Dubrovnik a city of red roofs and ...

Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 22, 2002

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Monday, June 17, 2002

Dubrovnik. A city of red roofs and light-coloured stone buildings. Of turrets, church towers and city walls of Old Town. A city rightly touted as 'the jewel of the Dalmatia coast'. A city where I would love to open a youth hostel and lvie here for six months of the year. Another place to come back to.

Everyday, a group of local ladies meet the buses arriving in Dubrovnik and offer rooms for rent. It was arranged with them that Pernilla, Natalie and myself would stay with a woman called Boyca and her son, 'George Bush'. Boyca's home was hidden in the suburbs, down a laneway of stairs and pink camelia bushes. Our balcony overlooked her neighbours vegetable patch, but perhaps even more exciting, the beach was only a block away from our door.

Croatia boasts a rocky coastline and being the sand-spoilt Aussie that I am, it took a little getting used to. Luckily I had my luminous green floatie thingie to save me from the vicious Adriatic crabs that were eager to bite my toes - of which I perhaps saw three and none were even big enough to make a crab stick.

Grey hills dotted with green stubble overlook Dubrovnik. It was from here that the city was shelled in the conflict with Yugoslavia in 1991. Now a simple cross stands on the hill, visible from the city and a reminder of that time. In Croatia, references to "The War" refer to 1990s, not WWII like the other countries I have passed through on this trip. Does this make it all the more saddening because it is so recent?

We were hesitant to seek information about 'The War'. Who are we, as foreigners, to ask strangers to share their experiences, to request that they bare their past in order to satisfy our curiosity as outsiders? A garrulous waiter in Old Town, Evo, was more than happy to talk about his expereinces. He was eight years old during 'The War' and remembers it as a 'good time' when soldiers frequented his Father's cafe, stayed in people's homes and allowed little boys to practice firing their guns. Judging from the street play of little boys and intercity-entertainment on buses, the military is still a popular aspiration for many.

We tried to question without being too forceful or nosy, but Evo soon became reticent, shrugging it off as a boring topic. Natalie artfully changed the tone of the evening with her summons, "Evo! More Pivo!" After a few more of Evo's pivos and home made spirit, it was all downhill.....

We trudged off in search of Dubrovnik night life, having been dubbed something very complimentary in Croatian by charming evo. Natalie - Slatka (alcoholic), Pernilla- Leijpa (beautiful, although leper seemed more appropriate with her limping blisters), and me - Luda (crazy. Enough said.)

Monday night is not a great party night in Dubrovnik, although it still beats Zagreb. Having skated across the marble pavers of the Old Town Square, we accosted a lone guitarist with sad eyes who stood by the city gates. We convinced him to play a song in English so that we could sing along and help him make more money. "Country Roads (Take Me Home)" was his English repeirtore, so with lots of clapping, foot-stamping and attempts to harmonise we successfully drove the remainging tourists away. But we 'made him feel happy' so that alone was worth it.

The three of us wandered back into Old Town to Dubrovnik's Irish bar. Travelling adage - when all else is closing, the Irish Bar will still be open. We plonked ourselves at the bar, oblivious to that fact it was deserted. The manager was thrilled that he had two Australians and a Swedish girl in his bar and played us his Australian music collection of INXS, Midnight Oil and Men At Work. Before we knew it, a microphone was thrust into my hands and it was karaoke time. Tina Turner and Jimmy Barnes would have quaked at our version of 'Simply The Best', but we really thought we were. The lukewarm applause from the bar staff said it all. With great gusto we said our goodbyes, forgetting until the humiliations came flooding back the next morning that we had not paid for our pivos. I guess we literally sang for our supper......

May I just say that from Old Town to our home in the beach suburbs is a long walk to attempt in flip-flops, even when fuelled by pivo. The final act of the evening was Pernilla and Natalie convincing two policemen to drive us home. They eagerly dropped their drink-driving monitoring duties to oblige. I have to confess that when I travel my personal view of policemen and security people is that they are on par with taxi drivers and immigration officials - best avoided, but when crossed be super nice and never give a straight answer unless really pushed.

Having given suitably vague directions to our street, we jumped out of the vehicle and tried to avoid agreeing to a drinks date the foloowing evening. We waved, made as if we were going into a house then hid behind a car until they disappeared. "George Bush' opened the door at an ungodly hour to Natalie fuumbling to open it with her London house-keys and the rest of us giggling and useless. Talking all at once we tried to tell him about our evening but it came out as a garbled, "George, George, we were chased by the police!" A slight exaggeration on our part, but he simply nodded, "that's nice," as if being faced by three giggling girls raving about police and Irish Bars is a normal occurence. Thus ended our introduction to Dubrovnik.

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