Katie Melua’s “Nine million bicycles in Beijing” sung with each step of our ascent (but nine million steps in Dubrovnik instead of bicycles), upwards and onwards, final destination rooftop apartment, king size bed, hot water shower, washing machine (jeans could nearly stand on their own by this time), kettle and bottle opener – hey ho still corks in Croatia.
Let me start at the very beginning of our land voyage to the southern tip of Croatia. We set off on a roller coaster-bus-look-alike from the bay of ancient Venetian built Kotor, Montenegro, to Dubrovnik with a bus driver scrolling through photos on his cell phone and nattering with the co-driver. Long live my nerves!
SLICE OF LOO PAPER FOR ONE EURO
We passed through tedious border posts during the day, where we queued for the toilet, each paying a peasant woman inside the door one Euro for a slice of loo paper! At each crossing we endured intimidating communistic blue eyed stares from customs officials who made us feel guilty though innocent. You know that feeling at airports – well ten times worse. We almost felt we should declare out peanuts and thongs packed in our bags. Alas, Mrs Fidetgetbag, who scratched annoyingly through crinkly shopping bags sorting “stuff” for hours, was frog-marched, with her suitcase dug from the bowels of the bus, to a backroom for interrogation and was abandoned by our bus, poor thing. We all were a twitter wondering if she was a refugee or peddling drugs? My neighbour, Mr Windybottom provided trouser music during the hair-raising trip in the swaying bus. God only knows how we didn’t tip over cliff edges into the ocean way below!
Finally, quite sea sick we wafted over a beautiful bridge, past the Dubrovnik harbour, enormous cruise liners cheek by jowl – the size of New York apartment buildings, spewing out vocal Americans, serious Germans, inquisitive Chinese and men in shorts wearing ridiculous psychedelic calf length socks with sandals (my pet hate). The women hid behind make up, flashy sunny’s and broad rimmed straw hats. A big attraction to this city is touring filming spots of multi award winning Game of Thrones – we didn’t.
We are all making a beeline to the Old walled Town. Oh my word, bumping crowds, niffy underarms, aftershave overkill, everyone pushing to have selfies with a parrot man (Chris, above, cannot resist a beautiful bird) and rushing for food – we bomb out and escape to our flatlet. But, seriously, climbing three hundred steps, going on for eight hundred thousand vertical stone monoliths, we stagger into our place cursing our heavy 7kg wheeled suitcases (where wheels are a dysfunctional asset in Dubrovnik) to meet our lovely hostess. Oh boy did I regret that stealthy midnight packing of extra t’shirts, sarong and slip slops. Serves me right for being sneaky the night before leaving home. We pack together to “police” one anothers 7kg weight restriction.
Cuppa tea in hand, we fling open shutters, accosted by bed laundry and ufo xxx large bras and panties practising to be tents, on one side and a glorious vista of terracotta rooftops straddled by church spires with a backdrop of inky blue ocean on the other side.
Early mornings are spent wandering along shady alleyways, sampling ice creams and cappuccino’s, returning to our apartment, in the sky, for heat of the day siestas. Our visit was on the shoulder of summer and the temperatures reached into their 30’s, even in April. A waiter told us mid summer heat is exhausting and Dubrovnik feels like carrot soup. Carrot soup – what on earth does that mean? Maybe it is a Croatian phrase translated into English – bit weird. Cooler evenings, stunning sunsets and church bells accompanied our walks atop the walls of the city and down to deserted beaches, still smelling of coconut sunscreen.
One morning, spontaneously, we hopped aboard a small ferry hooting for tourists (minus their safety equipment), and sailed the deep blue waters to a small fascinating Island, Lokrum, bouncing with fluffy rabbits and peacocks displaying fantasmagorical feathers. Pathways threaded us through trees, along stony beaches, around dilapidated castles, into an abandoned monastery, over ankle breaking rocks to a spooky cave and sad remains of Charlottes Well. Enchanting Habsburg era’s history everywhere. What I love about travel is the incredible things a person ‘happens upon’ and this day the most amazing iridescent small lake was our highlight. Surrounded by a half moon of craggy rocks, sinking to big smooth boulders that have rolled onto a raggedy pebbly beach, giving private spaces for bathers to shelter behind, suntan on top of and picnic in little groups. The water was fresh……. to freezing!!!!!! And so salty we floated without effort (treading water would have been preferable it was that cold!). Just above this area was a blowhole which spouted water from waves crashing on the other side, (where I am standing in the photo below) feeding seawater through the rock-face into this magical pond.
It is difficult thoroughly researching places one will visit at home and we have discovered the magic of stumbling upon places and events just going-with-the-flow. We fly by the seat of our pants “they” say. Who knew that Dubrovnik offered more than luxurious cruise liners, layers of terracotta rooftops sprinkled down a steep mountainside, colourful inviting umbrella lined beaches, alleyways winding through a historical walled city and delicious ice cream! Sorry not to report sightings of swimming Dalmatians.
Yes, I fell in love with magical Dubrovnik, even with her nine million steps to the sky.