Sunday, 1 June 2014

Back in England + Croatia

Well, I am finally back home after a great road trip around England and as of an hour ago I finally finished my big essay! Fuck yeah!!!! YEAH SON!!!!! Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitches!!!!!!! Seriously, I feel so relieved right now. I picked a question, did all the reading, and wrote the 3000 word paper in less than 5 days (including yesterday where I literally sat at the kitchen table and did the reading, made an outline, and wrote half of the essay) sporadically spread out since I got back from spring break which is way less time than I would normally take at Luther. And it wasn’t even as shitty as I thought it would end up being! I for sure passed, which is all that matters. 42.

So trying to catch up on everything since spring break, here are the highlights from being in England pre-Croatia:
-Polish Oral Exam: I woke up on Tuesday at noon after getting in at 4:30am and had approximately 24 hours until my Polish exam to study. All of us got together and studied for a couple hours before the exam on Wednesday (May 14), and the exam itself wasn’t too bad. The first part was a little bullshit since it was making up a conversation in Polish (which isn’t what we were expecting), but my group nailed the part with the conversation that we prepared. And in the end, World of Drinks is on my way to switch buses to go home anyway…
-Program Dinner: Friday (May 16) we figured out that everyone in the program would be in Nottingham for the extended period of almost 36 hours, so Bob and Marilynn organized a semi-impromptu program dinner for us. Kaia got back to the flat from Paris at 6:05pm, and the cabs left for the pub at 6:45. We ate great food at a great pub and shared a last few moments all together. Bob had printed out the essays that we wrote for our Nottingham Program application (over a year and a half ago!) and read a line from each of them, and we guessed which essay was which person’s. It was really fun to get dressed up and spend time together with everyone.
-Cigar Garden Party: Also known as the 2014 Cigarden Party, Bob and Bob’s Friends (Kula and myself) threw a cigar party (with decorations from Poundland!) for everyone in Bob and Marilynn’s backyard. We had cake for Sarah’s birthday, wine and cheese, cigars and whiskey. Perfection. Kula and I were the perfect hosts It was so nice to be together with everyone and hang out and laugh and smoke cigars and appreciate the last few days that we all have left together. Bob’s Friends had a great time hosting and we can’t wait for the next one!
-Pretending to work on my essay: I picked my question, checked out some books from the library, and then procrastinated actually doing anything about it until I got back from Croatia.

Pre-program dinner pictures
Bob's Friends Cigarden Party
Bob and Bob's Friends
Okay so Croatia!!! This trip was probably one of the best of my entire year so far. I have fallen so, so in love with the country. If you haven’t been to Croatia yet, please, go immediately. It was so beautiful—just an entirely different type of beautiful I had ever experienced. The water was so blue and so clear, the hills and cliffs green, the roofs in the city orange and everything was amazing. More than anything, it was a wonderful last trip before I got back home. I know I still have Russia left (!!!) but that trip is so different—longer, more intimidating, bigger, etc. This was the last “weekend” trip I’ll go on this year where I just jet off to another country and spend a wonderful few days immersing myself in another place and its culture. So here goes:

May 18: My journey to Croatia was a bit of a shit show, due to waking up at 3:50am and me reading the bus schedule for Mon-Fri and not Sunday, and showing up to the bus station and having no bus there. Unfortunately, I had to take a cab to East Midlands Airport (it was so expensive that if I type it I will cry and want to die) in order to catch my 6:45am flight. I’m glad I did though, since I never would have made it through in time for my flight if I had waited for the bus. Flying into the Dubrovnik airport was amazing, and got the airport bus to Old Town and (thanks to the very specific directions from my hostel website) dropped off my stuff. I hung out at this cliffside bar right on the ocean, but I sat on some rocks right by the water so that I didn’t have to pay for a drink. It was just so beautiful, being right next to the water and just taking in the sights. I wandered around Old Town and then got out of Pile Gate and stumbled on this amazing rocky cliff and went hiking around there for some awesome views. I took a resting period at my hostel (after I made my way back through the hordes of tourists), before another walk outside of Ploće Gate and the best decision of my life: ice cream. I have found the best ice cream place in Europe, I repeat: I HAVE FOUND THE BEST ICE CREAM PLACE IN EUROPE. The ice cream (gelato style) is delicious, super smooth and creamy texture, but more than anything it was the value for the money that impressed me the most. For 10 kuna (almost $2) you got this GIANT scoop that nearly overflowed the cone. It was amazing. I went back every night that I was in Dubrovnik.


May 19: I woke up pretty early since I wanted to start walking the City Walls before all the other tourists! I’m really glad I did though, since at the beginning I was literally the ONLY person in my section, and by the end there were big tour groups starting to go through. The views were incredible, and it was so much fun to poke around all the fortresses and inlets and stuff. I sat by the bay and then saw both the Franciscan and Dominican Monasteries. Next stop: beach!!! It was a bit chilly, kind of cloudy and the water was super fucking cold, but I’m from MN and I can handle anything. BUT the important thing is that I swam in the Adriatic Sea for the first time!!! Soooo amazing! The water is so clear, it looks so shallow since you can actually see the bottom but it’s not at all. I had a nice long shower, hot dog/beer combo, and then back to Europe’s Best Ice Cream Place and got caramel, one of the better decisions I’ve made culinarily.

Walking the City Walls

Ladies and Gentlemen: May I present The Best Ice Cream In Europe
Best ice cream ever
 May 20: This was my favorite day of the trip and one of the best days I’ve had so far this year. I had a leisurely morning and saw the cathedral before getting the ferry to Lokrum, which is the island nearest to the mainland. It’s a nature reserve, so I got off the boat and there were peacocks everywhere. I wandered around one part of the island, before I found the Dead Sea, which is this inlet on the island where I went swimming. I have no idea why they call it that, since it’s not like you can float or anything, but whatever. I shared the rocks with a group of Irish people and peacocks, who kept trying to steal my food. And after I saw the two Irish guys do it, I decided to go for it and… I went cliff jumping for the first time in my life!!!!! I’ve never done it before since I’ve always been too scared, but I was in Croatia and I just thought I’m in Croatia I might as well do it. It was awesome and SO much fun! I cliff jumped twice :) After that I explored the ruins of the old monastery, then hiked up this giantass hill to Fort Royal, where I climbed on top of the roof of the fort and sat in one of these sketch lawn chairs that they had up there. The views were incredible, something I’ve never seen before and never experienced. I sat up there for about 1.5 hours, just soaking it all in. For about a solid 40 minute period I was the only one up on the fort, and I was literally on top of the world. It was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. I eventually got down, hiked back to the ferry, had a quick dip in the Adriatic Sea (what I thought would be my last one!) and then got back to the mainland. The perfect way to top off the day? I went to my ice cream place and, after deciding that my first ice cream wasn’t enough, went back for seconds and the guy gave me my second ice cream for free. There are no words to describe it. The most amazing ice cream ever, for free. I didn’t even have to use my AK, I had to say it was a good day.

Peacocks at Lokrum
Cliffjumping for the first time ever!!!
On top of the world

My lawn chairs on top of the roof
May 21: Woke up at 5:45am, got my shit together, got the bus to the bus station, and then got my 7:15am bus to Split. The bus ride was something else—for the first hour or so we were driving right along the coast, with the sea on one side and the hills/mountains/cliffs on the other side. I cried for a while, thinking about how beautiful it all was, how lucky I am that I get to experience it, and how this trip was the perfect way to end this amazing year for me. I got to Split and dropped my stuff off at the hostel and explored the city! It used to be the siteof the Diocletian’s Palace during Roman times, and they still have tons of buildings and stuff left over. Really cool to be in a place that’s so old. I sat on some steps near the cathedral and did some quality people watching, and made friends with two Roman soldiers who gave me free strawberries and who I chatted with for almost another hour. Then I headed out of Old Town and up to the edge of the big (national?) park for a great lookout point over the whole city. Shower and resting period before doublefisting two huge pizza slices, ice cream, and then going to bed early for some decent sleep.

Roman stuff in Split
My bffs who gave me free strawberries

May 22: I got the 9:00am bus to Zadar, which took a bit longer than I was expecting due to the fact that in Croatia they pick up and drop people off at random places on the side of the road in addition to the main bus stations. I made it to the hostel, which was a super nice place—I’m sad I only had one night there. I took the coastal walk to the Old Town, which was beautiful. There were lots of Roman stuff in Zadar too, like Split but just less. I saw the sea organ and then on my way back to the hostel I stopped in a grocery store where, to my great surprise and joy, they were playing Remix to Ignition by R. Kelly!!!! (If you didn’t have a reason to go to Croatia before this sentence, grocery stores in Croatia play my jam! Go immediately!) I changed at my hostel and then spent the next 3 hours on some rocks, swimming in the sea and appreciating the beautiful views of the sea and sky, and not appreciating the views of 65 year old Croatian men in Speedos. I packed up and got ice cream (really disappointing after Dubrovnik, but really everything will be), then headed to this café bar called Tequila Sunrise, where I got a jug of beer and watched the sun slowly slide into the ocean. It was perfection. I hung out with people in the hostel that night, playing Cards Against Humanity and chatting before getting to bed at a decent time.

Coastal walk
Sea organ in Zadar
Absolute perfection
May 23: Slept in (finally!!!), checked out, got the bus to the airport, waited at the airport (Zadar airport is, by the way, fucking tiny and boring) and got on my slightly delayed flight to Manchester. My last Ryanair flight! I miss them so much already. My love for them has never wavered. I was trying to get back as soon as possible, because I had time before my train left for Notts and I wanted to go to Taco Bell. At first it seemed like everything was getting in my way: our plane from Zadar was late in arriving, we were late in boarding, it was raining in Manchester so we had to fly around for 10 minutes before landing, none of the gates were open so we had to sit off the runway for 5 minutes, everyone was being fucking slow getting off the plane, one of the automatic doors locked and all of us were stuck in a hallway, the people in front of me in the All Other Passports line were also slow as fuck, people were in my way on the pedestrian walkway to the train station, I had to let the ticket guy use my machine at the train station, my train to Manchester seemed to take forever, but, despite all these adversaries and setbacks, despite the world trying to stop me, I made it to Taco Bell. Hi can I have 5 bean burritos please? were my first words to the Taco Bell employee (2 for right now, 1 train burrito, 2 for tomorrow). My friend Adam was passing through Manchester so I showed him the glory that is a bean burrito from Taco Bell and took the train back with him. I enjoyed my train burrito and the next day I enjoyed my next-day burritos even more. Nothing, and no one, can ever stop me from getting Taco Bell.

Proof of our reunion :)
So all in all, Croatia was one of the most beautiful and amazing places I’ve ever been. It made me so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this year, and it was the absolute perfect goodbye trip to this year abroad. Sitting on the lawn chair at Lokrum on top of the world is a moment I’ll never forget. And seriously, everyone please go to Croatia now!

Okay now that this blog post is over I can continue with my post-paper-dance-party. I’m almost all caught up now, the next post about my road trip will be coming soon!

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