I know it’s all about 2019, but let’s not be too hasty to shun it’s little brother 2018 (he still has a lot to offer!), and in that spirit – here’s what I got up to offline in the last three months of last year.
Another Visit To The Motherland
Where I got to experience the autumn season for the first time in years! This meant I got to experience things like roasting chestnuts, eating young walnuts and waking through Wuthering Heights-level mist, ‘Oh Heathcliff!”.
A Stop In Rastoke
On my way to Bosnia I spent a few hours in Rastoke, a town that’s known for its waterfalls and mills. It’s one of those fairy tale type towns you won’t believe actually exist until you see it in one of those listicles. I get it! I mean look at it. Add it to your go-to list guys.
No matter how many vitamin D pills I pop … S.A.D has kicked in, I did put in some effort to get out so most weekends didn’t go lost in the grey skies. I went to the cinema a lot, wandered around galleries and museums, gave ice-skating a go, had a ridiculous amount of cheese platters and mulled wine, went to one of the places Instagram recommended, tried Korean plum wine (I think it’s a keeper!) and crossed another Mexican place off my list.
I set foot on Eel Pie Island and enjoyed some random art Eel Pie Island Art Studios has to offer. In the 1960s Eel Pie Island was a music venue based at the hotel on the island and artists like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart were all famous and musicy. Now the island is a private community of artists who open their studios twice a year for the public to visit and purchase their work. But really you just want to look at the weird things like the ice-cream/sweets inspired house, the Aquaman/Barbie artwork and adorable cats parading around.
What were you up to in the last three months of 2019?
Getting lost in a city isn’t something you always want on holiday, but places like Dubrovnik practically beg you to escape from the crowd and savour the architectural treasures of the old town, imagining all the drama that took place on these cobbled streets over the centuries.
Though most people rent out their place in summer you will still spot signs from the locals: the old ladies who are chatting, hanging laundry out to dry, and cats sunbathing all day and give you a fuck off when you try to take a photo. While you, me and everyone’s grandma seems to have discovered the place, it suffers from overtourism (there are plans to only let 4,000 people a day in) so enjoy those views while they last.
If Dubrovnik was a travelquote it would be something in the line of: every alley leads to new adventures so don’t be afraid to get lost in the labyrinth. Like you might stumble upon a hidden bar built into the side of the cliff that also happens to be a cliff diving spot. You can watch people jump or decide to actually to embrace your inner daredevil and take the leap.
The old airport in Zagreb holds a special place in my heart. It was the very first destination I flew to and the first time I returned to my home country Bosnia
after having fled 6 years earlier. I know that sometimes old can be charming, but the terminal was in need of a make-over. Thankfully my prayers were answered and a brand new terminal had appeared in 2017 and last week I got to dip my toes in for the first time.
My flight was delayed so I was lucky enough to spend my Saturday at the Gate 16 – 26 area from about 12.45 til 15.00 and while admiring the shiny steel and concrete architecture I thought I’d answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Zagreb’s Franjo Tuđman Airport – not that you asked.
What’s the most important thing to know? The airport is still relatively new, with lots of stores ‘coming soon’, so you won’t be able to kill much time window shopping.
Now for an easy one … How much for a bottle of water? At Caffe Nero a bottle of water costs 21 kuna (that’s around £2.40 / €2.80 / $3.50) which is nothing unusual for an airport. Are you trying to save the environment by carrying a refill bottle? Well, bad luck for you as there are no fountains to be found. You technically can do it in the rest rooms, but the water is lukewarm.
And can I get my Big Mac or a grande triple chocolate soya mocha at the airport? Caffe Nero is the only chain to be seen at both arrival and departure. The best thing about this Caffe Nero? They serve pita/burek for only 12 kuna (that’s around £1.40 / €1.60 / $2) ! So if you haven’t stuffed your face with enough already in Croatie (or the Balkans) this is your last chance. There’s also a pub and a buffet-style restaurant with the usual soups, pastas and burgers as well as cevape (but without the bread sadly!). Prices start at 60 kuna (that’s around £7 / €8 / $10).
Whatever. What about the real essentials? Is there Wi-Fi? Yes! And since there isn’t much to do to kill time you and Wi-Fi will be besties. Like at most airports all you do is sign in and you are online! There wasn’t a time limit and it was really quick – so you can blame them for all the posts I’m spewing at you at the moment.
I know enough. Can I charge my phone, tablet and laptop while waiting? Throughout the departure hall there are several poles with a number of USB and charging plugs, the downside is that you have to stand around the poles while waiting. Who knew poles could be so exciting … and for free.
Are the chairs comfortable at all? Could I nap comfortably when I have long stopover? There are no armrests between the seats, but don’t get too excited as you can see they are not the most comfortable to lie on, so you’ll obviously need someone to lie on top of …
What about the toilets? There were enough around the gates, they were super clean and I can’t complain much, except that the coat/bag hangers in the toilet stalls I went to seemed to be broken. Why or how do you break a toilet coat hanger????
Anything cool you saw? I still can’t get over the fact that well known Italian coffee chain sells pita/burek. #nospon. In case you are wondering … Pita/burek is the Balkans’ very own comfort food – a filo dough filled with meat, potatoes, vegetables or cheese.
Anything else I need to know? Not something I can guarantee, but literally every staff member I encountered was superfriendly and smiled, which I was extra surprised about as us Balkan people are masters of the resting bitch face and most of our names rhyme with bitch for a reason. Everyone either seemed to be having a good day or they were keeping their laughs in when I spoke to them in my backwards farmer way.
Have you visited the airport? What was your experience and what did I miss out on at gates 1 – 15?
Doing Dubrovnik without marching the city walls is a criminal offence in Croatia. Those caught get hanged from a pole by the harbour for everyone to see. Ok, ok, I’m just kidding here, it’s not illegal, but it should be. So here’s the low-down on the legendary limestone defences that have held out countless invaders, but sadly haven’t stopped the tourists overrunning the place…
It can get very hot and crowded, so get there early – or late in the day. I like to get my ticket the day before and go there for 8am to beat the queue and heat, you would think more people would do it, but I’m always surprised how empty it manages to be.
From June – September the city walls are open from 8am. Tickets cost 120 kuna per person (around £13/€16/$19) – and that’s including a visit to the nearby Fort Lovrijenac. Depending on the how many photos you take you’ll need an hour or two to go round.
Don’t forget to bring water with you! There are a few kiosks and cafes on the walls, but they’re quite expensive – yes, even for Croatian standards. As you’ll soon realise, when you’re in the busy tourist destinations – you’ll be paying the special ‘inflated tourist price’.
I can write a 1000+ word post on the Dubrovnik city walls, but do you really want me to tell you that the ramparts are 22 metres high? Or that the main wall has 4 bastions? Right? But I’m not going to leave you without a few pictures.
Have you braved the walls, or can recommend any other city wall walks?