Far and Wide

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Yes, we’re in France. Yes, we’re studying. Yes, we’re really trying very hard to speak our foreign language.

But we’ve been doing that for A WHOLE MONTH now. It’s time for a break.

On your year abroad, it will not take long for you to realise how big the world is. It is huge, it is varied, it is interesting, it is beautiful. And now you live in a different part of it, it’s so much easier to get to even more different bits of it. We all hate low-cost airlines for destroying the environment, but when there’s a flight to Zadar, Croatia, going for 42€, it’s hard even for a recycling-crazy vegetarian to resist.

Plus, when you set out on your Erasmus year, all the other tourists are at home, either earning money or going to school or both, so it’s time to en profiter. In the summer months places like Zadar, located right on the coast just east of Italy, will be teeming with tourists and annoying little kids who will get in the way of your cultural excursions, lazy midday pints and early-morning skinnydipping, so it’s best to avoid them.

Zadar, sans touristes, is nothing short of breathtaking. A coastline pocked with tiny beaches and bathed in warm water lead from our hostel (the Drunken Monkey– HIGHLY recommended) to the Old Town, which seems to have been built around its plentiful Roman ruins rather than making a tourist attraction of them. Monasteries and wells galore, a walled garden and the remains of the forum are all surrounded by normal high-street shops and low-price restaurants, as well as bountiful amounts of icecream vendors.

On our second day it became apparent that for all sixteen of us to get to Krka national park (again, highly recommended) it would be cheaper to rent a couple of cars than to get on buses, so for the low low price of 115 kuna per person, about 15€, we got our first roadtrip. Then a 9€ ticket bought us access to the park and a return journey on a beautiful half-hour boat ride out to the secluded spot. We walked, we ate, we swam in the waterfall. Not bad for a saturday afternoon.

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A few beers in the hostel, because the Drunken Monkey (highly recommended) has both a fantastic bar and traveller-friendly staff who will bend over backwards to make sure you have a good time, and then we went and sampled the nightlife. Then, the early-morning life. At 5am, when the scantily-clad women had stopped dancing on podiums, the cheap shots had stopped being served, and the impeccably mixed dance-house-rock-blues-everything DJ had packed up for the night, we walked home along the beach. Incidentally, skinny-dipping, in French, is un bain de minuit.

Day three, and fifteen aching bodies dragged themselves out of bed to get to Nin, where the black sand apparently has a combination of vitamins and minerals that make your skin super-soft. It also makes you look like someone could take your life, but they could never take your freedom. Then, a barbecue back at The Drunken Monkey (did I mention how highly recommended it is?) to finish off our weekend was perfection.

As with any holiday, your experience will be shaped by the people around you. Everyone from the staff at the… oh, what was it, The Drunken Monkey maybe? to the bus driver who took us to Nin, the guys we rented the cars from and even random kids we asked directions from were fantastically helpful, more or less fluent in English and seemed, at least, happy to share their beautiful country with us. Go with an open mind and a light suitcase and you’ll have the time of your life. Although, actually, I don’t know how someone could have that much of a bad time next to a thirty-foot waterfall…

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