MAY Reflections: Morocco, Italy, and Croatia

Camel Riding in the Sahara Desert in Morocco
Camel Riding in the Sahara Desert in Morocco
In May, we continued on with our round-the-world travel blogging in Europe, slowly making our way East. We began the month in Morocco for two weeks, then flew to Italy for our birthday week, continuing east to Croatia to meet our friends, and ended the month with a side trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Morocco

Morocco was a country unlike any other we had been to, both in culture, cityscape and geography. Most of the major cities in Morocco have a “Medina”, which is a maze-like neighbourhood; a labyrinth of stores, restaurants and homes. Some are easier than others to navigate within, but getting lost is practically a right of passage for travellers to Morocco. Fez, the city we arrived in, is known to have the most complicated Medina in the country.

As soon as we left the safety of the beautiful Fez airport we were swarmed by men, dressed in traditional Arabic garments. We bargained, and got into an old white Mercedes, the “grand taxi” transport of Fez.  Long story short, the taxi driver didn’t exactly know where to go, we were dropped off outside the maze of the Medina, wandered around at sunset impossibly trying to find our guesthouse, paid a guy to bring us there (a common practise), found out the place was overbooked, and got moved elsewhere.

That evening, we had our first taste of mint tea, a Moroccan gesture of hospitality. The hot drink is actually brewed with black tea, topped with a generous spring of fresh mint, and lots of sugar.

The Moroccan culture is very hospitable, but we always had an underlying worry that we were going to be scammed or tricked.  As Steve put it, the savvy Arabic businessmen know how to extract the maximum value from you for their products or services; long-winded bargaining can be likened to a theatrical performance, and is a big part of Moroccan culture. On our trip, we did buy a Moroccan carpet and two Moroccan poufs (it looks EXACTLY like this one from a high-end home decor store in Vancouver).

In Morocco, we landed in Fez, then went North to the Blue City of Chefchaouen, then down south for a 3D/2N trek in the Sahara desert, and finally to Marrakesh.

The Sahara desert had a terrain unlike anything we had ever seen.  As we drove closer to the edge of the desert, we saw beautiful golden-orange hills rising up past the highway. As we got closer, we saw that they were made up of very fine sand, shifting its shape and covering tracks as the wind blew over the hills.  We watched the sunset, we watched the sunrise. We rode camels — five hours in total. (It wasn’t very comfortable.) We also stayed in a Berber Camp, and with a Berber family the next day, no toilets and certainly no running water.

Upon arriving in Marrakesh, we were both really sick with some sort of food poisoning or stomach bug … or maybe it was heat exhaustion and/or extreme fatigue. Basically, I saw the inside of our guesthouse room (and bathroom) more than Marrakech, and by the end of our two and a half weeks in Morocco, we were more than ready to leave.

Italy

We spent our birthday week in Italy!  This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise as we always thought Italy would be too expensive for our long-term travel budget.  But, it ended up working out — we keep telling ourselves a week in a more expensive country won’t break the bank!

Naples is an unpretentious, graffiti-filled town — best known to me as the birthplace of pizza. Needless to say, our main priority in Naples was to eat pizza, and also take advantage of Naples’ central location to take daytrips to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, and then eventually on to Rome.  Steve loves pizza, and I love pasta, and we both enjoy a good meal — Italy was perfect (aside from the fact that we were both still recovering from our illness).

Our first taste of pizza was absolutely heavenly.  As Steve says, “Maybe I won’t ever be able to eat regular pizza again.

From Naples, we took a day trip to Positano, a beautiful city on the Amalfi Coast and spent our 31st and 35th birthdays eating Italian lemon tarts.

Moving on from Naples, we spent our last two days in Italy in Rome.

Croatia

The highlight of Croatia was seeing my friend Mel, from Germany.  I met her four years ago while on a Halong Bay boat tour in Vietnam.  She had a few weeks off between jobs and said she could meet us anywhere in Europe!  So, we spent five days together in Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina 

From Dubrovnik, we took a side-trip into Mostar, in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was formerly part of Yugoslavia.  Having gone through a big war in 1991 to 1995, this country is still recovering from the effects of war.  Outside the main town, destroyed buildings never got repaired, with graffiti all over them, and even bullet holes!!  But inside the Old Town, the main tourist area, it was surprisingly redeveloped with stunning natural beauty.

Also, Steve’s photography is getting better and better, don’t you think?!

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Thank you so much for keeping up with our travels reading our May reflections on Modern Mix Travel! In June, we will be travelling through Eastern Europe, making our way to Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey.

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1 Comment

  1. In Morocco, did you guys eat any of that Berber bread that they mix up and then cook in the sand?? (I think that exists… Heard someone mention it once). Glad you got rid of that bug and were able to enjoy the food in Italy. Love reading your articles, Vanessa. And yes – excellent photos, Steve! 🙂

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