Arriving in Split after another 12-hour commute (yes, I am aware flying is much quicker but my fear of flying just cannot rationalise a two-hour flight over a 12-hour bus), I quickly went to bed. To be frank, I had been awake since 3:00am to catch my train and then had not arrived via my (delayed) bus until midnight so I was not entirely sure where I was or how I had managed to get there.
The following day I awoke early to join a group completing a tour of KRKA National Park. After confirming with my (sometimes unreliable) Google Maps, that the meeting point was only five minutes walk away, I made my way down being sure to look out for a “blue umbrella” which would signal our meeting point.
Let me just say this- the amount of times I have been lost in Europe is outlandish. I somehow manage to take hours to walk places that should take mere minutes. Whilst there are worse things than getting lost in a Europe, when I have a deadline to meet, my anxiety goes through the roof until I meet it. So, after walking for well over half an hour and still not spotting any tour groups or blue umbrellas, I bit the bullet and followed a couple of British girls who lead me right where I needed to be. Luckily they did, because the blue umbrella which was to signal the meeting point of our tour group was no bigger than my hand and folded up in a corner with another tour leaders bag and water bottle. Almost unnoticeable.
KRKA was beautiful and although crowded, I could not wipe the smile from my face all day. There is nothing in this world that makes me happier than being within nature and anyone who has visited KRKA National Park will agree that the beauty you are afforded as a visitor is nothing less than remarkable.
After Split I headed to Hvar for five days- time I thought I would utilise to relax and unwind after a bustling five weeks of non-stop commuting, sight-seeing and drinking. However, unbeknownst to myself, Hvar turned out to the biggest party destination I had visited on my travels so far and each night consisted of more drinking, partying and general stupidity than the night before. Although exhausting, Hvar proved one of the most memorable parts of my solo travels as the people I met, clear waters I swam in, sights I saw and memories I made consume dominant places in my heart.
Having truly outdone myself, in every way a person can- I left Hvar for Dubrovnik, exhausted and completely ready to leave the island behind. What followed next was a delayed four-hour boat ride which landed me in the middle of a Dubrovnik street festival at 1:00am. Confused, tired and surrounded by various animals on the spit (not a welcoming sight for any vegetarian), I attempted to navigate my way to my hostel on very little direction from Hostel World (an app I both applaud and disdain). The street festival around me was so large that all public transport in the surrounding streets and suburbs had been closed off- not great news for someone who’s only directions were “get blue coloured bus towards university”. After walking for what seemed like hours, but was probably around 20 minutes (thank you terrible cardio!), I found a bus station that was operating and piled onto the first bus I found.
The next part is a bit of wild ride so let me preface this story by saying this is all entirely true and none of this scene has been embellished whatsoever.
Having boarded the bus, I tried my best to explain to the driver that I needed to be dropped at the University. He nodded and after a few minutes, stopped the bus on a deserted, pitch black street and motioned for me to get off. This, apparently, was my stop. Utterly bewildered, without a morsel of hope left in me, I departed the bus and began to make my way down the street, aiming to spot a hostel sign in the distance. As he drove away, the bus driver, looking as worried as I, flashed his high-beams and pointed me in the opposite direction. Having no other option, I followed his direction and walked up hill.
After a few minutes (and lots of internal screaming), I saw a sign across the road about the size of my palm, engraved with the name of my hostel. It appeared to be mounted on the front of a block of apartments. I frantically searched for a doorbell or a reception sign, to no avail. It was now almost 2:00am and I was growing more skeptical by the minute. After 20 minutes of banging, yelling and some (small) cries of confusion, a disorientated Croatian man opened the door in his underwear asking if I was lost. Again losing hope (this clearly was not a hostel), I explained that I had been sent this address when I booked online and he ushered me inside chanting “third level”, “third level”.
Climbing the stairs, I tried to discern exactly who the man downstairs was. Finally reaching the third level I was greeted with an outdoor bedroom, in a tomato patch, accompanied by a plastic chair and novelty sun umbrella. Reception.
Unloading my pack, I waited until almost 3:00am for someone, anyone, to check me in and show me to my room. As the minutes passed it became apparent no-one was going to do so and my brain began to flood with questions. Was this a hostel or the old mans apartment? Had I just walked into someone’s home? Was the old man in the underwear even real? Where was I? After ummm-ing an ahhh-ing for far too long, I walked back down stairs and found the same man in conversation with a couple of Aussies in what appeared to be a bedroom. He spoke very little English and seemed barely phased by my arrival at the door. I reminded him I had been waiting on the “third level” to which he scoffed and motioned for me to put my bag in the corner of the room. Apparently this was my room and I had just checked myself in. He seemed bewildered that I was travelling alone and could not decipher whether I had made a booking or had just turned up for the night, looking for a place to crash. Regardless, after much back and forth about a cupboard his son used to keep his linens in (I did not understand the relevance either), he bid us goodnight and left us in fits of laughter doubled with bouts of hilarious confusion.
The following two days I spent in Dubrovnik were a combination of beautiful beaches, good food, even better views, exploring the old city and confusing run-ins with Darko- the disorientated man I met earlier who did in fact, own and operate the hostel. Although I want to attribute his confusion to the late time at which I arrived to check-in, my remaining interactions with Darko proved nothing short of hilarious. Attempting to pay what I owed before checking out, I stumbled upon Darko, again in his underwear, shaving his head in the outdoor sink. Similarly, the morning after my arrival debacle, I received an email from Darko asking when I was going to arrive, as he was expecting my check in the previous day.
Although I could, and probably should, devote a small novel to the character of Darko and his wild inability to adhere to any common standards of running a business (he kept room keys in a jar, in the fridge, along with documents and paper…I am not kidding), he genuinely made my time in Dubrovnik as memorable as it is and I could not think of a better way to end my time in Croatia than with his confused face, calling me a different name, reminding me to pay a bill I had already paid as I left to catch my boat.