Speedy boats, cats and stupid steep stairs!

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 28, 2009

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 1 - Monday 28th September – We landed safely in Dubrovnik at 7:10pm after a very uneventful flight. We enjoyed some good wine and Witek enjoyed some good food while I just stared at mine. My appetite had disappeared and been replaced with fear of the unknown airline, but at the end of the flight I was actually quite impressed with Croatian Air to be honest.

Our host at our guesthouse was waiting to greet us at the airport and take us to our accommodation. He was a tall man named Ante and was very helpful throughout our stay. He was almost too helpful on our first night!

When we got back to our accommodation it was after dark and I had my appetite back. We had a kitchen in our accommodation so we wanted to go and find some food at a supermarket and cook it up as soon as possible. It was almost 8pm when we got there and Ante told us that the supermarket shut at 9pm, so we were keen to make a move.

He then sat us down and told us EVERYTHING we needed to know about Dubrovnik! He started off with the essentials like buses, boats, directions to the shops and the old town but then continued to tell us about practically every single tourism activity we could do and every single restaurant we could dine at!

Witek was keen to get some snorkelling done and asked about where the best place might be to go and Ante showed him a spot on the map. He was quite concerned about us being hit by 'speedy boats' though as apparently he had a close call with a ‘speedy boat’ a few years earlier. He wanted us to tie balloons to our backs if we decided to go snorkelling so that the ‘speedy boats’ would be able to see us easily! It was quite hilarious to hear this big Croatian bloke warn us about the ‘speedy boats’. We did really like him though and we were impressed with his knowledge, we were just so tired and wanted to get organised and get food! We felt rude interrupting him as he was so passionate about Dubrovnik, so we listened to everything.

Anyway, it was information overload in the end and we found that at the end of it we had actually forgotten a lot of the essentials – like how to get to the supermarket!!

We didn’t want to ask him again for fear that we may end up with 20 minutes worth of directions and the supermarket may close in the meantime, so we trusted our memories and set off to find the ‘Tommy’ supermarket.

Ante had told us to go to the end of the street, across the zebra crossing and down the stairs, this much we knew for sure. Then there was something about crossing a car park or something, but we hoped it would be obvious when we got there.

After going down about 100 stairs we came to a set of metal stairs going off to the left and into what looked like a carpark. We went down these stairs and at the bottom we found a carpark with a manned gate at the front leading to what seemed like a main road. That looked like the right choice to us so we made our way over there. No Tommy.

We had seen that the stairs headed right after the point where we turned off, so we turned right onto this street and walked for about 100 metres in this direction. No Tommy. There was an alleyway leading off to the right and we thought maybe our original stairs might be there, so Witek ran off to look. He took quite a while and I started envisioning myself telling my story about how I lost my husband in Dubrovnik to CNN, but fortunately he eventually appeared around the corner with news of what he had found. No Tommy.

We decided to retrace our steps so we went back up the street, through the carpark and back up the metal stairs and followed the original stairs to the right. It was just as we turned the corner that Witek spotted the magical neon ‘Tommy’ sign above us. It was on top of the building in the carpark we had now walked through twice, the Tommy was just on the other side of the carpark to where we had been! We felt like Harold and Kumar finally finding the White Castle but without the drugs and Neil Patrick Harris.

We bought some pasta for dinner, some beer and some breakfast for the next morning, but not before being told abruptly by a supermarket employee that we ‘need to hurry, we close in five minutes’. I guess they haven’t got PA systems to let people know to ‘finalise their purchases and make their way to the checkout’ in Croatian supermarkets yet.

The walk back up those 100 stairs was horrible, fortunately we had the sustenance of a Croatian beer to keep us going and I was relieved when we paused at the bakery to get some bread for breakfast. I was hoping to avoid walking up those stairs as much as possible during our stay!

Back at our accommodation – which was actually quite nice by the way – I sat down and finally did my Uni application (typical, last day to enroll!) while Witek cooked us up the pasta. Isn’t he a good husband?

Once dinner was ready and my Uni application was done, we queued up some Robin Williams on youtube and settled down for an easy night in.

Day 2 – Tuesday 29th September – We slept in a little bit today but we were up and ready to go by about 11am so it wasn’t too bad. We were planning a day exploring the Old Town and its walls and maybe heading over to check out the peninsula.

Dubrovnik had been referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Adriatic’ and is a beautiful town positioned right on the coast of Croatia and surrounded by a handful of equally beautiful islands. The Old Town itself is actually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so when the Serbians started attacking it during the Serbian – Croatian war it created quite the uproar.

We caught the bus down to the Old Town which conveniently only took about five to ten minutes. Once there we entered the walls and found the ticket office to purchase tickets to climb the stairs and walk on the walls themselves.

The beginning of the walk is, of course, more stairs! I was feeling awesome and ready for it after the Tommy hunt last night so up we went and it was actually not as steep as it looked.

From the top of the wall you have an amazing view over the city and the Adriatic sea and its islands. There is a different view every step of the way and I think we took photos of pretty much every single one!

As you walk around the wall you also find yourself looking down into the street below, and at one point we looked down and saw a big family of cats lazing around. We didn’t know at the time but this was to be the first of many, many, many cats we would come across in Dubrovnik.

The walk around the wall took us about an hour and a half so by now I was getting hungry. Witek wasn’t hungry, he’s never hungry, but I wanted to get some lunch.

Ante had told us about approximately 100 restaurants last night and I was having a little trouble remembering which one was which. He had circled a few on the map, but some were seafood restaurants, some were Italian, some were just bars and I couldn’t remember which circle was for what restaurant!

We did remember that the one on the marina was seafood and he had told us that apparently the tourists rave about it. We went and had a look but we couldn’t see any seafood on the menu, so we assumed we must have it wrong. There was another circle on the edge of the island which we remembered he had said had a great view, so we headed over there. When we finally found it tucked away carefully behind a wall where no one could find it without the help of a GPS, we discovered that it was only a bar.

We wandered around a bit more and along our travels we came across the same cat family we had seen from on top of the wall, and they stunk! There was cat poo all down the side of the street and all you could smell was poo and urine. One of the locals had put out some food and water for them so this was obviously where they called ‘home’.

We ended up on the marina again and we noticed that the original restaurant we had looked at had two sections, so we checked out the menu of the other section and found that it had seafood! We had been on yet another goose chase.

We sat down and ordered, Witek got seafood risotto and I got grilled squid. When our meals came out and we started to eat, we wondered what the tourists were raving about. Witek’s prawns in his risotto were still in their shell which is sort of fine, but they were completely mushy and soft. They were obviously frozen not fresh, so he pulled them out and didn’t eat them. They were so bad that you couldn’t even peel them. The rest of the seafood in the risotto was edible but it wasn’t that nice and there wasn’t much of it.

My grilled squid was just as rubbish as Witek’s meal, they were soft and mushy and obviously not fresh too. Yuck, yuck! I didn’t eat it all and filled up on Witek’s rice instead.

I went to use the bathroom and while I was gone the waiter came to collect the plates and give Witek the bill. Witek gave him the exact money for the bill and the waiter arrogantly told him that ‘service is not included in the price’ and Witek told him ‘that’s ok’. We don’t think he was happy about that as he left the little folder that contains the bill on the table for us. I think he expected us to realize the error in our ways and fill it with a big juicy tip for the crap service and the mushy food. Um, no, we high-tailed it out of there!

We went for a walk around town after this and we actually found a whole street full of restaurants where we could have eaten! But nevermind, you live and learn!

We found a bar that was doing jugs of cocktails for the equivalent of 8 euro, so we thought that was too good a deal to pass up! We sat and ordered one and had a bit of a lazy moment while we shared the jug.

After exploring most of the Old Town it was about 4pm so we decided to go and check out the peninsula town of Lopod. It is basically a suburb of outer Dubrovnik. We took the bus there and walked down the long promenade to the water’s edge. Ante had told us that it was a nice walk with gorgeous ocean views to go from the main beach and around the tip of the peninsula, so we set off.

All along the way there were little walkways and staircases leading down to the water where people had set up their towels on the rocks and were going for a swim. We wished at that point that we had our bathers with us! It looked so nice and the weather was quite warm this day so we were a bit envious.

We went for a walk down one of the staircases and took it in turns to sit on the rock and dip our feet in – bugger me was it cold!!! At that point I was glad we hadn’t bought our bathers and decided to jump in! It was ok with just your toe in, but as soon as a wave came and the water went just a little further up your leg you got a bit of a shock! We were happy to watch the water from afar after that!

This is also where we found the lost cat civilisation of Dubrovnik. At almost every corner there was another set of kittens! There were a couple in particular that caught our attention. One was a little white and grey kitten who was so affectionate and friendly! The poor little love seemed to have some sort of infection or something in his eye and had a bit of gunk built up, so I got a tissue and cleaned him up a little bit. We went through a LOT of hand sanitiser on this walk! He seemed to appreciate being clean and gave me lots of purrs as a reward.

The other memorable kitten was a little white, tan and black guy who was very timid but very curious at the same time. When we first approached him he ran away and hid in a bush, but we coaxed him out with the temptation of a dancing tissue. He couldn’t resist coming out to investigate this soft white object that was jumping about on the concrete and we kept each other amused for quite a while! He was very sensitive to any sudden moves, the slightest scare and he would run back under the bush!

We kept walking around and admiring the views and we thought it might be nice to sit at one of the bars or restaurants around the edge and watch the sunset. We found a nice hotel with a bar right on the tip of the peninsula so we settled in there with a couple of cocktails.

It was so relaxing and pleasant there, the cocktails were really good and the sunset put on a fantastic show. I really didn’t want to leave! There’s not a much better way to spend an evening really if you ask me! The colours in the sunset were gorgeous, golden yellows, purples, pinks and blues, absolutely lovely.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay there all night so we walked back to the bus station passing all of our kitten friends along the way and giving them farewell pats. It was such a nice night and it would be nice if we could finish off every night in Europe, or even every night in life, like that!

We got the bus and stopped at the Tommy for some food for breakfast and some beer on the way home, tonight we knew exactly where it was! Neither of us could be bothered cooking so we got a pizza from the local pizza place next to the bakery. We weren’t hungry when we went past though, so Witek was nice enough to run back down there later on in the evening and get our pizzas!

After all those cocktails and a few beers I was privileged to be able to hear Witek’s snoring chorus that night while he slept and I mucked around on Facebook – huge night!

Day 3 – Wednesday 30th September – Today we had decided to visit the island of Lapad, not to be confused with the peninsula town of Lopod! There are many boat tour operators in Dubrovnik and they have stands set up everywhere spruiking their deals, but Ante had said they are very expensive and the government has a ferry that takes you out to Lopod for next to nothing. I think it cost us about 10 euro return for the two of us to get there, and the boat tours were asking about 100 euro each!

We left our accommodation with plenty of time to make it to the boat as we weren’t sure where to by the tickets. After going into one wrong building we found the right place and we were all organised.

The ride out to the island was a great way to start the day, the sun was out, the sky was clear and the water looked amazing as usual. Our seats were at the very back of the boat and we had a great view.

Once on the island we realised that we really didn’t have much of an idea of what to do there besides walk to the other side to see the other beach! There were hardly any people because it was getting in to low season, so it felt like we pretty much had the run of the place.

The scenery on the island was quite pretty so we thought we would start with a walk around the main part to the end of the path.

There was a marina at the start and then a few shops and restaurants, once we were past there we came to a small botanical park so we went in to take a look. It was quite pretty and of course there were a few cats in there too. These guys were all timid and weren’t interested in any pats at all so we left them well alone. Maybe they were upset because they were meant to be at Lopod with their mates and they had ended up at Lapad by mistake.

We kept walking around and eagle eye Witek spotted a praying mantis sitting on a ledge near the water. We got really close to him and I even got to shake his hand! I don’t think he liked it much though, he kind of pulled his hand back.

At the end of the island was a hotel being renovated and that was really where the path ended so we turned around and went back to the beginning again and got some lunch at one of the hotels.

Now it was time to walk over to the other side of the island and go for a swim. We could have swum on this side but we had been told the beach on the other side was particularly nice and only a short walk.

Short walk it was, but a fair chunk of it was all uphill! It was becoming a common theme in Dubrovnik! This one was particularly steep, not as steep as our mountain goat hill in Zermatt, but steep enough that I needed to pause a couple of times.

At the top of the hill you turn a corner and start heading down again and you have a great view over the bay and the beach below. We could see a heap of lounge chairs set up and a couple of beach bars with thatched rooves. As we got closer we could also see a lone nudist guy at the beach next door wearing only a white hat on his head. He looked quite funny as he was the only nudist there, all the other people on the nudist beach had bathers on! There was one other girl that showed up later but she disappeared pretty quickly.

We had the camera and money on us so we got the guy behind the bar at one of the places to look after our bag and we went in for a swim. The water was so clear and beautiful! We couldn’t wait to jump in!

We waded in and it was absolutely freezing!! So cold, SO cold!! It was a gorgeous sunny day but apparently no one had told the sea. We took it very slowly until we got out up to the tops of our legs and then we decided it was time to just bite the bullet and get in the water properly.

Witek went first and he assured me that it wasn’t that bad. Bastard, I don’t know why I married him! I ducked in and I lost all feeling in my upper body! Ok, I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty cold!! We swum around a bit to get warmer and after a little while our bodies adjusted and we just sat out there enjoying the water.

The water is so different to at home, it is so clear and still and you don’t get the chunks of seaweed and stuff that you find at Adelaide’s beaches. It’s just so relaxing.

When our fingers started getting pruney we decided to hop out and go and sit at the bar to enjoy a cocktail or two. They had wooden tables and benches set up under cover so you could sit in the shade, enjoy a drink and admire the beautiful water. There was a soundtrack of Mexican sounding music in the background to further set the mood, very nice!

It was about 4pm by now and our boat was coming at 5:45pm and we wanted to go for a swim on the other side of the island as well, so after our cocktails we decided to head back. The walk back was much easier, it was still steep but it was not as bad as the other direction.

On the other side we found a spot where we could put our bag and towels close by and we got in. Maybe it was because we had already been in once, but the water seemed a touch warmer on this side, but not by much!

There was a stray dog that looked like a Lab x Golden Retriever on the island who we had seen running around earlier. He was at the spot we had decided to stop and was hanging out next to some older women who looked like they were tourists too.

We called out to him and he came over to the edge of the water but he wouldn’t actually get in the water. About the same time I found a nice rock at my feet and I picked it up to show Witek and then threw it back in the water. The dog thought it was a ball and we saw him look excitedly at the spot where I had thrown the rock. We tried to find some smaller rocks that we could get to skim for him to chase, but none really worked. We stopped trying because it felt like we were teasing him.

When we got out I slowly approached him with my hand outstretched and tried to give him a pat, but he didn’t want a bar of it. He cowered away from my hand but he didn’t run away, I think he was still hoping I would come up with a ball!

We left him to it, got dressed and went to the bar near the marina to have a drink and wait for our boat.

Back on the boat we found a spot outside again and enjoyed watching the sunset on our way back. It was getting a bit cooler as the sun went down though and after a while we had to move downstairs where it was more sheltered. We were still a bit wet from our last swim and we were freezing in the wind!

The sunset was stunning, we took some great photos and really enjoyed the view. It was a really peaceful journey.

We got off the boat back at the marina and started walking back to the Tommy and then our accommodation, but it was so cold! We couldn’t stand the idea of walking for fifteen minutes in the cold so we got a taxi to the Tommy. I was so glad that we did!

We got a couple of beers at the Tommy then walked back to our accommodation via the pizza shop to get some dinner. After such a big day we weren’t far from hitting the hay as soon as we finished our meal.

Day 4 – Thursday 1st October – I can’t believe it’s October already! We packed our bags early this morning and had breakfast to be ready to go by 9am. Ante had offered to take us up to the old army barracks at the top of the hill which was now used as a lookout and a war museum. Our flight wasn’t until 3:20pm so we thought why not?

Two other people from our accommodation came along as well and we headed off in Ante’s little VW hatchback.

We really didn’t know much about the war between the Serbs and the Croatians and we were really keen to learn. Ante has lived in Croatia his whole life and has been in Dubrovnik for 25 years but has always lived in the area. He had first hand experience and took us through everything as it happened through his eyes. There was lots of video footage in the museum of the war and it must have been a terrifying experience for the people of Dubrovnik. They have come out of the war very proud of their country and Ante says they are much better off now.  

I was really glad that we went to the museum because I think it’s important to have an understanding of these things. For one, it really makes you appreciate the life we have in Australia.

Ante dropped us at the Old Town after this so that we could have one last wander and get some lunch before our flight. I had read about a wine bar on Trip Advisor that morning that was supposed to be fantastic so I wanted to check that out too. How I missed this information until now was beyond me!

We went to two tourist offices and received two different sets of directions – both of which turned out to be wrong! We are used to being lost by now though so we took it in our stride and eventually found the wine bar on our own. Unfortunately for us it didn’t open until 5pm so this was one experience we had to miss out on.

We walked over to a beach that Ante had described as ‘soooo beautiful’ after this, Ante describes most of the scenery in Dubrovnik as ‘soooo beautiful’. I really loved to just hear him speak, it always brought a smile to my face!

There was a lovely view from this beach so we stood and enjoyed it for a while and decided to eat at the restaurant nearby so that we could admire the view over lunch. Unfortunately my carbonara came out more like scrambled eggs with spaghetti but at least the view was nice. I was able to get some tomato juice too for the first time in weeks, so that was another plus!

After lunch we got the bus back to our accommodation and did that long walk up the stairs past the Tommy for the last time.

On the way to the airport Ante took us past a town that used to be full of hotels and resorts but had been bombed in the war and never repaired. He took us to one part that once housed six five-star hotels right on the beach and it was like a ghost town. You could see that these hotels were once majestic and beautiful but now all that remains are destroyed shells of buildings. I wish I had taken photos, but Ante thought we were late for our flight so he tore through there with us. I should have asked to stop but I think that I was too deep in thought to think about photos.

Apparently many people who had their homes destroyed fled to the hotels during the war and the Serbians actually targeted the hotels for this reason. It is truly a sight I will never forget. He said that the hotels were owned by the government and that they don’t have enough money to fix the hotels, but that there had been some interest from other parties recently so perhaps something will happen.

Ante also pointed out a lot of homes along the way that had been destroyed or damaged and not rebuilt or fixed. Most of them belonged to people who had fled the country and just never returned.

While I loved Dubrovnik for all its beauty I also loved learning about all of this. It is truly an eye-opening experience to see these sights and I have developed a desire to learn more about the history of Croatia and most of Europe really. I think I will be a regular visitor to the library when we get back! I think it is important to read up on things yourself because the information Ante gave us was just his experience, I am sure there are many different experiences of the war to learn about.

At the airport I was nervous again about the flight and so spent the last of our Croatian money on a double vodka. I don’t know why I am nervous about flying again all of a sudden, maybe it’s because the airlines are unfamiliar to me. Not sure. Whatever the case I was horrified when we got on board and I asked for a drink and all they had was water! Because the flight was only 45 minutes they don’t serve any alcoholic beverages, so I spent most of our flight to Zagreb nervously looking out the window!
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