A 4:30 a.m. cab, a two-hour flight, and a 30-minute bus ride, followed by a five-hour bus ride would finally bring me to the seaside town of Split, Croatia. Sure, I could have shelled out 200 extra euros to fly directly from Barcelona to Split, but with bus prices resting between 7 and 14 euros, who would turn down a picturesque ride along the Dalmatian Coast? In hindsight, maybe I would.
A pleasant bus journey from Dubrovnik's airport to the town's main bus station gave me high hopes for Croatia's bus system. As we caressed the coastline, Dubrovnik's Old City came into sight, a Medieval walled community nestled in a quilt of salmon- and orange-colored rooftops. The glistening Adriatic Sea provided a complementary backdrop for the bright village. Croatia is magical, I thought.
As I climbed the steps aboard the second bus to Split, a roasting wave of humid air smacked my skin, a physical sensation not even remotely comparable to the cloud of moisture I stepped into when I deplaned at the airport just 60 minutes earlier. Surely this will subside when the bus starts moving, I reassured myself, more than once. Maybe more than twice. I flung my backpack and my body onto a seat under two inoperative air vents while calmly/anxiously waiting for the motor to start and the cool breeze of air conditioning to envelop me with bliss. As the short, bronze-skinned, 60-something bus driver pulled away from the station, the situation became real: The next cool breeze I would feel would be on the shores of Split, a mere five hours from now.
As an ever-diligent trip planner, I had arranged this bus ride as an opportunity to catch up on the sleep I had missed the night before. Having been awake since 4 a.m., I was looking forward to my restful five-hour nap along the coast, after which I would wake up refreshed and ready to explore Split. A collective 30 minutes aboard the traveling sauna were actually spent sleeping, but hourly pauses at local rest stops along the way brought much repose from the vent-less hub of humidity.
Upon entering Bosnia and Herzegovina (which awkwardly juts into a small section of southern Croatia), a border patrol officer climbed on board to check my and the six other passengers' passports. Approximately one hour later, the same stop occurred as we departed the encroaching neighbor nation. As another border guard casually glanced at our travel documents, I tried desperately to breathe in every drop of air that wafted through the bus's open door. With no such luck, the bus carried on toward Split.
There was little traffic but there were just enough traffic lights between the city limits of Split and the bus station to ensure the slowest possible arrival. I feverishly waved my Dubrovnik map in front of my face, internally pleading with the bus driver to just let us off anywhere. The bus finally pulled into the bus station facing the port on the Adriatic. As middle-aged women approached us while we deboarded, a fellow passenger whispered to me, ¨We should warn them not to take this bus!¨ No warning was necessary, however, as these women were peddling family-run lodging options for unknowing visitors.
Split was hot and humid, reminiscent of my childhood summers back home in swampy Virginia. But the cool Adriatic breeze kissed my skin and reinvigorated my exhausted mind and body. I was briefly reminded that I travel precisely for these unexpected events that disrupt my sense of comfort and help me appreciate a little luxury known as air conditioning.