Shamrock tattoos only go so far.
White-sand beaches, clear-blue sea and quaint Mediterranean villas: That’s how the tourism board depicted Croatia. For months while I was living in Vienna I watched the commercials, studied the scenery and played the commercial jingle in my head. It didn’t take long before I decided I was going there for my 21st birthday.
It was a rocky start in the planning stages. Nobody wanted to go with me. Some people had no funds and others were already traveling elsewhere that weekend. It all left me with only two options: Go alone, or endure the hassle of some extra baggage.
I opted to endure the hassle- after all, I didn’t want to get pissed up on my birthday with no one around to ensure my survival. I picked Ciaran.
I met the young lad in a pub in Vienna where he worked with a friend of mine. One drink led to another and next thing I was waking up next to a tattoo of a smiling shamrock on the upper left corner of some guy’s back. For the next couple weeks, we were inseparable. You see, I have a thing for Irish guys and he was the first one to throw himself at me in Austria’s capital city.
The novelty of the boy’s Irish roots soon wore off and he suddenly became just another pathetic drunk. Sure, so am I from time to time, but Ciaran was the type of swaggering, sweaty drunk that any sober woman would think twice about getting into bed with. Sure, so am I from time to time, but that’s a slightly different story.
I had serious doubts about our compatibility as travel mates as our Croatia adventure drew nearer.
The night before our train was to depart, a group of us hit Vienna for a heaping of its thriving nightlife. Ciaran staggered into my room at the end of the night and sprawled himself across my bed. Pissed off, I teetered on the edge and tried to get some sleep before our romantic getaway, which I knew at that point would be anything but.
As I awoke to the hot, moist air in my Ikea-inspired apartment, I felt something hotter and moister on my lower back. Ciaran jolted up and looked at me like a dog looks at his owner after he pees in the house. At this moment I’d happily take the dog over the Irishman who just peed on me.
I fancied telling him to fuck off, but I was in too deep. Our train was leaving in a few hours and we already had our tickets. My only solace was that we would be crashing on some guy’s couch in Zagreb that night, which would provide me with some alternative company until we headed to the coast.
Arriving at Vienna’s west train station, we were baffled as to why Zagreb was not listed on the departures board. I checked the schedule again and gasped in mortification. I had guided us to the wrong train station and now it was too late to catch the last train to Croatia. I wanted to strangle both of us for never questioning why we were taking a southbound train from the westbound train station. Our next train left from the south train station at around six a.m. Ciaran would be staying another night in my bed. Ugh.
Worn out and on my last nerve, we boarded the eight or nine hour train to Zagreb. The journey was pleasant, save for a fat Slovenian border guard who tried to eye-fuck me. He left with my passport and claimed to be radioing in my information. Luckily there was no semen on the pages when he returned it.
A quick stopover was all we had time for in Zagreb. We were scheduled to arrive in Split that day and were already booked at our hostel. Although we had bought round trip train tickets from Vienna to Split, we were informed that the only way to get to Split was by bus. Luckily the kind ticket-checker said she would accept our pre-paid train passes.
Another eight or nine hour journey and we were in Split. The ride was pretty torturous, especially for Ciaran, who, go figure, had to pee for most of the ride on a bus with no toilet. But we had made it to our destination, and I was looking forward to experiencing the tourism commercial first-hand the next day. I used this as an excuse to get some shut-eye and not engage in sex or touching of any sort with bad-bladder.
We were right on the water, but beaches were scarce if present at all. Split is a harbor town with concrete docks leading straight to the sea. We would have to take a boat to one of Split’s islands if we were ever to find the white-sand. I believe we settled on Brac. Brac is one of Croatia’s more popular islands, boasting stretching beaches and fresh seafood. We enjoyed the seafood upon arrival on the island, but after wandering for nearly an hour on rocky shores and sidewalks, we began to wonder if Croatia’s beaches were just a myth- some deceitful propaganda used to lure-in naÃ¯ve tourists like us. Even once we found a postcard with a picture of the beach we were looking for, it was too late to rent the car needed to take us to it on the other side of the island.
A little disheartened, we returned back to the mainland. At dinner that night I told Ciaran I was not in any place to be intimate with him, or anyone for that matter. The poor soul had been trying to put his arm around me, kiss me and cling to me the entire trip. I was beyond grossed out and knew I had to put an end to it.
After dinner we decided to hit up an outdoor bar I’d read about. It was a gem in the rough of our trip and I used every opportunity that Ciaran had to pee (which was clearly every ten minutes) to flirt with some Frenchman. Monsieur sat down beside me and we began our introductions when I suddenly got smoked in the head with some unknown flying object. When I looked up, Monsieur had a scrape on his arm and was cursing the bar. My hand was covered in blood and more was dripping from a descent-sized gash in my head. I looked down at the culprit. A speaker had fallen on my head.
The bar staff rushed over to help me and inform me that in the 1,700 years that Split’s Roman ruins had been standing, this had never happened before. I wasn’t shocked, and frankly their offer of free drinks on my birthday was enough to numb the pain. Their old-fashioned Vodka on the head-wound remedy worked wonders too.
The next day we woke up late. We decided to skip the boat-ride and enjoy the ruins; we’d see the beach tomorrow. After a long day of sightseeing with a guy who was obviously pissed about my contact with Monsieur the night before, we went out for a rather pleasant birthday dinner. Then, it was free drinks all night.
Monsieur returned with a bunch of Spaniards to the bar too. I invited them to join us. When the bar closed I followed their lead to an after-hours club by the sea. It wasn’t long until I got shit-faced, lost my shirt and made out with Monsieur in front of poor Ciaran. The nest thing I knew I was being woken up to the wails of an Irishman in extreme pain.
“I think me ribs are broken,” he sobbed. “Where’d ye go? I was waiting for ye all night so I was, outside the club. Finally some cop comes over and just starts beatin’ me so he did. He took me wallet and left me stranded in the middle of fucking nowhere. I had to hitchhike back.”
While I vaguely recalled telling the presumptuous Frenchman to fuck off and then staggering home myself, I was in no mood to feel sympathetic. I told Ciaran he was being a baby and proceeded to venture out on my own, to enjoy my birthday the way I should have planned it: By myself.
We left the next morning. I never did get my beach time, but I was happy to be leaving. A not-so-friendly ticket checker had no mercy on our train ticket mix-up, and gave us the ultimatum to either pay him every last coin we had or step off the bus into Croatia’s unexploded land mine territory. We paid. He politely grinned and thanked us for buying him lunch at the next stop.
The rest of the trip home consisted mainly of silence. Ciaran and I have not really spoken since. Monsieur and I keep in regular contact. The scar on my head has become a good conversation piece.