I had finished PA school and had scheduled my board exam, then postponed it once as I was nervous. I scheduled a trip to Croatia for 2 days after the rescheduled exam, to make it very difficult to postpone it again. My goal was to hang out in Dubrovnik and read – anything but medical books.
My planning was somewhat haphazard, so I flew into Zurich and took the training to Milan. What at first seemed like a mistake turned out to be a bonus.
Sep 5, Milan: Of Courtyards And Wangs
Sep 6, Milan: Monsters and Gargoyles
Sep 7, Milan to Dubrovnik: The Joy of Ferries
Sep 9, Dubrovnik: Street Scenes in Old Town
Sep 10, Dubrovnik: Old Town Wall
Sep 12, Dubrovnik: The Quest For Breakfast
Sep 12, Kotor, Montenegro
Sep 13, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Sep 14, Split, Croatia
I spent the last day of the trip exploring Split and the incredible palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, but was too lazy to carry my camera anymore. Split is a delightful seaside town with a vibrant economy in addition to tourism. It was an early night, as I had a very early flight the next morning back to The States.
Language: I was surprised in Italia that my Spanish was no use whatsoever. I expected there to at least be more nouns that crossed over, but I found my (admittedly limited) German more useful there.
In Croatia they speak Croatian, or so they tell you. It is actually Serbo-Croatian, but the Croats claim to speak Croatian and the Serbs claim to speak Serbian, which is a little like New Yorkers and Californians claiming to speak a different language. I made no effort whatsoever to speak Croatian, as I (now) only know about ten words.
Because of the intensity of the local tourist trade, most locals speak a smattering of several language. Almost all menus are in Croatian, German, French, English. I walked in a wine shop one evening and heard the proprietress saying good bye to her previous customer, “Sposibo. Das vidanya.” (sp?) I asked how many languages she was forced to speak in her job. She deadpanned “none.” Then smiled and said that she was pleased to speak six or seven.
Lots of words seem to be truly international now and you see signs for “Fast Food,” “Super Market,” “Hotel.” A lot of words are also pretty obvious: restauran, apartman, autubusni, etc.
Food: I was pretty underwhelmed by the food, but two things likely had a strong influence on this.
1. They serve a lot of fish and I don’t like fish.
2. They cater to tourists, so likely serve things that would appear at least somewhat familiar to the bulk of tourists.
Shellfish (particularly muscles), crustaceans, and fish are quite common. Pizza and pasta are everywhere and the pizza (which I ate almost daily) was excellent. The only truly local food I had was cevapi, which were small sausage-shaped meatballs made of veal or lamb and “grilled” (fried.) I got that once in Bosnia in a fluffy pita with onions and a paste they make with eggplant and sweet pepper. I got it another time in Dubrovnik as part of “mixed grill” which also included lamb kebabs and other meats. I was a little disappointed that nothing was very spicy, except the pizza “picant” which has delightfully spicy whole peppers on it.
As I mentioned, breakfast is almost non-existent. I finally made a habit of stopping by a bakery (excellent baked goods here) and getting a couple interested-looking things along with a bottle of water, both of which I would take my room each evening for a small repast the following morning, then go out later in the morning for coffee.
The wine was mostly just average (I did have one excellent white), I never had any of the notorious strong local booze, and the beer (pivo) was good.
Transportation/Efficiency: As much as they detest the legacy of the Austro-Hungarian era (though not nearly as much as they detest the Ottomans), that period seems to have had some positive influence. Local buses are clean and efficient. Long-haul buses are nice and run strictly on time which is good, as there is no train service down the coast. If something is scheduled for a specific time, it generally happens with little or no delay.
Safety: I never felt unsafe anywhere in Croatia. I was no fool – I keep my wallet and passport in a front pocket, don’t flash cash, and never leave stuff unattended, but I walked around extensively and never felt threatened or unsafe even in the much larger city of Split. Same for Montenegro.
I did feel a little weird in Mostar, but even Rick Steves noted this tendency and said it was without merit. It’s just that the burnt out buildings and bullet holes everywhere give you the impression of a dangerous area when, in fact, it is not.
I want to go back, but next time would like to see different areas: Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. The goal of the trip was relaxation after two years of PA school and taking national board exams. That goal was well achieved.