Croatia Here I Come!

Croatian sunset from the tiny, secluded fishing village of Sveta Nedjelja on the island of Hvar, Croatia.

I feel like I always start my blogs with, “So I’m on my way to _____”. How awesome is that?

So I’m on my way to Split, Croatia. It, like getting to Orvieto, has been an adventure. I was thinking earlier, hoping the entire trip wouldn’t later be deemed, like the beginning has, the trip of close calls. I got to the Linz train station 10 minutes before my train left. I got to the Salzburg train station 10 minutes before my train left. From there, I was supposed to have a 7 hour trip straight to Zagreb, Croatia, the capital and take a bus to Split. Plot twist – the train from Salzburg only went to Zagreb. There was a part of the train track closed. We got off at a stop (Villach) and all got on busses. All. 3 busses of people. Okay, so we then bus to a different train station where we are supposed to catch the same train as if we never got off. Yep, they teleported it there. We get to that station. We take our bags off. We put our bags on. We leave the station. We drive to another station, drop off a few people, and drive finally to our station, where there is a 4 or 5 car train waiting for the now 2 busses of people. It was the only train in the station and looked like it was the only one that had stopped there in weeks. Actually, it kind of looked like it had been there for weeks…. like hundreds of weeks. This thing was old. Somehow I made it to Zagreb only 8 minutes late. So I have 22 minutes to find out where the bus station is, get there by a tram that has zero english words on it, get in line to buy my bus ticket, realize I don’t have Croatian money, hear the lady tell me to hurry because my bus leave in 3 minutes, exchange money and hope to God I don’t get ripped off with the rate, think I got ripped off by the rate, run (literally) back to the ticket office, run to the bus, knock on the window and stare at the bus driver blankly with sad eyes as I hand him my ticket, then calculate that I didn’t really get ripped off by the exchange rate. Now you’re caught up.

To make things better, I wasn’t even planning on taking this bus. I looked yesterday for the available busses and this one was newly posted. Now I get to Split about 10 hours early, which means I’ll spend the night, hopefully, in the hostel I was planning on only staying one night. I say hopefully because I didn’t actually book the place, just emailed them when I realized I’d be getting to Split at 22:30 tonight and not 09:00 tomorrow.

Oh yea, I destroyed my Biochem test. Destroyed is a good thing. It was easy. I know I missed 4 questions and feel about 100% sure on the others. Hope Analytical Chem. goes that easily, but I really don’t think it will.

Got my passport stamped for the 2nd and 3rd times, too. Slovenia and Croatia. Funny how little things make you happy. I saw the man next to me flip through his passport and noticed the abundance of stamps he had. I was jealous. It made me thing of Dad’s passports.

I’ve decided that traveling is one of the greatest things a person can do for themselves. I feel like a new person. I feel so independent. I know, truly, that I wouldn’t be here without my family and in this sense I’m not independent at all, but that’s a different independence. I feel more attentive, better prepared to see the world, to take everything. I feel like when I was home 4 months ago I must have let incredible things pass me by as I went to buy groceries or gasoline. I feel now that everything I see is in some way amazing. I feel full of curiosity.

Speaking of good words that start with the letter ‘c’ – I need to get creative. Creative with my workouts. I can’t just keep doing pushups and various forms of ab work. I want to do something like throw boulders, pull a boat by rope with my teeth, pull a car by rope…with my hands, climb a tree, swim to Italy, or you know, something fun like that. Climbing has helped me feel like I’m being active in an adventurous way, but I want more. When don’t we. Speaking of that, there are a lot of places to climb in Split so maybe I’ll be able to find one that is climbable without a harness. I didn’t bring it. I did bring my shoes and chalk bag, though, and here’s why. In Hvar, or “on Hvar” rather since it’s an island, there is a place near where we are staying called “Cliffbase”. It’s some kind of recreational area that has trails, boating, and climbing nearby. Specifically, since we are next to the sea, there are places where you can do what is called “deep water soloing”. This is where you swim or are boated to a rock that has below it deep water and thus, are able to climb without a harness or spotter, simply falling into the sea if you do fall or jumping into the sea when you reach the top. I AM SO EXCITED.

50 minute run tomorrow by the Adriatic. One hour bus ride left and then I get to see if I’ve got a bed. Wish me luck even though I’m so independent and resourceful and will be able to find a place to stay. Thanks.



Florencian Procrastination

A beautiful, architectural masterpiece. The Duomo.

Florence has impressed me. I’m not done yet, I leave tomorrow night at 21:34 or something around there. Makes sense – say an exact time and then negate it with a statement of approximation. I hope it’s not late like Katlyn’s train was to Paris. 55 minutes. Yikes. There was a French children’s rugby team waiting. I want to learn French. It sounds pleasant.

Back on topic, I saw and did a great deal today. Seeing Michelangelo’s David probably topped the list, though the queues for Uffizi and the Duomo were impressive as well. Seriously though, patience may now be one of my strong points. I’m quite surprised I just wrote that, for patience has never, in all of my abundant years, been close to a strong point of mine. I got up this morning around 09:30. I considered rushing to get in line for a museum or gallery. I quickly decided to go run instead. 10 minutes later I was out of the door for a run. 40 minutes later I had seen all but 3 or 4 (that I knew/know of) main sites in Florence. I saw the replica of David near the Uffizi. I saw the Ponte Vecchio where houses come out of the wall they are supposed to be in and appear as though they will soon fall into the Fiume Arno. Yes, I have a map in front of me. I saw a big trailor market with junk for sale after going through a fence that I wasn’t supposed to and running along the river. That was super. Got back to the hostel, had my included breakfast (cereal, big surprise), and went out. I walked and walked and walked some more. The queues were ridiculous. I skipped them. I saw some nice sunglasses that seemed to have the ability to replace the Ray Bans I magically made disappear from my face in my parent’s Venice hotel. I bought those very nice sunglasses and wore them the entire rest of the day. Did I say that they are nice – and italian – so thanks phrase ‘two birds with one stone’. I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had at a place called The Oil Shoppe. Don’t worry, I’ll go again tomorrow. Feeling like I was missing something, being in Florence and all, I went to the Bargello Museum. Some incredible ivory carvings/sculptures and works by Donatello. Not the Ninja Turtle. After acquiring some much needed sandals (Italian as well) and a couple of summer items, one of which included a microfiber bath towel (one of those swimmer ones that dries extremely fast (it actually does, I tried it just now)) and is also an Italian production I went back to the hostel, put the bag down and went to the Duomo where the end of the line could see the front door. It took 5 minutes. I wore shorts – I shouldn’t have – but they either didn’t see or didn’t care and I got in anyway. 414 steps of the Campanile for a nice panoramic view of Florence. I got to the top. It wasn’t high. It was windy and I was unimpressed. Then I saw someone disappear into a wall and realized that I was dumb. I climbed the 4 other flights and realized that I had been barely a fourth of the way up. The climb made me happy. I saw indentions in the stairs, holes where it seemed like water had set for years and left an indention in the step, and rub marks on the walls and railings that made me think of how many people had been there. Nice view. I think the Duomo was higher, maybe by 10 or 15 meters, but I got to take pictures of it while on the Campanile. I then went to the Galleria dell’ Accademia, the house of David, not Legan, although that would be really cool, too. The statue was presented better than I imagined, and it made the work spectacular. I was beyond impressed. I stood against a pillar for a while. Artists drew him nearby, school groups took notes, I met two people from Denver, two from Florida, and one who studies at Rice. They were of some interest. Ouch… I hope I don’t come back pretentious. I’m not too worried about that. Wonder if that approaches pretentious itself…

Realizing The Oil Shoppe was now closed as I read the sign “Open from 10:30 – Until the bread runs out” and feeling disappointed, I couldn’t help but smile. I went to a supermarket, a mini version that didn’t even have orange juice for God’s sake, got 1.5L Aqua Naturale, a greek yogurt, and some grapes the size of a giant’s eyeball. I spent 15 euro total in food today. That’s legit. Too bad I spent a bundle on those sunglasses, towel, etc.

Isn’t it weird how people will say anything to convince themselves something is okay? Spending 100 euro on sunglasses instead of 20 is okay, right? Because they’re better quality and you pay for quality and I’m only in Florence once. I may not be able to get them on the internet. Yea, and my eyes hurt – it’s so bright outside. I can’t go back to the hostel to get the hat I brought with me, then my head will be hot and I’ll be sweaty.

“Okay, I’ll take them.”

Time to study. It’s 22:00 and I feel like I just ran 15 miles. The Brazilians in my room are leaving for dinner I think. I don’t want to study. That’s why I wrote this. Oh, and because I want to inform the world and friends of my travels. Yea.

Tomorrow I see Uffizi, dangit. I’m waking up to be there before it opens at 08:15. I’m getting too into this whole writing military time thing I’ve got going on here. Once I realize how quickly I want to leave a crowd I’ll go to the Giardino di Boboli (Garden of Boboli?) and maybe the Palazzo (Palace) Pitti near the garden. Maybe that should be the garden is near the Palace. Nature is better, so says my subconscious. Then I could go see Michelangelo’s tomb, my Oil Shoppe, and maybe sit around somewhere studying for this Biochemistry test.



Civita di Bagnoregio. One of the coolest places I have ever been.

I’m on a train to Orvieto. Orvieto, Italy. We, Katlyn and I, left my dorm at 17:00 yesterday. We arrive at 14:12. It’s been a journey. Turns out, not all train tickets have all connections listed on the ticket. Also turns out – that sucks. We got to the Linz train station at, I don’t know, 20:00 because I realize that our ticket says Linz to Orvieto departing at any time. Then below, in about half as large font size, I see “Leoben Hbf to Orvieto” at 21:40. So, we were supposed to look up the connection to Leoben and get on it. Great. At least we have the helpful people at the counter, right?

-I don’t understand this ticket. How do I get to Leoben from here? When am I to leave Linz?

-You missed your train. The last train to Leoben left at 6:40. You can’t use this ticket………… So what do you do now?

-Exactly, what do we do now?

-Hmmmm, well, the next train to Orvieto leaves in 2 and a half hours and goes through Venezia (Venice), but it’s completely sold out – there are no reservations. Here is the timetable for that train to Orvieto. You’ll have to talk to the conductor to see if you can get on.

-Okay. Well, I need a ticket to Zagreb on the 29th on May.

-That’ll be 29 Euro.

-Thanks. Bye.


The conductor says, “yes, you can use this ticket even though you aren’t supposed to. There are no places, though and only these two cars go to Venice. Please hurry.”

Katlyn’s… 70, maybe 80 lbs of luggage was making me extremely happy at this point. 🙂

We get on the train. People are standing in the halls. A lot of people. They tell me “Das Zug is voll”. After shuffling around, the train starts moving. I stand there for a second, and leave to see for myself. I go down to the end of the car and ask to a Venezuelan lady if “Hier ist Frei”, to which she answers yes, and her son answers, “but we aren’t supposed to do that”, as I immediately and joyfully put my jacket on the bed and go get Katlyn. Talk about cramped space. “I feel like we are going to be traded as slaves”, says Kate.

It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected considering we missed our initial train and had no reservations. Turns out, kids are small and can sleep with their nice, generous mothers. Thanks to all nice mothers.

We arrived, though, completely rested as you can imagine, in Venezia at 8:20, got breakfast at a Best Western (probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had), eating it as fast as possible and completing it in approximately 13 minutes, with 10 left to catch the train to Orvieto.

The Trenitalia people are psychotic, by the way. We were laying down in a sitting only cabin – one which had 6 beds in it that folded either up into a bed or down into the setback of the bed below it. There were adamant about us only sitting because that’s all we paid for.

One hour to go. It will have been 18 hours. It should have been about 12.5. I’ve got to say, though, I love entirely the train system. I love the crowded spaces, the psychotic controllers, the reservation requirements, the fact that you can stand for 5 hours or sit on your jacket in the corridor and still arrive to your vacation destination ready to see the world, and I love the gigantic windows that allow you to see the world in a way that few get to see it. It gives me chills nearly every time I look out of the window.

I thought of something I wanted to say while running the other day. It’s that I keep waiting for someone to snap there fingers and wake me from a dream. I’ve never had so  many good feelings compacted into such a short time period. This trip has changed me. My worldview is different. I feel as though I must have been in many ways completely ignorant or simply unaware of what the world really is and what is in it.

I’ve been climbing for about a month and a half now. Thursday I climbed the big rock wall near my dorm which is actually about 4 octagonal-ish towers that connect  in the middle so that, if desired, you can climb upside down once reaching the top. I’m not there yet, but it was awesome. Loved every minute and now I love that I’m so sore.

I’ve also been running. 50 minutes last sunday and about 30-45 on other runs. 4 times per week. That’s conservative, right? Please, running gods, no injuries. Bitte bitte bitte!!!

I’m more than ready to see Italy and Croatia in the next two weeks. I’ll be in Florence for a couple of nights and few days before going back to Linz, where I’ll take a Biochemistry exam on Friday and go, the next morning at 08:35 to Zagreb. I’ll take an overnight bus to Dubrovnik, see Korcula, Hvar, and Split, and be back in Linz on the 7th.

What a life!

I’m considering getting a tattoo in German that translates, “My talent is being a masochist”. Good idea, right?

Possible Happiest Person in the World