Dashing through Dubrovnik

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When we'd mapped out our Balkans plans before the trip, we thought we'd be spending one or two nights in Dubrovnik. However, in an effort to book something in advance to save ourselves some time for a change, we discovered that accommodation in Dubrovnik seemed to be quite expensive. With less than twelve hours before we intended to get the bus north, we came up with what seemed like a more economical alternative: spend the day in Dubrovnik, then take a late bus over the border to Mostar in Bosnia where rooms were much cheaper.

We still planned to get the 8:30am bus from Kotor, so were up and packed early, heading out the door of our cute apartment before 8:00am. The bus was a little delayed, but we were on the road before 9:00am, which we assumed would give us plenty of time to "do" Dubrovnik. Our guidebook didn't list any journey times, but a little online research gave us the impression it would take about 2 hours to get there. It may have taken that long -- if only the driver hadn't decided to take a long half-hour break in Herceg Novi, and if the border crossing hadn't taken two hours. All told, it took us more than four hours to get to Dubrovnik.
When we got to the bus station, we were extremely efficient: we split up immediately, one of us withdrew money from the ATM, one of us bought the bus tickets to Mostar, and then we left our bags at the left-luggage counter. At the ticket counter we'd also purchased round-trip, inner-city bus passes; we walked out to the road and found the bus stop where we waited for the bus to take us to the stari grad. A mere 10-15 minutes later, we were disembarking outside the massive walls of the old town. 
Dubrovnik's old town is said to be the world's finest, a title that is well-deserved. Two kilometer long and 25 meter high walls surround the old town. The walls, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, contain 16 towers, 2 corner fortifications, and 1 very large fortress. The streets inside the old town are made of beautiful, shiny marble; there are some very wide avenues and also some narrow alleys. Hundreds of shops, restaurants, and bars call the old town home, making it a perfect place for tourists to lounge and relax -- something we no longer had much time to do, unfortunately.
That said, we did need to eat, so we decided to take advantage of the only vegetarian restaurant in any of the cities we'd visited so far. We treated ourselves to Indian food (with tofu!) and red wine before taking on the sights on Dubrovnik. Lunch was wonderful, but gave us our first taste of how expensive Croatia was going to be -- a trend which continued when we got to the entrance for the city walls and paid 70 kuna (about $15) to get in. It may have been a bit pricey for what it was, but it was certainly worth it. The views of the sea and the terracotta-tiled roofs of the buildings in the old town was amazing from the walls. During the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995), the city was heavily bombed and suffered severe damage. Extensive repairs have been carried out, and now you'd never know that the old town had been hit.

It took us about two hours to walk the walls, leaving us only 30-45 minutes to explore the streets of the old town. We ducked into a few churches and down some side streets, grabbed some gelato, then bid adieu to the old town and made our way back to the bus. We waited so long that we were running extremely late and worried we were going to miss our bus to Mostar. We tried to get a cab, but were told it would cost $15, and we already had return bus tickets. Eventually we got on and were pulling out our hair the whole way -- needlessly, as it turned out, because the bus to Mostar was running an hour late -- which we were told was always the case. 
When the bus showed up, I hustled to the top and scored seats right in the front corner. The seats put us in a position to see everything without any obstruction -- something that really paid off as we wound our way along Croatia's stunning coastline and then watched the sun set over the Adriatic. Unlike that morning's experience, the border crossing into Bosnia-Hercegovinia was incredibly quick and just like that we were in our fifth country in 13 days!

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