17.6.15 – 20.6.15
Going from Hvar to Dubrovnik, via Korcula was definitely a more pleasant experience than the stress of getting the ferry Split to Hvar. Once the ferry arrived in Korcula, we had around three hours to kill before our bus departed for Dubrovnik. Lucky for us our trusty Perth friends we met in Hvar had already arrived here the night before, so we all headed to a local café for lunch. It was an easy way to pass an hour or so, and nice to see a bit of Korcula even if only for a few hours. We haven’t yet arrived in Dubrovnik but it already seems reminiscent of a mini Dubrovnik, with its old town and surrounding walls.
When 3.30pm finally rolled around, we boarded a fairly empty bus headed for Dubrovnik. The drive was one of the most beautiful to date, following the coast along Korcula for only a short while before we boarded the car ferry to take us back to the main land. From there it was more hugging the coast, passing stunning bay after bay. The more time we spend here the more I’m glad we have a month to really get to know the place. Even after this month has come and gone I’m sure there’s going to be more I wish we could have seen, but I guess I should simply feel grateful that we do have this much time here.
We arrive in Dubrovnik around 6pm, step off the bus and in front of us is a strange looking apartment building. Oh wait, that’s not an apartment building, that’s an enormous cruise ship. We’re definitely right in the centre of a large tourist city again, that’s for sure.
We’re staying an AirBnB for these few days, soaking up this few days of privacy before we set sail with 20 Australians for a week. The place is about a 15 minute walk from the bus station, plus up a few steep flights of stairs (my fave), and after getting temporarily lost, we eventually find the place and are greeted by a young guy called Dario, who lives next door.
Dario shows us inside the small unit, which is perfect for couple travelling. Aside from the obvious bedroom and bathroom, it also has a decent size living area plus a small kitchenette. Plus air conditioning, amazing! AirBnB has definitely been a winner for us, it’s always a really personal experience and breaks up those times when you just can’t face another hostel dorm for a while.
So Dario is still showing us and around and making chit chat, and that’s when we spot it. He’s wearing a Game of Thrones shirt. And not one of those dorky fan ones that say ‘Winter is Coming’, an actual shirt you get if you WORK FOR GAME OF THRONES. Oh my. It says ‘Production, Wolf Unit’ and Dario explains to us that he worked in various roles on the first two seasons. He is immediately my favourite person in the room (sorry Daniel) as he tells us little bits of gossip about filming and also the actors (Joffrey- really nice guy, Daenerys- ice queen). We then try and contain our excitement as we try and casually ask Dario if he has the latest season of GoT, and of course he does. This is one of the problems of being away for so long –you fall out of touch with the zeitgeist, even avoiding Facebook at certain times of the week for fear of GoT spoilers.
The next morning, after
having a really refreshing and deep sleep crashing watching several eps of GoT, we wander down to the old town –the main attraction of Dubrovnik. It’s a pleasant walk even to get down the old town, following the sea, which is a long, sheer drop from the path up above. As we approach the entrance to the walls it’s a bit of a sensory overload. Hordes and hordes of tour groups pour in and out of the main gate, passing tonnes of tour operators –some friendly, some pushy. After filing our way through the gate and steal our first glance of the old town, it’s almost like stepping into another world. We walk straight past the entrance to the walls, a strong queue forming, as we plan to do this either first thing in the morning or late in the morning to avoid the people and also the searing heat.
As much as (old town) Dubrovnik is heaving with people, it’s very easy to get away from this, as the place is filled with infinite little laneways and alleys, and staircases reaching higher and higher. Just a few stairways up from the old town entrance and you’re looking down on the walls, surrounded by locals’ washing hanging from their windows and balconies.
For this reason it’s even more important to make sure you don’t end up eating at some tourist trap restaurant, because the old town is full of
salespeople waiters and sandwich boards offering the ‘best food’ in Croatia. If you can’t be bothered to research from TripAdvisor or blogs, at least stay clear of restaurants and bars with waiters out the front trying to coax you in. Head a few streets back from the main sights, away from the ‘tourist menus’ and look for the place where there aren’t any tour groups.
Over our few days in Dubrovnik we visited the same place twice, which is not that common for us –so it takes some good food for us to be repeat customers. Nishta is a small vegetarian/vegan restaurant, and one of the most popular places of the city so it’s essential to book if you can. Our first visit was for lunch, and I opted for the ‘temperitos’, basically Mexican burritos but with filling made from Tempeh. Yum! But my goodness the portions were huge. Daniel chose the falafel plate and was equally happy, for which I was relieved because I’ve wanted to explore more veggie and vegan restaurants for a while. They also have a self-serve delicious looking salad bar, but it’s not filled with limp lettuce and over ripe tomatoes. No, no, rather quinoa and tabouleh, beans and salsas are among the options for devouring.
We returned to Nishta the following day, but this time for dinner to have one last evening with our new Perth friends. Izzy is a coeliac so when we started to tell her that she would have a list of more than three things to choose from, she was instantly excited. So excited in fact that she was the only one of us to order three courses! You go girl. This time Daniel ordered the curry and dahl plate, which looked stunning and I’m super sad that none of us had enough presence of mind to take a photo. But maybe in fact it was that good that no one had a spare second to take photos as we were all busy devouring our food. Their homemade lemonades and juices are also worth ordering.
Before our dinner, we headed to the walls of Dubrovnik. It was almost 6pm, the sun was not as intense, and the crowds were almost non-existent. Importantly, there’s no signs anywhere, but if you flash your student card at the counter, you only pay 30 Kuna, as opposed to a hundred! Big savings all round, so it’s kind of annoying that it’s not advertised anywhere –although maybe that’s why.
The stairs weren’t as severe as I thought they were going to be, and the views from the top are everything you ever imagined they would be. Picture perfect. Aside from the stunning ocean panoramas, it’s so interesting to see the really distinct boundaries to the old town from up above, and see the 21st century lives happening below. As an added bonus, our friend Mika who met first met in Lisbon way back in April, arrived in Dubrovnik the night before so she was able to join us as we wandered the walls for about an hour and a half. That’s probably the minimum time required to walk the perimeter, it took us a little less time than normal I think because there was really no one around. I could imagine if you went in the middle of the day the crowds would be outrageous, plus the heat would make it more tempting to stop at one of the over priced cafes/kiosks along the way.
So after saying our final goodbyes to Mika after walking the walls, and then again to our Perth friends after dinner, we grabbed a gelato as we exited the old town and headed back home to
pack and get organised for the morning watch Game of Thrones. Now we’re heading off on an eight day sail trip from Dubrovnik to Split, stopping at a different island each day –including Hvar again. I’m sort of a mix of excitement and nervousness about the whole thing. I absolutely know it will be a lot of fun, but then a part of me is nervous and apprehensive about spending eight days on a boat with what will more than likely be 98% Australians –seeing as it’s a Busabout organised sail. I hadn’t even thought about this factor when booking the sail all those months ago, but having been away for over three months now it makes you realise how nice it is meeting people from all corners of the world, plus also realising that Australians in large tour groups are usually somewhat obnoxious and definitely loud. So I’m nervous about that, but at the same time know I’m just going to embrace it and not worry so much. I’m going to be on a boat for a week, sailing through the islands of Croatia –how can I complain!