© 2012, 2018 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
My first trip to Croatia took place in 2012, when I had 10 days of "fun in the sun" along the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic.
[Diary] After an overnight flight across the Atlantic with a change of planes in Vienna, Austria, I landed at the airport in Split (SPU), Croatia. I went through passport control, got my luggage, picked up a city map, and figured out how to get to the city by bus. At a cash machine, I coaxed out 1,600 kuna (US$265) in 200-kuna bills. [Croatia adopted a new currency in 1994, known as the kuna, with the international symbol being HRK where HR is the abbreviation for Republika Hrvatska, the name Croatians call their own country. The kuna has 100 lipa, and, according to Wikipedia, "The word kuna means marten in Croatian, since it is based on the use of marten pelts as units of value in medieval trading." So, hang on to your marten pelts as they might be worth something!]
For 30 kuna, I rode a minibus to the city; it took 30 minutes. I had no idea what to expect of the countryside, but it was not at all what I expected, if that makes sense. It was quite hot and humid with desolate rocky hills up to the Bosnian border.
I'd booked an apartment via the internet, and it was a 15-minute walk around the waterfront. It was in a quiet neighborhood. Unfortunately, the 2-D map I'd seen online didn't indicate the 45-degree slope or the need for oxygen! (Of course, I kid; I didn't need too much O2.) Suzi, my landlord for the next three nights, got me acquainted and took 400 kuna in advance (about $65/night). Apart from a nice, hard bed in a separate bedroom, I had a fully equipped kitchen, dining room/lounge, and bathroom. There was also a wifi connection. My private garden had a table and chairs. After dumping my gear, I went off to the local supermarket to get the usual milk, juice, canned fruit, and chocolate.
Back in my apartment, I had a long hot shower followed by a long cold one. After that, I felt almost human. I started up my netbook computer and the world promptly found me with new email. Soon after, my landlady received a phone call for me, from some Australia friends who were in Split. We arranged to meet for supper. I had several hours to kill, so I unpacked, sorted through all my travel info, and put on the A/C.
At 6:45 pm, I walked to the center and caught a taxi to the Radisson Blue Resort hotel. I met friends Robert and Dawn in an outside bar and we moved to an outdoor table at the adjacent restaurant for a 3½-hour dinner. It had been six years since our last meeting, so we had some catching up to do. [Dawn was my 3rd-Grade teacher way back in 1961!] At 10:30 pm, we said our farewells and I took a taxi back to the center. I walked home, and after a cold drink, I crashed around 11 pm, local time, 28 hours after I'd left my house to begin my trip. It had been a tiring day with a great evening.
[Diary] I eased into the day, heading out around 1 pm. It was quite warm and I started perspiring as soon I got out in the open sun. Split's most famous attraction is the retirement palace complex of the Roman emperor Diocletian. There, I climbed the church tower, walked the narrow alleys, and saw many dozens of restaurants and shops full of mostly touristy stuff. I spoke to several fellow travelers who gave me good advice about visiting the islands nearby. Next, I dropped by the ferry agent to get a schedule for several trips I was considering.
I was home after three hours feeling tired, but determined to stay awake. I resuscitated myself with a snack of ham, cheese, bread, juice and milk, and potato chips. Then I planned the next day's activities as well as a roadmap for the three days after I'll leave Split. A nice breeze blew in the evening, so I sat in my private garden sipping coffee and eating some of Walkers finest shortbread cookies.
At 7:30 pm, the church bells rang out a lengthy peal. Soon after, I headed out for a very pleasant stroll around the waterfront. The outdoor restaurants and bars were doing a roaring trade. Wall-to-wall stalls sold diving trips and cruises, jewelry, religious artifacts, popcorn, grilled sweet corn, fried potatoes, and henna tattoos. A clown made balloon animals. Two men dressed in the full costume of Roman soldiers—complete with spears—were "on patrol". A group of local seniors sang traditional songs accompanied by a guitar.
I walked down to the main ferry terminal where a number of car ferries were loading. The bus and train stations were also busy. Although I wasn't particularly hungry, the smells coming from the street vendors got to me and I found just the right place from which I rescued a large rectangular pizza cut (slice, that is). It was every bit as tasty as it looked. I sat and ate that at a plaza in the Palace complex while I listened to two guys playing guitars and singing.
I headed home around 9:15 pm, walking some back streets. Back in my room, I had a cold drink, got my email fix, and put the lights out around 10 o'clock. It had been a good first full day in Croatia!
[Diary] After breakfast in my room, I went out into another brilliant day and headed for the waterfront. My ferry departed on time, at 9:45, with half a load. The ticket was only 24 kuna ($4). I moved upstairs into the pleasant breeze where I chatted with an Aussie now living in London. Then I took a seat at a table occupied by a retired French-Canadian couple. They were most interesting and we chatted for much of the 1-hour trip. We made one stop along the way. We disembarked on the island of Čiovo. Quite a few Aussies were on the same boat. Nearby, a bridge crossed over to the quaint island of Trogir, my destination. [From my guidebook, "Trogir: Set on its own island, this perfectly preserved old city shimmers churches, palaces and one of Europe's most striking cathedrals, whose beauty is recognized by UNESCO."]
I climbed to the top of an old fortress for a great view over the islands and boat marinas. At the top, a Polish couple from Silesia asked me to take a photo of them, and we chatted for a while. I also had a lengthy chat with a Finn about Finnish history, especially the Winter War with the Soviets. I circled the island and crossed a footbridge to the mainland to wander the local market.
Back on Trogir, I found a seat in the shade by the water and had a semi-cold drink as the small boats bobbed up and down in the breeze. Every 10–15 minutes, a plane came in low overhead on its way to Split's airport. It was definitely a place for tourists. I stopped in at a real estate office to check out the price of owning an apartment, and found it quite reasonable.
I came across the main church, and paid my admission for the short tour. As I was leaving, I saw the steps up to the bell tower, so thought I'd make the trek. Well it certainly was hard work going up the steep pigeon poop-covered stone, and then steel, steps. As I climbed up, a young girl coming down was counting the steps in Spanish. In Spanish, I asked her where she was from, and she replied, "Venezuela!" At the top, I rested and put my heart back in my chest. The view was great. Two young Latvian women asked me to take their photo, and we chatted a bit. There was no bungee jumping! At the bottom, I needed a long rest.
Next, I meandered through the narrow alleys all of which had flagstone floors polished by hundreds of years of foot traffic. Although there were restaurants everywhere, I was looking for a small snack, and I finally stumbled on a little hole-in-the-wall place that made me a nice grilled ham and cheese sandwich smothered in mayonnaise, with lettuce and tomato. I found a seat in a cool place where I ate, people-watched, and worked on this diary.
Around 2:15 pm, I wandered back to the boat dock just in time to see the ferry arrive from Split with a new lot of tourists. We departed at 2:30, and I sat upstairs in the open chatting with a retired couple from Oxford, England. A stiff breeze blew and the sun was behind the clouds much of the way making it very pleasant.
[Diary] By 9:30, I was at the ferry office where I bought a one-way ticket. Back home, I packed my gear, said goodbye to my landlady, and then walked to the waterfront to sit in the shade. Next to me was a Canadian couple from Saskatchewan. We chatted until we all joined the line for the ferry to Hvar Town, on Hvar Island.
The trip on the huge catamaran was very smooth and I was inside in air-conditioned comfort. I sat with a young couple from England. As I disembarked, women were everywhere offering rooms for rent. I approached one and she was delighted to have me stay for two nights. Once she answered all my questions, we walked to her car and drove up to the steeper part of town to her place. She was Bosnian, married to a Croat. My room had two long single beds, a large fan, wardrobe, and fridge. A share bathroom and toilet were right next door. Everything was clean and tidy, and the windows and shutters sealed out noise and light. The total cost was 120 kuna ($20/night), a third of what I paid in Split, but the two places were considerably different. I stripped down and walked several hundred yards to the local supermarket where I stocked up on a few things. Back in my room, I had a late lunch of wonderful black bread smothered in ham-flavored cream cheese, and Coke.
As I went to leave, I met my neighbors, two young women from Finland. I walked into town with them being careful to note how I'd find my way home again. It took less than 10 minutes, but it was all downhill, which meant I'd have to work a bit going home.
I walked along the waterfront for some distance as it wound along the coast. I also stopped and chatted with a variety of people. I booked a bus ticket to Dubrovnik for several days later. Then I found a cool place to sit and bring this diary up to date. It got quite hot and I perspired heavily. The walk up the hill back to my room surely was hard work. And to make it even harder, I took a wrong turn and after climbing many steep steps, I discovered I was in the wrong place. My set of steps was 20 yards further along the main road. Bugger! However, all that work made the ice-cold milk taste even better. The cold shower felt pretty good too. I spent time with a young Aussie couple staying on the floor above me, and we shared some food. I stayed in for the evening sitting in front of the fan. After some time on the internet, I read until lights out at 9:15 pm.
[Diary] I left home around 11 am under cloudy skies, a lower temperature, and low humidity. Back in the US, it was Labor Day, the end of summer and the start of the new school year. But here in Hvar Town it was just another glorious day! People were out in force eating late breakfasts or early lunches.
My first order of business was to buy a ferry ticket, which I did, and then to find a place to store my luggage the next day prior to my evening ferry. I ran into my Finnish neighbors who were moving on to another island.
I decided to rent a scooter, and 15 minutes later was racing away on my 50-cc charger. It was a great day for riding and I took the new coastal road, occasionally stopping to look at things. There were many fields of grape vines and olives, and as I climbed higher, forests of pine, which gave off a pleasant smell. Inside the 1 km-long tunnel I got very cold. 30 kms later, I pulled up at the waterfront of the pretty little town of Jelsa. I got a map from the tourist office and walked around the natural harbor. At 1 o'clock, I took a seat in the shade in a nice park next to the water. Huge pinecone-laden trees towered over me.
Next stop was the neighboring town of Vrboska, a delightful place on a long, narrow inlet, which made a perfect home for the yacht club and marina. Some 200, sleek craft were tied up and bore flags or signs from Gibraltar, France, Germany, Norway, UK, and USA. A man was washing his shiny 1200-cc BMW motorcycle, and I noticed it had Norwegian license plates. He'd ridden from Oslo, using a ferry across to Germany, and he was going on to Albania. I spied a branch of my favorite bakery chain, and rescued a piping hot ham and cheese croissant. As I sat in the shade, a nice breeze rustled through the fronds of the date palms along the waterfront. I could easily imagine spending an extended period there, lying in a hammock by the water, napping, drinking café au lait, and reading.
The large town of Stari Grad was up next, but it hardly compared with the two places I'd visited earlier, so I didn't stay long. I decided to take the old road back home. Instead of having a tunnel, this one went up and over the mountain. My scooter's little rubber-band engine gallantly hauled me all the way up. The views from the top were impressive: down into steep valleys, over to the mainland, and out over numerous small islands. The weather was exactly right for riding.
I managed to locate my room by road, so stopped off for an hour to rest and to have a snack and drink, not to mention 40 winks as I sat on the patio. I headed out again for one last ride along some coastal roads before stopping at the one and only gas station in town to fill the tank. I'd done about 75 kms. I returned the scooter and while I'd ridden motorcycles over the years, a scooter is different. As I told the young women running the rental place, except for stopping, starting, and making sharp turns, I'd just about mastered it!
A few raindrops fell and sheet lightening appeared at a distance out to sea. The sun had set and the waterfront area was bristling with activity: kids playing, families strolling with baby carriages, and people eating outdoors. A light, cool breeze blew over the plaza where I sat eating a pastry next to a street musician playing an accordion. All was right in this corner of the world.
A bit further along I came across a window through which a young man was serving hot drinks, so I treated myself to a steaming cup of chai latte. I sipped that while sitting on a bench on the waterfront right opposite some large private yachts whose passengers were enjoying dinner alfresco. As I was right under a streetlight, I started my first novel for the trip: The Negotiator, by Frederick Forsyth. Just as I was getting into that, the lightening sheets got bigger, thunder sounded, and the wind got very strong and cold. A storm was heading my way! I thought that one thing worse than having to walk home up that steep path and steps was to do that in pouring rain. So, I headed out at a quick pace. As I made it to my long set of steps, some rain drops fell, then some more, and then even bigger ones. However, I made it home, and the rain didn't start in earnest for another 10 minutes.
[Diary] I said farewell to my landlady and took it easy walking into town. At least it was downhill all the way. The rain had stopped and the sun was out in force, so much so that I put on sunburn cream and unzipped my trouser legs. At the waterfront, I sat on a bench in the shade of a date palm and watched the world go by. Behind me, tourists chatted over late breakfasts. It was noon, and I had six hours to kill.
After some reading, I was ready for action, but first I had to get rid of my luggage. I found just the place at a cost of 35 kuna. And as the storage facility was also a laundry, I asked about getting my clothes washed as well. While the price was a bit high, I agreed.
The previous evening, I'd ridden my scooter high above the town and found a great spot for a photo; however, by that time, the light was poor. So now, in a fit of madness, I decided to find a stone path up the steep hill to get that photo. Unfortunately, near the top, my path dead-ended in someone's garden, and I had to go back halfway down the hill. [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] I made it on my second attempt, but was perspiring heavily. That said the view was impressive.
Back at sea level, I found a shaded seat in a small park right on the waterfront. A succession of people joined me on my bench. First up was a young German couple from Halle, near Leipzig. She was studying a master's degree in linguistics and he was in medical school. Next was a couple from London, who asked many questions about President Obama and the up-coming US Presidential election. Third, was an older couple from Vienna, Austria. As they spoke no English, I had to work hard to have a conversation in German.
Around 3:30 pm, I started to think about eating, specifically, spaghetti and meatballs, so I went in search of just the right restaurant. I found it and a great waiter as well, and it had free wifi, so I checked my email while I waited for my food. The couple at the next table struck up a conversation with me; they were from the oldest town in Norway. After my pasta and custom-made milk coffee, I decided to have a small dessert. However, my order for a single scoop of vanilla ice cream was served as four scoops topped with whipped cream! I must say that it was decadent, but I suffered in silence.
At 5 o'clock, I was back in the shade reading my Cold War novel. At 5:45, I went to pick up my laundry, and found it neatly folded in a plastic bag, zipped in a compartment of my luggage. What service!
A line was forming at the ferry terminal, so I joined that soon after, chatting with the Canadian couple from Vancouver who were ahead of me. The 6:10-pm catamaran from Split pulled in right on time and people started disembarking. A rather drunk Brit staggered off and stopped to ask me, "Where am I?" I asked him where he wanted to be. He said he'd gotten off because everyone seemed be doing that. I told him that this stop or the next was all the same; both places had plenty of beer!
Exactly five minutes after the ferry arrived, we were off to the island of Korčula, to the town of the same name. I found a spare seat with table, upstairs, facing forward. No sooner had I sat down, but I had visitors: Ollie and Phoebe from England, with whom I'd sat on the ferry over from Split two days earlier. It was a very smooth ride and we made a stop along the way. I read my travel book to make a rough plan for my four days/nights based in Dubrovnik. Then it was back to my novel, which was so interesting I had to concentrate. Fortunately, the complete cast of characters was listed in the front matter, so I could remind myself just who was who!
We arrived in Korčula on schedule by which time it was quite dark. A whole host of young and old women were waiting there with "room for rent" signs in four languages. I homed in on a little lady near the back, who turned out to be 69 years old. She had a double room with bath three minutes away, with fan, but no fridge. We haggled a bit before I accepted. Well, we hadn't gone 40 steps and we were at her front door. Unfortunately, my room was on the top floor, which was just in the clouds! The wooden stairs were very steep and were made for leprechauns; I kid you not! The bathroom was very nice and the room was decent with a queen-size double bed. There was even a wide-screen TV. The window looked right over the dock with my ferry parked 50 yards away. There were bars and restaurants all around with loud music blaring. And there were no curtains to keep out the light. Hmm. But then I looked out the window and found heavy shutters. When I closed them, and sealed the inner window, it was dark and rather quiet. And with the fan on all night, I wouldn't hear the street noise. So as Shakespeare wrote, "All's well that ends well".
After my orientation, I paid my rent and asked about buying juice and milk. In response, my landlady walked me to the supermarket. I took careful note of all the turns we made and the alleys we passed through, so when she left me on my own I could find my way back. I managed that without any wrong moves. Back in my room, I freshened up and had a big drink of milk. And since I had no fridge and the temperature in my room was 86 degrees F, I drank the whole liter.
[Korčula claims to be the home town of Marco Polo. However, this is disputed by several other cities around the Adriatic.]
[Diary] Just before 9 o'clock, an agent led us down to the waterfront where we boarded a small, covered boat. We crossed over the channel to the mainland where our driver, complete in pink shirt and pink/grey tie, met us in his nice 18-seat Mercedes bus. We had a full load and headed out for Dubrovnik in light rain. The skies were heavy and quite dark. The road was narrow and followed the coast before climbing high into the mountains. The only agriculture was small patches of vineyards near towns. Winemaking seemed to be the only industry. The driver played some nice, local, easy listening music.
Due to the weather, it took us nearly three hours, but by the time we arrived, the weather had cleared, and we drove in to the old town, which looked exactly like the classic picture in all guidebooks. The final stop was at the travel agency's office where a young man was happy to answer all my questions. He said that as it was still high season, accommodation was tight, but he knew a woman who just had a cancellation, so she might have a room for me for four nights. He checked with her, and she did, and it was 25 paces up the street and around the corner. It was a full apartment with queen-size bed, lounge area, kitchen, bathroom, A/C, TV, and fridge, but no wifi. And the view out two windows was right over the entrance in the fortified walls of the old town, 200 yards away. After she gave me my key, she said to pay her later that day or the next.
I headed off to the supermarket nearby and laid in the essentials, and coerced 2,500 kuna from a cash machine. Back home, I paid my rent for four days and put the kettle on to boil. Brunch consisted of black bread, cheese, cucumber, and Earl Grey tea. It was pleasant out and a light breeze came in all my windows.
After several attempts to nap, I succeeded and slept for two hours after which I had a late afternoon tea. Around 5 pm, I walked across the street and through one of the entrances to the massive city walls. Boy were they impressive! At up to 70 feet high and 20 feet thick, my guess is they were built with nonunion labor. After a short walk, I found a seat in a sunny place and settled into a long read of my novel, occasionally watching the tourists walk by and the tour boat traffic at the waterfront. When it was too dark to read, I had a small excursion around some plazas and alleyways. I came across a young man playing classical guitar, so I stopped to listen. It was a glorious evening outdoors.
Although I was not all that hungry, I came across an interesting place that tempted me in with the smell of its pizza. I sat and had a slice and a cup of milk coffee. The people at the next table were from the Washington DC area. Afterwards, I had a lengthy chat with the young cashier about her dream to travel and sing. Next up was an ensemble with sax, bass, and guitar, which played a long set of tunes that Louis Armstrong made famous, accompanied by an appropriately gravel-voiced singer.
Just before 9 pm, I was looking at the program of a string quartet concert that was about to begin when I got talking to a young Aussie couple, Chris and Sam, and we sat at the big fountain. They had quit their jobs, gotten rid of much of their stuff, and were traveling for an open-ended time. Although they were 30 years younger than I was, we connected on so many levels that before we knew it, nearly three hours had passed. On the walk back to my apartment, I stopped off to listen to a sax player. Back home, I closed the windows and put on the A/C. Lights out at 12:30 am. My first impression of Dubrovnik old town was extremely favorable.
[Diary] I left my place at 7 o'clock for the short walk to a hotel where a tour bus would pick me up. Several others joined me there. At 7:30, we left to pick up others. The guide talked in two languages: English and Flemish. (She was from Flanders, and had moved to Croatia in 1994. She'd married a local.) It rained lightly as we drove north up the coast.
The neighboring country Bosnia and Herzegovina has a 12 km-wide stretch of land that runs down to the sea, separating the Dubrovnik province from the rest of Croatia. We crossed the border and then after a pit stop, we crossed back into Croatia. At the River Neretva we turned north passing through a former mosquito-infested swamp that the Austro-Hungarians had drained 100 years ago. Now, the area was a 1,000-acre agricultural basin where citrus (primarily mandarins), stone fruits, melons, and salad vegetables are grown. We followed the river to the Bosnian border where our passports were scanned and a border policeman came on board to look us over. We made a short stop in a village with a mosque and tourist trinket stalls. It was nearly five hours since I left my place, and I was fading.
Right around noon, we rolled into Mostar, the focus of the trip. A local guide took us English speakers on a walking tour. The first stop was the Turkish House, an authentic residence of a wealthy family from the Ottoman period. After that, we stopped by one of many parks that were turned into cemeteries to bury the 5,000 dead from the 1990's war. (A main street divided the warring factions and there was heavy house-to-house fighting.) Next, we walked down steep cobblestone steps through the bazaar and there before us was the famous bridge whose destruction in the war made headlines around the world. I browsed around a few shops and galleries before crossing the bridge and sitting in the shade on a cool stonewall to write these notes. A PA system on one of the mosques sounded the call to prayers. I found a path down to the river and took some photos of the bridge from below. At the tourist office, I chatted with a young woman whose English was excellent. Then I rescued some chocolate milk from an assistant in a small shop and asked her if I might buy a set of Bosnian coins. She obliged me. (All merchants in town accepted Croatian kuna and euros, so ordinarily day-trippers would never get any local currency. The currency is the convertible mark, BAM, which is divided into 100 fenings. Both names come from the corresponding German money.) I had an hour before my bus left, so I found a shady spot and read my novel.
We departed on time at 3:45 and reversed the process coming home except that we had fewer stops. I tried to sleep, but my seat didn't recline much and my legs were just too darned long! The late afternoon sun streamed in my window and I watched the coastline all the way home. The weather had held the whole time we were outside the bus. I was home 12 hours after my bus had departed, and I was very tired.
I made a substantial snack and cup of boiling tea, and sat in the breeze at the window overlooking the city gate nearby. Once I got done with that, a long shower breathed a bit of life back into me. As I brought this diary up to date, a sax player played some mournful tunes down on the gate bridge. However, he was interrupted by drums when a procession of soldiers dressed in ceremonial costume, complete with pikes, marched across the bridge and into the city. As soon as they passed, he resumed. Lights out at 9:30.
[Diary] By the time I ventured out, it was quite hot, so I kept to the shade. Inside the old city walls, it was wall-to-wall tourists (pun intended). I set out to make a complete trip around the inside of the wall, which I estimated was 1–2 miles around. As I was too cheap to pay to go out on top of the walls, I looked for back alleys that got me as close to the wall as possible. No sooner had I started that I was faced with 100+ steep steps, and I was perspiring before I was halfway up. I was going to need a vacation from this vacation! However, it got me to a great vantage point from which I could take some photos out over the orange-tile rooftops. Behind me was the small mountain from which the Serbs rained down artillery shells back in the 1990's. One can clearly see where they hit given the new, replacement roof tiles scattered among the old. Several thousand steep steps later, I'd gone full circle and was back at the bottom on the main street, Strodun. I found an internet place and setup my netbook. I'd been offline more than 72 hours, and 60+ emails were waiting for me, most of which actually needed reading. A quick scan showed that only a few needed serious consideration right then, so I took care of those before disconnecting, as I was paying by the minute.
After three hours, I headed back to my place leaving the throngs to their shopping, eating, and drinking. And, don't you know, it felt like snack time, so I made a small meal and ate while I read more of the Economist issue I'd brought along for just such occasions. After that, I sat on my comfortable lounge by the window where the cool breeze swirled around me, and I read more of my novel. Next, I rescued a bowl of peaches in syrup from my fridge and smothered it with a container of vanilla pudding. After all, I had been good all day, so a treat was in order. By that time, the sun was down, the lights were on, and the tour boats in the harbor below my window were tied up for the night.
I went back into the old city and strolled about people-watching. I finished up at the plaza I'd discovered the first night and the found the same guitar player strumming away, so I listened a while. Then it was off back home to read until lights out around 11 pm.
[Diary] Mid-afternoon, I packed my bag and strolled into the old town to the internet café. There I sent a bunch of email and received another pile. I stopped by my favorite eating-place for a snack and a chat. A young Chinese couple from Hong Kong asked me to take some photos of them, and we chatted for a bit. Several weddings took place in the church off the main plaza. On my way home, I spoke to the driver of a taxi at the taxi stand about taking me to the airport very early the next morning. He said he'd be delighted to take me, and set an alarm on his mobile phone call for the appointed time.
[Diary] Needless to say, my 4-am alarm came all too soon. I ate some fruit and finished off my milk. I was down in the street by 4:20, and it was a very nice morning, weather-wise. I walked 200 yards to the taxi stand where I'd negotiated the previous evening to be picked up at 4:30 am. There were many more people waiting for taxis than there were taxis, most of them going home from partying all night. My cab arrived 10 minutes late, and it was a different car and driver than the one I'd booked. C'est la vie! The driver was about to go off shift after a long night, so he was not at his most alert. However, that didn't stop him from speeding, tailgating, or using his mobile phone the whole way to the airport! (It definitely reminded me of Toad's Wild Ride from the book, Wind in the Willows.)
Dubrovnik international airport (DBV) looked new. Although the line for the flight was long, it moved steadily and after 20 minutes, I was checked in and through security. I stopped off in the duty-free shop to see how much Milka chocolate with hazelnuts I could buy with my leftover Croatian money. All the prices were in euros, so it took me a bit to figure out especially as I wasn't yet firing on all cylinders. I got five extra-large blocks, which left me with a dollar's worth of change. The business lounge was small, but had the basics and it was comfortable. The lights were turned very low. From the snack bar, I replenished my emergency rations with chocolate, peanuts, and potato chips.
Croatia Airlines Flight OU418 boarded just after 6:30 am as day broke. I was first across the tarmac and up the stairs onto the A320. My window seat 11A was decent. After takeoff, I scanned the impressive airline magazine. A breakfast snack was served, which I washed down with some coke. I managed a short nap en route to Frankfurt, Germany.
Although I saw only a small part of Croatia, I was very impressed, and vowed to return. [I did in 2016, when I spent 12 days, starting in Zagreb and ending on the Istrian Peninsular.]
Bucket List: To rent an apartment in Dubrovnik for a couple of weeks, and to visit neighboring Montenegro and Kosovo from there.