Roll That Tongue, Baby!
Trip Start Aug 14, 2010
30Trip End Sep 12, 2010
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Where I stayed
It's tough to describe, and the photos simply don't do it any justice; the beauty of this region is a confluence of many beautiful things, culminating in something that takes away your breath and leaves you speechless. I don't use such words lightly - in the past, that's how I've described Spanish women, so if I make any comparison to the senoritas, you know that I'm describing something phenomenal!
Said goodbye to Anna before heading out - we joked that we might run into each other in Kotor at the same time next year, since she's already come for Boka night two years in a row, and I definitely have seen more than enough to make a return trip here. And if not, maybe she can come stay at the hotel in Spain I always talk about buying.
A lot of time to kill before the afternoon bus to Dubrovnik, today was all about chilling out and lingering over a cappuccino, and then lunch. This wasn't a bad thing, as it gave me time to catch up on my blogging, and Kotor's Stari Grad is as beautiful as a place you can find for lingering and slowing the pace down. I've also been enjoying one of my favourite past times here in Montenegro, one that's usually reserved for Spain - that would be observing the lovely Spanish ladies!
Unfortunately, it's mostly families and older couples coming from the Spanish cruise ships, so it's not as rewarding an activity as it normally is. It really is quite pathetic how in tune I am to all things Spanish - just sitting there today, typing away on my netbook, I heard the lovely Spanish double 'R' being rolled from afar. Like a canine hearing a dog whistle, my ears perked up, my tongue started wagging, and I sat up straight while rapidly looking side to side to find the source of such lovely symphonic sounds. Yes, I have a problem, and it's been well documented over the past five years. Maybe a cure exists for the Spanish Flu, but if it does, I don't want it!
Dubrovnik - the three of us headed into the old town together, and they rushed off to a travel agency to find a private accommodation for the evening, before the agency closed, and I was off to the Fresh Sheets hostel. Something I've found so far in the Balkans is that the ratings on the hostel websites are quite misleading - generally rated at the high 80 and low 90 percent marks, the hostels aren't as good as the ratings indicate. In general, the Balkan hostels seem to be a cut below others in Western Europe, and what's considered excellent here really isn't what is considered excellent over elsewhere.
But not all was good about my arrival at Fresh Sheets - all guests are given a shot of Rakija upon check-in. The English translation of Rakija must be "ulcer", because having a shot of that on an empty stomach, I felt a warm sensation in the pit of my belly at first, which slowly turned into a mild burning, as I was certain that it must be slowly dissolving my stomach lining.
Plans for a nice sit-down meal tonight were foiled - there's a vegetarian place in town called Nishta, something extremely odd in a meat-obsessed region like the Balkans. The word nishta actually translates to "nothing" - the story is that when the place first opened, the locals asked what was served. When told "Everything except meat", the locals supposedly responded "Well, then you serve nothing!", and the name was born.
I couldn't find Nishta, and everything else in the old town looked super-touristy, to no surprise, so dinner ended up being bakery food, on a relatively quiet (Dubrovnik is super-loaded with tourists) little perch overlooking the harbour. As I finished up, the couple from earlier happened to walk by and asked if I wanted to join them for dinner - the nice thing about solo travel is that it's quite often easier to strike up conversations with strangers since you don't have the crutch of a travel partner to lean upon, and you end up getting a random invite to dinner. I told them I'd already eaten, but would be happy to sit down for a drink.
It's funny - all three of us had chatted for a good half hour at the bus station waiting for our ride to Dubrovnik, and on the local bus from Dubrovnik's station to the old town, but it wasn't until we actually sat down to dinner that we found out each others' names. Quite often, the first question out of a backpacker's mouth upon first meeting another backpacker is "Where are you from?", rather than "What's your name?" It's a bit strange, but that piece of information, as well as "Where are you coming from?" and "Where are you going to next?" are the most relevant questions for that moment, and they often lead into quite detailed conversations very quickly, complete bypassing the usual step of a formal introduction.
We talked about the changes to Dubrovnik in the four years since I last visited - it's still a gorgeous place, perhaps the most beautiful city I have ever had the pleasure of seeing in person, but it's become even more expensive, and while it was full of tourists before, it's now exploding at the seams with them. Dubrovnik always had its share of cruise ship day trippers, but there seems to be double the number from before, and it seems nearly as busy at night as it is during the day. Four years ago, a slight degree of tranquility enveloped the old town as all the cruisers left - it was still busy enough to emanate a nice little buzz, but not enough to be overwhelming. As a result, Dubrovnik has slightly lost some of it's charm - quite unfortunate but as always, any place worth visiting eventually succumbs to mass tourism. Is it still worth visiting? Most definitely. I just liked it a bit better four years ago.
Off to Buza for a drink - dramatically-located on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic, even with just a hint of moonlight illuminating the night, it was a beautiful spot. It wasn't so much the type of beauty you could see, but the type that you could feel, if that makes any sense at all. The moonlight gave just enough to show you a bit of the cliffs, a hint of the coastline, the vaguest silhouette of the nearby island of Lokrum, and brief bursts of shimmering light dancing off the waves of the Adriatic ... there was just enough of an outline for your mind to fill in the rest of the picture, and paint the most incredible canvas. Croatia ... what can I say? It's the stuff of dreams ...
Again, being a solo traveler can be a beautiful thing, as it draws you into experiences you shouldn't normally be a part of - case in point was tonight, which actually was Jamie's 25th birthday. How else do you get invited to a complete stranger's birthday dinner, and for a drink after? Somewhat jokingly, I apologized to them both, saying "Sorry for intruding on this incredibly romantic moment ..."
Jamie and Rachel had an early kayaking trip planned for tomorrow, so they were off after a quick drink, but I remained for a while after, continuing to bask in the glorious moment. Brush stroke by brush stroke, the canvas in my mind was finished - and since I was the painter, I took some artistic liberties and painted a beautiful Spanish senorita next to me. It's my vacation, and my moment to enjoy - what's wrong with tacking on an additional bit of fantasy? :)
I absolutely LOVE Croatia ... I squeal with delight any time I am here, like a piglet, all greased up in sweat. Four years ago in Dubrovnik, I came across this restaurant with a great location atop the city walls. A bit of a story behind it - a few of us hung out for an afternoon on the island of Korcula four years ago, just before I arrived in Dubrovnik for the first time. At the hostel in Dubrovnik, I randomly ran into one of the girls, Jenny, who had an extremely rough day - up all night partying the night before, a long bus ride from Korcula, and wandering around lost for an hour trying to find the hostel. To cheer her up, we headed to the old town for a drink.
So we came across this restaurant, but were told that we could only stay if we had a full meal. We were crushed, but asked if we could hang out there for a few minutes and take some pictures. It was a stunning location, perched up high and overlooking the harbour. Last time in Dubrovnik, I didn't have the budget for any nice meals, but this time I do so I could've eaten dinner at this restaurant but decided not to, because I've never forgotten that spot, and filed it away as the place to one day return to propose to the girl of my dreams. It just seems like the perfect place for something like that, so I'd rather wait for that moment to dine here.
Of course, if she happens to be out there reading this blog, I will have spoiled the surprise. But ... in all likelihood, the girl of my dreams and future Mrs. Wong will be Spanish, so if for some reason she was reading this, she wouldn't understand a word of it because she probably won't speak a word of English!
Balkan Chino Count: 23. There was an Asian population explosion before leaving Montenegro today. Arriving in Dubrovnik, the Balkan Chino Count will temporarily be suspended, since us Asian tourists are far more common in Croatia, and the count would quickly reach the hundreds.