A Travellerspoint blog

Island Life In Croatia

sunny 30 °C
View Kiwi' don't fly on djrkidd's travel map.

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13 hours later the train rumbled down the hill over looking a stunning vista of terracotta tiled roofs and light blue Adriatic Sea as it pulled into Split. I had managed to get a whole cabin to myself and had a great sleep across three seats all the way from Zagreb. It was slightly disconcerting to find the door was open slightly when I woke, but my valuables were well hidden so happy days.

I arrived at my hostel which turned out to be a bloke by the name of Marin's apartment with three rooms kitted out with bunk beds. This place was awesome, like having your own house rather than a dirty hostel. Marin had it sorted, he was in his late 20's and did web design from his "hostel" which he ran as a side line. After checking me in he turned to me and said "Dave these friends of yours that are coming, you can look after them when they arrive, I’m going wake boarding" and off he went.

No worries, the girls didn't arrive until the afternoon so I was off to explore. First was the local fruit market to sort out dinner, it took an hour of wandering around bargaining and trying the produce but I came back with bags full of the freshest fruit and veggies ever. Besides the locals were very friendly and it was great fun having a bit of banter and just shooting the breeze. The currency took a bit of getting used to, from good old simple Euros, to Kuna, which come in the hundreds. I had to keep my wits about me though I was laughed at when I handed over three times too much money for a coffee and she gave it back to me telling me "it's okay its early in the morning".

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I walked around the old city, then the boutiques sporting the latest fashions, and eating ice cream on the ultra modern waterfront under a blazing Croatian sun. Then it was time to pick up three very tired Swedes from the station. The girls stumbled off the train struggling under their back packs in usual fashion after their 18 hour journey from Venice. This included a sleep in Zagreb train station were some joker had threatened them for money. Well, Rayen and Elisabeth for money, Ullrika had slept on her back pack right through the whole ordeal on the ground besides them. So with the team reunited and Mr T returned to the rightful owner, plans were made to spend time on an Island off the coast called Hvar.

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After stepping off the ferry we walked along the water of Hvar (eyeing up all my future yachts) and found the lovely lady holding a sign for us so she could take us to our apartment. Then it was off to the beach for a swim in the cool clear water and to relax in the sun. This was basically the routine of the next week apart from small variations such one day we hired scooters and explored the Island. This was fun although a little nerve wracking to start with, for Dave, who found himself responsible for driving on the wrong side of the road with screaming Swedish girl on the back. However after five minute and spectacular coastal views it becomes the highlight of our stay.

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Of course the night life was sampled, while walking along the water front we stumbled onto a group of Germans having a dance outside their yacht; of course we joined in with the plan of getting on board for a few free drinks. This plan failed however when there was a rather large splash and after running to the waters edge to investigate I discovered a French guy by the name of Ben being fished out of the sea after he had the same idea to get on board but had tried to accomplish it "Rainbow Warrior Style" by climbing up the mooring line. This cost him his passport, ipod, wallet and driver’s license but won him the sympathy of the girls so we all went out for a few drinks.

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So after an enjoyable week in Hvar it was back to Split and to the harder realities of travelling, having to say goodbye to really the cool people you meet along the way. After trying to get on three different buses mine finally turned up and goodbyes were said and I left girls to their retail therapy in Split and headed south to Dubrovnik.

“Ka Kite Ano” girls I look forward to night clubbing in Gothenburg in March. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Posted by djrkidd 11:09 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

A "Night Out" In Ljubljana.

Camping Slovenian Style

sunny 22 °C
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After being woken up every half hour by some person in a uniform wanting to see tickets or passports, on a train that seemed to be stationary more of the time than it was actually moving, Mr T and myself were deposited in a very dark train station somewhere on the outskirts of Ljubljana at 2am. To my horror I discovered that I had found the only train station in all of Europe with opening hours and was faced with the prospect of camping outside for what was left of the night. As I walked passed one of the late night bars that was “location location location”, situated in the train station underpass, I was scooped up by a bloke called Urri. He was a local Slovenian guy of my age that thought I was the most sorry looking sight he had ever seen grace this train stations underpass and for the novelty factor he brought me a beer. He was a student and spoke excellent English because as he put it "I like Rock and Roll and all the best bands sing in English". A few more beers where drunk, the finer points of music and EU were discussed (installed upon me) as well as what New Zealand was like and that travelling from Dublin to Sydney overland was the funniest, albeit, the dumbest thing Urri had ever heard. This lasted until we were kicked out an hour or so later and Urri was off to the craziest night club in town. After explaining that my back pack didn't make a good date for a club and kicking myself for what I thought was going to be a sure fire free night at a locals place with breaky thrown in, I found myself a secluded cafe doorway for Mr T and me to sleep in just off the platform.

Now I have slept in some dodgy places before, mainly with the army, however I discovered this night that its not so easy to sleep without two of your mates on guard duty and not having the comfort of a automatic machine gun with enough rounds to start world war three should anyone come by. So the next few hours were spent waking every five to ten minutes at the slightest sound. However, as I found the next day, Slovenians are some of the friendliest people I have ever met and the only thing I had to worry about was being laughed at by passers by rather than waking up without my worldly possessions.

Come five o'clock I was forcibly removed from my possy by the cafe owner who then made me a double espresso to start my day, smiling and giggling to himself the whole time.

Ljubljana itself is a very pretty town established on river with patches of forest scattered everywhere and a very impressive Castle on the hill overlooking the city. I spent the day wandering around looking at the wares in the huge weekend market they had going on and being entertained by bands and other performers out and about for the Marathon that was being run. After a very nice day it was back to the train station to get the night train to Zagreb and then eventually Split in Croatia to meet back up with the girls and return the very useful Mr T to Ullrika.

Posted by djrkidd 11:09 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

The home of the Pope to the home of the Mafia

Queuing for the Vatican, climbing a active volcano and getting sent to Australia for a visa.

sunny 27 °C
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DSCN1328.jpg "I knew I shouldn't have thrown that bloody coin in that fountain last time I was here", I thought to myself as I stepped off the train in Rome. I tried to make myself look less hung-over so as to meet Karolina who had flown over from Stockholm for the weekend to see me. This time we managed to meet on the platform without any police involvement and found our hostel which luckily was not one of the nightmare places that I have heard about in Rome on my travels, as long as you don't mind dodging the dog crap on the floor.

So it was off into town to soak up some of that sun and check out the usual sights, Coliseum, Forum and the Palatine hill. This was followed by fighting our way through the crowds into the Pantheon. The Pantheon still manages to amaze me even if there are 2000 other people under its dome. Of course the Trivia fountain and the over crowed Spanish steps were also visited. I neglected to throw another coin in that dam fountain this time as someone had expanded on the myth that if you do the second time you marry an Italian girl.

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Next day was the Vatican museum (Ange you'll get a laugh out of this) 4 hours standing in the pouring rain was what it took to get in. For those of you that have been, the line went right back around to St Peters by the second set of columns. So after checking out the Popes art collection which I have to give Raphael's work a big thumbs up and have to laugh at the irony of being told to be silent in the Sistine Chapel over a booming loud speaker (every two minutes in three different languages). Of course no trip would be complete without a visit to the Basilica and then it was off to Piazza Novena for a nice dinner.
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After goodbyes at the train station Karolina was on the bus to the airport and I was heading south to Naples to have some pizza, a quick look around and then a ferry to Tunisia to get into the thick of my trip.

After dodging scooters and a fine on the metro for not validating my ticket using the "If I talk really fast you can't understand me Mr Ticket inspector plus I'm a dumb tourist" technique. I walked through the door to be met by the words “Buongiorno I'm Giovanni, welcome".

Now Giovanni’s is a hostel set up in his apartment, the second you walk in you are made to feel welcome. Giovanni sits you down, highlights a map with what you have to do, what trains you need to catch and what time you need to be on them. He highlights the best pizza place in the world and finishes by saying " Now you know Naples is not a safe city so stay out of these areas" then proceeds to high lights in blue 50% of the city leaving a corridor in the middle for you to get out an see the sights.

Having had worse mission orders given to me in the army it was with my map that I was kicked out into the streets of Naples to go and see every museum as it was 1 Euro entry day. Then I arrived home and have a huge slice of lasagna placed in front of me cooked by Giovanni himself. I don't think there was a day that I was not given a meal of the best pasta I have ever had and a glass or two of wine to wash it down with. This would be followed by the guitar being brought out and a bit of a sing song being had.
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The next day saw me wandering around the streets of Pompeii. Pompeii is the ruins of a Roman city that was caught in the 79AD eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The city was totally preserved under 6m of volcanic ash and this place is huge it would be 1 kilometre squared and you literally walk around it streets and go inside the homes of the Romans. There are amputheres (see the photo below) and forums and the creepiest thing is where the archaeologists have poured a plaster in to the voids left by the bodies of the dead and you can see the expressions on their faces, their hair even the folds of their clothes.

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In the afternoon Dave decided to go and climb Mt Vesuvius, being a Kiwi I could not bring myself to get the bus up so I walked from the train station. After 2.5 hours I battled with clouds on top for my summit photo and then wandered back down to the car park.

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I waited for the bus which was whistled out by the inspector and told to get on. As I jumped on the driver asked me for my ticket "ah I don't have one I walked up" I mumbled.
He started making a motion with his hands which I took to be to get off the bus.

" But ...But" I stammered dreading having to walk another 13km back to the train.
to which he replied "Just sit down please" obviously feeling sorry for the sweaty mess standing in front of him and trying to get me on, on the sly.
So after a big day of sight seeing and "mountain climbing" it was off to the best pizza place in town, and I tell you what , this pizza was only 3 Euros tasted amazing and was so big it hung over the plate. In fact I ate here for the next three nights in a row.

I don't know what made me check but something just didn't ring right in my head about going to Tunisia. Valeria was a young Italian girl who worked for Giovanni at the hostel, her opening line to me was "Dave what is the 8th wonder of the world? A Kiwi with a return ticket!" So we got on great guns. Conveniently she had been living in Syria and spoke Arabic and French so I got her to ring the Embassy just to check what the story was, but the visa for everyone but New Zealand citizens was very clear. As she hung up that phone she turned to me with a smile of a teacher talking to a five year old. "Yes you can have a visa but it will take 12 days", she informed me.
"Hmmm that's no good I have to be in Libya in 7 days". I said through clenched teeth.
"Okay tomorrow we will go down there and see what we can do, normally it is easier if you are there in person." she offered with that same smile informing me that I was an idiot.

So first thing the next day I was on the metro heading to the embassy which was deep in the blue no go zone armed with my translator, passport photos and other required documents feeling very confident.

10 minutes later I walked out of the embassy having been told that I could not get a visa at all because I was not a permanent Italian resident. When the guy asked me where I was from, insisting that we use English (to show off in front of his colleagues), I said New Zealand. After five minutes and Valeria telling him in every language that she spoke he finally worked out where New Zealand was then told me that I needed to get my visa back home. "But there is no Tunisian embassy in New Zealand" I bluffed!
"Then you must go to Australia" he said with a shrug.
"It's a 4 hour flight" I screamed figuring out the reason for the Perspex screen separating us.
"And Allah willing you will get your visa" was his only reply.
"Maybe I could pay a penalty "fee" for the visa here" I suggested much to Valeria's dismay.
"No I can't help you" he said.
"Whatever happened to Africa being corrupt" I mumbled to noone as I stormed out the door Valeria in tow.

So that was that idea over before it even started. There was only one thing for it beer, the best pizza in the world and a phone call home to tell Mum and Dad how unfair the world is, a concept that I am sure they were not familiar with till that moment. A bit of tough love from Dad to the effect of stop your moaning and get on with the bloody trip and I was saying goodbye to Geovanni and Valeria and on the next train north to catch up with some mates and crack on with my new route along the Adriatic Coast.

Posted by djrkidd 11:09 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

La Dolce Vita

Enjoying the sweet life in Italy.

sunny 25 °C
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There is a fine line between what fashion is and what plain weird is. This line is some what blurred for a young Kiwi lad from the sticks when wandering around Milan the "world's fashion capital" in board shorts and jandals. Never have I had so many disgusted looks in my life, and those who have watched my London video know that I have worn some dumb things in public.

So Milan is a big city, with confusing bus systems and an impressive Duomo (that’s a church Levi you uncultured thug I have even added a picture for you!!) and the best Panini of my life and a lots of expensive clothes.

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From Milan it was a short day trip to Lake Como for a bit of outdoor action. Having climbed the hill behind the town to reach the light house at the top I was pretty disappointed to find that it was so hazy I could barely see the town let alone the Swiss Alps as you are meant to. However thanks to the photo board on top of the hill I can show you what it was meant to look like, minus the words suspended in the sky.

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From Milan it was a short train ride to Florence...... my future home. I love this place. While wandering around town I bumped into the Canadian girls, Laura, Lauren and Kristen from Madrid. Feeling sorry for me, as I had left my money at home, I was spotted a fiver and it was off for lunch. As with everywhere I go it was a public holiday and the restaurant we wanted to go was closed. I noticed a sorry looking traveller crouching over a lonely planet in the gutter. I asked him if he was lost but it turned out he was looking for the same place as us. Quick snap he was dragged off to the next available eatery by the girls and me. Arnaud was from Paris and had been travelling around Europe for a couple of months. I liked him right away as he could understand me and my Kiwi drawl and so after a lunch of Pizza and rather large beers we were off to explore Florence.
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Now my ability to drink was matched equally by Arnuad's ability to sight see, after lunch the cheeky bugger (who was spotting me the entire entrance fee due to my wallet sitting on my bed) had me running up 400 odd steps to check out the view from the Duomo tower. No problem, a few more pints will crack him I thought, so after getting stuck in to a happy hour down some back ally I was left open mouthed catching flies as he suggested we check out some church just around the corner. He then had the nerve to put a guide book under my nose and forced me to learn stuff. However the Kiwi had one more trick up his sleeve "Hey Arnuad, why don’t you come back to the camp site and Ill give you the money that I owe you …plus it’s a nice spot for a bottle of wine on the terrace" A few hours later I cracked a sadistic little grin as I handed him a bus ticket and he wobbled his way towards the bus stop to get home. (Kiwi 1 Frenchy 0)

The next day I met up with Arnuad at Mario's, the restaurant we had both planned to go to for lunch. This place is open from 12 till 3pm and as I walked in I was lucky to get a seat. After choosing cheap but very tasty pasta from a menu on the wall we walked out to be greeted by a huge queue and a waiter taking names.

So our game of cat and mouse continued for the next few days as I tried to drag him into pubs and he drags me in to museums and churches. All jokes aside though, the statue of me (Michelangelo’s David) was amazing and the last judgment on the Duomo dome was very good even if it is said to be terrible as far as renaissance art goes.

I got to do a day trip to the leaning tower of Pisa, and well what do you know …. it is really leaning …. although I thought the 15 Euro to go to the top was just a bit too steep.

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Finally what trip would be complete with out my three Swedish friends and their camping kitchen? My final night was spent with Arnuad, Ulrika, Rayen, Elisabeth and Ian , who we met in Valencia and we bumped into the girls at the train station. As usual the girls whipped up a quick pasta and few bottles of wine were consumed and a fun night was had in an olive grove under the stars in Florence. 6am saw Dave stumbling out of his tent to catch a 7am train to Rome to catch up with Karolina.

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Posted by djrkidd 04:19 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Nice is Nice

Bit of R & R in the South of France

sunny 25 °C
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As the sun came up I finally got a good view of the "beach" man it's not a beach like any I've seen in Oceania it was a flipping quarry. Seriously rocks the size of my fist. So after saying good bye to my Aussie companions from the bus I was soon dodging the usual dog shit on the streets in France and off to find my hostel.

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So after getting the low down it was off to Cannes with three Americans that I met in the Hostel to find some sand and try and get rid of that London tan I have developed over the last two years. Cannes is a nice we town but well out of any back packers budget. There were small boutiques everywhere selling Prada all that great back packing attire.

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The Swede’s turned up the next day and I had an email invite to meet up as they were going to cook me dinner. Being a true kiwi I can’t pass up a free feed so I was in. After meeting the girls at there hotel we went down to the beach where they cooked up a Pasta meal on a camping stove which we ate with a few beers much to the amusement of passer byes.

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So once again I am sitting in the reception of a hostel with no idea where I am going or where I should stay. Then the two American girls from the beach said they where off to Milan.
"Sounds good I'm in" I said and with that walk out and jumped on the next train to Italy.

Posted by djrkidd 04:18 Archived in France Comments (2)

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