Sunday, October 25, 2015

Just Like College


As we journeyed via ferry from Vis to Hvar Island, I had one thought on my mind. 

And it was just this: “They better let me drive a boat.” 

After the ATV debacle with the Witchlady of Komiza, I was worried that my birthday wish of captaining a boat on the Adriatic Sea would be crushed.  Should they be letting me captain a boat on the Adriatic Sea? Probably not. But that was besides the point.

We arrived at the bustling port of Hvar quite sweaty per usual. I took comfort, however, in knowing that the hostel I had booked was close walking distance to the harbor.  Seemed promising. The only catch was that out of our three nights at the hostel, we’d be spending exactly one night in a co-ed dorm room. In bunk beds. And that night was tonight. 

KJ and I hadn’t done that since college, and we prayed it was going to be nothing like college at all.

A not so quick jaunt up 2983749283 stairs thanks to Lil’ Bea, we were greeted by a locked door and a sign that said “back in 10 min.” KJ and I continued to roast in a stew of our own sweat when the door finally opened. The owner showed us to our humble abode for the evening. All six cozy bunk beds of it. 

KJ and I would be bunking with strangers, literally. Each random bunk was already claimed leaving one top and one bottom open on totally separate bunks. As we surveyed the small space, two spry young twelve year old girls entered the room, squealing in excitement over our slumber party. 

Just kidding. 

Two full of pep young college girls, who were some of our bunkmates, entered the room. After introductions were made, they regaled us with horror stories of the previous night. Tales that involved loads of snoring and sex.  

Oh goody.

“It really wasn’t very economical, the couple that stayed in here last night booked two beds, but they only used one. They came back to the room at 5am drunk, and had sex. It was awful.” The one extra chipper girl explained, so that I couldn’t tell if she was annoyed or invigorated by overhearing the early morning drunk bunk sex episode.

“Oh god.” KJ and I exchanged horrified glances. We were too old for this. A mere day away from my 33rd birthday and this was a prime example my age. We just had to get through one night of co-ed Croatian college and tomorrow we would be in our own dorm room.

“That couple left earlier today though, and two British guys arrived. They seem pretty nice.”

Phew.

I hoped this meant we dodged a bullet.

KJ and I were famished from our island traversing, naturally. So we set out in Hvar town to forage for food. We found our way to a little back street where I was lured by loud rap music blasting amongst people eating meat in the streets…and I knew we had to eat there.


50 Hvar was a burger and champagne spot, and I was more than ready for some meat. We ordered and took residence on the street on a bench. Then I proceeded to house my. entire. burger. It was nothing short of amazing.

MAKE TIME.
After we burgered up, we walked around the harbor to get our bearings and check out some potential birthday celebrating spots. 

And then it happened. The meat I had not so delicately plowed through fifteen minutes prior was revolting. The meat wanted out and I was wearing a romper. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I need a bathroom immediately.” I urgently whispered to KJ.

The panic in my voice was evident. We had walked a little too far and there wasn’t anything around except a playground and that just wasn’t going to cut it.

“There up there!” KJ pointed ahead to a beacon of light in the form of a sports pub, if I could make it. The meat was angry and making itself known in an a particularly unpleasant way.

“It hurts!” I all but ran towards the light.

I finally made it to the bathroom and after a moment realized I wasn’t alone. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one having the revolting meat issue.

“I best cool it til tomorrow” I told KJ as we headed back to the bunks. It was going to be a big day, birthday style. I had little faith that we’d get some sleep.

Back at the dorm, we settled in for the night and sincerely hoped for the best. Around 4am the Brits stumbled in, clearly attempting to be quiet, but failing epically.

“WHATS THE WIFI PASSWORD” top bunk Brit stage whispered.

“I DON’T KNOW MAN.” Bottom bunk Brit yell whispered in response.

Silence.

“BUT WHATS THE WIFI PASSWORD?” top bunk Brit inquired for a second time in the loudest whisper that ever was.

A loud snore erupted from the bottom bunk in response.

“DUDE WHATS THE WIFI--?”

“It’s foufou321“ came from the bunk above me in a chippity chipper voice.

“THANK YOU.” Top bunk brit whispered extremely loudly.  And with that he fell promptly asleep. Or passed out. Either way.

We awoke in the morning by way of gas. Bottom bunk Brit efficiently let an abrupt, loud fart loose in his sleep, and that’s when I gave up trying to sleep.


Besides, we had things to do. Rooms to switch, a birthday to celebrate, and a boat to see about captaining. The question was, would they let me captain a boat? And almost as important; where could I get a captain’s hat?


**If you want to make time for meat: http://www.50hvar.com/

Friday, October 23, 2015

Under the Bell


For our last ventures on Vis Island there was to be a medley of renting ATV’s, visiting every beach in existence, and dining in the middle of the island at a restaurant that was every bit “off the beaten path” as it was authentic and highly rated. I was excited for only all of it.

We made our way over to the only place in Komiza that rented exactly one ATV out.  We figured that would be the more stable way to go, rather than a scooter. The lady at the desk was less than thrilled by us, and our bubbling excitement.

“You drive ATV before?”

“Yes, many times (aka once in Greece)” answered KJ.

“You need experience.”

“I have it.” KJ said convincingly.

“Passports.”

So we walked all the way back to the studio to get our passports and returned to the Witchlady.

“Here you go!” we said handing over our passports as requested.

“No.”

“Sorry, what?”

“No, I don’t rent to you.” 

“But. But you just told us to go get our passports?” I stated quite matter of factly, seeing as it was in fact, a fact.

“I said no.” spat the Witchlady.

Her attitude problem had clearly grown exponentially while we went to retrieve our passports.

“Why not?” I asked stupidly.

“You will go over cliff.” She said nonchalantly whilst demonstrating charades style: us going over said cliff.

And with that our dreams for the day were crushed and Witchlady was responsible. She all but shooed us out and we felt like two school children being scolded.

We left feeling defeated and angered.

“What just happened?”

“She didn’t have to be so MEAN.”

“She was a real witch and you know what that rhymes with? BITCH.”

“What are we going to do now?”

Is pretty much how our conversation went.

We had most of the day until we were to be picked up for our dinner in the middle of the island, and I was itching to do something. 

And that’s how we ended up on Tittie beach. Just a short trek from our studio, we climbed down the hill to the beach that donned a nightclub called ‘Lunatic’ advertising itself as the spot to be. I thought it probably wasn’t, but it was a fine place to lay out on some uncomfortable rocks for a while. 




Glancing around, KJ and I realized we were the minority here seeing as we had bathing suit tops on and everyone else was free flowing. Titties were abundant. Even the rocks resembled boobs.



After averting my eyes from a particularly detailed sunscreen lathering session, I was getting antsy.  The couple on the beach made sure they got every square inch, and a good stretch while they were at it too.

I had to get out of there so I made my way over some rocks to photograph the little secluded cove I had seen when we were walking down. Just as I lumbered over a particularly large slippery rock whilst holding my big camera, two rather naked people come into view. And I was crashing their nude beach party. With my camera. YIKES. I did an abrupt pivot as they began their midday skinny dipping session and got the hell outta dodge.

I was really looking forward to dinner, and Petar had been so kind as to make the reservations for us, as well as arrange our ride. Roki’s was a traditional Croatian restaurant that cooked employing the “under the bell” technique and we had ordered the fish. 

All we knew was that we would be picked up around 7:00 on the corner. So we waited. And waited. And then a crunchy looking car pulled up with an even rustier driver and KJ looked at me as if to ask, "is this meant to be our ride?"

“HA!” I barked nervously. "He’s wearing a wife beater for God’s sake!” But was he our driver?

Thankfully Wifebeater drove away without kidnapping us and we were left waiting another 15 minutes on the side of the road. Just then a proper looking shuttle van rounded the corner and went swiftly by us as we waved our arms frantically.

“Wait! WE are supposed to eat with you!” I yelled. As if an answer to my hangry prayers, a second shuttle van pulled up and actually stopped.

“Roki’s?”

“Yes, sorry we’re late!” 

“Whatever, just take us to your mid island eatery!” 

And that’s how we found ourselves in the better of the two shuttles since it was just KJ, me, Oliver the driver, and my soon to be new best friend, Pico. Pico refused to sit on my lap, but I was determined. 

Pico was a small, eager, and seriously serious dog.  He kept poised in the front passenger seat, his front paws leaning on the dash, ready for action and on the constant lookout as co-pilot. I tried various tactics to lure him to be petted by yours truly. Pico wasn’t having it.


The drive to Roki’s was breathtaking. No seriously though, we wound our way up and around the cliffs and mountains as the sun set.





I all but jumped out of the van, hot on the heels of Pico, who continually gave me the cold shoulder.  I’d pet him if it was the last thing I did! But first Oliver took us over to the bell cooking station, where we met the chefs, and saw important cooking things in motion.


Minutes later we were doing shots of grappa with the waiter; our new buddy Mario. 

"If you need anything just say Mario, Mario, Mario." he instructed.

Three times a charm.

Pico roamed around the property, bobbing and weaving around guests' chairs and I failed to keep his attention for more than a glance. It was starting to really bother me.

'Twas like eating in someone's backyard...in a good way. A gloriously great way, actually. Chatter drifted around the yard; as did Pico. He was constantly always just within reach, yet managed to tuck away before I could sneak in a pat. 



We tore at bread as the yard got dark, and Mario joked that we did not order enough wine. 

"Is there ever enough wine?" I countered.

Then the fish came.


Whatever the bell was, and however it cooked this fish- PROPS TO YOU, BELL. PROPS TO YOU.

It was, without a doubt, some of the best fish I've ever had. Oh, and potatoes and rice, and anything else that was thrown in there. Pretty sure this fish right there sealed the deal for KJ.

Turns out Mario was right, it wasn't enough wine. Easily fixed with another carafe. But we didn't just get wine, Mario also took it upon himself to cultivate friendships between neighboring tables. And that's how we ended up sitting at a couple living in Norway's table and doing more shots of grappa at Mario's insistence. So we'd be leaving with tips for our Norway travels, and a serious hangover. 

When the party was over our chariot awaited us; Oliver and Pico as our guides home. We rode home amongst our new friends, the wine warming the shuttle van. I found victory in the front seat in the form of Pico in my lap. I petted him as he fulfilled his serious co-pilot position, his nails digging into my legs. But I didn't care, we were buddies now.

The next morning it was time to ship out, literally. Our ferry left early afternoon and we would have to say goodbye to Petar and Donka. But first, a departing gift. Petar presented pieces of the grappa plant claiming it was "good for the stomach." 

"Well then I best take it." I declared. I might need some on our next stop, Hvar Island...we had some birthday celebrating to do...

Komiza at dawn


**If you would like to dine under the bell at Roki's: http://www.rokis.hr/en/index.php

Want to stay at Petar and Donka's studio? apartmentskastelani

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Skip the Casual Skipper


With a lodging win finally in the books, we could relax and enjoy Vis Island...and the homemade pancake things that were hand delivered by Petar to our door piping hot our first morning. COULD HE BE ANY CUTER.

Komiza was the perfect place to wander, explore the traditional fishing village, go to the beach, and eat.  

















Our studio had a small kitchen. Inspired by this fact, I declared, “I will buy fresh fish from the market and cook it.”


KJ was not a fish lover. Yet. I’d turn her if it was the last thing I did.

We made our way to the fish market in search of the freshest catch they had. 

Mr. Sea bass stared at me, wide eyed from inside the case. I stared back at double intensity and unblinking, just to make sure it was dead. 

"We'll take that guy" I pointed to my choice.

Fisherman nodded, swiping the selection from the case. 

"You will filet that for us? Won't you?" I asked in a moment of panic.

Clearly entertained, Fisherman smirked the smirkiest of all smirks, paused, and nodded.

Phew.

Visions of cutting the fish up whilst it watched me subsided. Slightly. The eyes still haunted me.

Our dinner tucked away firmly in our studio fridge, we made our way to the harbor to see about getting ourselves on a boat.

There were caves to explore, and beaches to bask on. 


We’d heard rumors of a cave. A blue cave to be exact. I had an inkling it would be super tourist central which deterred me, but upon hearing that the activity following would be a visit to a boat only accessible beach, I was back in.  It was a gloriously sunny day and it would be a shame if it wasn't spent on a boat. 

And that's how we ended up on the Blue Cave Tour. 

We boarded the glorified rubber dinghy with sunbeams warming our faces and packed in tight like sardines with some new sweaty strangers. Suuuper cozy. Twas a convenient thing that we were amongst good company. The folks on the boat, including Skip the casual Skipper, were a fine bunch. We bopped on the waves over to Bisevo Island, a close but not so close island near Vis. 


The wind whipped my hair, smacking myself and my adjacent boat buddies in the face. Thank god for my best hair clip to tame the beast that is my hair. As we arrived to the dock I was internally grateful that we wouldn’t have to wait in what might be one of the longest lines in the history of long lines. I was right. Super tourist central. Good thing we had Skip the casual Skipper and we could sk--
Nope.
We definitely had to buy tickets, wait in line with everyone else to get into that damn cave. The warming sunbeams turned into scorching daggers quite quickly as we stood still in a mass of people that they deemed a line.

KJ and I were mere seconds from melting when we arrived at the front of the line. We were ushered onto a boat with none of the original strangers from our trip over. But we were on our way into the cave, so we weren’t about to question it.
Rounding the corner, Bisevo island’s edges jutted out of the water.
We approached the cave and my first thought was, “well that can’t be it, the hole is much too small.”

Just then the hole birthed a boat. As the seemingly empty tour boat emerged from the cave hole, about 12 heads popped up simultaneously. So that’s how it was to be done...
It was our turn to enter the cave hole and we all crouched down so as to not experience a beheading, and it worked. It was dark and damp in the cave, (obviously) except for the blue light we'd heard about, as we rounded the corner. I have to admit that all 30 seconds of our visit into the cave was pretty cool.

And with that, we were being delivered out of the cave into the open sea again, while another boat full of tourists marveled at our neat trick. All that for 30 seconds of viewing a blue light inside a cave hole.
I almost didn’t care though because I knew that the beach was next up. Somehow all of the original crew from our boat over gathered at the same time, corralled by Skip the casual Skipper. We bounced back into the rubber dinghy, literally. The sides reacted much like a bouncy bounce house and nearly launched KJ as she made her way back into the boat.


We circled half way round Bisevo to a tiny little blip of a beautiful beach that went by the name of Porat. Skip dropped us off with promises of retrieving us later. Whatever, I’d be fine staying here. We were in a little baby cove, with crystal clear, more shades of blue than the big box of Crayola crayons, water. This is what I had been waiting for.






Sun bathers riddled the rocks lining the cove, laying out as if they were mountain goats taking an afternoon siesta. I wasn’t sure how they got out there, but I was sure that they most likely weren’t very comfortable.
A few hours and a few levels crispier later, Skip the casual Skipper finished his last sips of beach bar beer and we loaded ourselves back into the dinghy. Only difference from before was that it had become increasingly windy, and the waves were looking extra choppy. Another boat pulled up with a windblown captain wearing the mother of all windbreakers. Twas going to be a choppy ride…

We braced ourselves as we left the security of the little cove. Boat #2 was a bit bigger and had taken some of our passengers on account that the waves were huge and we were in a glorified dinghy. This gave us a tad more room to spread out and hold on for our dear lives.

We exited the cove just ahead of boat #2 and the games began.

The swells rocked us about like a toy boat. My stomach lurched. We looked back and boat #2 was turning around in defeat. Yikes.

We kept on, of course. This was just another day at the office for Skip the casual Skipper. He was in fact, taking a personal call on his cell. Priorities. 

As a huge wave soaked all of us on a particularly hairy crest that we white-knuckled through, I looked back at Skip. He gave me a hearty thumbs up.

Things I learned on this boat ride:
1.  I tend to sing operatic notes when I’m scared. Every large wave transformed me into a soprano.
2.  My attachment to my best hair clip is intense.
3.  Fellow boat mates become best friends in milliseconds when you're about to go overboard.

Up and down we rose and fell, some waves bigger than the others. 

And on the biggest wave challenge of them all, it happened. My wet rope like hair was whipping across my face to the point where I couldn’t see anymore. I reached for BHC (best hair clip), when we suddenly hit a bump; BHC sailing out of my slippery hand. KJ and I gasped as BHC was dangerously close to going over the edge. KJ grabbed it, narrowly saving BHC from becoming a casualty. I looked at her, with as much gratitude as if she'd just saved my first born.

That was a close one. I tucked BHC safely away in my bag and decided to just deal with the wet hair rope slaps. It wasn’t worth it.

Komiza was nearing closer and we held on for the last bit. Skip assured us we’d be there in a jiff.

We returned to the dock, wet, wind blown, high on adventure, and thrilled to be on land again. We gave Skip the casual skipper props by way of applause, and busted out of that joint.

We had other fish to fry. Literally. It was time to cook up Mr. Sea bass for dinner.



And I did.




 
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