Trip Start Sep 05, 2008
10Trip End Oct 08, 2008
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Where I stayed
Just a small biscuit for food on the flight (Pranjevak or something like that) – luckily I can live off my own body fat for at least a week and managed to last until the flight landed. A guy called Daniel met me at the airport and drove me into Dubrovnik. About a 25 minute trip that hugged the rugged but striking Dalmatian coastline for much of the way.
He dropped me just outside the Pile Gate, the main entrance to Dubrovnik's old walled city, where the guy from the property agent (Jenko) was waiting for me. Cars aren't allowed into the old town so we walked to the apartment, which is in Ulica Getaldiceva - one of the side streets off the main thourougfare, Stradun (the 3rd one from the main gate on the right, opposite the tower to be precise). He took me to the 3rd floor apartment, although I had booked the 2nd floor
Went for a walk outside the old town and found a mini mart where I bought a bottle of room wine for 66K and some water. Dropped this back at the room and then went to the mini market recommended by the Tourist office in the street parallel to Stradun and bought another bottle of room wine (you really can't have too much room wine) and some cold meat and cheese (including something called Podarec, which I just ate and is really nice).
Took an exploratory walk around the old city – brilliant! The long, wide boulevard called Stradun cuts the town in half and there are lateral, much narrower, streets running off it on both sides – sort of like a fish bone. The streets on the left rise steeply towards the old city walls and are lined with little cafes with tables outside that practically fill the footpath.
Had my first drink at an Irish bar called The Gaffe, then walked out through the Ploce Gate to the harbour
There was a medieval music quartet on the steps of a building in the square near the harbour, so I tried to get shots of them between tourists walking in from of my camera. Stopped at one more bar before dinner, which was at the place right outside the door of the apartment in Ulica Getaldiceva called Konoba Nava. It is just a string of tables along one side of the narrow street and was practically empty. I ordered a glass of red and the fish plate – five mussels in the shell, a couple of char grilled calamari, some baby squid, three BBQ’d prawns, and a whole sea bream. The bream was excellent, although the prawns were very small – I cut off the heads and tails and ate the rest, shell and all. 120K in total ($30) which I thought was great value.
Up and out before 9am but already the Stradun was crawling with tourists. They unload them by the boat load, bus them to the Pile Gate and set them loose. Mercifully, they tend to stick to the main tourist areas so when I walked up to the residential area near the sea walls it was much quieter and very pretty
I don’t think you can access the walls from here (I couldn’t find a way at least) but I got to just below them where I stumbled on Buza, a very cool bar which is tiered over three levels on the cliffs above the Adriatic. It looks across to Lokrum, the island just off the coast, where there was a massive cruise ship anchored. Also a five masted schooner sailed in.
You access the place via an iron grill door in the city walls. I was the first person there apart from the barman so I had the whole place to myself. Ordered a Tangerina and made the aforementioned staff take a shot of me with Lokrum in the back ground.
Walked down the hill to St Ignatius church, built in the 1720’s and named after Ignatius Loyola founder of the Jesuits. The walls are lined with little chapels each with its own fresco depicting scenes from his life. It also has the oldest Virgin Grotto in Europe to the right of the entrance. I lit a candle for 5K at the first chapel on the left, which depicts Ignatius’ death at Santiana
There was a market in the small square in front of the church with many of the vendors dressed in period costume, and of course lots of tourists. Stopped at a deli on the way back to the apartment and bought some veal ribs, stuffed olives and baked zucchini, then combined this with the Emmenthal cheese and cold cuts left over from last night to create a rather sensational anti-pasta plate, washed down with a glass of red wine.
Not sure what this afternoon will bring, but I might try and find a quiet bar and read my book for an hour or so. In fact, that sounds a more than acceptable plan for a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Bought The Guardian and some postcards and stamps from a shop in Stradun and wrote the cards in the apartment before posting them at the box across from Onofrio Fountain. Had a glass of red at Zvonik (I think), one of the standard Dubrovnik restaurants with of tables along one side of the street (I estimate the narrower side streets are about six feet wide), and started the Sudoku. Then walked to the Ploce Gate and around the Old Harbour breakwater – great views.
Had a half litre of red and a plate of white bait with cabbage, potato and carrot (actually quite good) at the Aquarius Cafe, finished the Sudoku, and started the news section. There was an article about European politics (and specifically Austrian politics) veering to the right and assuming an anti-immigration stance. I remember seeing a lot of sandwich boards in Vienna touting a variety of politicians including one whose slogan was something like "One country, one people" which makes a lot more sense now.
After my second lunch I went to the aquarium next to the cafe. This is quite small but actually not bad. They have a lot of food fish, particularly bream, which is quite odd. But these are oddly endearing nevertheless, swimming up to the front of the glass to stare at you as you walked past. The highlight of the exhibit was the octopus, which didn’t actually do much except breath through what I assume was its breathing tube.
Walked back to the apartment. The door to the 2nd floor was open and a girl was in there cleaning up. Apparently the occupants left a day early and I could move in right away. She’d also bought a clock radio for me. Packed up my gear and moved downstairs
Checked out Nautica, a restaurant outside the city gates with great views over the water and the city walls. Had planned to have a drinbk and a bite to eat and watch the sunset, but I'd already missed it and decided to leave that for tomorrow night. Walked back into the old city and had a drink at a place on the square near the Ploce Gate, then looked at a few places to eat – lots of pasta and pizza places which I didn’t feel like. Eventually came back to Konoba Nava (Konoba means restaurant I am beginning to believe). There were a few tables where people were eating bowls of mussels which looked good so ordered that and a glass of red. The mussels were cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce and were excellent. They came with some brown bread which I used to mop up the sauce. The only negative was the guy smoking at the next table.
When the bill came they had only charged me for the wine (20K)
Another perfect day in Dubrovnik. Went to the entrance to the city walls before 9am. Good timing as it was still reasonably quiet – by the time I got back about 11.30 there were people lining up back to Onofrio Fountain.
The walls were everything I had expected and more. Begun in the 13th century, they were added to in the 15th century to defend against the Turks who were capitalsing on their conquest of Constantinople by making inroads into the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The walls enclose the entire old city, stretching for two kilometres and are up to 25 metres high in parts. The views all along the way are spectacular, looking both inwards over the red tiled rooves, towers and church spires of Dubrovnik, and outwards towards the detached Lovrjenac Fort, Lokrum and the old harbour.
The entry to the walls is immediately to the left of the Pile Gate. You buy a ticket from the little ticket office on the first flight of steps for 50K
There are houses running all along the wall’s interior – some are actually on the walls themselves, which would make peace and quiet almost impossible during the hours the site is open to tourists – 9.00 am until 7.30 pm during the season. There are also a few cafes along the route where you can stop to rest your feet and have a cold drink. You can also see the wonderfully located Buza Cafe that I visited yesterday from the ramparts on the seaward side.
The round trip took me about two hours, with lots of photo stops on the way. Definitely the highlight of Dubrovnik so far and I doubt if anything else is going to exceed it.
Decided to have an early lunch at Nautica but they didn’t open until midday, so I checked out the DM market across the road. Bought some fancy Austrian biscuits and a packet of crisp bread, then battled my way through hordes of tourists to a mini mart back into the old city and bought another bottle of room wine, some salami, fizzy vitamins, and a stack of Podarecka cheese, which I have acquired a real taste for
Just about everyone had ice creams, so not wanting to feel left out I bought a cone for 7K from the ice cream parlour opposite the Franciscan Monastery (American Dream flavour – no idea what it was made from but very nice!).
It was after midday so I tried Nautica again but it was packed, as was the whole area around it, so I headed down a set of stairs behind the restaurant. Immediate solitude! Walked for about 3 minutes and found a restaurant right below Lovrjenac Fort Called Orhan with views back across the little cove and up to the Bokar Tower. I kept walking through the narrow deserted streets, always heading up, until I found a lovely park on the cliff edge with great views over the Adriatic. Sat on a park bench and watched the ocean and a bank of cumulus clouds building on the horizon.
Walked to the top of the park where there are the some ruins; of what I don’t know. Then walked down again and stopped at Orhan for lunch about 2.30 – escargot and spaghetti marinara. Not particularly good, but OK. Had a bitter lemon and read the Guardian then walked back to the old city. The day trippers are starting to leave so it might be safe to venture out again
The Cloisters is the oldest part of the monastery and was built in the 14th century. It’s open from 9am until 6pm and tickets cost 25K. The cloisters are defined on all four sides by two lots of six narrow archways, many of them capped by carved Romanesque bestiary capitols. In the middle is a garden with a central pathway lined by stone benches, at the end of which is a fountain dating from the 15th century.
On the eastern side is the chapter house containing seven chapels which is now used as a museum. On display are vestments, paintings and a wide selection of reliquaries including St Blaise’s foot! It also has a range of items relating to the monastery’s pharmacy which was opened in 1317. This is still a functioning monastery and sections of it, including the gallery above the cloisters, are not open to the public.
Ran into the cleaner in the stair well who also moonlights as a guide on the City Walk Tour
For 90K you don’t get to actually go inside any of the buildings on the route, but it’s a good way to get an overview and orientation of the city, so I probably should have done it when I first arrived. Nevertheless it was interesting. We started at the Onofrio Fountain then crossed Stradun to the Cloisters and pharmacy, which I saw yesterday.
The guide explained the way Stradun was designed to make the city look bigger than it actually is. Although the street appears straight, it actually has a dog leg which gives the appearance that it doesn’t end at the city gate, but turns a corner into another street or a square. He also told us that according to local legend if we walked in the semi-circular gutters that run down either side of the marble footpath we’d never get married.
There are only 2,000 fulltime residents in the Old City, most of whom live in the high streets near the city wall. Many of these are foreigners, and in fact the ratio of Croat to expat is increasing in favour of the expats as locals sell up and move out and foreigners move in
Walked through some of the backstreets and the guide pointed out some medieval graffiti carved into the stone regarding Dubrovnik’s first football team. We also saw Orlando’s pillar near the Ploce Gate. The distance between the statue’s elbow and fingertips was used as Dubrovnik’s official unit of measurement for centuries.
We then walked past the Aquarius Cafe and the aquarium where the tour ended at the harbour. I walked back into the city, chatting briefly to an old lady from Sydney who was also on the tour.
I walked back to the little park overlooking the ocean that I visited yesterday (it's called Gradac), then visited Lovrjenac Fort. Lots of stairs, though not as many as the City Walls, and great views from the top.
The ticket seller told me that my City Wall ticket also got me free admission to the Fort if I did both sites in the same day, but as I did the City Wall tour yesterday I paid another 20K to get in
The fort protects the little cove beneath the Bokar Tower which has a small beach and provides the perfect point to unload a small invasion force right next to the city gate. It has three levels with some canon still in place. The views, as I said, are sweeping and I imagined a soldier on guard duty standing at his post watching the galleons laden with trade goods sailing in from Venice and Istanbul when Dubrovnik was a crucial link between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
Stopped at the tourist office on the way back to the hotel and confirmed that ferries to Lokrum run every 30 minutes (I will probably take one out there tomorrow morning for a change of scenery), and that the taxi fare to the airport is around 30E, or 220K – must ensure I have this much in cash when I leave the day after tomorrow.
Came back to the apartment, opened one of the local beers I bought from the mini market (Ozujsko – the guy at the checkout told me there was a refund if I returned the bottles) and updated journal. Around 2.20 now and will pop out soon for some lunch followed by a book and bar crawl. I might check out some of the upper level streets on the other side of Stradun which I haven’t really had a look at yet
PS – I noticed there is an Algoritam book store on Stradun – must be part of a chain.
Went to Proto for lunch and ate upstairs on the terrace. An appetiser of tuna and diced capsicum and zucchini arrived before I’d ordered my drink (this seems to be standard in Croatian restaurants). Had a dish called White Rose for entree – a mountain of rocket covered in strips of white fish carpaccio, slices of smoked salmon, and shaved prosciutto with four prawns on top. It was quite zesty and refreshing. For main I had gratinated sea bass – two fish fillets covered in olive tapenade on a bed of pureed spinach and cheese sauce. Everything was OK but not exceptional, and for $80 (including 2 glasses of house red and a bottle of water) I thought a little overpriced.
Had a glass of red at an Irish bar called Karaka, which was quite nice. The barman spent his time snogging his girlfriend at a table in one corner, while three local girls chatted in the other. There were a couple of tables of touros outside on the footpath Marilyn Manson on TV doing a cover of Dépêche Mode’s Personal Jesus.
Walked up the hill on the north side of Stradun. Not as many tourists as the other side (maybe the stairs put them off) but nothing there appealed for a quiet drink. Walked to the harbour wall and back into Stradun, stopping at another Irish bar – the Gaffe for another red before stopping for one last glass and a bowl of the delicious mussels at Konoba Nava.
Last day in Dubrovnik – some cloud, but still warm and fine so the weather continues to smile on me. Walked to the taxi rank and confirmed that there will be taxis there tomorrow morning at 6.30am to take me to the airport. They had a couple of guys dressed as medieval costume standing guard on either side of the gate.
Walked to the harbour and bought a return ticket on the ferry to Lokrum the island just off the coast from Dubrovnik. I was 30 minutes early so bought a pistachio ice cream and walked around the harbour to kill time, then sat on the boat and read the Guardian (which has gone up to 30K!).
Boat tickets from Dubrovnik harbour to Lorkum cost 40K and the trip only takes about 15 minutes
The whole island is covered in forest, mostly fir trees, and apart from a nudist beach (hosting possibly the world’s ugliest nudist), a monastery (now partially converted into a restaurant), a botanical garden and Fort Royal there’s not a lot to see. But it’s nice and peaceful and good for walking which is what I did for a couple of hours.
The monastery is under renovation, whether to return it to a functioning house of God (which it isn’t at the moment), a high class resort (probably doubtful as the whole island is a nature reserve), or some sort of tourist centre (my tip). The best feature of the place is the cloister garden which has a distinctly tropical feel to it and is much nicer than the one at the Franciscan priory.
I walked towards Fort Royal, but when I saw the hill leading up to it, I decided to give it a miss and walked back to the harbour to wait for the return ferry, which leaves a quarter after every hour
Bought some water, Coke Zero and a miniature bottle of rum (so I can have one final cocktail this evening). About 2.20 pm now and I am committed to having a meal at Nautica before I leave Dubrovnik, so this is it!
Nautica was excellent. The appetiser was a couple of extremely fresh prawns on a thin slice of very good fetta cheese drizzled with a balsamic based sauce. For main I had the monkfish with bacon on a bed of pea puree. The fish was really firm and flavoursome and had a great aroma. The peas were a great accompaniment to the fish – tasty in their own way but not overpowering. At 426K (plus a 30K tip) it’s the most expensive meal I’ve had in Dubrovnik, but it was also the best.
Woke up at 1.20am and couldn’t get back to sleep for an hour or so – first time this has happened since leaving home. Woke up again 20 minutes before the alarm went off at 6am, showered and walked to the taxi rank where, as promised, taxis awaited. The driver quoted me a fixed rate of 220K ($55) to the airport (as did the Tourist Office) which is about what it will cost me to get from Tullamarine to home this time next week – where has the time gone
Pretty drive along the cliff looking out over the Adriatic and the little towns along the coast. Just getting light so everything looked soft and blue. Tipped the driver my last 7K in coins then checked in and exchanged my last 130K in notes for US$25. Looked at the souvenir shops but didn’t see anything I wanted so cleared immigration and am now sitting at Gate 6 waiting to board.
I get to Frankfurt around 11am and my connecting flight to New York leaves at 1.10pm and should get me into NYC about 4.00pm, so all in all pretty good connections. Unless I’m totally wasted from the flight I should have time to check in and have an exploratory walk around the hotel before dinner. I’ve got my “No Jet Lag” tablets in my jacket pocket and will try to get a couple of hours sleep on the plane then stay awake until local bedtime when I arrive.
I’m so sick of my clothes I think the first priority tomorrow morning will be a trip to Century 21 for a complete new outfit.