You may want to get a tea of coffee and get comfortable for this one, it's been a while between blog posts.
After finding my green thumbs in the Umbrian soil and farewelling my kind hosts, I ventured up to Verona to reunite with my long lost sister Beth. The city that inspired Shakespeare's tale of two households was an old and beautiful town and we visited the alleged balcony where Juliet allegedly called out to her Romeo. We were met at the hostel by a lovely and enthusiastic Italian lady who looked after us for the two nights we were there. After Verona, we both decided we wanted to get out of the cities for a while, so we randomly caught a train up to Bolzano, a small town at the foot of the Dolomites in Northern Italy. In fact, it was so northern it pretty much felt like Austria. We did a walk in the mountains after catching a cable car up and we half expected to hear someone yodelling or Julie Andrews twirling around in a grass field. The rocky Dolomites themselves still had snow on top, so we couldn't go right up there, but they looked cool, kind of scary and misty like something out of Lord of the Rings.
I really didn't know much about Croatia before getting there, just that heaps of travelers had told us it was beautiful. So we disembarked at Pula not quite knowing what to expect. We walked for what seemed like forever to our hostel with our backpacks, getting accosted by old Croatian ladies who barely spoke English to see if we wanted to rent a room from them. We walked past an old Roman colisseum then up some gruelling steps to finally be greeted warmly by the lovely Croatian lady called Gordana who ran the hostel. After the tourist circus that is Italy, it was nice to stay somewhere relatively quiet and with the most motherly lady - she was so hospitable and welcoming, we didn't want to leave - "For me this is not job" she says "This is my passion, I love to meet the young people". So we booked three extra nights and proceeded to lie on the beach, sunbake, swim and lie on the beach every day. We also did a day trip to Rovinj, one hour north to lie on the beach, sunbake, swim and lie on the beach. Although, in Rovinj it was a little harder to enjoy the view of the islands and crystal clear waters as we were kind of distracted by all the nude people sunbaking, fishing and lying on the beach. Apparently there was a nudist island nearby, but I think some people had lost their way.
So then we farewelled Gordana ("I will miss you so much" she said) and moved on to Zadar, a lively student town with more crystal clear water. We were fascinated by the "sea organ" which was a set of steps with holes in them and somehow the wind and sea made a sound like a huge wood pipe crossed with a whale call... it was such a cool sound, but it took us a long time to figure out where it was coming from. We had the best gelati in all of Europe here (well, maybe) and watched the worst movie in the world (Sex and the City 2). Coming out of the cinema we nearly forgot we were in Croatia for a while. There are times like that where I have to pinch myself and remember that I am actually in Europe and all my family and friends are over the other side of the world. It's a bit crazy.
Next was Plitvice National Park, a place that could have come out of a mythical land like Lord of the Rings or something. Massive waterfalls, green moss, trees and bushes everywhere and the clearest bluest lakes you have ever seen. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but Beth took heaps of photos. That night we went to a Croatian music concert in "town" where people were crowded around to watch geriatric rock bands and barbie doll girls lip sync their way through the night. They weren't even convincing... the guitar and bass weren't even plugged in. But it was a great experience nonetheless. An accordion player was the highlight of the night, playing his way through a medley of rock songs with a cheesy smile on his face the whole time. Beth and I decided it was official: accordions were now sexy.
We then missed a bus to Split... actually, the bus missed us, just deciding not to stop for some unknown reason... from where we caught a ferry to Hvar Island. Here we got some more chillout time and met some cool people to watch the World Cup with. Unfortunately, the Australian vs. Germany game was just embarrassing, so we went to some bars to drown our sorrows. The next day a group of us hired a little boat with a motor tacked on the back to explore another island. The guy who suggested it had never driven a boat, but the owner of the hostel agreed to hire it to us anyway. But the smile faded from his face as he watched our Captain crash into two moored boats and the jetty before getting out of the harbour. He seemed very relieved 6 hours later when we pulled back in without scraping anything and with the boat in one piece.
So now I am in Dubrovnik, a nice little town with some more beautiful beaches and islands. The hostel is once again the epitome of Croatin hospitality with a motherly woman named Milka who serves us all breakfast every morning and calls us her beautiful children. I really do love Croatian people. Yesterday we did a day trip to Montenegro - you know, another day, another country - and did some snorkelling and cruising around. But once again I am parted from my sister for a while. She goes onto Greece and I am about to board a bus to Austria, where I have lined up some volunteer work at a hotel in the Alps. They need someone young and fit to lead some hiking tours and serve some food. And I need to stop in one place and relax for a while, as I am feeling a little burnt out and am starting to take some of these amazing sights for granted.