Got a text a few days ago from an old O’Rorke Hall of Residence (Auckland University) mate – Nish. He’d gotten bored of Ibiza and its tourist excesses and was looking for something a bit nicer (and affordable). I’d let him know how nice croatia was, long story short – he got on the next plane to Dubrovnik – on the other side of Croatia to where I was staying (about 900km away)
Regardless I’d agreed to meet him, and we are contemplating a sail croatia trip over the next week or two if the weather stays ok. Looking at flights from Pula to Dubrovnik, everything seemed to have a 12-15 hour night time layover in Zagreb airport, which isn’t my idea of fun. I was told to avoid the buses by my hosts, as I’d just be crammed into a bus for close to 15 hours, leaving the final, and slowest option – travelling by ferry, which sounded just right.
Onto the internet we went and it turned out I’d missed Monday’s ferry, and the next one wasn’t leaving until 6pm Friday (a 24 hour trip down the coast, arriving at 6pm the next day) and giving me 4 days to pass while I wait for the boat.
So I got onto the phone to one of my ex work colleagues from Conferenz back in NZ – Anja. Anja is Croatian, but lived in NZ for 10 years before moving to the UK and back to her home town of Bakar, just out of Rijeka. According to good old wikipedia, this place has a population of 1500, making it nice, small and chilled out. So, I jumped on the first bus out of Pula that my host Jasen could find me, costing just 103kn, with 8kn for my bags, and after 1.5 hours of driving along amazing coastline, full of old buildings, beaches etc I was there.
Bakar is a port town, a short drive our of Rijeka. It used to be a coal mining town, but the mines closed in 1995, and appears to be now mainly used as a school for Navy recruits. Its nice and quiet, with one small hotel and no tourist apartments. At a guess I’d say I’d be the only “commonwealth” tourist in the town, where everyone seems to know everyone.
I’m staying in the “Garden House” – the bottom floor in Anja’s family house, which is around 200 years old (built in 1812, and has been in their family since it was built) and appears to be one of the nicest properties in the entire town. It is literally right on the waterfront (you can see ropes tying boats to the wharf in front of the gate) and has some amazing views from the windows. The garden is one of the greenest I’ve seen in my entire time in Croatia, and definitely feels like home, even having a freshwater stream from the mountains that goes into the Sea.
In the past the place was the residence of the Mayor (who I think was Anja’s Great Great grandfather) and then an artists studio (who has her great grandfather).
Over the next few days I’ll explore Rijeka, read and relax before getting on my 24 hour long boat ride from Rijeka -> Sobra -> Dubrovnik for only 228KN ($48NZD) for the cheapest “on deck” without a room ticket, if I decide to upgrade to a room on the boat it will be in the region of $80-130 NZD.