After the sad stories in Vukovar, we headed to Osijek to hopefully hear happier stories and find historical buildings and monuments intact. Osijek is currently the 5th largest city in Croatia. It is growing due to a mini tech boom with some leading technology companies in Croatia beginning in Osijek. It is also much easier to access for tourists with low cost airlines beginning to fly to the airport.
One of our most depressing moments of the trip was when we visited the sites of Vukovar & Ovcara in Eastern Croatia. These 2 areas were heavily damaged during the war with some areas still visibly damaged.
We had finished with Istria and were making our way to Eastern Croatia. To get there, we had to pass through Zagreb. We decided to stay one night, see the city a little and go back to our favourite food spots.
After leaving the family in Karlovac, we headed south west to the Istrian cities of Pula and Rovinj.
On our way down to Istria, we stopped off again at Michael’s village to see the family one more time before continuing on our adventure. As this was our last time to see them for a while, it was a bit emotional. We had always been able to say we will see you soon but now was the end of the road for Croatia.
Our end in Karlovac coincided with the Karlovacki Dani Piva, which is the beer festival run by the local beer company. This is a huge event in the calendar of the locals and we were pleased to be going to try the beer and some food. Below are pictures of our food and drink and Michael’s family.
One of the tough decisions when you are away for 12 months is choosing where to celebrate your honeymoon. After some deliberating, it didn’t take us long to decide on the island of Hvar. This island scattered in the middle of Dalmatia is famous for having some of the sunniest weather in Croatia and was to now become our official destination for the honeymoon.
We left our car in Split and caught the ferry over. Parking in Split can be hard to find but luckily we had a contact that has apartments in Split and gave us a parking spot for a few days. We boarded the catamaran for the 1.5 hour trip from Split. There are boats that carry cars across but our guides showed that we could explore the island without a car. The ride was smooth and quick and before we could even plan what to do on the island, we were there. The island truly looked amazing but we were lost and couldn’t find which direction to head to our accommodation. We eventually got our bearings and began the climb up the hill to our accommodation. We continued to climb until you couldn’t climb no more and got to the top of the hill. It was worth it with the most amazing views of Hvar town and the neighboring islands.
After our amazing wedding and spending some time travelling with Meagan’s family was done, we headed back to Croatia for some R&R and to celebrate my cousin, Anita’s wedding. We did the difficult drive from Lake Como to Volosko in Istra. The drive in this stretch of Italy was daunting as there are so many trucks driving this route. There are also many irritable drivers and in our case, a crazy Austrian driver who followed us and hurled abuse for kilometres after I had cut him off.
It was pleasing to arrive in Volosko, Istra for 1 night of relaxation. Our experience on AirBnB has been mixed but we were succeesful this time. We found a cute little apartment above the restaurants on the water in Volosko, only a short walk from Opatija. We checked in and then quickly made a beeline for the walk along the Lungo Mare to Opatija town centre.
Our 1st night in Volosko was a mixed evening of fitness and indulgent food. We ran the few kilometres to Opatija and back and then checked out one of the local restaurants in Volosko for some delicious Ligne na Zaru, one of our favourite meals in Croatia. This meal consists of grilled calamari/octopus with potatoes and swiss chard. Yumm. Volosko is a scenic and pretty town very close to Opatija without the huge prices. We recommend staying here if you head to this part of Croatia.
The next day we headed to Zagreb. Meagan had some stomach pain so we checked out what the reason could be. We found a clinic in Zagreb who did an ultrasound on her. The $350 diagnosis was basically that Meagan was getting older and her body was changing. No news but at least Meagan was slightly more relieved.
After the great diagnosis, we headed to Karlovac to get ready for my cousin, Anita’s wedding. We went to my cousin Damir’s house to get ready and drove to Anita’s house which is located higher up in our village. We could hear the noise coming from the house as we were driving, music playing and older people laughing and carrying on. This was our first wedding we were attending as husband and wife and Meagan was in for a shock.
The weather was hotter than normal this summer and we were sweating bullets in our clothes. Fanning did little to help, although the cold wine (gemist) was our saviour. The gathering was as expected at a Croatian wedding with plenty to eat, drink and talk about. The expected platter of cakes were also on show which we tried of course.
As happens at Croatian weddings, the groom arrives at the brides house and then begins to barter for the bride. The brides family had many surprises in store. Firstly, after paying over a little ransom, the groom thought the bride was walking down the stairs but in fact it was a man dressed as a bride. Next, the brides family placed a barrier so the groom could not come in. After some talking, shouting, drinking and firing up a chainsaw to cut down the tree trunk stalling there entry, the groom finally made it in and the bride came out.
After some more food and drink, it was time to go to church. The ceremony was wonderful and after the ceremony, we had more wine outside the church. This time the priest was also drinking with us.
Next stop was the reception, but getting there was difficult. We had to follow the lead car with the bride and groom, and their car was stopping constantly. A drive which would normally take 30 minutes took 1 hour 30. When I told Meagan that the reception can sometimes go to 6am in the morning, she was dumbfounded and couldn’t believe that we would be eating, drinking and dancing until such time. Food and wine were always present as was the band playing Croatian hits all night. By 4am, Meagan and I couldn’t handle it anymore and so we headed home. One the way home, we drove through the dark and came across wild deer on the side of the road. Driving tired and seeing a deer with its bright eyes and huge horns was a crazy sight to see.
The next day was a big day as it was St Ana feast day, and this is big in our village. We have a chapel in our village named after St Ana and we often celebrate with more food and drink. This year was slightly different as both Meagan and I were present along with my dad and his friend. The day started with a mass in the chapel before we made it back to the house for lots of food and drink. The night ended when we went down to the local school to see a band playing music and again more drinking. We ended the night early as the next day we had to leave early for our drive to Zadar so Meagan could start school.
I woke up on the morning of the wedding surprised that I managed to sleep so well that night. I don’t know whether it was because all the family were together or just because it felt like the start of a perfect day. My attention quickly turned to my wife to be Meagan, wondering what emotions she was going through at the moment. I quickly got ready and vacated the room I was sharing with Meagan’s parents, before she had the chance to sneak in. I still had things to do in the morning so I started off with finding a razor to shave. Meagan wasn’t very particular about how I looked except she wanted me to be clean shaven. I found the local supermarket to have a small selection of razors, but enough for me to meet Meagan’s requirements. I still had some time up my sleeve so I decided to walk along the promenade of Cavtat, the town we were staying in as I reflected on what was the biggest day of my life thus far. As I made my way closer to the villa, I could hear the laughter and excitement coming from the living room where Meagan was getting ready. I was happy that she was enjoying herself.
I began to work on my speeches for the night, quickly realising that the Croatian version was much more difficult to put together. There were a lot of things I wanted to say but knew I would have difficulty with sharing this and I wanted to make sure these were written down so I would not forget. After that, everything is such a blur as things went so quickly. Too quick in fact, that the photographer had arrived and I still had to shower and shave. I managed to fit this in but then had problems locating my suit. Somehow it had been moved and after some frantic searching by my sister, the moment of panic subsided. The photographer was quick to take a few photographs and then I managed to finish getting ready.
By now the bus taking us to the church was here so we began moving up the street. I remember that it was really hot and I was hoping for a cool bus. Unfortunately the weather was so hot that the air conditioning did very little. We drove off from the villa and I wanted some entertainment so a few of us began singing some Croatian songs. It was an unbelievable experience to be driving towards the wonderful city of Dubrovnik singing these songs with close family and friends. I am unsure of what Meagan’s family were thinking as we were nothing like the Rat Pack even though we think we have great voices. I am sure if provided for some amusement to many of our guests.
We made our way to the church which was beautifully decorated for our day. It was how Meagan wanted it so I was happy that she would get a lovely surprise when she comes in. I stood out the front and can remember how hot it was, particularly as churches are cold. I had to get a tissue to wipe the sweat from my brow, but was comforted that many other people in the church were doing the same thing and it wasn’t from nerves. I was looking around and noticed that there were people missing so I was hoping that they would make it before Meagan arrived. The violin and cello began playing and it was such a beautiful sound which made me much more comfortable. I could see some commotion outside and realised that Meagan had arrived. I quickly turned around as I didn’t want to see her until she was walking down the aisle. When the time came, it was an absolutely amazing moment which words cannot describe. I became emotional, watching Meagan and her father walking down the aisle in tears. She looked absolutely stunning, her gown which she kept a secret from me during the whole trip fitting her perfectly. Her hair and makeup did wonders to show off her amazing features. I couldn’t have asked for a better bride on this amazing day. I was truly the luckiest man on Earth.
The ceremony began and we were not completely sure how things would go. We had a rehearsal the day before but were still uncertain on certain parts of the ceremony. It happened to go very well until the signing of the marriage certificate. Meagan went first to sign and then I followed her. I put my signature down on the paper and the priest looked at me and said in a firm tone, sign legibly. I was surprised by his comment but I couldn’t do anything about. I sign my name so it cannot be forged but father wasn’t a happy man. I wondered why this happened to me when Meagan had to go first and had to sign with a different surname. We then walked out of the church to Beyonce’s song, Halo which holds many special memories for us.
What I felt was the hardest part of the wedding was over and I was now happy to celebrate this special day with Meagan and our guests. We took some photos with all our family and friends and it was a moment when you reflect on how lucky you are to have such a wonderful group of family and friends to share this moment with. The next part of the wedding was a surprise for our guests as we were heading out for a cruise on a boat around Dubrovnik. We wanted to thank our guests for coming by taking them for a ride along the coast. It was such a great experience except that it ended too quickly. We enjoyed the beautiful views, cool breezes in the hot summer and the drinks of course. It was fun to have all our guests on the 1 boat.
We left our guests again to take some photos around the old town of Dubrovnik before we went to the hotel room to freshen up. We didn’t stay long in the room as we could see and hear our guests and wanted to head straight out to be with them. We made our way down and walked in to our entrance song of “happiness”, a dance song which we heard when we first began dating. We felt it was an appropriate song to have playing at on our wedding day.
We walked in and grabbed a drink, no drink for over 1 hour in the heat wasn’t good. We walked to our table and the music continued to play a bit longer, with all eyes on us. It was a bit uncomfortable but awesome at the same time as we had come to the best part of the wedding, the celebration.
Sitting at the table and looking at all our guests gave me goose bumps. I thought all these people had travelled to be here for this occasion. It was a surreal experience. Our 1st dance as a married couple was next and I was excited to twirl my wife around a bit. We played a Hawaiian song which I didn’t know before today but it meant a lot to Meagan and her family, enough to make them cry.
After our dance, we asked everyone else to come up to the dance floor and that’s what happened. Everyone did come up. It was an amazing site to see all the wedding guests on the dance floor bopping away. The evening was spectacular, with beautiful weather, tasty food and great company. All good things come to an end and unfortunately so did the party. I could have stayed for many more hours celebrating with family and friends but we had a curfew at the reception and had to continue the party at a nightclub not far from the reception.
After saying bye to some guests, I headed down to the nightclub to join Meagan and some of our other guests. We had a few shots (drinks), danced and chatted for a few hours before we went back to our amazing honeymoon suite. I don’t think I will ever stay in such a room again and I was so happy to be here sharing it with the girl I fell in love with 2.5 years earlier in Sydney. It was a day that people only dream about and for me, that dream came true today, July 12, 2013.
After months and months of anticipation our special day has finally arrived!!! We had our family staying in a villa in Cavtat (roughly 20 kilometres from Dubrovnik) which was very nice as we could all be together in one big house! The night before the wedding, Michael wanted to be very traditional and not see me until the moment I walked down the aisle in the church. This proved to be quite difficult as we all were staying in the same villa and had to get ready in the same location but separate rooms. Needless to say, this was part of the excitement as I knew he was nearby at all times and different people would act as messengers so that we could communicate with each other but not see each other.
The morning of July 12th had finally come and I woke up so excited and a tad bit nervous! I went for a walk with my Dad, Tammy, Kristy and Andrew around Cavtat while Michael was busy writing and rehearsing his speech. The hair and make-up stylist, Davor arrived at the villa promptly at 9:30am. The girls got ready in the living room area while family and friends gathered in the nearby kitchen area. First, Davor went through all of our hairstyles and makeup needs. He was quiet, patient and was always thinking about how to make us all beautiful. We offered him food multiple times and he kept denying any food! I couldn’t believe it. He said to not worry as all he needed was a few cups of coffee and cigarettes to work his magic. This was so true, he drank about 4 cups of coffee and had a few cigarette breaks throughout the morning. This did wonders for him as he did the most amazing hair styles and makeup I have ever seen!
So we managed to make it up the coast of Croatia and avoid the further snow that had hit Croatia. But there was one extra thing that was happening and that was a soccer game involving Croatia and Serbia. After I found out tickets were sold out, I couldn’t go to the game but I didn’t want to be in Italy for one of the biggest games in our history. So I hatched a plan to stay an extra night. Meagan agreed, as long as she could do a bit of shopping in Italy. It was a small price to pay.