Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shirtless Drug Lord

The bus ride back to Dub town proved to be just as entertaining as the first.

-we had to stop for gas half way to fill up. Shouldn’t they have done that before?

-Border control: boarded the bus and collected all passports in ONE giant pile. THE WHOLE BUS WORTHS. Then when he was done leafing through them, he dropped the pile off with the driver and we were off. WITHOUT KNOWING if he’d accidentally left one behind. We passed the whole stack back through the bus and picked ours out as if we were in class passing back worksheets.

-The girl behind me farted audibly and announced it to her friends. (In a British accent, which somehow made it that much funnier.)

Dub town welcomed us back with rain as punishment for leaving. 

Luckily our new spot wasn’t too far from the bus stop. 

Unluckily it was up another giant hill.

We arrived at the guesthouse with much too much hope to have it end with... being greeted by a shirtless drug lord.  

The gate was opened by Ole Raskevic, who looked like he wore a shirt maybe 3% of the time. 

He was way too comfortable shirtless. He possessed a large belly, and an even bigger slobbering dog, who had unfortunately, taken a liking/licking to Lil Bea.

Ole Raski shook my hand and that’s when I noticed his extra-long-Guinness-book-of-world-records pinky nail. Surely it was there for some sort of purpose? People don’t just grow one nail that long for no reason. Probably drugs I decided. 

Ole Raski had just enough charm in his smile to make me not run for it. That and the fact we had already paid.

He carried Lil Bea up the first set of stairs and I wondered if she’d break his prized nail. 

He showed us to our room. Our air condition-less room despite the description when I had booked it. His explanation of the lack of wifi was the real show stopper though.  It involved a charades performance including something about lightning, an explosion, and ended with, “KAPOW!” 

Ole Raski smiled and left us to it, and that’s about when I decided I’d be sleeping on top of the covers, whistle in hand.

We were tired but wanted to explore Dub town a bit before leaving in the morning so checking in to Ole Raski’s was the perfect motivation to get back on a bus to go walk around old city.

I was in search of a bar built into the cliffs that went by the name of Buza bar. It wasn’t easy to find in the dark, meandering the streets of the old city. We found our way, my keen sense of tracking down booze, leading the way. It may have been night time but the view was still gorgeous. 

We sipped our drinks to the beat of the salty breeze as it swayed the streak of moonlight dancing on the sea. So relaxing...until I remembered we had to go back to Ole Raski's.

But first, a drink. Also, I wanted a picture, and the next people coming down the stairs to our seating level were the chosen photographers. The Australian women gladly snapped a beautiful photo. Of the railing.

“I’m the worst at taking photos! Let me try again!” she waved her arms about.

Second photo attempt...nailed it!
Her friend, Dr. C, started chatting with us, eventually inviting us to stay with her family in Melbourne if we were to make it to Australia. Oh, and did I mention she's a Chiropractor? Jackpot. We were definitely going to need an adjustment after carrying these backpacks for 5 months, so Dr. C if you’re reading this, hook a girl up! 

Also, we’ll see you for airport pick up in a few months? But, seriously though.

That night, we fell asleep to the sweet sweet sounds of a Symphony of dogs barking.

I "slept" board straight on top of the covers, afraid to jostle up whatever germs and such resided on the bedding. The pillow was so high it was like sleeping sitting up, and resulted in the crick of all cricks in my neck the next day. Perfect for riding the bus to Split for 5 hours.

We bid adieu to Ole Raski, who was wearing the same shirtless shirt as the previous day.  This time at the bus, we were prepared for the luggage checking situation and cost. So, there was that.

The projected five hour bus ride turned into 6, so although we should’ve had plenty of time, we would now be lucky if we made the ferry that we had bought tickets for. If we didn't? There wasn't another one for 7 hours.

Thank god we had a whole bag of Ribice, the weird Croatian cracker snack that shouldn’t be good but somehow was.

We sat in traffic, dangerously close to missing the ferry. 

My nerves inquired with the bus driver, “Will we make it?”

“I don’t know, this is everyday like this for me. Make me a lunatic.” 

It wasn’t looking good.

We rolled up to the bus terminal, KJ and I ready to bolt off the bus. The driver expedited our bag retrieval, and we RAN.

We ran across the street. 

We ran along the water on the sidewalk, dodging many people. 

We ran past the ticket offices. 

We ran up to the ferry sporting our hefty packs and Lil Bea. 

Lil Bea whined by way of squeaky wheels as they soared over a medley of curbs and cobblestone. I was sure one of her wheels would be a casuality.

We. Had. Just. Made. It. Can’t. Breathe. So. Sweaty. Again.

All I could think on the ferry to Vis was that we needed a Home Ec miracle. Food, laundry, and sleep. But for now coffee would do.

As we pulled up to Vis Island, the ferry ramp slowly lowered, and it felt as if we were waiting to be released into Jurassic Park. As long as Jurassic Park had air conditioning and wine, I didn't care.

Our island accommodations were to be a studio apartment in Komiza, on the other side of the island from the main port. All I knew was that someone by the name of Petar was going to be there to pick us up. Also that he was to be my new best friend if this was true. 

We hopped off the boat, Lil Bea dragging her wheels. I was starting to realize that she could be a real brat sometimes.

Like a dream come true, there was not just one person holding a sign with my name scrawled across it just like in the movies…but two, no three. How many of me was there? I raised my free hand (that Lil Bea wasn’t clinging to like a toddler) as a surrender.

“That’s me!” I greeted whilst trying to decipher which of the sign bearer trifecta was actually Petar. We were escorted to a van with another group of travelers and I still did not know which of the three wise men was Petar. Just then an adorable old man approached me. He introduced himself as Petar, and even his handshake felt like a hug. 

We arrived at the apartments and met his wife Donka, who greeted us with the warmest of warm embraces. They spoke little English, but within seconds our bags were off, Lil Bea’s cries put to rest, and   were Grappa cheersing in glorious air conditioning.. Petar and Donka were our miracle. Komiza was already a magical place.

I felt like I had just been welcomed home.

**Disclaimer: I can not confirm, nor deny that Ole Raski's profession was in that of the drug lordish realm. However, this was my take on the situation combined with my imagination. All roads in my head lead to drug lord. And, the pinky nail. Come on people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

5 Reasons Why I loved Dubrovnik (despite the rain, centipedes, and scorpions)

It’s true, my experience in Dubrovnik was an interesting one. 
Despite the near constant rain, the horrid accommodations, and the creepy crawlies I encountered, I did discover a handful of places I fell for.

1. Oliva Pizza: Because pizza is cheap and delicious.

-Lucarica 5, Dubrovnik-

This was good pizza. REALLY good pizza. This coming from somewhat of a proclaimed pizza snob. (One that used to enjoy Pizza Hut, mind you.) But seriously though. It’s seemingly always busy, but worth the wait. Do it.

2. Atlantic Kitchen: Because off the beaten path.

-Kardinala Stepinca 42, Dubrovnik- 

Because of the rain, we ventured down one set of the 24234235 stairs from Old Croatia’s pad one night for dinner, since it was the closest. Boy was this not a mistake. The atmosphere is cool, and the chalkboard specials menu on the wall won me over within seconds of entering this establishment. But what sealed the deal was the calamari. It’s off the beaten path in Lapad, and a bus ride plus stairs from the Old city, but if you’re up for it, you won't be sorry.

scallops and chorizo

3. Buza Bar: Because location...and you can caption your photos “boozin’ at buza bar”

It’s built into the cliff on the sea. Enough said.

4. Barba: Because fresh oysters.

-Boskoviceva 5, Dubrovnik-

Seafood. Classic and some odd dishes; super fresh. I had both raw and fried oysters that were delicious.

5. Irish Pub Karaka: Because drinking beer on the set of Game of Thrones.

-Izmedu Polaca 5, Dubrovnik-

Beer. Fotball. Plop yourself at outdoor tables, and absorb the pure medieval-ness surrounding you. No food, but you can order take out from across the way and bring it to your table.

**While I realize Dub town has much more to offer by way of sightseeing, I did not have much rain free time to explore, so I ate and drank my way around…naturally. Cheers!

And...If you'd like to read some of the tales of my Dub town lodging...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

4 Countries in 48 Hours: Part 3

As we arrived back in Dubrovnik the rain held steady, as did our wine induced exhaustion.  I was pretty sure Carol was in a coma. We bid adieu to our new chums, and reluctantly returned to our toilet paper-less abode.

It appeared that while we were day trippin in Bosnia, the air conditioning had been turned off. The heat engulfed us into the hallway. BUT WHY?! Who would do such a thing?

I took it upon myself to hunt down the remote, since the unit was only reachable by a giraffe. I found it in the communal “living room” and grasped it in my hand as I’d just found gold, and clicked that shit down to 18 degrees Celsius. Sweet relief.

I sat down for a few with the door ajar to slow the sweating a bit. But the bell meat. OH, the bell meat had different ideas.

“I’ve reaaaaaally gotta go to the bathroom.” I told KJ.

“Me too.”

“What are the chances there’s toilet paper again?” My voice was brimming with hope.

I bolted down the hallway and two things happened:

  1. My dreams about rolls of toilet paper were crushed.
  2. The naked Italians complained about being too cold.

Seeing the rage in my eyes, KJ vanished in high pursuit of Old Croatia for some TP. 

Five minutes later she returned triumphant clad with a roll on each hand.  She’d never looked so beautiful. I cheered, marveling at her accomplishment.

“Where? What? How?” I stammered.

All I know is it included a door, a cleaning lady, and a short game of charades… well whatever the story, I was just happy it ended in toilet paper.

“Let’s keep the other one in our room just in case” I said as I ran to the bathroom.

I had just turned into a toilet paper hoarder.

The rain kept on, and we were useless from the wine consumption. We made a plan to go to Montenegro in the morning by bus, which I was pumped about.  I spent the rest of the night in the communal living room researching Kotor for the next day. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone.

My peripheral vision caught a glimpse of something moving, and much too quickly for my liking. RED ALERT. I inspected closer while simultaneously pulling my feet up onto the couch. I didn’t have time to count, but I was pretty sure it was a centipede seeing as it sported at least 238476298375 legs. 

Never trust something that has that many legs. It was moving at a swift pace along the wall and I just knew it was planning to crawl up onto the couch and sit in my lap next.

I moved to the table and assummed the fetal position, one eye on my computer, and one eye on the multi-legged monster. Just then, I spotted something ELSE. 


Because I just saw one. Great…now I had lost sight of the centipede. They were ganging up on me on the double, and I had to scram. Forget the research, we’d have to figure out Montenegro on the fly.

The next morning began much like the last, except now I was sweaty AND felt like I had centipedes crawling all over me.

We left in a rush to catch the bus to Montenegro and I was so happy to be out of centipede city.

After taking a bus to the bus, we approached the ticket counter excited at the prospect of heading to Kotor.

“No ticket. Sold out.”

Welp. There goes that.

Since we were only going for the day, it didn't make much sense to sign up to take the later afternoon bus.

Unless…we didn’t just go for the day?

KJ and I looked at each other with a synonymous thought. One of escaping centipedes, Old Croatia, and naked Italians who like to be hot.

No words were spoke, and the decision was made. Despite having already paid for that last night in Old Croatia’s scorpion ridden pad, we would take our chances in Kotor Montenegro for the night. We did still need return to Dubrovnik for one last night the next day, but it would be at a different guesthouse.


We practically ran, giddy with excitement, back up the 318 steps to Old Croatia’s spot and threw our shit in our bags. Just then she appeared like a magic trick.

“We’re leaving, thank you, scary centipedes, here’s the key” I rambled, throwing money at her.

“Should we bring this?” KJ inquired about the half drank bottle of Bosnian Monk wine we had left.


And with that we were back at the bus station.

We discussed things we wanted to do in Montenegro, since planning was thwarted by things of the 100 leg kind the previous evening. I really wanted to go on a boat, to view Kotor from the water.. that’s all I knew.

The bus to the promised land pulled up as the rain started again. The chaos that ensued is something hard to describe. But it went something like this:

-Everyone and their brother tries to put luggage under the bus. 
-There is pushing, and elbows, lots of sharp elbows.
-Bus driver doesn't speak English and is level 9 grumpy.
-it cost MONEY to put luggage under the bus.
-we are confused.
-somehow we manage to get our bags under the bus and climb aboard, sitting in seats with a sigh of relief.
-we are interrupted mid sigh by a man who claims we are sitting in his seats.
-apparently the seats are assigned.
-someone is sitting in our actual seats and won't move.
-us and the half drunk bottle of wine end up in the back back row of the bus sitting with a barefoot hippie and an Asian couple looking at photos on their ipad (shocking).
-We have no cups.

The bus ride is long, much longer than the predicted 3 hours actually. By about double and I’m getting real antsy.

The Asian couple has talked nonstop at a decibel more suitable for a loud concert. They also think something is extremely funny.

While we wait at border control, the couple in front of me chugs from a 2 liter bottle of orange soda, and I’m impressed.

Every time I thought we were almost there, we weren’t.

Just then we stopped at the water.

“Are we getting on a ferry?”

The answer was yes, yes we were, and this was a surprise to both of us. I had never been on a ferry on a bus.

“You said you wanted to go on a boat” KJ responded.

“You’re not wrong.”

From start to finish, 12 hours later, we had finally arrived in Kotor, Montenegro.  Now we just had the task of finding our apartment we had booked for the night. It was advertised as an attic apartment with pictures that looked really nice. As long as it was centipede and scorpion free…we were good.

The cobble stone streets were a maze and we had no map. I would appreciate the charm much more when I wasn’t carrying my large pack and toting Lil Bea as my sidekick. A random lady read my mind. She showed us to the address and we were grateful.

But the door was locked.

By some miracle, the owner, D, had not password protected the wifi and we were able to call him. Seconds later, he popped around on his scooter and took us inside, up to the attic. TO THE MOST GLORIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS.

“This isn’t an attic!” I exclaimed.

It was amazing and a far cry from Old Croatia’s centipede farm.

He gave us the quickest and most informative run down ever, and we were left in our fancy attic. 

We jumped up and down. 

We high fived like kids.

“Best decision everrrrr!”

We drank the rest of the Monk wine, got ready, reveled in the stacks of toilet paper rolls, and pranced around in the complimentary slippers just because they were there.

Just downstairs from the fancy attic we found a wine bar, perfect for our needs of food and wine. Live music was a bonus. Live musical Britney Spears interpretation? Cherry on top.

We ate pasta while listening to the Monenegrian musical stylings of the two man band who played hits like Toxic by Britney Spears, and some original pieces. I clapped after each ditty. We and the wine we were drinking were their biggest fans.

We slept soundly that night, with fears of ingesting centipedes and scorpions put to rest. I got up early, feeling refreshed to stroll the streets of Kotor before the city awoke. 

Pretty pots

It was beautiful, enchanting, and the charm captured my heart quickly. It was at this time I learned that Kotor truly is the land of cats. Cat lovers unite! They own the streets, are extra playful in the morning, and have an entire museum dedicated to them.

We had to check out that morning, but had most of the morning and afternoon to explore before braving the bus again. Being the stand up guy he is, D allowed us to store our bags in the hallway while we explored.

First stop was a hike up to the Fortress above Kotor. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more steps there are, the more fantastic the views.

We meandered the streets and along the water a bit more attempting to find a boat to take us out. The ferry didn't count. 

We only had a few hours and it was stupendously sunny day. We had heard musings of a church on an island called Our Lady of the Rocks, so we figured it ideal to find a boat that went there. Because churches on rock islands are cool.

I didn’t know if it was the bell meat still fighting a revolution in my stomach, or the pasta mountain I had ingested the night before... either way I was in trouble. But I really wanted to go on a boat. 

We found a tour about to depart that was due to return just minutes before we needed to leave for the bus. It would be tight. We decided to go for it. I hoped my stomach would agree.

The boat was a little crowded for my liking but the views were awesome. Fair trade.

We reached Lady of the Rocks and hopped off to explore. 

It was beautiful, ancient status old, and inside creeped me out a bit. 

I jumped.  

Made some new friends. 

We were back on the boat to bop over to another town and I only knew one thing for sure…I needed a bathroom.

The town of Perast had about one street. My options were definitely limited. I found the first restaurant in sight and ran in. 

Then I proceeded to get locked inside the bathroom, naturally.

Several minutes later...

I somehow summoned MacGyver and managed to get the door to open. Much to the amusement of the waitress and other restaurant patron waiting outside the door. Well thanks for the help guys. Hope you enjoyed the show. I'll probably be back in 20 minutes for Act II.

The tour boat delivered us to the dock in Kotor right on time as promised, and thus began the race to retrieve our bags and make it to the bus station for the trek back to Dubrovnik. And to no one's surprise, we were a heap of sweaty mess when we got on the bus. Again. 

I wasn't excited to be on the bus again so soon...but I was excited to get back to Dubrovnik for our last night and actually do some exploring. The mystery of our night's accommodations awaited to be uncovered. 

It couldn't be as bad as Old Croatia's centipede factory...could it?