So after almost 2 weeks with little contact with anyone from the states, a very poor blog update, rare moments of wifi, some crazy nights in Amsterdam, and all of it peppered with hangovers here and there, we have the first official update starring yours truly and Heather McGrath (www.heathermcgrath.com).
The motto of the trip so far has been "it's not bad weather, it's just a bad outfit". We have seen a lot of rain the past two weeks. About 11 days worth. Following us from Amsterdam to paris, then from paris to venice, and finally chasing us down the coast of Croatia. The rain even managed to buy some time while we were laid over due to late trains. How nice.
Now that the complaining is out of the way... the trip started off with a crescendo in Amsterdam and since then has been full of travel days with no days of relaxation. After spending 5 days in Amsterdam seeing, eating, and drinking just about everything we could, we left with bloated stomaches and a hangover that took all the way to Paris to kick. After arriving in Paris late and missing the connecting train to Venice we had no choice but to stay overnight. We found a cheap (for paris) but disturbingly smelly room for the night we went out to find Notre Dame. It was found, viewed, ooh'd and ahh'd at, and exited to catch some sleep before the next train at 7:30am.
The train ride was filled with sleep, hilarious Guatemalans, creepy zombie men, and the beautiful French Alps. Of course we missed our connecting train due to ours being over a hour late. We found a slower train with more stops that was leaving soon and had no choice but to take it. We arrived late night into Venice, the perfect time if we only had a place to sleep, food in our stomaches, and wine in our blood. Shops and restaurants were just closing up and yes it was raining, but seeing those canals and old Roman buildings certainly put a smile on our faces. We found a cheap room with a window looking down a main cobblestone street and slept with the window open. The alarm for sunrise accompanied by the sound of the workers pulling their carts up the cobblestones woke us up. Eager to shoot venice at sunrise; we wake up, look out the window, and are greeted by none other than the rain. Again. We load up our 40lb bags, throw them onto our backs, and set off to find the ferry to Croatia. One info booth sends us on a 20 minute walk across all the canals to the ferries. We arrive there to find that the season was over and that we missed the deadline by less than 4 days! We walked all the way back and asked a different company which sent us on another back and forth walk to finally confirm we were shit out of luck. We would have to take a train all the way around the borders to get down to Dubrovnik. So tired from the bags, rain, and italian prices; we schlepped to the train station again and headed to Trieste. Again, arriving too late we had to find a room for the night and catch the morning bus down to Croatia. We were already 2 days behind our "relaxation schedule" so we said, "fuck it lets rent a car for Croatia". $225 for 5 days, no more weight on our backs and a place to sleep if need be. Heck yes.
The journey down Croatia was great for me. Editing, resting, playing DJ, enjoying the scenery. The one time in my life I've felt lucky for not knowing how to drive stick! Heather was blessed with that privilege the entire drive south and again back north. 16 hours worth of driving! The scariest roads Heather has ever driven. Alongside the scariest drivers out there (and next to heather THATS fucking scary!). The speed limit will say 130 kmph and the other cars fly past us going 150-170. Even if theres a cliff next to us, a hairpin turn just up ahead or in fog as thick as pea soup! They are absolutely crazy but regardless, we survived and came back wanting more.
Croatia is an absolutely amazing country, filled with landscapes you could only imagine in your dreams and weather that seems to battle against everything beautiful you can find. A sort of back and forth between nature and the weather. We found ourselves high up in the mountains looking down on the little villages nestled in with birch forests only to come crashing through a wall of dense fog that dwindled the visibility to under 30ft ahead. These clashes would last throughout the trip and only when the landscapes got particularly beautiful.
We spent the first leg of our Croatian adventure in a place called "Plitvice". A park that looks like a fairytale with miles of trails that wind throughout a valley of waterfalls. We spent the better part of 12 hours exploring and shooting this paradise, in the rain of course (thank god for goretex!) fighting off every urge we had to jump in the water. Apparently, that is a big no-no here, which is cool by me. Preserve that nature, man. I'm sure the locals know of a few watering holes. I don't see how you couldn't live near there and not jump into the crystal clear water. Seriously, crystal clear. Unbelievable how blue the water was too. The only downside is how much theme park-ish it is. We met americans, australians, and saw plenty of, my favorite, asians. All bused in by the ton, from far away. Despite this, we managed to find solitude to wander and shoot.
We found so much space to do this that we ended up missing the last bus back down to the home base. Imagine, two Americans finding themselves alone, at the end of a one way road 4 miles from any other living person, on another continent, surrounded by a surreal forrest, signs for bears and wolves, with only a half-hour of daylight left. The horror! We made the trek back with new boots giving our feet every reason to blister with every step, the sun creeping away behind the clouds, and whatever wildlife that hid during tourist hours now watched with prying eyes. We could watch the fog rolling over the hills down into the valley where we walked.
The only thing that was on my mind was "keep moving cause I just know a mountain lion is going to mess up our day". Heather was much more nonchalant about the whole situation, I was thinking to myself "screw her and her calmness, what does she know, I've seen The Edge, I know how this stuff plays out!" What I didn't say showed in my pace, I'm sure.
After 4 miles and a few forced crap jokes we made it back to the main area. We luckily scored a ride back to our car from the manager of a hotel bar. This older gentleman could not speak more english than "I know little english" He was a Croatian, Itialian, and German speaking gentleman. Still a nice portfolio of languages. We spent the drive in silence, as he drove hunched over trying to see through the small hole in the fogged up windshield.
Finally seeing the car was relieving, but knowing we had to find a place to sleep in the car ruined any sort of excitement. We left Plitvice with a great adventure and wet cameras and traveled south to end up sleeping in the parking lot of a castle that was built in the 9th century. We shared our parking space with two very curious street cats. Both of which Heather could not wait to pet. Once a cat lady, always a cat lady. We woke up the next morning around 11am to castle goers coming and going and ,luckily, paying us no mind. We got ourselves together, went across the street for coffee and wifi, and then paid for our tickets to the castle.
Once we reached the southern most area the fog tapered off and we found ourselves in Dubrovnik, a city preserved only by time, and unlike Klis, there is a whole city surrounded by castle walls and the bluest ocean on the planet. We were now staying in paradise, in an apartment, just above a pizza parlor. Heaven!