Okay. So think for a second. What do you know about Croatia?
Yeah, that’s what I figured. Me neither. And this is precisely the reason why I booked a four-day trip there with Bus2Alps, starting out with a how-could-you-say-no 10 hour bus ride. This actually sounds a lot worse than it is. In reality, I find it pretty nice to show up at the train station in my pajamas, squeeze myself into a bus seat, pop some NiteQuil, and wake up to the sun rising in another country. Doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?
A tour guide from Bus2Alps that we have traveled with before, Tiernan, told us that Croatia looks like Pandora. I was a little skeptical, because come on now, what kind of place looks like Pandora? We’re not in damn Australia over here, we’re in Europe. However, once my NiteQuil wore off in the morning and I scrubbed the pillow face lines off of me, I could see pretty clearly that she was right.
Driving into Split, the city we were staying in (and one of the major cities of Croatia) it was neat to see the towering apartment buildings that look more like little pods more than anything else, their soft edges seemingly swaying with the breeze. I’ve been to beaches before, people. I have been to a lot of beaches. But when that beautiful beach is next to a city made of white marble with tan-skinned Amazon people who speak a language that sounds as unfamiliar as German or Norwegian? Uhh yeah. We’re not in the Bahamas.
After we check into our hostel, Goli & Bosi (“Naked and Barefoot” in Croatian), we run upstairs to explore a little bit, a pretty impressive feat considered we just slept on a bus (again). The entire place is highlighter yellow. And I mean EVERYTHING is highlighter yellow. Definitely a nice way to wake up in the morning. All of the room numbers are written on the floor, along with the entire history of the world. Every floor corresponds to a century. Walking into our room, we see that the seven beds have been packed into the walls, looking like little private pods packed into the tiny room.
Soon after, we shuffle out to go to our tour of the Cetina River VIA WHITE WATER RAPIDS. I’m not much of a rafter (I don’t really like dirt… or cold…) but if there’s a place to white water raft, this seems like the place to do it. Plus it’s hot as hell outside. Good deal.
We are all given wetsuits and boots, which seem unnecessary at the time given that it’s literally like 90 degrees outside. After shimmying into them, it’s hard to refrain from taking Power Ranger pictures. Our tour guide, a big hefty Croatian man named Stefan with beautiful blue eyes, tells us in his cool and collected English how to paddle and basically not die. After we prove that we are a worthy team, he invites us to take a jump into the water.
Umm literally the coldest water of my life. Five seconds in and we are begging Stefan to let us back into the raft. This wetsuit has done nothing for me except for maybe make me colder. Stefan shows us how to pull ourselves into the raft, but of course, no one can do it, so he holds out his arms for us to grab onto to pull us in. It is at this point that the Big Crazy Croatian comes out.
ONE, TWO, THREE, OPAAAAAA! he yells as he literally throws us into the boat.
Paddling down the river, it’s clear that these rapids aren’t really as intense as I was hoping, but Stefan steers us well and tells us of his days as a professional rafter (didn’t know this existed) and how his Croatian team went to the world trials. He tells us how he loves to surf and bike, and looking at the guy, that was pretty obvious anyhow.
About halfway down the Cetina River, we stop at some cliffs and Stefan invites us to jump off of them. I hate to say it, but I stayed in that damn boat. Jumping from a cliff into water that’s colder than an ice bath? No thanks, pretty sure I already have hypothermia anyhow.
We boat past a little farm with horses that literally just run wild, with only bells around their neck for their owners to find them. Stefan says that they always come home anyway- who wants to sit out in the rain? It’s nice to see the natural streams and the Croatian countryside and mountains, which look remarkably similar to the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
At the end of our leg of the river, we stop at an old mill alongside the water to have dinner. I ordered the seafood… which is a whole fish. Not a fish filet. A fish. With eyes and bones and a face. I have to cut this off with my eyes closed just so I can eat it, and even still, I am picking out bones the entire time and possibly choking a little bit. None of this seems to matter though when you are literally eating the best meal of your life. People make grossed out faces when my fish is served, but I really don’t care, because it is seriously awesome.
That night, we sign up for a pub crawl throughout Split. At the first pub, there is open bar, in which our bartenders gladly make us strong drinks of cheap vodka and soda, because hell, I am getting my 20 euros worth. My favorite part of this isn’t actually being in the bars (however of course this is great too), but really, it’s wandering Split, a city of marble, with a drink in my hand as we clamor through tiny alleyways and rosebushes.