Having ridden the American Greyhound line and various Amtrak connection buses that are one step away from soul-crushing in their perfunctory practicality, never would I have thought that a bus ride could be so beautiful, lulling, and inherently dangerous. These thoughts kept beating through my head as my traveling companion and I twisted down the Croatian version of California Highway 1, the E65 from Split to Dubrovnik.
Due to our ride from Zagreb to Split, we were a little cautious as to what bus line we picked. You see, after cruising along for about six of what was then an eight hour trip, the bus immediately pulled off to the side of the road somewhere within the vicinity of a major town called Knin. It heaved, sputtered, and died a rather sordid mechanical death right there in the middle of nowhere. In the flash of a second, a ball of flames erupted up the side of the bus, next to me. Naturally everyone ran off, they put out the fire, started tearing apart the bus and in a few hours, sent another one that was short a few seats which made for an uncomfortable ride for those who had been displaced by this exploding bus fiasco. Eventually though, we did arrive in Split and spent a few days there before venturing on to Dubrovnik.
Once done with Split and having departed the drab bus station, I’d have to say that the initial part of the ride is lovely. It twists and turns along the side of the Adriatic Sea, showing all the glimmering waters below. Occasionally, we’d stop in a smaller town along the way (like Omiš with its never-ending beach) to pick up more passengers or drop off some of the ones that were on board, but these were quick stops. Old stone homes were perched alongside new ones, as it is just about anywhere in Croatia. But, whatever their age, the homes, businesses, and old fortresses cling like nervous birds to the steep cliffs.
Bus drivers for these lines have a tendency to drive a bit maniacally and I’m sure it gets worse as the tourist season and coastal traffic moves into high gear. They will pass other cars on these narrow, steep roads. They will tailgate. They will curse beautiful strings of Slavic profanities in the general directions of slow drivers they feel who are not driving in a manner of which they approve. I highly recommend sitting on the side of the bus closest the mountainside if you’re used to driving, or just don’t feel as suicidal as the bus drivers. I say this because sitting on the side closest to the sea is much like flying. You feel as if you’re hovering above the Adriatic and as romantic as that sounds, it can make you nauseous in very little time…
Continued on November 21, 2006