The first part of my Summer Tour With Friends’ involved a boat tour in Croatia, along the Dalmatian Coast. After we found and boarded the boat, we began the sail along the Dalmatian Coast. What was our boat like? It was not a cruise ship. There were no 5,000 people, casinos, roadway musicals, gyms, mini golf courses, or even a pool. Ours had 3 decks, each guest had a room, with a roommate, bed and shower, and there was a cafeteria. The boat could hold about 35 people. On the top of the boat was the sundeck. We could work on our tans on it and exercise in the sea by jumping right off the boat (when the boat was stationary, and there was no current, of course). For food, there was always breakfast, lunch most times, and dinner sometimes. Local Croatian cuisine, such as a full bass fish (including head and tail)…decent food, though not the best I’ve had. The boat was owned by 5 Croatian brothers, who all worked on the boat, so it was really cool to help out a family-run business and get to know their story.

Who was on our boat? A couple of Englishmen, a Canadian, some New Zealanders….but mostly Aussies. I am actually mad at my mom for failing her Australia interview, and not moving there. The Aussies take multiple weeks, even MONTHS for vacation. Sometimes they don’t take vacations for 2 years straight, but accumulate months for one large trip, lasting several months! Some, like government employees, get 6 weeks off, plus another 2 of unpaid time. The Aussies are all over Europe now because it is winter in Australia. Also, since Australia is so far away from everywhere else, they save money by seeing lots of places at one time. On our boat I have realized how “exceptional” Americans truly are….exceptional at treating the working class like animals, that is. While every developed nation in the world has universal health care coverage, price ceilings for drugs and medication, paid maternity leave, and charges 20K or less for a year of college education (with no interest on college loans), here in the States, the working person gets treated like shit. No wonder so many are stressed out, driven to commit mass shootings, and vote for Donald Trump, not to mention ignorant about the world outside of their own borders. But enough about American politics…you all want to hear about my adventures in Croatia, right?

Funny story behind the name “Dalmation”. In the mid 19th century, the local government in the city of Dubrovnik created a voluntary police force, but more as a tourist attraction. 101 Croatian women were each assigned a Dalmation puppy. They usually take photos with tourists, but can also top criminals by tazing them, then waiting for the real police to arrive (American cops, take note. Instead of killing people, why not have hot women taze them instead?) The next male politician who came to power also created male force….where each of the 101 male Dalmation was handpicked by one of the female ones (the males then also had their own Dalmatian puppies)!

On the first day, after a delicious Croatian lunch and a brief swim stop at the Peljesac Peninsula, where we could dive into the water from the top deck of the boat; we landed in Makarska. This town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, with a population of just under 14,000, is known for its swimming holes and its cave bars. We went for a swim, and did an obstacle course, right in the water. This obstacle course is a bit like “Wipe Out”; you have to pass several challenges, without falling into the water….it’s difficult, but fun! On the shore line, there are some sweet souvenir shops, and beach bars. In the night, it’s party time! There are literally bars inside caves, and we went to one. But perhaps the party of the day belongs to the Polish wooden boat party, which, needs no caves. They blast music, right on their boat. Even kids, with parents, are on this boat! Who needs a club, when you can just make your own!

The next day, we spent the afternoon at Mljet National Park. This is a park where you can do lots of adventure related activities. You can bike. You can kayak. Or, like me, you can swim across one or both of the pristine, warm lakes! I also went in this super slow electric boat. You kind of drive it as if you are playing a video game on a console, except it is so slow, that I beat it swimming by myself! You could have tied yourself to me, and gone faster, than taking that boat! At night, we played this Canadian game called “Box”. Each player must pick up a box with his or her mouth without touching the hands or knees to the ground. After each round, the box gets cut to become shorter. As players fail to pick up the box, they are out. I was just average at this game; most of the girls beat me, then everyone else. Ladies, how are you so flexible? And, where did you pick up the rare talent to pick up boxes with your mouth, right off the actual floor? The one downside of licking a box partially eaten by 30 people, of course, is also eating their germs. Which I did, and picked up a cold. Which makes a trip to Dubrovnik less fun, but…..

Dubrovnik, our next destination, was one of my favorite cities in Croatia, and not just due to being being a “Game of Thrones” fan (which helps), Box germ-induced cold, or not. This city, under UNESCO World Heritage protection, survived an intense bombing campaign in 1992 by Yugoslavia’s Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), composed mainly of Serbs, which bombed the city after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, a former Soviet satellite state. The occupation lasted for seven months and damaged 56% of the real estate of Dubrovnik. We can still see the after-affects and the bombed-out buildings, even today. People in Croatia are of 2 minds when it comes to the conflict. The younger generation is not comfortable, and sometimes even outright refuses, to talk about it. The older generation, on the other hand, does not appreciate Croats who moved away during the conflict, often mockingly asking them “where were you in 1992”?

Back to the city tour. After lunch at a restaurant that can seat 40+ people outdoors, the group went on a “Game of Thrones” tour. It was interesting to learn how the show makers cover up electrical wires with flowers, to beautify the surroundings. Dubrovnik is where some of the most important “Game of Thrones” scenes were taken, including all of the King’s Landing and Cersei scenes, even her “Walk of Shame”! The tour ended with photos on the “throne”, where I sat on it, after defeating Cersei, Jon snow, Daenarys and her dragons, and everyone else to become King of Westeros. If you are into “Game of Thrones” like me, you will really enjoy this tour!

But Dubrovnik is so much more than history and “Game of Thrones”. It is a city filled with beauty and fun. Climbing up to the top of the cliffs, you see spectacular views of the fort, with kayakers and jet skiers starting out their excursions. As you reach the cliffs, it’s time to cliff-dive. The cliffs look scary, and for the taller ones, you need to know what you are doing, and how to jump correctly, to avoid serious injury. I jumped from one of the lower cliffs (please don’t tell my mom or grandmas)!. Despite looking quite scary, jumping off a cliff is actually quite fun. It does not hurt at all when you land in the water; to jump, you should not think about it, or you might chicken out. Just close your eyes, count to 3, and jump off, then reopen your eyes to see yourself fly! Once you do it once, you want to do it again and again….but that first jump is always the heart-stopper.

Dubrovnik also has some of the best nightlife I have ever seen. We went to this club, “The Revelin”, which, of course, is a club inside a cave. Like in Prague, they serve entire buckets of alcoholic drinks, that, just as in Prague, really mess you up if you don’t pace yourself,(yes, I was the one messed up. Again, please don’t tell this part to my mom or grandmas)! There is live entertainment, including a guy playing the saxophone.

After a wild night out in Dubrovnik, the next afternoon called for a more relaxed, toned down walk around the city of Korcula. This is the home of Marco Polo (who was actually born in Italy, but spent most of his life in Korcula). We saw his house and the museum, then had a delicious lunch at the Lambarda Bay, but mostly it was a quiet night, where we just enjoyed the city views.

On the 5th day we finally arrived to Hvar. The town is covered in pine forests, vineyards, and olive groves; it even has fresh-water lakes, which, unlike most of the rest of Croatia, makes it an ideal farming location. As you walk around town, be inspired by the awesome views from the fort, of islands dotting the coasts, with green hilly trees hugging the mountains. But do not let the serenity of what you see outside fool you, as Hvar is actually a wild party town! First, we had drinks at the “Hula Hula Bar”, which has spectacular views of the city, as you enjoy drinks. But good luck getting up there. You have to climb a long, winding set of stairs. Definitely not a place for people with disabilities….or anyone drunk! You can easily fall to your death off the top of the wall. I wonder if anyone had died, or been injured at this bar? In the USA, the conditions would be considered unsafe, and the bar would have never been allowed to operate. The real party (here you can get drunk) is at “Carpe Diem”, though which is a nightclub on its own island! A boat takes you there and back, and the party gets good (filled with people) at around 2 AM-4 AM. There is even a robot dancing to entertain the revelers! If you come early enough, you can reserve a table, by buying a bottle of alcohol, all under $200 Euros. Good luck getting such a deal in Boston, or in New York!

On the 6th day, after swimming at Zlatnin Rat on Brac Island, near Bol (Golden Horn), one of the most famous beaches in Croatia, we arrived to Omis. Don’t let this sleepy town’s initial appearance fool you, as this city is full of adrenaline. Our adventure started with white-water rafting down the Cetina River…..but in between, we managed to swim down waterfalls, climb pitch-dark caves, and bathe in 50 degree F stream waters. You can only raft here during the summers, though, as the water rises to dangerous levels as winter approaches, beginning in October. At night, we went to this local pirate show, which apparently happens annually, and we were in the city that entire day. The show itself, unfortunately, was quiet underwhelming, and not as interesting as expected. Omis also offers ziplining opportunities. It is a must-do activity here. You will never regret cruising over 70 km/hour, for 400 meters, as you hang 100 feet over the Cetina River and the forests surrounding it. Bring your camera, the views are just spectacular, and it’s really not difficult, nor scary to zipline, at all!

After 7 days of Dalmatian adventures, our boat has arrived to right where it started, Split, another city under UNESCO World Heritage protection. You know right when you are downtown this large, beautiful city because one thing stands out at you….the markets. Lots of outdoor mini-shops selling all kinds of cheap, colorful stuff. I even snagged a 500 BILLION Yugaslavian currency note! You also notice the boats. So many. Sailboats, yachts, cruises, party boats….you name it. This makes sense, as shipbuilding industry is flourishing in Split, and many companies offer cruises along the Dalmatian Coast. On the last night of our boat trip, after dinner by the Bacevice Beach Promenade, I got to watch the Olympic Basketball semifinals with a bunch of Aussies. Australia supposedly is supposed to have a decent team, but don’t tell that to me. When you put up just 15 points in the entire first HALF, you just suck! Understandably, my Aussie watch mates were quiet for much of the game, and gave up after the third quarter, and went home, rather than continuing to torture themselves with the blowout.

After the boat tour was over, my friends and I stayed one more day in Split. We went to check out Diocletian’s Palace, built by the ancient Roman emperor Diocletian in 305 AD, as a retirement home. After the fall of Rome, it was abandoned until the 7th century, when local residents fled to it to escape the Croatian invasion. Today, you can still see the ancient walls of this beautiful, grand palace. On Saturday nights in the summers, the plaza outside of it hosts dancing parties. Have you seen Russians doing Brazilian samba in Croatia before? I officially have now!

Some final thoughts regarding Croatia: it is a highly underrated European summer vacation spot. A great place to enjoy the sites, party, and try new activities. However, it does get old after a few days. All of the houses, in every city look the same…gray bodies, and red rooftops. Each city has a fort and a church. Practically all of the beaches lack sand. Local Croats almost all know English, and they were friendlier than I expected. Overall, a decent vacation destination, especially if you like swimming in warm salt water and outdoor bars, but don’t stay for too long, as all of the cities look very similar.

For those who have never been before, Kodasail is definitely a cruise I would recommend. The organizer, Chris, is friendly, and knowledgeable. You get exposure to various nationalities and get to learn about how people live in other countries, and their own countries. Go with your friends and enjoy learning the history, swimming, cliff-diving, whitewater rafting, and ziplining by day, and bar-hopping, dancing, drinking, and watching live entertainment by night, You may even make new friends for life, maybe even, literally, a boatload of diverse friends!