Mourning and the Adriatic

Trieste, Italy

One of the last memories I have of the Adriatic Sea is standing on its rocky shore in Trogir, Croatia, bending down and picking up a smooth stone to take back to America with me. To place on my grandmother’s freshly dug grave.

It was a beautiful day in September. Blue sky. Bluer water. And, that day, I just knew she was going to pass away. The thought hung over my head much like the gray clouds which tended to rush over the green hills surrounding the beach in the late afternoons there.

She was dead, and I was in Croatia. Alone. Love, life, loss … far, far from home.

Blog Europe Italy

Fishing the world

“Touch your finger in this water and you touch the world,” Danica said, stretching her body over the side of the little boat we were in and sticking her fingers into the cool, clear water of the Adriatic.

Katie, David and I did the same, leaning over the sides of the boat and dipping our fingers in the water.

It took me a second to understand the heaviness of the statement Danica made, and then it hit me.

This water has been everywhere. It has flowed through the Adriatic, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Pacific … this water has touched the world, and now, there I was, sitting on a little boat in the sea, looking out at the marvelous country of Croatia, and I was now a part of that water.

A tiny little piece of something so much grander.

Our day had started out relaxing, me and my roommates woke up, had food, wandered to the water, rested and then we had boarded the boat along with Danica to go and fish.

We got on the boat and looked around.

No fishing rods.

Danica had brought down some little plastic boxes and opened them, producing pieces of styrofoam wrapped with fishing line once we had navigated out of Solta’s harbor.

We were fishing by hand.

After handing out our “rods,” Danica opened one of the plastic boxes and took out fresh squid, a cutting board and a knife and began chopping up the creatures.

“The fish love to eat this,” she said, slicing the knife blade through the heads of the squid.

I’ve fished. I’ve hooked worms. I’ve caught fish, released them. But, this was different. This was fishing like I have never experienced.

I’m not a vegetarian. I love some good squid. I love fish. For some reason, to be a part of the action was a different experience from me.

“I’m going to watch,” I announced, feeling a little sick to my stomach, as Katie and David began to unwind their line and put it into the water.

I sat there, watching, as the three of them began to catch fish.

I  can’t do it.

When Danica caught her first fish within minutes, I expected her to ply the hook from its mouth and drop it back into the water.

Instead, she dropped it into another plastic box.

Oh my god. She’s keeping the fish.

Then, David caught a fish. And that fish went into the bucket too, but not without a little bloody mess from the hook.

You are on the Adriatic fishing. Why can you not drop a line in and catch fish. This is real life. You love to eat fish and really? Really? NOW you want to get righteous, D?

“Um,” I spoke up. “Can I have a line too?”

I was handed a piece of styrofoam wrapped in wire and began to fish to.

This isn’t so bad. This is life. The circle of life. We catch fish and we eat them. I can do this.

I didn’t catch any fish, but I tried.

Katie had started to get seasick, so we motored over to a cove where David and I had been to earlier in the day and dropped her off, then Danica took out a net.

“We will put this into the water and leave it here, then tomorrow morning, we will go and get it,” Danica said as she began to pull out the large rope apparatus.

For 30 minutes, we went back and forth, laying out the next, dropping large milk cartons into the water to mark where it was, and readjusting the net.

Then, we motored back in to the harbor.

“I will stay here and clean the fish and close the boat,” Danica said. “Then, tomorrow we will have lunch together. I will make lunch for us with whatever we have caught and will catch tomorrow when we go and pull the net.”

She knew how to clean fish? I don’t know how to clean fish. Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who knows how to clean fish. What an amazing woman.

David and I got off the boat and walked to the store, buying some wine and beer and food, then headed back up to our apartment to see Katie.

I reheated my amazing seafood pasta from dinner the night before at Ooh-La-La, the best restaurant in town, and sat down to dinner with David while Katie ran down to the little town and grabbed dinner.

He and I sat outside, eating and drinking and talking until Katie came back.

We talked about our lives and we talked about our experience here, how amazing it was that Danica had let us into her life, had taken us fishing, and how amazing she was — widowed and stronger than most women we had ever met.

When Katie got back, the three of us spent the evening talking outside about life as travelers.

Finally, the alcohol hit me.

“Guys, I’m wrecked,” I announced, stumbling off of the bench I was sitting on. “I gotta go to bed.”

I crawled into bed, feeling my body still rocking gently from the boat, and closed my eyes.

The next morning, David was up at 7 a.m. to go pull the net.

“D,” he whispered, walking into my sleeping area, “You getting up?”

“Nope,” I mumbled. “Gonna sleep. See you when you get back.”

Then, he was off to go and grab the rest of our lunch with Danica.

Blog Croatia

Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y

 

I slowly hauled my belongings from Booze & Snooze down to the port that Wednesday morning, anxious to just get on the catamaran and head to Hvar.

I stood, perched at the ramp to the Jadrolinija catamaran, the country’s main ferry system that weaves through Croatia’s islands and across the Adriatic to Italy,  until after boarding had started with the hope Mel and Shaun would come bounding down from their hostel, bags on their backs, ready to go.

Only, they never did.

I love traveling solo, I really do. I feel like you meet more people when you are by yourself. If you want social interaction traveling solo almost forces you to be a little more outgoing, a little more friendly, than you would in normal life. It also creates a fascinating dynamic — you make friends fast and furious — and then move on and do the same thing, town after town.

I really liked Mel and Shaun, so when the boat pulled away from the dock, it made me sad they were not there, too. I was, once again, solo. But I knew, as my previous travel experiences had dictated, I would meet new and fascinating people as soon as I was ready.

My antics from the night before were starting to catch up with me, along with the throbbing in my ankle. For now, I wanted to zone out and breathe in my trip to that point. 

Blog Croatia Travel

Birthday suits and Split

“Bwar! Bwarrrrrrrr!” Shaun yelled as soon as she was submerged in the icy Adriatic.

“Shhh,” I had urged her, moving my body to keep warm in the water. “No one knows we are here.”

Despite our best efforts to keep quiet, we couldn’t. Our smiles, our squeals of discomfort and adrenaline as the frigid water swirled around our bodies, our elation at getting away with it,  there was no way we could be silenced.

After an epic evening in Split, my new friend and I had decided now was the perfect time to go skinny dipping in the Adriatic Sea.

I knew if I would have declined her suggestion there was a good chance I would never do it. And, I also knew there was a good chance if I had turned it down, such an opportune moment might never present itself again. I had made it my goal to go outside of my comfort zone, and this certainly did just that.

So, I did what any slightly intoxicated traveler in a foreign land would do — hastily removed all of my clothes, threw them on the sidewalk next to the water, and, along with Shaun, plunged into the inky black sea.

The first thing I felt was bliss.

I was naked. In the Adriatic Sea. Thousands and thousands of miles away from my norm. And it felt absolutely amazing. Empowering. FREE.

The second thing I felt was the cold water seeping into my pores. During the day, in the heat of the sun, the water had still been somewhat chilly. But, it was tolerable because of the daylight. And, because who on earth would let the slightly not warm water stop them from experiencing Split’s greenblue beauty? I sure wasn’t.

But, at night with nothing to keep you warm except some alcohol coursing through your blood, it was damn cold.

The third thing I felt was pain.

Blog Croatia Travel

Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic

I stood, trusty bag at my side, next to the catamaran docked at Split’s port, waiting. My bloodshot eyes told the tale of the night before, even though my body did not. It was nearly 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and I was pretty sure amidst sipping the local Croatian beer and shots of  Jagermeister the night before, plans had been made to meet at the ferry and take the 11:30 boat to one of Croatia’s island gem’s – Hvar.

However, as I walked onto the boat, my recollections and the truth seemed to be battling it out.

Earlier that morning, a group of us were at a “nightclub” overlooking the beach, toasting a night out in one of the most stunning places most of us had ever been.

And even earlier, I had been on the beach with Simon, soaking in the warm Adriatic Sun and marveling that even hundreds of yards out into the aquamarine glittery water, my feet could still touch the sea floor with no problem, and I could see the color of nail polish adorning the smallest of my toes.

The Adriatic Sea had certainly taken ahold of me that sunny Tuesday afternoon. Just feeling its cool water rush over me as I swam out, deeper and deeper, washed a sense of calm over me. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

And Simon had, in one brief instance, managed to change my mindset on life – and had unexpectedly made me question everything I had essentially trusted up until that moment as fact.

Blog Croatia Travel