Music Festival Season in Croatia (Bucket List #123)

Hvar, Croatia • July 2015 • Length of Read: 7 Minutes

“…there is also a chill beach about a 10 minute walk to the North,” said Suzanna etching the nib of her pen along a paper map of the island, “but I’m assuming you guys are more interested in where the best nightlife is situated, yes?”

Our hostel owner had clearly dealt with enough male backpackers to know exactly why we had come to her beautiful island of Hvar and proceeded to give us a detailed run-down of exactly where to find the hottest girls, cheapest food, and most insane music. For a mother to a child under five she really did seem to have her finger on the pulse of what was going on, but the vibes she was emitting did also portray the image of a wild girl who must have more than a few tales of mischief from her youth. Upon asking if she cared to join us for a few drinks, it took a good bit of self-persuasion on her part to decline the offer in favour of some much needed housekeeping.

As we lounged on the patio, speakers on full-blast, a boy and girl covered in fluorescent body paint and dressed head to toe in neon cut-offs appeared on one of the overlooking balconies. Peter and Katie were a Harvard educated couple in their late-twenties who had tickets for the UltraFestival that evening, and had somehow managed to go so overboard on the fashion front that they looked completely out-of-place for a pool party rave. We told them that our plan, based on the wisdom of our sexy host, was to start at the Hula Hula before heading over to Carpe Diem around midnight and they agreed to join us there. Just then the bay windows of a neighbouring balcony flew open and another pair appeared above us.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said the guy, “but did you guys say that you were heading out shortly?”

“Yeah man, you fancy joining us?”

“Sure, let us just get changed and we’ll be right down.”

Two minutes later Nick from Toronto, way of Boston, and his Swiss pal Laura were pouring a couple of vodka mixers beside us to take on the road. They had met at an International School in The States and in planning a long-overdue reunion had agreed upon the suggestion:, 'why not make it a summertime in Croatia?'

At first glance Hula Hula Hvar appears to be a make-shift tiki bar, the planks of wooden decking strewn across the rocky coastline looking more like a game of 'nature Jenga' that has got out-of-hand than a classy beach club. What this unique setting offers however is the wicked combination of outrageously stunning sunsets from the shoreline and incredibly strong cocktails, served in what can only be described as over-sized flower vases. As we wandered around sipping on the lethal concoctions from extra-long straws, Nick and I befriended a group of Canadians who had drank so much during Mediterranean Yacht Week that they'd been left mute, some lovely Argentinian girls who informed me that my Spanish was 'pobre' at best, and a girl who said the best moment of her life 'ever' was when she shared an elevator ride with Rupert Murdoch. I suppose the diversity of characters was just in-line with the absurdness of the awesome venue then.

As the clock ticked into the early hours of the morning we joined the crowds making their way back along the harbour to the main pier where Carpe Diem was situated; arm-in-arm with a couple of exceptionally hot bikini-clad Eastern Europeans until it transpired they were more interested in snaking some free drinks than conversing and sharing slices of cold street-vendor pizza. Entering the bar without them, we grabbed one of the free tables whereby a waiter was quick to come over and inform us that we were only permitted to remain seated if bottle-service was ordered.

"This one's on me lads" announced my mate Endy, whipping out his American Express before the rest of us could even deliberate the matter. "One bottle of vodka, some sprite, and a some beers to chase please monsieur." - God I love my friends.

Whilst we were waiting for the drinks to be served Nick and I ventured out onto the cobbled street and began chatting to a few of the passers-by. We had just approached a pair of Australian girls and were fluff-talking away when a Hulk of a drunkard barged over, muscles bulging from his skin-tight tank top and sporting a ridiculous snap-back cap that looked like it was cutting off the circulation of blood flow to his cranium.

"What do you think you're doing?" he barked menacingly.

"Just talking to our new girlfriends" I responded cheekily.


The words had barely left my mouth when his ogre-like fist landed square on my left cheekbone. I staggered backwards, just managing to maintain my footing, and immediately scurried back into the venue. Thankfully the vodka had arrived in a large ice-bucket and I quickly took a handful of cubes and pressed them against my face.

"What the hell happened to you?" asked a concerned Gadams, my pal pre-empting the response and gearing himself up for a scrap.

"Some dude just leathered him" responded Nick, who sensibly hadn't bothered hanging around for the guy's next move either. "We were chatting up what must have been his girlfriend and he seemingly took a little bit of offence."

"What a dick, did you smack him back?"

"Mate, I couldn't even beat my way out of a paper bag..."

Thankfully the connection hadn't been with knuckles and once I was convinced there wouldn't be any serious bruising it was right back to the partying at hand. Peter and Katie had located us, following a slight de-tour back home to change out of their raving costumes into more appropriate attire, and we joked away until the first passenger boats started to arrive. Each night around 2am, when Carpe Diem closes its doors on the mainland, everyone gets ferried across to a small island now illuminated out at sea where the club continues its festivities off-shore until the sun starts to rise. Setting off, we spent the entire ten minute journey bellowing every patriotic Scottish song imaginable, much to the delight of DJ Oliver Heldens who also happened to be aboard, before paying the €20 cover upon disembarking that gave us entry into a mystical forest of a dance floor.

Between the curved spines of the leafless trees draped in fairly lights people were going absolutely mental, reacting to every nuanced change in the set list blaring from the sound system on the raised stage and the amps hidden in the foliage. There were four Irish girls dancing away nearby, and exchanging some craic we formed a large circle near one of the barrel-shaped tables as Heldens took to the decks. Half-an-hour of bantering passed, in which Gadams almost manage to convince one of the girls that I was  Connor McGregor's cousin and he Rory McIlroy's drinking buddy, before a wide-shouldered American 'bro' in a floral shirt squeezed into the middle of the circle and shuffled straight up to the gorgeous Sarah.

"Hi there, my name's Jeff" he announced as if he were King of the Jungle. "What's yours?"

"MY NAME'S JEEEEEEEEEFFFFF" Gadams and I screamed in unison before Sarah could respond, nailing Channing Tatum's accent from 22 Jump Street and the quote appearing on almost every meme posted on-line in the latter half of 2014. The girls burst into fits of laughter as the dude just stood there perplexed. Grounded on the spot, the fact that he clearly didn't get the reference in the slightest just added to the hilarity. In comedy timing, Endy then came wandering back from the bar and I couldn't help but take the liberty of introducing him to our new companion.

"Hey man, come and meet our new friend. His name is Jeff"

"MY NAME'S JEEEEEEEEEFFFFF" squealed Endy, causing another outburst from the group. The dude took one further glance, his face now glowing a distinct shade of scarlet, and marched off with his head slumped. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't speak to a single stranger for the remainder of his trip...