Monday, August 1, 2011

Trekkin' in Croatia & Bosnia

This past weekend was pure bliss!!  I spent the long bank holiday weekend in Dubrovnik, a small coastal village in Croatia on the Adriatic sea, and I must say, I am in LOVE with this place!!!  The city is absolutely gorgeous, and the clear turquoise water is so refreshing after laying out in the hot sun.   Made sure to spf it up so i didn't come home looking like a tomoato. 

I arrived early Friday afternoon and checked in to my hostel.  The hostel is family-run: mom, dad, and their 6 kids.  The mom was absolutely amazing and really treats all the travelers as if they're her own kids - I was greeted upon check-in with a delicious spaghetti with mussels and home-made tomato sauce.  SOOOOO yummy. I think I gained like 5 pounds over the weekend just eating all of her amazing cooking.  

After the great meal I really just wanted to take a nap (I'd been up since 4am for 6am flight), however, I pushed through the pain and hopped on a bus to explore the old town.  I didn't have my camera with me, but here are some pics of what the city looks like:

The next day I got up early to try to plead my way into the hostel's Bosnia day trip (all 6 slots had been filled). Luckily our guide (one of the sons of the hostel owner) was in a good mood and let me squish in the backseat of the van.   Our group consisted of one Argentinian, one Brazilian, 3 girls from Ohio State who were studying abroad in Italy, and one girl from the Isle of Man.  I asked her if people from there call themselves "Mannish", but i guess it's not that easy - they're actually called "Manx."  Apparently "Mannish" didn't fly with the ladies from the Isle.

First stop: coffee break at random shop/bar in the middle of nowhere in Croatia mountains.

 The random villagers we met were some of the most generous people on earth.  They were a group of old men, drinking wine at 10am, and grilling meat over charcoal in a wheelbarrow.  Yes, a wheelbarrow.  And I thought Ryan and I were unique with our parking-lot tailgates...

the essential summer accessory

We wanted to take a group picture with them and I thought it would be funny to take it with a watermelon, but then the men were so generous (or else misunderstood) that they just gave us the watermelon!!  So our guide chopped it up and we were in watermelon heaven.

The Argentinian riding the tractor - probably what the men used as transport to get to the bar! 

Tiny church in the hills. 

 Ibi (our guide) was all about the pictures...

Ibi took us to a cave that he'd actually never been to before but thought we'd enjoy exploring since it only recently opened to the public.  It's the oldest and largest cave in Eastern Europe.  The OSU girls were obsessed with taking O-H-I-O pictures everywhere...ughhh.  Although, they're clearly not english majors given their spelling of O-I-H-O above...

The "human fish." It's the skinny white worm-looking thing.  It's albino and blind, and a species unique to this cave.  It's called human fish because it has skin instead of scales - one of the guys in our group actually picked it up and let it slither on his hand!!!  I guess it's like some prehistoric type of creature or something.  

and we made it out alive! 


We stopped at a really old necropolis in Bosnia.   The gravestones tell a story about the person buried underneath.  There were also cannabis plants growing all over the place which one of the guys in our group took a particular liking to and took like 30 pictures!   

Old castle in the background at another stop where wild pomegranates were growing. 

And the best attraction of the trip which everyone came to see was the Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia.

I sabotaged this OSU picture by making a "W" instead of an "O."  Muah ha ha ha haaaa...

In case you didn't know, i'm the albino one on the left.  

Our guide Ibi - trying to make is muscles look big...haha 

One last pic before saying goodbye to Kravice.  

 One of the guys wanted to stop at Medugorje Catholic church - it's the 3rd largest pilgrimage location in Europe due to reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the site of several miracles, and more than a million people travel to this tiny village every year to pay their respects.

After visiting the church, we had a bit of a late lunch at 6pm.  I think were about 4 hours of so behind schedule (the cave tour was not planned), but our guide said we were the best group he'd ever taken and so he was happy to give us the "VIP" tour!

 I love the Brazilian's eyes in the background - ready to dig in!  The meal we were served started with homemade bread, organic local salad, sheep's cheese that you can only find in the tiny village we were in, roasted lamb on a spit with potatoes (again, all local), and chocolate cake for desert - grandma's recipe. This was by far the best meal of the whole trip!

Our final stop was to see a famous bridge in Mostar, Bosnia.  People actually jump off of it (30 meters or so), but only professionals.

So after that we began the long trek back to Croatia, with a hiccup along the way.  The Brazilian had no problem getting out of Croatia and into Bosnia, but then on the way back they didn't want to let him back in to Croatia because his passport was invalid!!  Apparently he has 2 passports (one with US visa but cancelled), and the other is valid.  Well, he brought the wrong one!  I guess they were able to sweet-talk their way over the border, but it was kind of scary because the hostel was still 2 hours away and we didn't want to leave him in Bosnia.  We also took a different route the way back, so we had to cross over between Croatia and Bosnia several times.  After the first hiccup, the Brazilian had the clever idea of just stacking all the passports together, opened to the photo page, so what border control wanted to see was quickly available and they didn't page through all the passports (all the other pages of his passport were stamped invalid).  And it actually worked!!! Border control barely looked at the passports, and didn't even look in the van to see if the people actually matched the pictures in the passports!  A bit different from US border control... We finally got back at 12:30am (instead of 8pm as planned), but it was well worth it for getting to see some of the extra sites.

On my last day I just relaxed on the beach and swam in the clear blue water.  Ate some more of Mom's great cooking and took another trip into old town to say goodbye one last time.  After dinner I watched the Big Lebowski with some Aussies in the movie room downstairs and played with a stray kitten the hostel owners had found that day and decided to adopt.  He fell asleep right on my stomach and was the most precious thing ever!  He definitely found the right place to wander to because I know this family and all the travelers will take very good care of him and Mom will surely fatten him up. :)

Three days was definitely not enough time for Dubrovnik and I really hope to get back here again (with Ry this time) to do some more exploring and enjoy the beautiful scenery and blue waters.  It went by way too fast!