one city and waking up in the next only to do it all over again - so different from the beginning of our travels when we would linger for weeks and months at a time in one place, making connections and getting a true sense for the peoples and customs. The countdown has begun though and we have a long way to go. Luckily, Eastern Europe lends itself to this kind of spastic exploration. The Balkans are nestled together in a tiny clump, all sharing borders, backgrounds and culinary traditions. Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia - all former republics under the united banner of Yugoslavia, all with a unique hand in the ultimate separation and creation of their respective nations. We’ve left the idyllic coastlines of Kotor and traversed the winding seaside road north into the cultural and tourist afflicted heart of Croatia. On all the postcards and paintings, pictures and backdrops, Dubrovnik appears like a Photoshopped image of unreal splendor, sprung from the imagination and given life in the sweeping strokes of a master’s hand and an artist’s mind.
An old town of red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets and Venetian inspired cathedrals surrounded by massive stone walls and jutting precariously out into the pristine blue waters of the Adriatic. Every picture of this place makes it seem unbelievably beautiful, like a city lost in time, preserved through the ages and open for the wandering eye to see. Seeing it firsthand, you almost have the expectation that the true form could never live up to the false image of framed photos and picturesque backdrops. You’d be wrong. We passed under the arched gateway, crossed the bridge that spans the fort from the mainland and stepped into one of the most majestic and awe inspiring cities we’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s easy to see why this place sees thousands upon thousands of tourists swarm its smooth cobbled streets on a daily basis. The broad avenue
that stretches from one end of the city to the other is filled with throngs of people, yet still retains its dignified presence and restrained elegance. Venetian city planners had a hand in the original construction of the city over eight hundred years ago, and you can feel the resemblances in every broad faced building with tall bay windows, steepled chapel rooftops that chime synonymously with the time and ornate domed cathedrals sitting solemnly in the center of the town squares. Outdoor cafes line the streets and the scent of freshly cooked seafood simmering in garlic and olive oil permeates the air. The din of voices and laughter echoes off the great stone walls and fills the air with life and sound, and as the sun
begins its slow arc towards the horizon it illuminates the sky with gentle peach hues and accents of pink clouds above the building tops. It’s a unique ambiance of classical beauty mixed with the palpable thrum of modern life. Everything about this place is lavishly refined and stunningly sophisticated. At its former height and glory, it was a republic unto itself and played a diplomatic role in the separation of powers amongst Mediterranean peoples. Now, it’s sole purpose is just to be seen and experienced, tasted and toasted, relished and remembered as a glorious remnant of a time long forgotten. The beauty of this place doesn’t escape me, and even though we only have a few days to fully immerse ourselves in this city, it’s enough to leave a mark that will never be forgotten.
Days pass and we find ourselves in another city, another country. As the long journey tapers to its final close, these past few weeks have seen us dashing from place to place - soaking up as much culture and history as we can before rushing to the next destination. It's a curious form of travel, diving headfirst into a new country, seeing everything we possibly can see in the span of a few days, then sleeping our way aboard a bus or train to the next stop. We’ve been burning the candle on both ends, late nights and 6am wake up calls, and it shows on our haggard unshaven faces and sweat stained clothes. But a kind of neurotic energy sets in from the constant stimulation. Falling asleep in