go, cough cough.

Would I change that I went to The Yacht Week in Croatia, absolutely not! I would however change the way I approach Yacht Week had I known what I know now. I hope this gives prospective travelers a true insight of this week . You are not that fancy, this is not really Croatia and you will spend a ton of money. That said, I would rather be sitting on that boat with a cold Ozujsko beer laughing with my friends than this dumb airplane, going to work. And you seriously won’t work out so don’t bother with the shoes!!!

~By:  Amanda

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