A long time ago, I went to Croatia. At least it feels like a long time ago – I have since returned to the reality of life, work and responsibilities and all notions of relaxation that I gained on my travels have disappeared. I have been particularly busy on my return to Manchester and haven’t had time to write about my time away. I am slowly putting my photographs up on my Flickr site so you can eventually see photographic evidence of my trip. Just keep checking back for more updates. I like to keep you in suspense.
The biggest highlight of the trip was being able to spend an extended period of time with my best friend, Gill. We haven’t lived in the same city for years and so being able to hang out and eat food together was an absolute luxury.
Croatia was both all that I hoped it to be and full of little surprises. I had imagined it to be a combination of Italy and Greece and found the Italian influences a lot stronger than expected. This was particularly evident in the food with a lot of pizzas, pasta and risotto on the menus. Seafood was the main player food wise and I consumed more seabass in a week than I had in the entirety of my life.
There was also plenty of ice cream around, however the quality was no where near that of Italian gelato. It seems ice cream supply is ruled by two main companies that add ridiculously over the top flavours to vanilla ice cream. This fact, however, did not stop us from averaging two ice creams a day. Ice cream is good for us – it contains calcium.
The beaches weren’t quite as spectacular as those I swam at in Crete but that’s just me being picky. I always find it remarkable to discover that ocean water really can be the bright aqua blue that you see in photographs in tourist magazines. It had been over a year since I had last swam in the ocean so the sensation of submerging into water was wonderful.
I don’t think I will ever accept stone-covered beaches. They just hurt. You can’t sit on them, you can’t stand on them, and they make you look like a stumbling idiot getting in and out of the water. Rock beaches aren’t that much better as you have to clamber over spiky rocks and then try not to slip on the green algae that coats the rocks closer to the water. Where is the romance? The locals and the tourists were certainly making use of every spare spot of sun-baking space. As Gill and I hunted for shade and coated our whitest-of-white skin in ten layers of 50+ sunscreen, we watched as everyone else turned into crispy bacon lying for hours in the direct sun.
We stayed in three towns during our trip – Split, Zadar and Trogir. All had booming tourist trades with restaurant menus translated into five different languages and endless shops selling postcards, white and navy striped clothing, and magnets. While I am aware that I am a tourist myself and therefore part of the problem, it saddens me how beautiful old cities are destroyed by tourism. Nothing is left untouched and every monument you enter has a shop at the exit selling miniature snow-dome versions of what you just saw. While the majority of the Croatians we met were very friendly and welcoming, there were many instances where it was obvious that the fact that we were just another set of tourists was a great annoyance to them. I wish it was possible to travel and visit new places without having to participate in the tourism industry but it is becoming increasingly more difficult. We weren’t even travelling during peak tourist season. I wonder how it feels to have grown up in one of these cities and to have seen your home town transformed into Disneyland. You don’t have much choice but to join in and make the most of the lucrative benefits of rich tourists.
One particularly interesting thing we noticed was that most tourists in Croatia were either German, French or another nationality that we couldn’t quite recognise. There weren’t many anglophones which was a HUGE relief as we couldn’t understand the annoying things they were saying. Gone was the cringe factor I usually feel while standing in a line to climb a tower and l overhear the conversations of fellow English speakers. Instead we just had to deal with grumpy fat germans and backpacking French teenagers. Easy.
Gill and I decided that for our next Croatian adventure we would rent a car and explore more of the inland areas. The country has some fascinating landscapes that deserve exploration and a car would remove the need to join evil bus tour groups and we could see some of the unspoiled and non-tourist areas.