For the Price of a Smile

They say that it’s the people you meet that makes travel so amazing.  I don’t always agree with this as I have been to quite a few amazing places where the people have been horrible, rude or pushy – and yet this hasn’t dimmed the experience of the place for me at all.

Croatia however has been the best of both worlds, with stunning scenery, adventures to write home about all coupled with some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Two days ago we arrived in the small town of Korchula on the large island of Korchula and once again I had left the instructions on how to get to our hostel on the dratted computer machine.  So instead I walked into the first travel agency I saw and asked for some directions “It’s really far out of town so we will arrange a free transfer for you, just wait five minutes” – um ok, THANK YOU! This has been the theme of the whole trip – every where we go people go above and beyond to help us.

One theory is because we are two girls travelling alone, but I don’t think so as everyone we meet is saying the same thing about the Croatian people.

I am concerned though that this will fade with time as more and more tourists flock to the islands, invading and eradicating the culture with their demands that the locals will become more and more jaded.  It is my mission to meet every local with a smile and small talk – even when I am just asking for directions.

I really think its working as well.  Yesterday we hired bikes to ride around the island (we only went up and over two hills before deciding that it was dinner time), the lady who rented us the bikes had clearly had a hard day as she was tired and the tourists who were ahead of us in the line were rude and abrupt.  When she turned to help us I started off by just saying hello and asking after her day – such a small think but her attitude changed immediately! She organised the bikes for us, and even found ones with a bike pump attached to it for just in case – then she walked out of the store and showed us which way to go.

After we got back into town and were well fed I went to look at an art gallery where a famous Croatian painter who uses the impressionist style displays his work.  I am slowly building up my travel art collection – I don’t want the kitchy pieces that anyone can get on the side if the road, but pieces that tell a story of the place as the artist sees it.  And these were just like that.  I spent half an hour in the store chatting with the lady about which one I would like best before I bought one – as we were leaving she grabbed my hand and shook it with a firm hand “it was a pleasure to meet you” – this made the painting all the more valuable to me.

I was concerned that maybe it was more an island mentality that makes the people so lovely.  We arrived in Dubrovnick this morning and once again I didn’t have any directions on how to get to our hostel (you may shake your head at me but this little tactic has a silver lining) so once again we asked for directions. The lovely lady at Korkyra travel looked up the address for us as all we had been the name and marked how to get there on the map – she then also marked a few other things we may like to see just for kicks and walked us out and over the road to make sure we didn’t get lost.  All because we smiled and had a chat with her.

On the way to this internet cafe I got lost and was doing the obvious looking around thing with my map held out in front of me when a young girl working in one of the shops called out to me, she was quickly able to point me in the right direction with the help of a few of her fellow shopkeepers – and here I am.

For the small price of a smile you will find your way around Croatia with no problems and with more than a few extra nice surprises thrown in!

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