With our time in Split at a close we set off to return our rental car that had taken us to so many incredible places throughout the former Yugoslavia. The final leg of our Balkan’s adventure was 10 days in the Dalmatian Islands. While many people use Split as a launching point and Dubrovnik as an ending for the islands, we decided to do the loop backwards so it was back to Dubrovnik for us. While it made planning our ferry routes a bit more difficult, I wouldn’t have done it any other way as we avoided most of the crowds. Another reason for our return to Dubrovnik was we wanted to take a ride on the Karaka. The Karaka is a replica ship based on the those built in the 16th Century by the Republic of Dubrovnik, in a style of ship known in English as an Argosy or Carrack. Modeled after those boats, it has been beautifully recreated and offers a variety of cruises you can take. We opted for the sunset dinner cruise, but they also offer a Game of Thrones tour for the GOT fans out there and an island hopper to the neighboring Elaphiti Islands.
The drive down flashed by and before we knew it we were back in one of our favorite cities of Croatia dropping our bags at our latest Airbnb and Jared was returning the rental car. The city has a public bus route that take you from the airport and drops you around the city, and these leave about 30-45 mins after a flight lands. If the public bus isn’t your thing there are plenty of private buses or drivers you can arrange before your trip to pick you up as the city is about a 30 min drive north of the airport. Being on a budget Jared grabbed one of the local buses as they are much easier on the wallet than a private car when you aren’t traveling in a group. In the interim I visited a Konzum to pick up some lunch and a bottle of wine to enjoy before our cruise that night. Looking back now, this was the exact moment that led to a chain of events resulting in one of the worst/most embarrassing hangovers of my entire life. Instead of a tried and true bottle of red, I opted for a bottle of white. In my defense, the heat of the Mediterranean cries for a bottle of dry, white wine as I learned during my visit to Greece and I have subsequently given into this sirens call. The crisp, dry, slightly sweet flavor of a white wine blends perfectly with the saltwater infused humid heat of the Mediterranean coastline the way few reds can. But as I learned that fateful day Greece has their white wines on point, Croatia on the other hand has a LONG way to go.
Time moved that afternoon the way time always does when you don’t pay close attention, it had slipped away right under our noses and it was time to catch the bus for the city before we had a chance to crack our bottle of white.
The cruise started at 1900 and we wanted to see more of the city before we shipped off so we decided we would take the bottle with us to our aforementioned favorite bar in the city. A short ride to the Old Town and a quick walk brought us back to the West Side Harbor where our thirst got the better of us and the bottle of wine was gone before either of us had realized what happened. With the wine gone and an half hour to burn we should have just enjoyed the harbor and let that be that. But noooo, the wine had taken hold of all logical thought and enticed us to hit a bar in the city for a quick half liter of beer before we shoved off for the night. I feel I must mention I am not a fast drinker by any stretch of the imagination and I could normally nurse a half liter of beer an entire night, but here I was pounding the damn thing down in 15 minutes before rushing to catch the boat.
At this point as we stood in line to board things started to get a wee bit fuzzy. I recall talking way too much and way too loudly to everyone in our vicinity in line, and by everyone I do mean everyone. I’m so sorry fellow ship-goers for my prattling. One image I do recall perfectly was as we grew closer to the plank we saw an unexpected surprise, the Karaka King! We had seen and pondered about him during our previous visit to Dubrovnik. This was what he was doing dressed like some sort of medieval lord, posing for photographs with drunkie tourists like me. Lord help that man. He must have a great attitude to do that day in and day out. Photos taken we boarded the ship where we were handed a glass of champagne. Because nothing helps wash down a bottle of wine and half liter of beer like a glass of champagne! Finishing this we proceeded straight to the bar for another beer (why God why????) and drink in hand we took in the sweeping views of the city walls and Adriatic coastline as we sailed off into the sunset.
I’ll admit much of the ride is a blur, but what I do recall was absolutely stunning even through the thick beer goggle lens I was wearing at the time. The colors of the water and sunset, the astounding city walls, and the beauty of the boat are something that should not be missed if you have the opportunity (check our Gallery for more photos of the cruise). We chatted, or rather talked at, our fellow boat goers enjoying the sea breeze as we drifted along that warm evening.
The ride in total is approximately 2.5hrs and eventually they feed you. I wish that they had set out some snacks to munch on as the food portion of the cruise didn’t show up until maybe the last 40-45 mins of the trip on the sail back to port and by then it was too late. I was so far gone on my drunken ride that no amount of dinner could save me. When they did finally set food out they had an entire spread of Adriatic dishes including an assortment of grilled fish and meats, salads, cheeses, fruits and veggies. The food was delicious and there was plenty to go around, and of course we had to have a drink with dinner so another glass of white wine it was! Just thinking about it is making my head ache anew (insert shudder here).
All the while during our cruise Jared had been talking to the staff and making friends.
With dinner done the rest of us were admiring the city walls illuminated in the night, whereas Jared was off chatting again. When he returned he told me he had talked to someone about climbing up to the crows nest once we returned to port. How he managed to convince them to let him climb it I’ll never know, but how he climbed up there after all the drinks we had was even more impressive. Once we were back and everyone else had left Jared was signaled to go for it and away he went. I may or may not have tried to go as well, but for many reasons I’m thankful the crew shouted me down when I was only about two steps up. In what I consider a minor miracle Jared somehow managed to climb all the way to the top and back down again without falling off and breaking his head. The crows nest was probably a good 30′ in up a rope ladder, and there was no safety ropes to attach onto. Finally with both feet firmly back on the boat we too made our leave.
Too high on our booze filled ride to go back to bed we managed to stumble into some people we had met on the boat and asked them if they wanted to join us for another round. I want to take this moment to formally apologize to those people: I am so sorry that we were so drunk we engaged in verbal diarrhea with you and I hope you can forgive us. It’s mortifying even now thinking about that experience over that last half liter of beer. Finally when we could drink no more we parted ways and returned to our Airbnb. With no water, snacks, or dignity left I collapsed face first into bed.
When I awoke the next morning it was to what could only be considered the beginnings of death’s harsh grip. Attempting to open my eyes felt like a Herculean feat of strength as I forced myself to crawl to the bathroom in the hopes that a shower would provide me with some salvation. But I was a lost soul that morning with no salvation in sight as I spent the rest of our time at the Airbnb making offerings to the porcelain gods. With checkout at 11am I had to pull myself together enough to pack my bag, put on my pack, and walk down to the nearby park where we were catching a boat that afternoon to start our island hopping. Without Jared I would never had made it and would still probably be stranded on a set of stairs in Dubrovnik.
Upon reaching the park I made myself intimately familiar with a couple bushes (there was no toilet in the park), unknowing that there was a local homeless woman using them as a toilet. It was not a fun day in the park sleeping on a beach pad among the local homeless people bouncing in and out of the bushes, and I was quite happy when I finally managed to keep something down. What we had intended to be a fun last day in Dubrovnik turned out to be a hungover mess and the start of my not drinking for the next two months. Finally it was time to catch our boat and say goodbye one final time to the Pearl of the Adriatic.