Friday, September 13, 2013

24 hours



I would be fast asleep before my head even hit the pillow. Sometimes even before I finished saying my prayers I would fall deeply into a dreamy sleep. We worked hard twenty-four hours a day, six days a week - all for our coveted day off.  


Last summer was my first for working for Camp California and living abroad in Croatia. So friends and I packed everything we could into those precious 24 hours. Every week offered a new adventure where we would be sure to return with a story or two to tell. In between these two summers in Croatia I lived in Italy and did a lot of traveling around Europe. The Euro is not a travel addict’s best friend so I returned to Croatia this summer on a tight budget. Also, balancing three hats on my head - camp nurse, head counselor, and department head - left me exhausted by day's end. So this time around in Croatia, my days off were saved for cities I did not explore last year and long, lazy afternoons by the sea. 

Early in the summer I traveled to Šibenik, Croatia. This seaside town is in between Zadar and Split and on the way to Krka National Park. Šibenik lacks the polished glamour of Zadar or Dubrovnik - it is a truly historical Croat town that reveals its past with a towering fortress and its beauty with a sprawling boardwalk. We arrived in the evening and strolled through the old town. One of the main sights, St. James Cathedral, was lit up and led us down to the sea side where we enjoyed gemišts and dated 90’s music at one of the local bars. The following day we walked the town, climbed to its peak, and indulged in ćevapi and ice cream. We took the advice of previous travelers and entered the cemetery for the panoramic view rather than pay to enter the fortress – ah, the life of a traveler, always trying to save a few. It was a wonderfully easy day off in another beautiful Dalmatian town.


Another week, another 24 hours to plan. This time we headed inland to Krka National Park and Skradin. Last year I traveled to Plitvice Waterfalls and Krka is quite similar – except you can swim in the falls! We parked our cute rental car and hopped on the shuttle that took us deep into the park. Turquoise lakes and waterfalls flashed between the thick forest. Upon exiting the sketchy shuttle, we were immediately transported to another world in Croatia. No more white rocks and blue seas. We were surrounded with green trees, birds chatting away, and water rushing through the valleys. You walk along wooden planks that wind along lakes, cross rivers, and perimeter the falls. Instantly, you feel at ease and can’t help but appreciate this rare beauty. It still amazes me that water can be that clear and blue. The wooden path eventually leads you to the main fall and swimming hole.
There you can enjoy a MacGyvered radler and lay in the sun or swim by the waterfalls. The water is a stark contrast to the Adriatic. Our first thoughts were ‘damn, it’s hard to swim and float!” The salinity of the sea made the job much easier. We swam out to the lane rope and felt the powerful spray from the falls crash against us. Then we let the current drag us away and under the bridge to an open lagoon. Feeling like kids again, we waded in the water, climbed on the rocks, and played with not a care in the world.
Following Krka we returned to a very special place, Skradin. I did a lot of jumping in Skradin last year – both bridge and bungee. So this year, we returned to the bridge accompanied with new friends to tackle the jump once more. It is just as terrifying and exhilarating the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, time around. While some jumped from the beams below, Marco, Sky, and I went straight to the top. Not knowing what to expect, Sky and Marco fearlessly jumped into the river below. I stood above, doubting the jump. I am not quite sure why I hesitated. I have done it plenty times before and even from standing higher on the rails - perhaps because I didn’t have my Hungarian jumping partner to cheer me on. But then I simply just took a deep breath, looked straight ahead, and jumped into the cool water. The feeling of free falling will never lose its novelty. On an adrenaline high, we returned back to camp and our world of rugged, rocky terrain set against smooth blue seas.



A few weekends later the staff decided to do a group trip to Vodice, another coastal town and known for its night life. Thirty of us piled into a mini-bus and made our way down the coast with no further plans on the agenda but to just relax. As is our usual routine, we found accommodation once we arrived by going up to old ladies' houses and asking if they have a room. Not surprisingly, we met a wonderfully gracious mother and daughter who advised us on places to go in the area and gave us a great deal on the rooms. Our day progressed to a beach party on a rock island where we swapped stories of home and past travels, enjoyed a few radlers, and crashed a hotel’s pool. The night brought out the party animal in us all and we enjoyed the beach riviera that was littered with lounges and clubs. We danced the night away and toasted to new friends and beautiful places.


The end of my summer was marked with one of my favorite types of days off – Boat Day Off. Jason, Mick, Mikaela, Zoe, and I rented a speedboat for the day to island hop and cruise the Adriatic once more. Watching Pakoštane fade out in the horizon makes you truly feel like you are getting away. We traveled south to Žirje Island and looped back up north to the far end of Kornati Islands. We stopped and lounged and dolphins played games around us. We weighed anchor at two islands and climbed to the ruins above. We cruised by the cliffs Marci and I jumped off last year, still in awe that I actually did that. Being on the sea brings me the most peace and reveals the true beauty of Croatia.










For those few other 24 hours of freedom I spent in Pakoštane. This little village has become a second home to me and nothing is more comforting than home. I napped on deck chairs all day, soaking in the sun and catching up on my reading. I believe Pine Beach has the best piece of land on Dalmatia and our view is nothing short of breathtaking. After sunset and a short walk to the village, we would enjoy a few gemišts and each other’s company. I know I don’t need to partake in a crazy trip every week. I don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun. Happiness is a state of mind and I find my moments of true happiness are quite simple – when I am surrounded by good company and a beautiful environment. 






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