How to Survive the Off Season in Croatia

How to Survive the Off Season in Croatia

October 1 marks the end of the season on the Croatian Islands.  At first, this struck me as an oddity, and perhaps an exaggeration.  Every tourist destination has a peak and an off-season, but what did that really mean?  The last week in September was gorgeous on Hvar, with 80’s and sun every day.  Was it possible to survive the offseason in Croatia? How could things fall apart a week later? Surprisingly, they did.  It rained late on September 30 (my birthday) and was overcast and drizzling on October 1.  Restaurants were closed on the first, as were souvenir kiosks and shops.  Open one day; closed the next.  People stopped renting beach chairs, meaning sunbathers were laying their towels on rocks or concrete to enjoy the beach. The Island Has You Now The biggest change – transportation schedules, and in particular, the ferry schedule.  Looking at a map, and reading Lonely Planet, I assumed a ferry from Hvar to Korcula, and then onto Dubrovnik, Croatia, was no problem.  When we agreed to stay in Hvar until October 1, I did not realize what a problem it would be to get off the island.  There is only one catamaran a day, instead of the usual three.  It leaves at 5 pm, meaning we had to stall in Hvar for 5 hours after check out with our bags.  No biggie.  We have overcome worst obstacles. The bigger problem came with how to get off the island of Korcula.  At one point we felt a little stuck and started making Lost-type references like “The Island has you now.” The Island became a thing,...
Anthony Bourdain in Croatia – It is Beautiful, But He Had Help

Anthony Bourdain in Croatia – It is Beautiful, But He Had Help

I have wanted to visit Croatia for years, even before Anthony went there during the last season of No Reservations.  We bought a travel guide for Croatia back in 2006 and have held onto it since, through many trips elsewhere and numerous rounds of downsizing.  We kept trying to make our way here, but it never seemed to happen. When watching Bourdain in Croatia, it was clear he was smitten.  He asked, essentially, why aren’t people coming here?  Between the beauty of the country and the food, he seemed to not want to leave.  Tony said:  “I can’t believe it took me this long … to get here.  This is f*cking awesome.” I too feel like it took me too long to get there.  Although I have enjoyed Croatia, my problem was I don’t have a fixer to ensure the Tony Bourdain in Croatia experience. First, Tony stayed in Istria, in the north, an area that might be considered wealthier, more developed, and closer to Italy.  He had a fixer and a producer to take him to unique restaurants, wineries where he drank with the owner until he fell off a chair, mussel fishing on the Adriatic, a bluefin tuna farm in Zadar. He did this all with a Croatian TV chef. He ate “world class food” and drank “world class wine”. And, I am sure money was no option. I am not expecting to replicate TV host experiences, but it would be nice to have a similar feel for a place.  But, I don’t have a fixer.  And, I have a budget. Budget Friendly?? I still liked Croatia,...

Diving Into the Budapest Baths

I had wanted to go to Budapest for a long time.  I am not sure why.  It seemed exotic, almost the edge of Europe. A strange city on the banks of the Danube, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other.  As we toured through Eastern Europe and got closer and closer, I started to learn about the Budapest baths.  I had no idea what to expect.  I sort of imagined a bunch of sweaty old men lounging around a Romanesque bath house in various stages of undress.  Where did I fit into this environment?   I, like all fly by the seat of my pants indie travelers, did plenty of research before heading out.  I found the official website of the baths here, a Budapest tourism site, and even a blog about them.  I thought I was prepared.  I knew that you were expected to buy a ticket for the day, which comes with a plastic wrist band that provides you a locker for the day.  I knew the Szenchenyi Bath was open for both men and women, whereas some of the baths have women days and men days.  I also knew there were 3 large outdoor pools and 12 indoor pools varying in temperature, plus saunas.  I also knew not to expect a lot of English to be spoken.  So, we grabbed our suits, flip flops, and some sunblock and rode the Metro up to the Szenchenyi Baths – the largest bath complex in Budapest.  The Budapest baths were opened in 1881, using the thermal waters of St. Stephan’s well.  The current building was completed...
Finding my Personal Jesus with Depeche Mode in Tallinn, Estonia

Finding my Personal Jesus with Depeche Mode in Tallinn, Estonia

Before we left the US, we traveled to Scandinavia for our wedding anniversary.  We planned to fly into Stockholm and out of Helsinki.  We were thinking of a day trip to Tallinn until someone informed us that Tallinn was much cheaper and much nicer than Helsinki.  So, we decided to spent three nights to wander around the quaint Old Town. Little did we know we would become infatuated with Depeche Mode in Tallinn. When we arrived the first day, we were walking past an alleyway and Eric saw a sign that read “DM Baar.”  He remembered he had heard about a bar someone dedicated to the nineties band, Depeche Mode.  We checked it out and sure enough this was it.   The cellar basement bar had stone walls painted white, red, and black – a theme carried from their sign into the bathrooms.  The walls were covered with pictures and art about Depeche Mode.  They played concert footage or music videos and even named their cocktails after Depeche Mode songs.  Our favorite drink quickly became the Personal Jesus – vodka, cointreau, and lime juice.  It was like a margarita but with vodka replacing the tequila.  DM Baar in Tallin We spent three nights in our favorite spot – a red leather bench with a straight on view to the TV screens.  It was our favorite thing about Estonia – Depeche Mode in Tallinn.   So, when Eric came up with the idea of traveling from the Baltics to the Adriatic for the first leg of our RTW trip, I assumed he only wanted to start in Tallinn to head back to...