Tulum, Mexico

We had a wonderful time in Valladolid, but it was time to move on and get closer to the beach. After figuring out our bus tickets, we were ready to see what Tulum had in store for us. We had both heard a lot about this town as something special, up and coming, and beautiful as it’s right along the beach. So we had delicious breakfast on the hotel patio and then said goodbye to Valladolid.

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After a less than 2 hour bus ride we arrived at the bus station in Tulum and found a taxi driver to take us to our hotel. We were disappointed to realize that Tulum would be significantly more expensive than Valladolid was. The taxi driver took us to the wrong hotel and after arguing for a bit and using some gps, he continued and drove us towards our real hotel. When booking, we didn’t realize that this hotel was practically brand new and in a part of town that was very much being built up and full of construction. We couldn’t find the hotel with the driver, so he gave up and dropped us off. We started exploring and had no idea where to go or where this hotel was. Luckily, we ran into an American couple that asked us if we were lost and then pointed us in the right direction so we were able to find the place.

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Inside the hotel was really beautiful. We were happy to have found it after searching for so long in the heat and we were very happy to see it had an amazing swimming pool.

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After putting our stuff down and getting freshened up, we decided to find the beach. I thought the hotel was a lot closer to the beach than it ended up being and the front desk told us it wasn’t too far, but it was far enough. They had a shuttle that takes people to a beach club, but the shuttle only ran at odd hours that didn’t feel like our best option. The hotel did offer bikes to ride for free, so we figured we would try it.

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The bike ride was a little rough for me, I’m not going to lie. In that afternoon heat without any shade, I was struggling. Once we made it to the coast where the beaches were supposed to be, I realized it wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting. The whole coast where the beaches were, had been built up and were covered in beach clubs, hotels, restaurants, and shops. There was no public beach access that we could find, you had to pay in order to get to the beach. So we kept biking and biking trying to find somewhere to go where you didn’t have to spend money or at least not spend a lot of money. The road also wasn’t ideal for biking – it was tight, there were no sidewalks, the road often was damaged and with big potholes, and there were cars everywhere. We eventually gave up and found beach club where we could go, but we had to spend a certain amount of money in order to spend time there, which seemed to be how all the places nearby operated.

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After biking so long in the heat, it was worth it because the beach was beautiful and the water was perfect for swimming and so warm. We had a delicious lunch and smoothies and spent a few hours relaxing, swimming, and working on our tans. The guacamole was excellent!

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The bike ride to the hotel was a bit easier and we made it back as fast as we could. After biking back in the heat, we were ready to cool off again so we went straight to the hotel’s beautiful swimming pool and jumped right in. This was like paradise!

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We decided to go out for dinner so we found a really nice restaurant closer to the coast. It was dark, romantic (even though we didn’t really need that), and had the greatest food. The service was excellent too.

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After this dinner we were full and exhausted so we were ready to get back to the hotel and get some rest. Overall it was a great day in the sun!

Exploring Pula, Croatia

As I’m looking through photos for this post, I still can’t believe how beautiful Croatia is. Although the timeline of our trip only gave us a few days there, I’m so glad we had the experience and could witness the beauty.

When we woke up on our second morning in Croatia, we were both a little exhausted from not sleeping well after the incident the night before. We grabbed breakfast on the hotel balcony overlooking the water again.

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We spent the morning relaxing by the pool and the sea, swimming often. Again, the sea was crystal clear and the views around the beach were breathtaking.

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We felt very lucky because so many people in the world can’t or don’t make time to experience moments like that – to see the world, to find a beautiful place, to just enjoy a moment. I value my time and don’t take it for granted.

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We shared pizza for lunch outside and swam for a long time in the pool. It was hot enough outside that my hair would dry after swimming within minutes. By mid-afternoon, I headed to the room to clean up and get out of the sun. After resting for a short time, we decided to head out into town and explore the city Pula. We both agree that when one travels, it is so important to break out of the tourist bubble and put in the effort to actually see the place you’re visiting – not just the hotel and tourist section. So we found a bus stop and figured out how to get to the center of the city, just 45 minutes away. It was really hot and stuffy on the bus, but we were able to see some of the smaller towns of the area and where and how locals actually live. We were the only tourists on the bus. When we got off at the main station, we started exploring and walking around. We didn’t have a map or plan – we just walked.

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The city is so beautiful! We found the famous Pula Arena – the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders completely preserved. The arena was built between 27BC and 68AD. Today the area is used for concerts, theater performances, cinematic showings, and even a few sporting events.

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As we kept walking around, we had no idea where to go so we walked along the harbor’s edge and looked at the stunning architecture and views.

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And we stumbled upon this establishment:

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Anyways, we were hungry and wanted dinner. My advice for finding somewhere to go when you’re lost and looking for dinner – find other tourists if you can and follow them. We noticed an American family and overheard them talking about dinner. They seemed to have an idea of where to go, so we walked behind them casually for a while and they led us right to the section of town that’s lined with restaurants and shops – the smaller touristy section of that part of town. As we walked through, men were cat calling at us, telling us how beautiful we are and trying to hit on us – whatever, we weren’t into it.

We picked a smaller restaurant where no one was standing outside harassing us to sit down. We were able to sit outside and take everything in.

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Unfortunately, our dinner was taken over by some very rude people sitting next to us. They had a large group of people, probably just a few years older than Katharina and I, and one of the couple’s had a small child as well. So people say that stereotypes exist because there is some truth behind them – and this group did not let anyone down with how the rest of the world stereotypically sees Germans. This German group was so incredibly rude and obnoxious with sending food back, complaining about dishes, giving the server terrible attitude, and they were nasty to the child as well. They were outrageously arrogant. Poor Katharina was so embarrassed because, as a German, being even remotely associated with people like that bothered her terribly. It’s always interesting when you travel to see how stereotypes or ideas about other cultures and even your own culture and nationality play out. Eventually, the owner of this little restaurant stormed out from the kitchen and told them if they had such a problem with her place then they could leave. I was kind of happy when she did because their attitude nearly ruined our dinner. You would never see a manager or owner talk to a customer like that in America, but sometimes maybe it’s not such a bad thing to put people in their place.

But regardless of that, the food was great!

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When we needed to pay, they told us the credit card machine was broken – another reason why it’s always important to have some cash around with you when you travel in other countries. But we were prepared.

After dinner, we ran into a parade of people dressed in traditional clothes with all sorts of props, which was exciting to see. This was the second time on the trip that we accidentally stumbled upon a parade like this!

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We slowly headed back to the bus station, and it was ridiculously crowded and hard to walk because of a concert at the arena. When we got to the station, we were a little confused where our bus would be. Sometimes things aren’t so clear in other countries. We stood where we believed the bus would be and waited and waited and waited. After a long time, we both got nervous that maybe we had missed the bus or had been waiting in the wrong spot. We finally asked a man if we were in the right place and he assured us that we were, but for some reason the bus was late. We know from our other travels there that the bus timeline isn’t always accurate. Eventually the bus pulled in and we figured it out. The reason the bus was so delayed was because of the concert in the arena – the traffic was worse than LA! It took us twice as long to get back to the hotel because of it. When we got back, we quickly packed up and organized all of our things and went straight to bed because we had a big day coming up!

Our Journey to Croatia

It has been my dream to see Croatia since I can remember. The original reason we organized this entire trip was because of this dream – so we just looked at a map and planned from there.

We were relieved at the train station when our bus pulled up and was large, spacious, and had this magical invention called air conditioning. The bus was not crowded at all, which made it even better. They say the best way to see a country is to drive through it, so I was excited to have some time off a train and to be on a bus. It was a great experience to look at little towns as we drove through and to see other parts of Slovenia.

We got off the bus as this little train station, Divaca, in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. We had an hour to wait until our next train would be leaving. We later found out that the train waited for the next bus from Ljubljana, so if we had taken the later bus, we would have been fine. But we couldn’t have known that before and it’s better to be safe and prepared. So for this hour we hung out in the heat because there was nothing to do around there. Inside the station there was one person working who didn’t speak any English and there were no other waiting passengers, shops, or anything going on. So we sat outside and talked with two French girls who were hiking and camping around different parts of Europe. We were happy when our train finally arrived – that is, until we got on board – because it was very warm, humid, and uncomfortable. I fell asleep for most of the hour long ride.

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At the next station, where we were to switch onto another train, the next train was there waiting for this one to arrive – something I’ve never seen before. Their whole system waits for buses and trains because there are so few passengers – if one train is late and the next one does not wait, they barely have any passengers to make it worth leaving on time.

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We had thought the last train was uncomfortably hot, but we had spoken too soon. This next train was over a hundred degrees inside without any sort of fan or air conditioning system. It was close to one hundred degrees outside, so with the greenhouse effect happening and the heat having nowhere to escape from this train, it was brutal. I didn’t think it was possible, but it was even worse than the trains on the previous day. On the ride, we went through pitch darkness at one point as we passed through a tunnel without any lights, which was a little creepy. I stood most of the ride to keep my face against the open window, desperate for fresh air. This train ride was a little different than our other experiences on trains this trip. Despite the heat, there were beautiful views as we entered Croatia.

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It was so exciting to finally see the ocean appear – our energy returned almost as quickly as it had disappeared earlier.

When we got off the train in Pula, we arrived at another very small train station with only one employee working who was extremely rude, indifferent, and unhelpful. She didn’t know or care to answer any of our questions and was too busy looking at Facebook to be interested. So we decided to call a taxi because there were no other buildings nearby and the walk to a bus stop was far enough that it didn’t feel worth it in the heat. It turned out our hotel was a bit further than we had expected from the train station, so the taxi ended up making much more sense in the long run. We had a really nice driver who showed us around and talked about the city and gave us great advice. It’s always nice to meet people who take real pride in their towns. His hands and arms were badly deformed from burns, and I wonder if those scars were from the war.

When we finally arrived at our hotel after a full day of buses, trains, walking, and car rides, it was such a relief! Our hotel was so beautiful and different from the other hotels we had been at because it is much more for families and sits right on the beach. It is slightly outside of Pula in a town called Medulin. We picked this area in Croatia because it was pretty easily accessible from the rest of our trip, it is famous for its beautiful beaches, and Katharina remembered being there as a child and said it was the perfect spot to end the trip.

We had to wait to checkin because a British woman was throwing such a fit at the front desk that it required all the staff’s attention. She claimed something was wrong with her bill. But once we finally checked in and walked around to look at the hotel, we were so excited and happy to be there – like just look at this!

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We got settled in and immediately went for a swim in the pool because we both needed to relax and cool off after the long day we had been having. Behind the pool was a stone beach and a long promenade full of shops and restaurants. After we cleaned up, we took a walk along the water to find dinner and chose a small Italian place right on the beach. It was a five minute walk from the hotel and a fifth of the price of the hotel restaurant – sometimes in touristy areas it’s worth exploring to find cheaper options.

We were so happy to get back to our room and get some sleep in the air conditioning after the long day. It felt good to be settled in and finally be in the country I’d been wanting to see for so long.