The final reunion

A wave of happiness rushed over me as soon as I saw Katie, sitting under an awning at the yellow bus station in Trogir.

The bus ride from Split to Trogir had taken a little longer than expected, and I had told her I would do my very best to meet her there by 10:30 a.m.

When the bus hit traffic heading out of Split, I began to get a little anxious.

One hour. I have one hour. Oh, Katie, please wait for me.

Fortunately, I was dropped off close to our agreed upon time. And, she was there. Laden with snacks for our 3-hour bus ride up to Zadar.

My smile grew larger and larger as I got closer to where she was sitting, and then she saw me, and smiled too.

“Hi!!!” I squealed, embracing her.

It felt so good to see her. Even if it had only been two nights since we last saw each other.

There is no better feeling when traveling to see a familiar face. Especially feeling the way I felt at that moment.

Together, we walked across the street to stand outside the Konzum to wait for our bus to stop and fetch us.

We had been told the buses come pretty regularly.

It took an hour. Under the beating late-morning sun.

“At least I can work on my tan,” I reasoned, dropping my bags at my feet and squinting my eyes up towards the sky.

While we waited, we kept ourselves entertained.

In Solta, David had tried to explain to us it was nearly impossible to not lick your lips while eating doughnuts.

And, Katie, being the awesome friend she is, remembered I liked doughnuts filled with jam.

She produced two from her plastic bag and we tried to prove David wrong.

Have you ever tried to not lick your lips while eating a doughnut? It’s hard.

I succeed a few times, but the little challenge grew tiring, so I succumbed and decided to just enjoy the fresh and delicious pastry.

Finally, a bus came and we got on. I looked back wistfully at the beautiful town of Trogir.

Next time, D.

Two hours later (not sure how we got there so quickly), we were in Zadar.
The bus station in Zadar is a hike from the old town where we had booked a hostel, so we decided to fork over the kuna and grab a cab to the city gate.

Zadar is not known for its hostels. There are really only two — the Old Town hostel where we stayed, and then a youth hostel outside of town. Both book up reasonably quickly, so we had been fortunate to reserve beds.

She and I made our way down the slippery marble main street of Zadar and found our hostel. It was smack in the middle of the little city, near an abundance of outdoor cafes and shops.

It was a perfect location.

We climbed the four flights of stairs and dropped our bags in our room.
We had one night together in Zadar. The next evening, she was boarding a flight to London.

We spent the afternoon lazily, grabbing an amazing lunch down the street from us, toying around on the Internet and relaxing.

Zadar is a small town — there isn’t much to do unless you take a boat tour of the Kornati Islands. Most of the tours go all day and are a bit pricey, so we opted to just chill out.

That night, we walked to the water and had a gourmet dinner with a spectacular sunset over the sea as our background. The oranges and pinks blending into the greens and blues, finally giving way to the black night sky.

It was expensive as far as backpacker dining goes, but it didn’t matter to me. I had less than a week left, and it was my last dinner (for real) with Katie in Europe.

After dinner, I insisted we stop by the Sea Organ and the Salutation to the Sun, both beautiful must-sees in Zadar. Then, we mozied through town, stopping at a little bar near the hostel and grabbing some beers. After a big beer or two each, it was time for sleep.

The  next day, she, Brian (a guy who I met in Sarajevo and ran into again in Zadar) and I toured the city, wandering down its twisting alleys, eating and drinking.

Katie doesn’t like to fly, so we had to accompany her to the cafes while she sipped wine. And well, she couldn’t drink alone now, could she?

In the late afternoon, she headed to the bus stop to catch a ride to the airport.

In just a few shorts days, I would do exactly the same.

I hugged her tight, promising we would see each other once she returned to America, and then she was gone.

Brian and I walked back to the hostel. He was prepping to go out. I was not.
I found myself craving some “me” time, so that night I stayed in, reading my book and writing.

And researching where I would go next.

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What I learned in Croatia (The List)

1. If you want Zagreb’s Upper Town to yourself for wandering, it is deserted at 2 a.m. There is nothing more magical than having the city in your hands to breathe in. Even if nothing is open, to walk on the old streets, to see the gothic buildings, it is an amazing experience. Bonus points if you have someone with you to share the moment. And even more bonus points if the person is a cutie. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

2. For a trip back in time and an eerily beautiful moment of peace, wander around Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s grounds. It is quiet — a great place to do some writing, thinking, or relaxing.  The unconventional tourist.

3. Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The bluegreen water, the waterfalls that lightly mist you as you walk by, the winding wooden paths — every turn is something new and more beautiful than the next. It’s about two hours from Zadar and Zagreb and a great day trip. Should you want to stay longer, there are a few hotels in the park. The prettiest day trip ever.

4. Don’t get lost. Or take the wrong bus. And, if you do, hope for the bus driver I had in Zadar. Quite possibly one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Remember — if you’re not sure what bus to take, or if the gate number is the seat number of vice-versa, ask. Croatian’s are remarkably wonderful and helpful. English isn’t a common in Croatia, but the closer you are to the tourist areas, the better chance you have. If someone doesn’t speak English, they will help direct you the best they can. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.

5. Take the time to stop in Zadar. If you are time crunched while traveling Croatia, it is a great starting point to kick of Adriatic coastal adventures.  There are a lot of ferries from the city, as well as tours of the surrounding islands. While visiting the old city, be sure to head to the water and swing by the Sea Organ. It’s haunting melodies still play in my mind. Plus, the grilled corn is delicious. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

6. Spend at least two days in Split. Climb to the top of the cathedral in the old city for captivating views of the entire city and Adriatic. Every nook and cranny in the main square has something wonderful. Next to the Lacoste shop is a great little food stop with delicious breakfasts cooked fresh while you wait. The egg sandwich is mouth-watering. This could be heaven.

7. While in Split, make sure you hit the beach. The one with the sand. It’s outside the old city and perfect for swimming, sunning and people watching. Plus,  if you have the right company, it will change your life. Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic.

8. If you want to bare it all in Croatia, you can. There are plenty of nudie beaches up and down the coast to run around sans your skivvies. Just  mind where you jump. Birthday suits and Split.

9. An hour ferry trip from Split is Hvar, an upscale island covered in lavender. Hvar’s beaches are rocky and pebble-y. It’s not too bad, but if you want smooth sand, venture to a surrounding island. Renting a little motor boat won’t cost too much, and you can negotiate. Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y.

10. A bathroom can lead to another bathroom. And, it is possible to shimmy from one bathing suit into another without revealing anything. Well, almost. Booze, boobs and a beach bar.

11. The sea is not free of dangers. Those little black spiky things in the water? They are not your friends. In fact, Sea Urchin are the devil. No, seriously. There’s WHAT in the water?

12. Never say “goodbye” to the travelers you meet. You never know, you may just cross paths with them again. It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you soon.”

13. The bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik is a MUST. Yes, you hug the cliffs, but you also see some of the most stunning sights on the Adriatic. The city of stairs.

14. Dubrovnik is a city of stairs. Be prepared. The city of stairs.

15. Opening yourself to new people, new places and new opportunities can change your entire world. A BRIEF intermission: My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

Do you have questions about Croatia? Tips you want to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

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The prettiest day trip ever


Before learning Jon was not going to be meeting me in Zadar, Amy and I adventured to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

After an hour of sleep, a haul to the bus station, and the pure adrenaline and hope pumping through my veins at what the day would bring, sinking into the seat on the bus was divine.

Quickly, my head bobbed to the window and sleep coursed through my blood. There were a few times along the way when my eyes would flutter open and I would marvel at the road we journeyed down. Amy had nudged me at one point to show me homes that had been destroyed by the 90s war; another time I was greeted with the sight of turn-of-the-century homes teetering over waterfalls and rushing waters.

When we finally arrived to Plitvice, you wouldn’t have known what was contained beyond the thick forest where we departed the bus.

To say Plitvice Lakes is a stunner would be an understatement. Its sheer technicolor natural beauty around each and every meandering turn is jaw-dropping. Its 16 turquoise lakes link together through waterfalls cascading down sheer rock cliffs. Unlike most water bodies I have seen, you can see straight to the bottom with astounding clarity. That twig resting on the lake floor? You can see even the most minute detail.

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A Hollywood ending. Almost.

The four of us walked aimlessly at first from the bar, trying to determine where we were headed. The boys wanted to go clubbing, and I wasn’t going to debate.

Jon and I led the group. I had seen the club, Park, earlier in the day. Tin had pointed it out to me on our drive. The club was tucked in (shocker) a park by the cathedral, so I kind of knew where to go. Being backpackers on a budget, we opted to stop first at the gas station across the street and stock up on some beers.

Well, Jon and I did. The others just hung out. Slightly buzzed already, we stared at the cooler debating which poison we wanted and what size. We ended up with some super-sized cans of Croatian beer. Two a-piece. The plan was to sneak them into the club, so we shoved three of them into my purse and one into his shorts. It wasn’t the classiest. It wasn’t the most honest. But, it saved us a few KN so we weren’t going to feel too bad about it. Especially after Jon forked over cover for both of us.

Inside was unlike any club I had ever experienced. There was a terrace, a bar and a dance area with the DJ set on a slightly raised stage. A mix of Euro house music and cheesy 80s music flooded the room. Jon and I looked at each other and headed straight for the bar for a shot.

Needless to say, we did not last long there. We bopped our heads to the bad music and when the DJ made an announcement in Croatian, Jon could only interpret it as an apology for the crap we were listening to, and reasoned that he must have left his music at home and what we were listening to was the backup.

The rest of our party seemed to be having a good time so they weren’t keen to follow us when Jon and I decided to depart for greener pastures (and to meet his friends at another club). The thing about greener pastures is this — once you get there, they aren’t so green. Luckily for us, we never made it to another club.

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The new roommate

Davor and I stood on Fulir’s balcony, overlooking the tiny shops and bar below. He was telling me a Canadian girl was staying here and also going to Plitvice Lakes the next day, and when she got back, he promised he would introduce us so we could take the bus together the following morning. He had tried to explain to me where the bus station was, but when I became exasperated because of my lack of map-reading skills, I just asked if him or Tin, a worker at the hostel I had befriended the night before, would come with me so I wouldn’t get lost. Instead of agreeing to that, Tin said he would drive me to the bus station to purchase the ticket.

It worked for me.

That’s when I saw Him on the street below.  He caught my eye immediately. Perfect height (I’d probably recon around 5’9 or so). Perfect weight (the right blend between athletic and non-athletic). And completely different from the typical guy.

He wore plaid shorts, a dark shirt and shiny gold-framed sunglasses. He had a healthy serving of tattoos on his arms and legs, and a lip ring hooped through the middle of his bottom lip. His brown hair was cropped close to his head.

There was no way he was staying at Fulir. He just didn’t fit the mold of a typical backpack-hostel-goer. But, he walked up the ancient, red colored stairs, pulled a key out of his pocket and walked through the yellow painted door into the room I was staying in. When he walked in I caught a glimpse of a tattoo peaking through his hair on the back of his head and melted just a little bit.

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