20 December 2013

CRF: The Best of Croatia

"CRF" is not a crime show you've never heard of, it stands for "Cutting Room Floor." It's been almost a year since we returned from Europe, and we've started to get seriously nostalgic.  To give us all an extra travel fix, we're posting some of our favorite photos that never made it onto the blog.  Here are our favorite unpublished memories and pictures of Croatia.
More than any other country, we associate Croatia with hedonism, sun and the scent of saltwater.  Our trip never felt like a vacation, but Croatia is a vacation by definition.  Everyone there was on holiday in one way or another - it was the same for the naked Germans and drunk Russians and sunburned Brits that joined us on those rocky shores.  It was July.  The sun never seemed to go down.
For a few happy days, we stayed at a huge campsite on Cres Island.  There was squid to eat in town and beer to sip on the long oceanside promenade.  When we swam, we were stung by tiny jellyfish.  When we walked in the balmy evenings, we listened to cicadas and waves.  Nearby, in a pine forest, a rusty amusement park spun its blinking, neon magic.
At home in the US, not long after the trip, someone told us that Croatia sounded "scary and Russian."  It's true that in some places, like Zadar, one can find bomb-scarred buildings from the Balkan wars - but you have to look hard.  The scariest thing about Croatia today? Probably the spiny sea-urchins that lurk in the shallow water.
The Dalmatian coast is mostly rock, and some salt-scoured islands feel almost entirely dead.  Real, comfortable, sandy beaches are rare.  Most people sunbathe on concrete slabs.
In Opatija, a city where seafood approaches perfection, we had a barbecue of squid and blitva.  The market where we shopped for our supper was made of Tito-era cement and seemed like the only cool place in the sun-baked city.
The heart of the summer - no rain, mild air, a sense that nothing bad can possibly happen - is best spent in a tent.  We soaked up the sun and got into our sleeping bag coated with salt.  We never went inside.  We ate by the ocean, we napped in the shade, we swam and walked and came home to a crowded camping city that smelled always of grilling sausage and suntan oil.
This was the semi-permanent home of one of our neighbors there at Camping Kovačine - grandparents, small children and at least two couples used this one camper as a base.  Did they all sleep inside?  Hard to tell.
Late one night - well past midnight - we were returning to our campsite in Ičići and came across this streetlight game of volleyball.
These scales always remind us of communism.  Every market from Minsk to Budapest to Sarajevo is full of them.
We spent a lot of time near the Mediterranean on the trip, but almost always during the colder months.  The summer seashores are too crowded in Malta or Greece or Provence.  At least, they're too crowded for serious travel.
But there we were, in Croatia during the high season.  We succumbed because there was no other choice.  It's Croatia that we think of first when our minds turn to sunny saltwater.  It was unavoidably perfect.  It was a vacation.
To see all our posts from Croatia, just click here.
To see all the Cutting Room Floor posts, with great pictures from the other 49 countries, just click here.

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