Hi there! It’s been awhile since I have done a travel post no thanks to Covid-19. UGH. But, staying alive is the #1 priority and adventure travel is secondary. If you read the title to this blog post you have just learned your first set of important words in Croatian! Bok bok is the enthusiastic friends way of a say “yo, whatsup?” and hvala is the most important word —-> THANK YOU!
FUN FACTS ABOUT CROATIA
- Croatia has 12,444 islands
- The Dalmatian dog originates from Croatia
- Game of Thrones was filmed in Dubrovnik and Croatia country-wide
- Home to the world’s biggest truffle
- Nikola Tesla, the famed electrical engineer is from Croatia. No, this is not Elon Musk and Tesla.
- The oldest inhabited city in Europe is the eastern Croatian city of Vinkovci. The city has been inhabited for the past 8,000 years.
- The national flower of Croatia is the Iris.
- The island of Hvar off the Dalmatian coast is the island with the most hours of sunshine in Europe – more than 2,800 hours a year.
- Croatia is the home of the necktie.
Outbound, Uber picked me up from my home in Las Vegas at 4:30am and I landed in Dubrovnik at 11:30am the following day. Fortunately, the great hotel (Prijecko Palace) had made arrangements with the brother of the night shift man to pick me up. Ranko was waiting for me dutifully outside the terminal and right away I knew I had found another good friend in Croatia. Super chill and friendly and offering but not forcing ideas for me to digest for my upcoming adventures.
Ranko escorted me to the gates of Old Town Dubrovnik which does not allow any vehicular traffic. Soon to be discovered was the scourge of tourist over-populated pedestrian traffic due to the evil cruise ships and on the day of my arrival fortunately there were not any ships in port. The next day tho the pedestrian traffic quadrupled due to the cruise ships and speaking with the locals we were all in agreement that cruise ship tourists are like smelly, nasty herds of cows that only leave their cow patties behind. They buy just enough to store in the cabin on the ship, clog up the stores and never have time to spend time getting to know the locals and their culture. I had never been to a cruise ship destination before and I will keep this in mind for future destinations – DON”T GO THERE!
Being in advanced middle-age, I am “down the trail…” so to speak. In hindsight I reflect how the most innocuous inspiration has led to almost changing my trajectory in life.
INTRODUCING LENA KRAMARIC – ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE
Case-in-point – When I researched hotels in Dubrovnik, I stumble upon the Prijecko Palace website I was immediately drawn to their boutique concept of thematically honoring various artists and specifically there was room dedicated to a local artist Lena Kramaric. And, her artwork was unique and fabulous! Subsequently after confirming my room reservation, I reached out to Lena requesting to do a editorial photoshoot and interview with her in her dedicated hotel room and at her studio.
Seemingly consistent with the Croatian vibe so far, Lena was warm and gracious offered no resistance to meet a stranger from Las Vegas with this unique request. The results of this inspirational connection was the ability to purchase two of her exhibition pieces to bring home with me. Even tho I am running out of wall space in my home, art placements in my home are my friends and I am so excited to have a new “friend” hanging on the wall, especially to remind me of the warm friendship that Lena offered and for all my new Croatian friends and their culture.
Lena Kramaric Artist Statement
Exploring the world around me in relation to my own inner world in an introspective and autoreferential way I am trying to connect motifs of the real and surreal, of the actual, imaginary and subconscious in the narrative scenes, leaving enough space to observers for their individual interpretation. I reflect while I paint.
Preparation for paintings are sketches that emerge inside my head around the clock. When I get hold of my tools I work spontaneously and fast, very often on more works simultaneously. Amongst my works there are those that are obvious and easily comprehensible and yet there are those that are less easily decipherable, there are symbols and elements from the real world that surrounds us, which together make a collage of emotions, states and words. Collage as an art technique is an integral part of my work, as well as drawing, which comes at the beginning and at the end of everything I do. Colour and drawing supercede and complement each other in the working process while the paint roller with white tempera partially annuls them, creating transparency or dimness. Vanishing turning into new creation. A painting is created in layers, using trial, error and success to achieve the desired final effect. Taking off and then adding new layers of colour and drawing, a worn-out surface is obtained which is contrasted by bright details. As in life, in which the most unusual combinations of emotions and sensations coexist simultaneously, my works also contain various mutually opposing elements so it seems that my work is a continual process of transferring impulses obtained from life into my work.
Everyday experiences and information are turned into another state of matter. All that is mixed and something new emerges in the form of a painting, sometimes unclear and ambivalent and often unexplained because I move on, in my work as well as in life, undividedly and a bit too fast. Work and life processes are equalized. Private and individual is put above general and collective. I believe that the best way to get through to the observer and to my own self is through a personal prism, which is essential for my overall development as an individual as well as an artist. Female characters have been present in my work since the very beginning and at first glance they are the main figures. At the second, more penetrating glance, they are just the means in my work – they create the atmosphere, pass on information and stimuli from the outer world onto a canvas. They are the projection of my wishes, fears and temptations. In titles of my works or cycles of paintings I use play on words, ambiguous messages.
Sometimes I use text, spontaneous thoughts, which complement or annul the pictorial form. Wishing to explore the unexplored I am building up my own personal and artistic identity. I am trying to find new ways for my artistic research through work. I make use of breaks in my work which occur between particular cycles of paintings, I reexamine the existing-created work as well as my own potentials, aspirations and abilities. Just as I constantly develop, my works change as well – the works which are inevitably connected by the same head and the same hand and also similar aspirations and artistic striving.
My next score was to randomly meet a gal named Lana who was doing commission sales for tours, scooter rentals and jetski rentals. These pop-up sales stations can be suspect in most other locations but it turns out Lana was an amazing resource and 100% legit. She got me hooked up with a sunset jetski rental which was perfect and then lined me up with a Vespa scooter rental. That all sounds easy enough but, actually she had to really hustle up all these reservations and they came together perfectly.
Moj sljedeći pogodak bio je nasumičan susret s djevojkom po imenu Lana koja je radila ponudu za obilaske, iznajmljivanje skutera i najam jet-skija. Takve male prodajne postaje mogu biti sumnjive na većini drugih lokacija, ali pokazalo se da je Lana bila nevjerojatan izvor podataka i 100% legalna. Povezala me sa „Sunset“ jet-ski iznajmljivačem koji je bio savršen, a zatim me povezala s iznajmljivačem skutera pod imenom „Vespa“. Sve to zvuči vrlo jednostavno, ali zapravo je morala napraviti nabrzaka sve ove rezervacije i na kraju je sve savršeno ispalo. Jednodnevni najam Vespe pretvorio se u dva dana, a zatim me Lana bez puno nagovaranja uvjerila da se s Nikkom zaputim brodom u zalazak sunca i to se skroz isplatilo! Nakon što sam napustio Hrvatsku, Lana se “umirovila” i možda će se baviti hotelijerstvom. Lana je radila u cijelom svijetu i bila je vrlo uspješna, svačime se bavila, od prodaje dijamanata do rada na kruzerima, ali ono što znam je da će njezina izuzetna predanost poslu i bilo kojem dogovoru osigurati njezin uspjeh u svemu što će raditi u budućnosti. Još jedan Hrvat-prijatelj dodan je na moj popis. Tako stvari funkcioniraju u Hrvatskoj!
The one-day Vespa rental turned into two days and then without much selling, Lana convinced me to take a sunset boat ride to cave dive with Nikko and that was so worth it! After I left Cro, Lana “retired” and she might get into the hotel business. Lana has worked all over the world and has been very successful from selling diamonds to working cruise ships but what I know is that her exceptional commitment to making any deal perfect will ensure her success in whatever she does in the future. One more Cro friend added to my list. This is how things roll in Croatia it seems!
Based on my driver Ranko’s advice to capture the morning light over Dubrovnik, I headed out early on the scooter with all my gear. I had reconned some of the spots the day before which made for a more efficient commitment to that perfect morning light. Vespa Tours is owned by a very professional man with a good business and the Vespa operated flawlessly and I love the freedom to explore on a scooter. Easy to park, easy to pull over and the higher CC models allowed a big dude like me and 70lbs of camera gear to climb even the steepest of hills. On the second day of my scooter rental I got “lost” up in a valley that borders with Bosnia.
Na temelju savjeta mog vozača Ranka da uhvatim jutarnje svijetlo nad Dubrovnikom, rano sam krenuo skuterom sa svom svojom foto-opremom. Dan prije sam iznova proučio neke od mjesta, što je dovelo do još učinkovitijeg savršeno uhvaćenog jutarnjeg svijetla. Vespa Tours je u vlasništvu vrlo profesionalnog čovjeka s dobrim poslovanjem. U „Vespi“ su radili besprijekorno i volim slobodu istraživanja na skuteru. Lako se parkiraš, lako se zaustaviš gdje želiš, a viši CC modeli omogućili su velikom tipu poput mene i mojoj 70 kilograma teškoj opremi za fotografiranje da se popne čak i na najstrmija brda. Drugog dana iznajmljivanja skutera “izgubio sam se” u dolini koja graniči s Bosnom. Posljednji dan u Dubrovniku proveo sam u obilasku Plave špilje koji je bio fantastičan obilazak pod vodstvom lokalnog momka Nikka…. Na turneji su bili uglavnom samo parovi pa sam osjetio rijetku pojavu da sam čudak, ali plivanje u Jadranskom moru bilo je stvarno poseban doživljaj.
My last full day in Dubrovnik I took the blue cave tour which was a fantastic tour led by the local dude Nikko….there were mostly just couples on the tour so I felt the rare occurrence of being the odd man out but the swimming in the Adriatic Sea was beyond sublime.
The next day was to catch the early morning ferry for a three hour ride to the Croatian island of Hvar. On the streets, Hvar is known as the Ibeza of the Croatia for it’s popular EDM (electronic dance music) but it is also world renowned for it’s production of lavender but that was out of season during my visit. But the harbor of Hvar is exactly what you want to imagine similar to the Italian Riveria or Monaco. Beautiful yachts, a fishing foundation but ready to accommodate tourists. On my second day the tourist “SCOURGE” arrived and anchored off the coast and that cruise ship looked too big to be supported by this local economy. But, thankfully I was off on another rental scooter exploring the island. It was time break out the drone and get some island shots!
Sljedeći dan trebao sam uhvatiti ranojutarnji trajekt do hrvatskog otoka Hvara koji je udaljen 3 sata plovidbe. Na ulicama je Hvar poznat kao Ibiza Hrvatske zbog popularnog EDM -a (elektronske plesne glazbe) te je i svjetski poznat po proizvodnji lavande, ali tijekom mog posjeta sezona je već prošla. No hvarska luka je upravo ono kako zamišljate talijansku rivijeru ili Monako. Prekrasne jahte, oprema za ribolov, ali sve je spremno za smještaj turista. Drugog dana stigla je turistička “kazna” koja se usidrila uz obalu i taj je kruzer izgledao prevelik da bi ga moglo podržati ovo lokalno gospodarstvo. No, srećom, već sam bio na drugom iznajmljenom skuteru istražujući otok. Bilo je vrijeme za izbacivanje drona i snimanje otoka!
My lodging in Hvar was at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort which is more lux that I usually like to stay at but the intention was to do a successful fashion photoshoot. Despite the herculean efforts by my newly hired Modeling Agent Lidija, this part of the trip I would consider a fail based on the final images. But, any lesson learned should be considered a success!
Moj smještaj na Hvaru bio je u Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resortu koji je nešto luksuzniji od onih u kojima obično volim odsjesti, ali namjera mi je bila napraviti uspješno modno fotografiranje. Unatoč ogromnim naporima moje novozaposlene agentice za modeliranje, Lidije, ovaj dio putovanja smatrao bih neuspješnim na temelju konačnih slika. No, svaku naučenu lekciju treba smatrati uspjehom!
Catching the last ferry from Hvar back to Dubrovnik, I checked into my hotel room around 10pm and my flight the following day required I have Ranko pick me up one more time for my final transfer to the Dubrovnik airport.
Uhvativši zadnji trajekt s Hvara natrag za Dubrovnik, prijavio sam se u svoju hotelsku sobu oko 22 sata, a moj let sljedećeg dana zahtijevao je da me Ranko pokupi još jednom za zadnji transfer do zračne luke Dubrovnik.
Outbound customs in Dubrovnik was a breeze as long as I could quickly pull up my negative-status Covid-19 Rapid Test provided by the hotel in Hvar by a super hot young female doctor.
Odlazak iz Dubrovnika u zračnoj luci bio je vrlo brz i jednostavan i to zahvaljujući mom negativnom Covid-19 testu osiguranom u hotelu na Hvaru od prezgodne mlade liječnice. Najteži dio ovih dugih letova je povratni let. Kad IDEŠ na novo mjesto, to je uzbudljivo, ali, kad se vraćaš, shvatiš da će to biti duuuuuuuuuug let.
The hardest part of these long flights is the return flight. When you are GOING to the new place it is exciting, but, returning you realize it is going to be a looooooong flight!
Some final thoughts about Croatia aka Hrvatska (as the locals call it).
• English is widely accepted but just making the effort to learn “dober dan” – hello or bok and “hvala” are appreciated.
• Croatians are friendly, respectful, patient and proud of their country as they should be. And, trustworthy. I never once felt I was getting taking advantage of for a meal price or service or money conversion. Unlike when I go to Mexico (which I really love Mexico) you have to be on your guard 100% of the time.
• I think to do business there it requires a certain about about patience to navigate through the bureaucracies but, you just deal with it as frustrating as it might be. As an example, I sent a whole bunch of Swagman swag to my new friend Lidija via Fedex which was pretty expensive but when it finally arrived there, a local customs agent made the determination that this was a retail purchase and required Lidija to pay an additional fee to have the package released. Like another US$20!
• Internet and wifi country-wide seems to be part of their critical infrastructure and that makes it so much better when traveling. I have ATT and I only get charged $15 daily for unlimited internet, data and calls and I never had a problem connecting.
• As with most countries when traveling, everyone is hip to Whatsapp. Learn it and use it!
• As a single heterosexual male, I can just say in very easy general terms that Croatian women are BEAUTIFUL! And, more than that, at night they take pride in being women and most of them will wear a dress or some sort of fashion that just takes their femininity to a whole new level. And, they don’t need to hang their tits or ass to get attention. Really, really refreshing not to see women just running around in faux yoga clothes 100% of the time!
• Because it is still “summer” like weather, I ate EVERY MEAL outside. If I ever build a dream house it must include a feature like this. Much healthier eating outside and certainly without the television blaring.
• Walk like a champ! My driver Ranko gave me a tip I thought insignificant at the time – he said make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes not just flip flops. Because, with all the stone streets, when it rains even for a quick drizzle, the cobblestone streets become very slippery. But, here in the west walking as the primary mode of getting around is not realistic but I am going try and integrate a walking regiment into my lifestyle.
1. Learn just a little bit of the language and culture ahead of time. I cannot recommend Lidija highly enough – I now consider her a friend for life!
2. DO NOT VISIT CROATIA on a cruise ship. Spend time to meet Croatians and learn about their culture. It is worth your time, believe me!
3. Per my friend Lidija, eat as much fish as you can. Every fish meal was delish! Also, Croatia is known for their cheeses and I can tell you I had the best pizza ever in Dubrovnik and I would attribute that to the cheese and the pepperoni replacement option of local prosciutto!
4. If possible stay a few days on a different island. I have yet to spend anytime inland, but the coastline of Croatia is vast with so many different options.
5. Book your Croatia trip as soon as possible. It is already exploding as the fav destination for Celebs as the most chill and paparazzi free zone. Thus, many of the bays are filled with gillion $$ yachts but, for now this is still one of these “unknown” destinations that could change your life forever!
I am so thankful that I had visited Croatia before I read this book. The cultural differences are amazing and almost frightening to an Amerikan like me but very, very practical. And, this is why I love Croatia. The culture is uniquely unique unlike any other country.
This is the lighthearted story of American Cody McClain Brown’s adjustments to life in Croatia. After falling in love with an enigmatic, beautiful Croatian girl (whom he knows is from Croatia but assumes that means Russia), Cody eventually woos her and the two move to Split, Croatia. There, he encounters a world of deadly drafts, endless coffees, and the forceful will of his matriarchal mother-in-law. Chasing a Croatian Girl moves past the beautiful pictures of Croatia and humorously discovers the beauty of Croatia’s people and culture…
Special thanks to my new Cro friend Lidija for telling me about this book!