Day 499 – 12 July, 2016
By the time I boarded a car ferry and floated across the channel to the Croatian island of Korcula, I was mostly adjusted away from the white sand beaches of Thailand and into the craggy unlikely coastline of the Adriatic. In fact, I decided I kind of liked this type of beach. No sand between your toes, but neither was it between anything else. The kind of beach for people who don’t like beaches….
The historic old town of Korcula was small and quaint. My hostel was at the highest point in a building with a pizza restaurant on the ground floor. With only three single beds in my room, it felt spacious and tidy compared to the cramped quarters in Dubrovnik. It was obvious we were at the attic or roof level because of the way the ceiling sloped down on one side. The only window was a small skylight that only opened by inches. A free-standing air conditioning unit stood in the far corner and was set to 16 degrees C, yet it was an oven inside. My hostess, who had accompanied me to the room, gave me the usual lecture about making sure to turn it off if I was the last one to leave the room. Blah, blah, blah….this makes no sense from an energy-conserving standpoint since more energy is used each time it recools so I agreed with no intention of actually following this rule. Little did I know, but that poor little cooling unit was fighting a losing battle from the start. The sun would shine directly through our skylight/window for a good chunk of the day, slowly dry roasting anyone who chose to stay in the room. The walls and ceiling were hot to the touch and at night, the stagnant heat was relentless. I’ve slept in lots of places without air conditioning in the last 16 months, but at least a fan or a cross breeze are provided. When the owner asked me how I slept and I told him it wasn’t so good, he scoffed. “You have air conditioning!,” he emphasized. It wasn’t until my last night when his wife finally bought us a fan. They both seemed to think me and the other guests were being high-maintenance and demanding even while fresh beads of sweat were dripping down my nose.
Outside the hostel walls, Korcula was a friendly family-oriented destination. Lots of families descended from all over Europe to have a romp in the sea. The only beaches that were within an easy walk were only about 25m long on average and as a result, they were all quite crowded. I could expect to be sandwiched between an Italian family and a Polish family, but wherever they might have been from, the dad always wore a speedo that might have been a size too small with a well-fed hairy belly hanging over the top.
As it happens, my 500th day of travel came and went while I was laying on the rocks in Korcula. I decided I wanted to have a nice meal to celebrate the occasion, but I ended up with a mediocre meal and poor service with a hefty price tag. Can’t win ’em all! Following dinner, I took a spontaneous walk next to the port when crowds started gathering at a small amphitheater. I had no idea what was going on, but crowd mentality dictates that I needed to see what the hype was about. A ballroom dance exhibition filled the stage. Four couples rotated through ten styles of dance. One of the women was reportedly an occasional dancer from Dancing with the Stars! It was an unexpectedly fun night watching dancing under the stars.
Further up the coast, I ferried to Hvar Island. Where Korcula was marketed to families and tour groups of the older generation, Hvar was for those who wish to party. And party they did….my hostel was part nightclub and part brothel. I had chosen it because at $40USD/night, it was the cheapest place I could find to sleep. I can assure you, this price too was way beyond my comfort level so I had to suck it up and tolerate the vomiting in my room and the smell of alcohol seeping out of every hungover pore of my roommates. I used to feel like I was missing out on a part of the experience if I didn’t join in the rowdy debauchery of these party hostels, but no matter how much I try, I don’t have the stomach for it anymore. I might pull up a chair with a bottle of wine, share some stories and laughs, but then, like any good mother hen would, cheerfully bid them to “have fun!” or “be safe!” when the group heads out to the club at 11:00, knowing that I can go to sleep without any other hassle. This blog will soon be called The Old Lady that Travels.
I made time to visit the Spanish fort, which overlooks the old city of Hvar, and I strolled the length of Riva, the public walkway along the coast. I beach-hopped from one rocky outcropping to another. I watched the sailboats gliding between the various islands. I may have missed the true essence of Hvar because I didn’t step foot into one single night club, but for those that slept until 2:00pm, they missed these beautiful moments too. One day I need to return on a sailboat and see this romantic coast from a whole new perspective.