I have to begin this post by sharing that a week ago, I paid less than 6 euros (<$6.72) for 6 months worth of prescription medication and that was an entirely out-of-pocket expense (no health insurance). I know, right? I was in shock the whole walk home from the pharmacy, wanting to tell everyone I passed on the street. After the shock and elation wore off, the sadness kicked in (and continues to linger) that this is my reality; my reality as an American. It is tempting to go on and on about our disastrous healthcare system in the United States (as I did when I first started this post) but I have decided to relieve my readers from having to sit through that and get back to our current experiences.
The most recent and significant experience the Brew Crew had, which kicked off our summer, was 10 days in Croatia and we were lucky enough to have two families from Seattle make the trip to meet us. I have to admit, I was a little weary about this trip beforehand because of the apparent tourist crowds and we are not even fans of Games of Thrones but since one of our friends has Croatian family history and visiting a slavic country is unique in itself, we were game. We did get a taste of the crowds during our one day in Dubrovnik where literally there was a rope in the middle of the entrance to the old town, dividing the lines of tourists from coming and going, just like in a theater or a museum. But the old town did prove to be charming as the architecture and flavor of the place takes you right back to ancient as well as recent war times. An unmarked passageway lead us to a bar and swim hole set up on the rocks just outside the city walls, the walk along the top of the city walls was truly dynamic and a must do and the turquoise Adriatic waters were so inviting.
Then it was time to escape the crowds! We did so with the help of Huck Finn Adventures, whose local tour guides, Darija and Valentino, took us on our own customized and personalized trip to the islands and national parks for 6 nights. We visited Sipan and Lopud islands where we sea kayaked in the beautiful waters, hiked in the heat and biked to and from the beach, which took me back to childhood days at the New Jersey shore, riding in swimsuit with my beach towel around my neck only this ride was on a very old concrete path (probably from the 12th century) along the Adriatic Sea. We ate our dinners each night in Sunset Cove (with a beautiful backdrop) and our three families shared a three floor guest house (one floor for each family) which met all our needs.
We were driven about 6 hours inland for the second half of our trip to Korana Village with a short stop over in Split. Split provided great burgers at Mama Burger and an entertaining walking tour amongst the Roman ruins and palace. Once in Korana Village, we stayed in guest houses owned by local families and ate home cooked Croatian meals each morning and night (Huck Finn Adventures makes a real effort to support the economy of the locals by hiring them to serve their guests). We spent one day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, strolling along the boardwalks and admiring the 16 terraced lakes joined by captivating waterfalls. We also spent a day river kayaking down the Mreznica river which was an unexpected blast. Little did we know until we were floating in our kayaks that there were actual rapids just feet away from us with no clear sign of how far we were plunging. But our inflatable, sit-top kayaks kept us safe as we bounced from one rapid to another. We even had the challenge of getting out of our boats and jumping 5 or 8 meters off a rock since those rapids were a little advanced for us in our kayaks. A great challenge for all! And when we returned each night to our village the neighborhood river provided a great swim hole for the kids.
We ended our trip with a couple nights in Zadar (more Roman ruins and a very cool “sea organ”) and then said our much avoided goodbyes and flew out of Split. How much fun we had reconnecting with friends from home, laughing and confiding as if we were never apart. And traveling with Huck Finn was the best choice of all, we agreed, so someone else could make all the decisions while we were allowed to focus our energies on catching up and spending time together. Only 3 of the 13 of us got hit with some fast moving violent travel bug and our learnings included that cash is king in Croatia and that almost everyone speaks English, once again accommodating the foreign language-impaired Americans. Thank you friends for making the trip and thank you Huck Finn for taking such good care of us!