Week 31 – Seaside

OMG BEACH TOWN BEACH TOWN BEACH TOWN

Accommodation: I’m a 30 second walk to the workspace, a minute walk from the beach and there’s a grocery store directly below my apartment. We have a two bedroom, one bath, big living space, fully furnished kitchen, washing machine included, huge balcony facing the beach apartment. I don’t foresee me leaving this two block stretch for the month. I’m living with a girl named Eryn, very sweet and has introduced me to the glory that is ketchup on mac and cheese. Apparently Canadians put ketchup on everything – I could be down.

Workspace: RY has created its own workspace in Split, Croatia as a permanent location for future groups. It’s an open space, with tables, a few call rooms, lunch served every day (for $5 USD) and floor to ceiling windows that look out to the water. It’s awesome.

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Community: Split is a tourist town but calmer than any beach town I’ve seen in Florida. We’re along the Adriatic sea, everyone speaks English, there’s a ton of restaurants and bars and tanned men in speedos walking around everywhere.

Currency: Croatia’s currency is the Kuna – like Hakuna Matata as one of my RY peeps said. It’s 7 kuna to a USD – the grocery store and such is very cheap but it’s normal beach US prices at the surrounding restaurants.

Sunday, August 28 – Toes in the Pebbles

With the grocery store and an ATM right below me, life is good this month. It’s not huge but it has produce, basic meats and items that I need. After I stocked the kitchen, I wandered down the beach for a few hours. These beaches are definitely different than the Florida ones I grew up with – both the environment and the people. They have pebbles instead of sand, bright blue, clear water, and the shoreline is windier than the straight shore beaches on the East Coast. The people are extremely tanned, have no sense or care for personal space (if there’s 3 feet of open space they will take it, regardless if they’re sitting right on top of you), lots of skin (no shame in size here, speedos and bikinis for days; and all the kids under 6 run around nekkid – I hope someone put sunscreen on that little white behind), and everyone lays on towels, no beach chairs to be seen. I’m impressed with these locals on a few levels as the pebbles hurt to lay on let alone walk on and the rocks are slick as can be when you walk into the water. I went full American and bought a $10 USD beach chair and I wear my chacos into the water prompting stares but preventing an embarrassing slip and splash as the algae covered rocks kick my butt.

It was a really good first day, filled with sun and hanging out with remotes that I normally don’t spend time with. I ended it by spending my favorite part of the day (those 6pm shadows) by the water with a wine spritzer in hand. Just had a preview of me at 75 yrs old and I don’t mind it.

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Monday, August 29 – New Routines

I’m trying to plan my days according to when I have the most calls for work – if it’s a pretty open day, I’ll do a normal work schedule but if I have calls, I start a little later in the early afternoon so I can be online at the same time as everyone else.

With lots of calls today, I spent my morning reading at the beach, heading in for lunch and starting my work day. It’s a routine I feel like I could get used to.

Tuesday, August 30

Same schedule today, iced coffee on my patio, headed to the beach for an hour or so and then started work later in the morning. The best part of the beach (besides that I’m a minute walk and the water is beautiful) is the people watching. Kids running by in their little speedos (how they run on the pebbles I won’t understand), leather skinned men playing cards, and the grandmother playing with her grandson in the water and then squeezing the top part of her bathing suit to let out the water it absorbed. I literally saw this on 3 occasions, 3 different older ladies. I understand you can get top heavy but a little discretion as you milk yourself, please.

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Today I decided to purchase lunch at the workspace: an octopus salad that was 5 pounds of glorious fish. So good.

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This evening I met up with D and N and we enjoyed $3 USD bottles of wine on the beach and talked. We realized we hadn’t been on a girls weekend trip in months and started making plans to visit Singapore and Bali in October…and apparently sign up for a 5K (half marathon for Natalie) in Ankor Wat when we’re in Cambodia. It’s amazing the things you sign up for after fermented grapes get to your brain.

I also confided in the girls that I had been feeling pretty off these past few weeks – I had been sharing these feelings with folks back home but I needed to tell someone that was physically on the trip with me. Natalie made a great point saying that you go through ebbs and flows when you’re at home too, they’re just heightened here. On the days where you feel kind of guilty for wanting to rest or stay in instead of exploring, it helps to think about “what would I be doing at home” this time of year or day? More than likely you’re winding down from your day, so give in to a night in rather than going on a tour. If anything, just getting my feelings off my chest with the girls was helpful.

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Wednesday, August 31 and Thursday, September 1 – Beach Balance

The beach in the morning, work in the afternoon/evening schedule is really working for me so far – it gives such a good pace to the day and I love that I’m so close to the water. The people watching is still excellent – I watch younger men inch closer and closer to the attractive girls laying out, watch the men continue to play their card game on the beach, and the people here love to swim. There’s roped off areas along the beach but people swim past them with a breast stroke, back stroke, check out my sweet flippers and snorkel stroke.

Friday, September 2 – Old Town and New Faces

I started work earlier in the morning today as I am flying out to Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, this evening. Natalie and I met up with Dianne and her parents for lunch at a restaurant in Old Town. I haven’t ventured into Old Town yet because I’m so content with my two block radius but it’s about an hour walk away. I opted for the bus…and messaged Dianne that if she didn’t see me within 45 minutes, it’s because I got on the wrong one. I gave it about a 15 minute effort and the lack of AC and the slow pace encouraged me to jump off about 1 km away from the restaurant. I’ll manage.

Then I discovered the magic of Old Town: little streets and alleys full of 3 story tall old buildings, slick stone walkways and a million shops and restaurants. I made myself another 10 minutes late because I kept going “SQUIRREL” and walking down an enticing little stone way. I see a morning exploration in my future.

 

I finally met them and proceeded to bond with life back home as Dianne grew up 10 minutes from me and her parents still live in the Roswell, GA neighborhood. Their company works with UGA and used to work with Radiant Systems (my company before it was acquired by NCR) and they knew some of my previous execs. It was a giant piece of home sitting next to me and I told them to expect me on their doorstep when I got back. After a fun lunch of pizza and meeting her parents, I headed back to finish up my day. I walked 25 minutes back with Natalie to her place, found the next bus stop, realized the bus didn’t stop there, walked another 15 minutes to a bus stop, realized that by the time the bus comes and drops me off (25 minutes) I could walk the same amount of time and be home. Google maps is accurate as it took me total of an hour walk to get home…and another 15 minutes as I took my second shower of the day. Woof.

Around 6:30pm I wrapped up my day and headed off to the airport for my domestic flight to Zagreb. And since the Split airport is about the size of the house I grew up in, there were only 6 gates and one restaurant…available to only the international fliers. My gate had a broken vending machine. Croatia Air – you and South America would really get along.

I got back on the #*@!% propeller plane and closed my eyes for the duration of the flight as we made our way to Zagreb. 50 minutes and counting (49 minutes and counting, 35 minutes and counting, where are they with the wine on the drink cart, 30 minutes and counting). After a (mentally) dramatic flight, I landed in Zagreb and ran happily through the airport to find my wonderful friend, Stephanie, waiting at the arrivals. I braced her for my surreal experience mannerisms as I gave a prolonged hug and awkward side hugs as we walked to the car because it didn’t feel real that a friend from home is standing before me in a random country in Europe.

Stephanie rented a (automatic) car for our weekend adventure through the national parks of Croatia and we took off with her driving in a travel stupor and me with my excellent navigation skills – epic weekend ahead.

 

After an hour and only three wrong turns and two closed restaurants, we peeled into a pizza place for Steph’s birthday dinner and drinks. A take away pizza and bottle of wine later, we find our quaint AirBnb in a town population maybe 500 people….well, now 502.

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Saturday, September 3 – Plitvice Lakes National Parks

Up at 6:30am to be one of the first at the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Our AirBnb included breakfast which was a nice spread of granolas, eggs and deli meats and cheeses. Aka my lunch. Budget friendly traveling includes borrowing without permission breads and meats to make sammichs for your day ahead. No shame in my travel game.

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We pull into the park and are thankfully one of the first 30 cars there – a $16 USD ticket later, we’re in and walk up to this cavern filled with bright blue water and an enormous waterfall. We’re there during the morning so the sun isn’t quite over the ridge yet but we know later on that afternoon it will be dazzling.

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Trying to get caffeinated with a coffee made for ants

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We start making our way down to the bottom of the canyon and cross the water over low rising docks – just big enough for two people to walk side by side. The water is a brighter blue down here and I can see it’s crystal clear as I make out all kinds of fish and plants along the bottom. We walk over to the waterfall which is inspiring as the sun begins to hit it – and after a few shots, quickly divert as more people line up. 8:30am start is good but with narrow docks and professional amateur photographers every few feet it’s best to keep moving. We continue to wind along the side of the ridge, crossing over water and passing bright green bushes. There are mini waterfalls every so often along our docked path and it’s simple but with such bright colors and in the crisp of morning it’s beautiful.

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We decided to take Route C, which is about a 4 – 6 hour hike. 4 – 6 hours probably because the park has the worst signage I’ve ever seen. Route C is…maybe this way? Sure why not. We get to a point where there’s a boat to take you across the river – but no signs for the boat or the route or how much it costs. An exasperated park attendant said yes, all routes take the boat it’s included in your ticket. Maybe make a sign with that simple statement chief, might make your stressful day job easier. After our impromptu boat ride, we enter into the northern part of the park, filled with cascading waterfalls and the brightest green plants. The contrast of the blue and green was awesome and it felt like you were in the Jurassic Park set – sans reptiles.

 

 

 

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Every turn was ridiculously pretty although 1. it was tough to capture the color and magnitude on camera but 2. people tried their hardest to do so. In Yellowstone, backups are called bear jams – everyone stops to take a picture. In Croatia, backups are called wet tourists (…because I pushed them in the water. Did that joke get across?).

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We navigated the docks for another hour, then were informed that we take another impromptu transportation of a bus down to the next stop (stop for what? Route C? Route K? Route X to the highest power?) We could have taken the bus all the way to the beginning of the park (the “route” was a big loop) but we opted to walk by the water side trail. Excellent idea on Steph’s part, as it was completely secluded and quiet. The sun was over the ridge so we got to see the water turn a brighter, aqua blue and sparkle in the sunlight.

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As we approached the entrance, the serenity subsided as we found the 2pm crew heading in – oh. my. people. We wanted to catch one more glimpse of our original sight with the waterfall now that the sun was up before we headed out for the day. It was worth throwing the elbows and getting toes stepped on – the park was absolutely beautiful.

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reasons why you get to a park at 8:30am

Post Plitvice, we munched on our stolen borrowed sammichs and decided to grab one drink before heading back to the hotel. One drink in the sunlight was a mistake – we almost fell asleep out on this restaurant’s patio. Giving in, we took an afternoon nap and headed backimg_9413 into “town” for dinner. Our restaurant was set back on the water among some waterfalls – Steph said this town has an automatic sleep machine as the sound of waterfalls constantly serenades you. Maybe that’s why we almost fell asleep earlier. We started with Dalmation coast prosciutto and cheese and then split the trout dinner and grilled vegetables. Everything was incredible – the trout was caught right in the water flowing next to us and I think the veggies were picked earlier that day. It was delicious – except when our European friends behind us decided to chain smoke their way through the rest of their bottle of wine. I went American and got a little upset as their smoke was wafting its way into my unsuspecting nostrils as I was trying to enjoy dinner. I get that it’s part of the culture over here but I’m not going to like it.

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Post smoking drama and a full belly, we got dessert to go (chocolate cake and cheese strudel) and thanked our power walking waiter. (Since the restaurant was built over the water the wait staff had to cross a little foot bridge back and forth between the dining area and the kitchen. I thought we got a lot of steps in today but it was nothing compared to the swift step and hip bouncing of our waiter – he got an extra tip for flair.) And two bites of dessert in bed…and out.

Sunday, September 4 – Krka Waterfall National Park

Another early morning as we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us for the next park. We borrowed more sandwiches and hit the road, passing countless honey and cheese stands that made me second guess why I ate breakfast. The lakes park is set in an open field region with mountain ranges on either side – it’s a very pretty view until the morning dew hits and creates the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t see ten feet outside my window and I think we maybe had 15 feet visibility in front. It eventually cleared up though and it was cool to see the fog circling through the fields up the mountains.

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The other, man made danger on this road was that they put the passing lanes around curves. So you get stuck behind a car pulling a trailer (no one drives pick ups in Europe obviously, so you’ve got small sedans pulling boats, trailers, unsuspecting travelers behind them) and the only time to pass them is MAYBE when another car isn’t coming on the opposite side of this curve. Who needs coffee when you have highway adrenaline? We finally reach open highway that led us through 4 tunnels through the mountainside and spat us out with 25 minutes to go until Krka Waterfall Park.

This was another park that advised us to get there early and already at 10:30am I could see why. We parked, grabbed the boat (this trail and boat ride were clearly marked) and rode along the river to the entrance.

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Your first sight after purchasing your second $16 USD ticket is incredible: a huge waterfall cascading down into a little pool filled with rocks and tiny islands and people swimming around. It looked so tempting to dive in right there but we wanted to walk the trail before the rest of humanity came in.

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The trail reminded me a lot of the Plitvice National Park trail but on a smaller scale – instead of walking along low docks in a big open canyon, we’re walking along docks with lots of small waterfalls around them under a cover of bright green leaves.  This park was pretty as it wound us through different views of the original waterfall, back into the woods full of streams and crystal clear water, and through a marshy type area with waterfalls everywhere. The one downside was similar to the Plitvice Park – narrow docks swarmed with people. I wanted to stop and take in some of the beautiful colors and sights but the disgruntled sighs and gentle pushes behind me prevented me from doing so. Womp.

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After you’ve experienced the woods/marsh part of the park, the path becomes more exposed and leads you to this incredible view of several different pools of water, falling gently into bigger waterfalls as they’re lined with the remnants of the old water mill. The colors are mesmerizing and I can’t believe something so serene exists. Please forgive me as I try to capture the serenity with my selfie stick. #momentkiller

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After our views, we make our way back down to the original waterfall and lay claim to a little island in the middle. It felt very Lost Boys from Peter Pan esque. Dodge some kids, try not to slip on a rock and make your way through the chilly water to a nice rock to sit and take in the waterfalls. The water was pretty chilly but very clear and felt refreshing after our walk. After 20 minutes Steph and I start to feel the tiredness creep in, both from early morning alarms, few hour hikes and lots of people. As we make our way back to the Lost Boy island, a slippery rock suddenly jumps out at me, grabs my ankle and yanks me down. Aka….I totally ate it. I whimper out “St-st-Stephanie…!” and she turns around to what I have to imagine is an amusing site as my left leg’s knee is now eye level with my head as my right leg is somewhere buried in rock and I have cold water up to my chest and arms just sprawling. If anyone asks, I’m from Canada.

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round two with the Home tee

After collecting my dignity and things, we grab a nommie ice cream cone and head back to catch our boat. I do a quick change in the woods because my dignity is still back on the rock and I refuse to sit in a wet bathing suit.

We start our hour drive from the park up to the coastal town of Zadar where we’ll be staying the night. The town is super tiny and adorable as it sits on a peninsula. We find our AirBnb studio and start walking through the town – it reminds me a bit of Split’s Old Town, but a little more open and with slicker stone roads…slick stones and I are not on good terms right now. And on every other block there’s an ice cream stand – I got the impression Europeans love their ice cream but this is on another level.

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Close to sunset, we make our way over to the Sea Organ – a carved out set of stairs that “plays” whenever waves come in. If you ask me, it sounds like someone is just laying on a piano but when a boat goes by and the waves get bigger, you hear the higher notes and it’s pretty. Clouds are blocking the remaining sunset so we grab dinner along the water and then walk around town before calling it a night.

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we’d like equal amounts of wine and water thanks

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creeper shot

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found our selfie on matching magnets. some may call it destiny!

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I lead an exciting life

Monday, September 5 – Zadar t0 Zagreb

We slept in a bit this morning before pulling our things together and loading the car. This is my first time with a rental car on my trip this year and I forgot about the convenience of having your own car and going on your own schedule. We wandered by the sea organ again and through the town before rain and hunger hit. We tried to weather out the storm during breakfast but had to take cover (and an extra cup of coffee) before trying to finish up our shopping and exploring.

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waiting out the storm

One more stop to collect some fun items, a pastry and candy to go and we run back to our car, splashing through 5 inch puddles, sliding on stones and cursing the blisters forming again on my feet. Yes, the chacos made another appearance.

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itty bitty parking space

We had one more battle before heading out of Zadar: European sized exits. We had to tuck in both mirrors, accelerate inch by inch, suck in our stomach and hold our breath to get out of the parking lot – and navigate the other two cars waiting in the one in, one out driveway. Props to Stephanie for getting us out of there because I closed my eyes like a supportive navigator.

Our 3-hour drive back to Zagreb was dampened by rainy weather and some traffic so we were both ready to get out of that car by the time we parked. Our final AirBnb of the weekend is pretty centrally located, with about a 10-minute walk to the town center. After a much needed pee break and a change of clothes, we set off for a few hour walk around the city.

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The only thing I had truly planned on doing in Zagreb was visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships – a collection of items that symbolize a part of a now ended relationship. Next to each item was the story that the person submitted in relation to their donated img_9668piece, some stories were a few minutes read, some were only two sentences. The expected items were there of course, a mixed tape, an old sweatshirt, love notes – but also the unexpected, such as a smashed garden gnome (thrown through the windshield of an unfaithful lover), an ax (to destroy the furniture of a now ex gf) and the most unusual: a toy caterpillar with most of its legs removed. The couple was in a long distance relationship and every time they saw one another, they would tear off a leg. Once the caterpillar became a snake all the legs were off, that meant it was time for them to be together. Still deciding if I should suggest this idea to Wes…The relationships ranged from short term flings, to long term relationships, boyfriend/girlfriend, married couples and even parent – child relationships. That was probably the saddest room. It was an interesting museum and I’m happy we went but it took a minute to shake off reading through people’s sad, very personal items afterwards.

With one last sight to see (another cathedral), we sat down to dinner on a crowded alleyway at a restaurant we chose based on smell. I enjoyed the best meal I’ve had in a month: homemade, squid ink gnocchi with calamari and olives. I can still feel the food high that tasty dish gave me. I wanted to live in this food high forever because my alarm would be going off way too early the next morning, to announce my departure for Madrid.

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Takeaways:

  • Already unhealthily obsessed with Split – it’s tiny and quaint and quiet and perfect
  • I loved my national park weekend with Steph because it brought me back to the beautiful landscapes I would see in South America. I’ve been on fantastic weekend trips these past few months but they were mostly to cities rather than nature. I realized how much I missed the stunning colors and ;andscapes that I kind of started to take for granted in SA.
  • Apparently I have been living under a rock because I just downloaded the Kindle App for iPhone and I have been tearing through books during my few hours a day on the beach. How have I gone 8 months without this?
  • The people in Split are either mid 20s or 65+ with hardly any in between. Or maybe they’re 40 and look 65 because of all their time in the sun. Either way, I see tan goals on the beach every day
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