The Bus2alps student tour guide agency meets at the Santa Maria train station for weekend departures. For the first time, I boarded a double decker bus filled with students from Florence and Rome. Headed to Split, Croatia, we traveled from 9am-9pm, bussing throughout the night watching Harry Potter and Blood Diamond. Around midnight, we stopped somewhere in Northern Italy for a late dinner. I had taken two Tylenol PMs half an hour earlier. While waiting in line to buy Milka chocolate covered popcorn (delish), I felt somewhat hazy. My friends kept making fun of my slurred speech and delayed responses.
Laugh all you want, girls. I slept like a baby.
When I woke up, we were surrounded by Croatian mountains. At this moment I realized I want to spend every weekend this semester away. Florence is beautiful, but so is the rest of this world.
We will never be able to see it all, but we might as well try.
I signed up for the Bus2alps rafting tour down the Cetina river. Our leader for the excursion, Julia, is a Bus2alps leader through Rome. Every leader I’ve met has been so inspiring to me and my ambition to travel.
During the ride, 20 of us awed in amazement swerving through the mountains. Turquoise green lined the shore. The pictures I had always admired in National Geographic were just a look out the window.
Just Around the Riverbend
Danielle, Lexie, Amanda, Jackie, and Deanna, the girls I had met in the Frankfort airport, adopted me as a friend and invited me into their rafting boat. Our river guide was Martco, a recent graduate from Croatia who lead tours in over 200 languages. Martco forewarned us about proper navigation and safety, describing how to react in a threatening situation. Our path ranked as a level 2 out of 6, which did not seem too threatening to me.
The Cetina is clear, boarded by mountains, and ever so peaceful. We ran into about 10 rapids during the 3 hour tour, which were a bit challenging but our boat nailed every single one of them. Champs.
A few of our stops included grabbing wild mint to taste, cliff jumping, and drinking from a fresh waterfall. When we reached the waterfall, Dannielle jumped from the boat onto the rocks for a natural refreshment. Martco smiled and shook his head, explaining that the rest of the boat needed to wait a minute until the rocks cleaned themselves from Danielle’s contaminated boots. Oops. After some time had passed we reached our hands out to sample the Cetina. Much better than Aquafina.
During our last stop, we hiked up in full gear to jump off a 40 foot cliff. I’ve been off taller, but the risk of the rocks and rush of the freezing water was much more exhilarating.
You Are What You Eat
The end of the trip included a meal from Radmanove Mlinice, an outdoor restaurant on the Cetina. We were immediately served moist, thick bread cut from circular loaves 2 feet long baked right behind our seats. Our white wine was very potent but tasty. And for the first time, I skinned my own meal.
Some people are turned off when their food stares at them, but I was eager to taste. Our trout was caught just a few feet from our table, and the freshest meal I had ever enjoyed.
Our feast ended with baskets of ustipak, a Croatian fried dough ball. I ate about five. Judge me.
I passed out during the hour long ride back, waking up with a sore neck and some drool. But I was refreshed and ready to roll. My roommates ate at the Hostel (Goli Bosi). I was still full from Cetina but ordered a “DeBelly”. The waiter described the dessert as a fudgy ice cream dish, so I went for it. The DeBelly looked more like parfait filled with jelled berries at the bottom and a dark chocolate milkshake texture on top. Decent and ever so rich.
At 830 we started the Pubcrawl. Our first stop was a large club that overlooked the Split skyline. With an unlimited drink special for the first 90 minutes, the outdoor bar filled with Europeans by 9. I talked to boys from England, Australia, and Sweden. They were mostly nice but very cocky. Go figure.
The second bar near our hostel played lingerie runway shows and popular American music. Not really feeling the dance floor, I spent most of the time talking to our Bus2alps leaders on the patio.
Our last destination was a beach bar, which was a hike to get to. I spent the walk talking to Aleksandra, a girl I met on the rafting tour who goes to USF Tampa. My roommates and I were exhausted and lasted about 30 minutes before heading back. By 3AM, almost every food vendor was closed but I was determined to find pizza. Right before locking their doors, we popped into a place near the hostel. Gabbi, Kenzie and I scarfed down our own pies for about a euro each.