12/1/12

Deep Sea Fishing in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The most recent trip abroad took me back to Europe, only on a slightly different path with a very different group of people.  My husband Dustin and I embarked on a backpacking trip with our friends Ryan and Kari Hannay through London, Paris, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Rome/Ostia and Florence over the course of two weeks.  Ambitious, I know, but being that we are all grown up with grown up jobs, taking a month off for Europe isn't an option anymore.  So we just packed as much in as possible in 16 days.

Surprisingly, Croatia quickly climbed the rankings to become my favorite spot of the trip.   Not only were the people extremely friendly and laid back, but Dubrovnik is beautiful.  When driving through the mountains towards the city, Dubrovnik appears as a white pearl perched on the rocks, a stunning contrast to the deep blue of the Adriatic sea.  The city center is surrounded by white medieval stone walls, both beautiful and a reminder of the city's difficult past.  Tourists can pay to climb the walls, and walk along the top around the city for amazing views of the city and sea.
We booked an all day excursion on our third day for deep sea fishing with a local man named Mislav.  A driver came to pick us up from our hostel and drove us to a marina in Cavtat, a nearby town.  I don't know what I expected, but when Mislav ran up to greet us loudly with a big smile on his face, I knew it was going to be a good day.  Mislav is an animated older man with long gray hair that he sweeps back in a careless ponytail.  He shook our hands enthusiastically, and ushered us down the road toward his small yacht.
Dustin and Mislav
On the way, he made sure to point out his restaurant, the Taverna Galija, which serves amazing authentic Croatian-style seafood.    If you ever find yourself in Dubrovnik, I highly suggest taking a quick trip to Cavtat to eat at Taverna Galija.  You won't be disappointed!  You can find a link to the restaurant's website here.  

 As we approached Mislav's yacht, a stout man in a fishing hat came out of the cabin...with no pants.  This is Stiepo, Mislav's good friend and fishing buddy.  If you ask Stiepo what he does for a living, he will tell you that he is a "rock star."  He is a well known local Croatian musician, and has traveled all over the world to play guitar and sing.  But today, he is fisherman.  Stiepo's English was not quite as good as Mislav's, but anything he didn't understand he simply nodded and smiled to.  
Stiepo
Mislav yelled in Croatian to a server standing on the patio of the Taverna, and the server quickly disappeared and reappeared moments later with a bag of freshly baked bread, cheese and sliced salami.  Lunch, Mislav said.  He hopped on the boat and opened a cooler full of wine, beer, and Fanta.  It was going to be a good day!

We set out from the bay and out into the Adriatic Sea, and Mislav cranked up the music.  We stopped in a few spots where Stiepo got a good feeling, and dropped lines full of hooks and pieces of squid into the water on weights.  This is a more traditional method of fishing, Mislav explained, and we would come back later to pull up the lines and see what we caught.  We then took off deeper into the ocean to try our luck with the rods, James Brown blaring over the speakers the whole way.
"The only fishing music is James Brown!" Mislav shouted as we looked for a good fishing spot.
The boat slowed, and Stiepo, who was much more serious about our fishing than Mislav, hooked our lines and explained how deep to drop the lines.  We fished like this for about half an hour, then Mislav became antsy and jumped in for a swim.  Dustin and Ryan followed suit while Kari and I watched and manned the reels with Stiepo.  

After an hour of no luck on the reels, it was pronounced lunch time.  Mislav set out a huge platter of warm bread, thick white cheese and salami.  It was simple and delicious. Together with Mislav and Stiepo's mixed white wine and club soda drinks, our group agreed it was one of our best meals of the trip.
After lunch we turned back to pull up the lines and our catch.  We took turns pulling up the fish, and our pile began to grow.  We didn't catch anything big, but it was still fun pulling in the fish. I got a lucky string of fish, and therefor had to pull the lines up the longest since I was deemed 'good luck.'
Despite my enthusiasm with each fish, Stiepo was not impressed, and Mislav humphed at each fish pulled in.  "Only good for soup" Mislov explained.
Kari is proud of her pink fish

Me with my teeny fish

Unfortunately, we hooked a stingray!  We let it go

Dustin and his Fish

Ryan pulling up a whopper...or not.

We finished pulling in our lines and jumped in for another swim as the sun began to set.  The view was breathtaking.  It is moments like this when you can hardly believe where you are and what you are doing.  As I swam out into the sea, I looked around in awe and couldn't believe I was swimming in the Adriatic Sea at sunset, while my friends and family back home were probably just beginning their days at work.  It's times like these when you realize how lucky you are to be able to travel and see what the world has to offer.
 
Salty, hungry and smelling of fish, we soon turned back to have dinner with Mislav and Stiepo at the Taverna Galija.  Though we probably wouldn't eat our catch that day, Mislav promised we were in for a treat.  We pulled into the dock, and one of the servers from the restaurant promptly greeted us with a tray of wine glasses for a drink before our meal.  We sat on the boat, recalling the days events and our scrawny catch.  As we talked, a stray cat wandered over and sat near the boat, smelling our fish.  Stiepo had a soft spot for the cat, and threw one of our little fish to the cat.  Soon, 4 other stray cats came crying, and thanks to Stiepo, each one left happy with a silver fish in his mouth. 
The wine finished, we hopped back on dry land and sat at a large table on the Taverna's patio.  While talked and laughed watching as Mislov's dog, Mini, chased the stray cats from the Patio.  We feasted on fresh bread, the most amazing mussels I have ever eaten and fresh caught Adriatic fish.  Our meal ended with homemade desserts and wine.  Bellies full and eyelids drooping, we sadly said goodbye to our new friends, but thanked them for an amazing dayMislav asked us to come back the next day to fish with him and Stiepo again, free of charge, but unfortunately we were flying to Rome the next day and couldn't take him up on his generous offer.  We promised to one day come back to fish again.  I hope we do!
The gang plus Mini, Mislov's dog and patio gaurd
If you are interested in booking this trip, you can find more info at this site: http://www.adriaticglobal.net/en/excursion/fisherman-story-and-cavtat-highlights.aspx

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