So I got a pesky little comment from Anonymous that I should keep writing about the trip! I know, I know, I just always put off blogging. For who knows what reason. But anyway (I think I always say that; I need a new phrase).
Our next stop after Zagreb was Split. We had a little trouble in Zagreb with miscommunications about whether or not we needed to reserve seats on this train, and about cost and stuff the day before, but eventually it got figured out (the train people were trying to make us pay more than we had to), and we ended up making the train. But then we realized none of us had eaten, so debating whether or not we had time, marta and I ran to a bakery kiosk (yes, they are everywhere) and got us some food, with plenty of time to spare. This train wasn´t a compartment-y bed-dy one, but it was really nice. It was brand new (this doesn´t happen in czech) and looked like an airplane. I have some pictures on my camera, but they aren´t coming off until I get home, because of my use of public computers kind of limits the camera option.
The train ride was long though (relatively), 5 hours, and it was kind of hard to sleep on the train, partly because it was 11 am when we left, and partly, because, like an airplane, the seats were small. The end of the ride was exciting because we were like, WATER!!! It was cool. I have never really been to a coast in the summer other than Mexico, so my ideas about that we sort of limited. The beaches there are almost all pebbly, and small, rather than the entire coast being a sandy beach.
After arriving at the train station, you get hounded with old men and women with sames saying rooms, rooms, in like 5 languages. And everytime it´s like, sorry, we already have a room, sorry, sorry. We had a bit of trouble finding our hostel because it is off this square down a little alley like smaller than an arm span, and they can´t put up a sign anywhere except in front because the whole city (at least the center) is like part of a UNESCO site or something. The hostel we stayed at was really small, and we had some doubts at first, mostly because we thought it had a kitchen which would make it cheaper to eat, but I am glad we ended up staying there. We did change our plans a bit and stay an extra night on Hvar, which was good because otherwise we would have had to lug all our stuff a bunch of times.
Anyway, we got to the hostel, checked in, looked around, lugged our stuff up like 4 sets of stairs (they did have a well designed staircase going up to the attic, like a cut out opposite on each step so it can go up steep, but not be so incredibly hard to walk up), talked about whether or not we should try and find another hostel, and then set out to see if the other hostel would have room, which it didn´t, and then went to go find something for dinner.
We ended up walking down to the beach (like a 15 or 20 minute walk from the center), were suprised by how small it is, and ran into some very drunken croatian teenagers, one girl who especially seemed to take a liking (it you want to call it that), to Jason. She yelled out, Chinese, Chinese, and continued to spin him around in circles by his shirt, and then when he got free, to chase him down the remainder of the beach. She was soon taken over by her friends who apologized, but it was a memorable experience. I am not sure how much for Jason though.
We were going to go have something for dinner, but we got distracted when we found this trampoline place. You could pay 5 kuna or something for 10 minutes of jumping. It is actually kind of expensive, but it was really fun. I think we ended up jumping for like 30 minutes or more because the guy didn´t stop us, but it was great. I have forgotten how much fun trampolines are. By the time we finished it was like 1015, and we weren´t sure if anything was going to be open for dinner. We ended up walking like 30 minutes to find something, and it was quite good once we found it. Maria had a great octopus salad, and I think I may have to venture out and try the octopus sushi (it is not like crab...).
The next day we had to check out of our hostel by 10 so it was a sort of early day. At 4 we had a ferry to Hvar, an island like 1.5 hours by ferry, where we spent 2 nights. By day we went to this GREAT photo exhibition we had found the night before, World Press Photo. It was AMAZING. I like photography, and this stuff was like, well, press photos from a bunch of different things from throughout the year. Marta ended up buying a book with all the pictures, and I would have as well, but I didn´t have the cash on me at the time. Jason didn´t go with us because he said he didn´t like photography, but seeing the book, I think he sort of regretted it.
Our ferry was like a speedboat, which I wasn´t too happy about. I am fine on very small boats and very big boats, but not those in the middle. And this was in the middle. I spent the whole time trying not to look at anything and to sleep.
Hvar is a beautiful island/city. The city itself has like 10000 residents, and doesn´t have any street signs. The lady from our hostel met us at the ferry station and took us to the hostel. It was a bit far away, but actually only like a 10 minute walk from the center of town. Hvar reminds me of Sayulita, but wealthier. It is like a charming little village. Though this one it seems is a bit more popular with tourists (the wealthy kind) and a lot more expensive.
At the hostel we had a room to ourselves again. This hostel was really nice as well. The room was really nice, and reminded me sort of a hotel (with a very small room), just with four beds. There were some other people staying there, but the ones we met first were a nice young couple from Australia, currently living in London, who have travelled almost the whole Europe. There was a group of Canadians who were actually in Prague in the same hostel as Marta and I when we were there, and some other people. There were a guy from Maryland who I think may have lived in the same neighborhood as we did (was it Rockville?).
We had bought food in Split before we came because it was a Sunday and we didn´t think that the stores were going to be open, so that night we made curry. I kind forgot some of the ingredients off the top of my head, but it turned out really well, thanks mostly in part to Jason. After dinner we went and walked along the road on the coast, just to get a handle on things.
The next day we went out to like a concrete thing in the middle of the rocks that we had found the day before and that was our "beach". The beaches had people on them and were really small and pebbly so we didn´t go there. The water in Croatia is so COLD!! It is like when you turn on the cold water in a shower. It is freezing, but that didn´t deter us. We ended up collecting sea urchins, but then discovered we weren´t sure whether or not we could eat them, nor was anyone else, so we ended up just cracking one open but not eating it. Marta got incredibly burned this day. She is a VERY icelander, and turned red. It looked very painful, but she was hopeful. I got a bit burned, but nothing too bad thanks to my one experience here in brno burning my shins by accident.
We made pasta that night, taking full advantage of our hostel with a kitchen. I need to learn how to cook more things. After dinner we talked for a bit, listened to Marta talk to her mom in Iceland (icelandic is a very cool language), and then stayed up and talked to some other people staying at the hostel.
Our ferry left at 730 the next morning, so it was bright and early. Maria was up at 530 to go down to the docks and get tickets. A lot of people from our hostel were leaving that day and heading to different places. This ferry was better because it was a big car ferry, and didn´t rock so much. It wasn´t as fast though, but that was okay. Our remaining time in Split was spent wandering the small alley ways, feasting on fruit from the fruit market, at the beach, and then a one day trip to Brač, another island nearby. This has a beach that is featured on a lot of postcards and stuff, but I think it wasn´t as nice as it looks. For one, people said it was sand, but it was pebbles, and it was really windy that day. But it was an experience.
Our train left Split at 1030 pm, so the whole day was another wandering around, buying souveneirs, lying by the beach, and just waiting. The train was an overnight one, so slower, but it had the bed thing, and we attempted to sleep. It didn´t work entirely well, but better than any other method probably. From Split to the Czech Republic, it was a 20 hour train ride. In Vienna we had some trouble because we found out 15 minutes before our train left that we had to reserve seats (7 Euros is outrageous), and whether or not it would be cheaper to buy the seats just within the Czech Republic on the train or not etc. It ended up working out okay though. In the Vienna train station, we had sushi for lunch because we were all entirely sick of bread (cheapest thing in these parts). It was quite good, real fish, different than supermarket sushi in the US.
So that is a short recap of our Balkan trip. I am really glad we went, even if we did have some troubles along the way. It is an experience to remember, and brought me closer to some of my exchange friends.
Next entry: About the film festival in Zlin I went to last weekend.