10.02.2017 - 17.02.2017 15 °C
Dubrovnik is an impossible fairytale. As you approach it from the top of the hill, following the road that snakes down from a dizzying height, it gradually reveals itself as a group of inlets and promontories until you descend into the city proper, past the old town and feel that you are once again in a mundane European city. We were dropped off at the edge of the old city and walked down into the middle ages, the city being car free gives it an authentic old world feel. Worn ivory coloured flagstones everywhere. Ancient buildings staring down at us. City walls vast and towering, reminding one of the battles fought and lost in a bygone era, not to mention the new battles on our screens, think Game of Thrones, Star Wars and the latest retelling of Robin Hood.
We arrived in Dubrovnik late in the day, after dark, and found the old city a confusion of alleys, our navigation skills not aided by Ian’s feverish illness. We wandered back and forth, to the delight of a terrace full of restaurant patrons, who must have been counting the number of times we passed. Little did we realise that we were almost standing under it, until a kind young man directed us to the apartment, a few metres from where we were standing, of course! Clearly the locals are used to lost tourists. The apartment was located overlooking the old harbour and at night the bell towers and cathedral spires are luminous above the walls, making a fairy tale like scene. Cath quickly settled the dying swan into bed before heading out into the maze for supplies. It is actually a very small city and once orientated it is almost impossible to get lost, thankfully.
The next morning found Ian determined to stay in bed. He was convinced death was waiting just outside the door, but Cath had other ideas (you can take the girl out of nursing but......). A nag here, a goading there and Ian finally rose to the challenge. A hot shower later and we were on our way to the laundromat, which unfortunately was situated at the top of the high side of the old city, something like 14 flights of stairs. Ian collapsed into a bean bag while Cath negotiated the intricacies of automatic washing machines, with directions in Croatian.
By the time the laundry had been done, Ian had managed to frighten the other patrons out of the laundry with his barking, sniffing and whimpering, so we felt comfortable enough to move on. We deposited our washing around our flat. Did we mention the flat? It sits in the top corner of the last building before the old entrance fort to the harbour. The view from our window is absolutely the most beautiful picture one could want. The boats bob quietly in the quay below us, in pristine water against the backdrop of the old city and behind that the new city climbs the steep cliffs, above which looms the mountain. And of course the old city is completely out of a medieval picture book.
We both needed a bit of time to recouperate after the myriad of stairs climbed, it seemed going down was no easier than going up and an afternoon snooze was in order before a medicinal wine or two at a Buza Bar; Buza meaning hole in the wall in Croatia and well you would know what it means to Aussies. Again we entertained those who had been sensible and chosen to stay in an easy to find square; we meandered up and down the same streets time and time again searching for a way to the outside of the city walls, where the bars are located. That’s right, they hang from the outside of 100 foot walls. During summer tourists and locals alike come to drink, dive and swim from the cliffs! Finally we arrived, parched and ready for a drink to watch the sun go down. The selection of drinks was quite limited and one might say on the expensive side, so we slowly consumed a very average red wine, observed the arrogance of the selfie set and critiqued the eclectic, one might say poor, others might say tomnoddy, music selection whilst the sun slid into the Adriatic. While spring has most certainly sprung with warm sunny days, the nights are still cold and it was with relish we reached the warmth of the apartment for a home cooked meal….. and a few more wines.
Sunday found us, like young Oliver Twist, hungry for more. We had decided to cast our net wider than the old city and so boarded a bus at the Pilé Gate, headed for adventure. Alas, despite boarding an obscure bus which took us off to a dormitory suburb, we found little of interest and so stepped off in the new city and went for a walk. Cath somehow mysteriously directed us to, of all things, a seafood restaurant and before you knew it, she had ordered Scampi for herself and Squid (“Don’t worry darling, that’s what they call calamari here”) for Ian.
The restaurant, being as it was, somewhat upmarket, took it upon themselves to provide us each with an entree of whitebait, anchovy in a cherry tomato and a ball of tuna paste on a slice of lemon. Have we mentioned Ian’s problem with fish? It is not restricted to swimming with sharks, he doesn’t actually like to eat their friends either. Well, to everyone’s surprise, he ate the lot! Well not all of the tuna paste, but most. And so we sat back to await the arrival of the main course. If we might diverge for a moment though and mention that Orsan restaurant sits right on the quayside of the new city marina, an especially charming position, with the waves lapping gently right next to your feet and a vista of boats, hills and greenery. Absolutely lovely and a setting which had caused Ian to become positively relaxed and jovial.
Into this peaceful setting arrived Ian’s worst nightmare!
With a flourish, the waiter delivered our main course. Cath’s Scampi was generous to a fault, heads, bodies, legs - too numerous to mention, along with pliers to crack the wee beasties open. Ian’s dish was likewise, two whole squid, mottled pink and crimson, perfectly chared, something like four million legs or feelers or god knows what, like so many roasted worms crawling over the spinach and baby potato salad, stared up at him. The squid even had their flippers on! Ian was aghast! Cath, ever the intuitive one, realised right away that Ian was having trouble even registering what he was looking at. “Are you going to be OK eating that darling?” she kindly asked. Ian’s response closely resembled something like “Oggly Boggly Diddlemumph….” which Cath took to mean no!!!!!!!!!!!!! As it turned out, she was right and it was decided to swap meals immediately. Even though Ian has no truck with creatures with more than four legs, he bravely cracked and peeled his scampi, while Cath said she enjoyed the best “calamari” she had ever had. As a coda to the meal, might we mention that we were introduced to a delightful white Croatian wine….Obviously the wine was good, Ian ate the fish and their friends! Penance was required by Cath for ordering Ian’s worst nightmare and so dessert was ordered and scoffed with some delight by Ian, Cath never one to be left out joined in the fiesta of sweets and a long walk home was required to atone for our sins… and because the bloody bus driver drove straight past without a glance.
Mondays should never be rushed into and we were careful to avoid such a hazard, managing to get ourselves organised for a stroll around the walls just after second breakfast. It was clear that some climbing of stairs would be required but it must be said that we had underestimated the amount of upstairs and downstairs that would be required to complete this journey. The views however were absolutely worth it, every twist and turn brought a new photo opportunity, a fact that seems to be lost on most of the other visitors who are busy posing themselves in front of magnificent scenery. Surely you can hear the frustration that we have developed with the selfie obsessed and it is true that we have started exclaiming, in English of course, “it’s not you we came to see”; the next tactic we have planned is to stand just close enough to ruin the picture, Zoolander style. Dubrovnik from the height of the surrounding walls is somehow more beautiful than at street level as you can see into the courtyards, gardens and lives of the people who live here, largely as they have lived for many hundreds of years. They must be seriously in need of some soul saving though; it appears that there is a church per block! Having exhausted our legs with stairs and our eyes with magical vistas we retired for the afternoon before deciding that a game of cards and a few medicinal whiskies were in order.
Tuesday should also be treated with some caution and we again managed to get ourselves out of the house just before lunch. Perhaps there is something in the air in Dubrovnik. All the walking on this trip has taken it’s toll on Ian and his jeans were starting to resemble the saggy baggy elephant’s pants. So Cath nagged until a shopping trip was planned. Dubrovnik does not have a shopping district or large shopping centres and wanting to avoid the designer shops and price tags in the old city we headed for the suburbs. Quite quickly we located the jeans store and without much hassle Ian was kitted out with a new pair of skinny leg Levi’s. Conveniently there was a bakery just near the jeans shop, so it was with some excitement that Ian got a sausage roll, literally a sausage rolled in pastry and Cath a cheese pastry for lunch on a park bench by the marina.
We have discovered the secret to small cities, get on the local bus and go as far as it can before getting on another one and doing the same. This is made much easier in Dubrovnik as they all end up in the same place, however they are a little bit tricksy too. We had read that you are able to purchase a 24 hour bus ticket, rather than the usual one hour and went in search of such a thing. It seems there is a bit of a scam going whereby the ticket sellers deny having 24 hour tickets, indicate that you can only buy them at the Pilé gate, where the ticket office is closed and then sell you the hourly ticket. Haha, caught them though by getting the ticket just around the corner from where they had tried to scam us! An afternoon of bus cruising completed and it was wine time. Given that we had failed at buying decent wine to this point, a wine bar was in order and the Pucić Palace provided just the thing. We were initially attracted by a very silly sign which Cath identified with immediately “my super power is making wine disappear, what’s yours?”. We enjoyed a lovely glass of Croatian red wine and a great chat with the sommelier as we were the only customers, before purchasing a rather expensive bottle and heading home to consume it.
Unfortunately when one is travelling for some time there must be days of housekeeping and administration, Wednesday has become that day. Laundromat again and house decorating with undies and T shirts!
Thursday was our 7th and final day in Dubrovnik, we had planned to take the taxi boat to Lombruk Island but found it closed due to the winter season so we decided on a walk and picnic on Banje beach, adjacent to the Polce gate….. with wine, of course. It was definitely T shirt weather, so suitably attired, we spent a very relaxing afternoon, completing our blog, imbibing and generally sun loving.
We find ourselves now ready for the next adventure. We leave tomorrow morning for Zagreb, where we shall spend the night, before continuing on to Ljubljana, Slovenia for a week.
Ciao for now….