Friday, June 18, 2010

Dubrovnik to Split on a Double Decker Bus and a Prayer

Mostar, Bosnia

The Old Bridge in Mostar
We'd just driven back into town from Mostar, Bosnia.  And were in an awful hurry.  We had a bus to catch, the last bus of the evening at 21:00 hours from Dubrovnik to Split, Croatia.

Dubrovnik Cathedral and Old Town
We made a quick stop at the cute little villa in Dubrovnik to pick up our luggage.  I hinted to the woman from whom we rented that maybe we should stay in Dubrovnik another night ... we'd be arriving in Split at 1 am without a place to stay.

View of Dubrovnik from the Top of the City Wall
 "Oh no, Split is fine. There will be people at the station.  It will be okay," she and her friend assured me.

"At 1 in the morning?" I asked.

"Yes, yes," she said.  "They will be there all hours."

Although there are more online sources for accommodations today than when we visited in 2005, budget accommodations in Croatia tend to be arranged at the bus station where people with rooms for rent stand with photographs of Room - Zimmer - Sobe. We'd rented our villa in Dubrovnik at the bus station, and it couldn't have been better. We were steps away from the Adriatic Sea, the patio was lovely and lush with green, and we were close to the local bus lines, a pekara (bakery), and the grocery store Konzum, one of about 600 stores in Croatia's largest supermarket chain.

I dropped Nate and Ang at the bus station to scout out bus tickets and wait with the luggage.  I went with Phil to return the car.  The rental office was supposed to be open, but the staff was on break.  And when they returned, nothing about our return of the car was easy.  There was paperwork, typing, more paperwork, more typing.  A phone call or two.

It was a 100 yard dash to the bus station minutes before 21:00 hours.  Nate quickly informed us there were no tickets for the bus.  I went to the ticket window and learned we had to wait until the driver of the bus came and we could be considered for boarding at that time.  This, I suppose, was the Croatian version of a waiting list.  And wait we did, with uneasy anticipation.

Eventually we bought tickets to Split directly from the driver, stowed our luggage, and boarded the bus.  The bus left the station about an hour late, which was obviously disconcerting to the driver because there were so many extra people to load.

Our seats were on the second level of the double decker. If it hadn't been dark, the view of the Adriatic Sea would have been spectacular. As it was, we felt the twists and turns of the narrow mountain road more completely on the second level.  Enroute to Split, I pondered the possibilities of sleeping in the outdoor bus station when we arrived.  I sat in my seat and prayed that there would be a nice lady to greet us at our arrival.  This wasn't a particularly devout, religious prayer, but moreso, a dear God, how did I get myself into this mess and can you please help me out just this once prayer.

Adriatic Sea at Sunset
We drove through Bosnia again, and border patrol checked everyone's passports.  As we came closer to Split, I saw no signs of anyone awake in the Croatian towns we passed. It was so dark I couldn't even see if anything below was charming.  The lifelessness continued into the Split suburbs.  We were staying on the bench at the bus station, I just knew it.

The bus pulled into the station at about 1:50 am.  When we got off, we got our luggage and huddled together to make a plan.  Two women approached us with offers of rooms.  I think we were the only people on the bus who needed a place to stay because they were fighting over our business.  One lady said the other lady's place wasn't big enough for four. She said, "my place is in the palace just a few steps away, and I have two rooms," she said. We agreed on the price, 700 kuna (about $116) for all four of us.
Inside the Diocletian Palace
Soon we were walking on what seemed to be marble, and in the darkness we saw huge white walls around us.  Angie was sleep-walking by this time, and we were pulling her along with our luggage.  I whispered to Nate, "She wasn't kidding, we're in a palace!"  Even in the dark, I could see pillars and shadows of intriguing architecture.  My comment woke Angie up and she asked, "does that mean I'm a princess?" She gets her aspirations from her mother.
Signs of Commerce and Charm at the Diocletian Palace
The lady showed us our room, which was actually two bedrooms and a bathroom. We were so tired we didn't notice the screenless windows, and it was dark so we didn't see a view.
Diocletian Palace Ruins
It was only when we awakened the next morning that we realized our fortuosity.  We were staying in the middle of the Diocletian Palace, built in the 4th C. A.D.  The Palace was a well preserved, amazing jewel.

The lady from whom we rented really seemed to like us, so when she came by the next day, she stayed and chatted in our room for at least a half hour.  She thought Angie and Nate were siblings, and she suggested a possible future meeting between Angie and her son. Nate remained respectfully silent.  He had other plans, which were more fully carried out last year when the two of them married. 
Cathedral in Sibenik
Our stay in Split, in the central Damatia region of Croatia, was a quick sprint through thousands of years of history. We spent the next few days exploring the Diocletian palace, which combined traditional trappings of royal life: villa type apartments, courtyard gardens, a chapel, and fortress for protection.  The palace had been converted into interesting new uses: stores, cafes, and nightclubs.  And at the top of it all, we relished views of the Adriatic Sea. We saw the beautiful castle and coastline of Trogir, and we took the 80 km bus ride to Sibenik, where Ang and I got kicked out of the Cathedral Sveti Jakov for wearing sleeveless tops.  Both of these neighboring cities had their charms.

Our adventures came to a close with a night-long ride back to Venice on the ferry (this service has since been discontinued).  The air conditioning and ventilation system were not working, so we slept on the deck outside, in the rain.  At times, the journey was "breathing optional" because of the warm, moist August air, the crowds of people inside the ferry, and the tight confines of our little stateroom.

In spite of any traveling surprises (there are always unexpected pleasures, right?), we all stayed healthy, kept our wallets, and got lots of great pictures of breathtaking scenes.  And we made friends with the locals.  Whenever Phil, Ang, Nate, and I are together as a family, we note our memorable Croatia adventures with fondness. {grin}
The Castle at the Seaside Town of Trogir

No comments:

Post a Comment