Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Tuesday, July 4, 2006

We were enthralled in enjoying the breathtaking views that awaited us as we rolled towards Dubrovnik, one of the jewels of the Croatia and the whole seaboard.  Though heavily shelled during the Balkan conflicts, the local authorities wasted no time putting their city back together to its gleaming former glory.  It was quite the contrast with other places we only got to glimpse while steaming through the Balkans, but that to be sure were afforded no such TLC in their rehabilitation.  Dubrovnik overall wasn't quite the sleepy, untouched, dirt-cheap beach town that we'd read about in outdated travel literature (the same stuff that had me prematurely envisioning Bangkok as a salty 19th-century trading port), but it offered its own charm and beauty.
Not that Ryan and I aren't generally treated as rock stars wherever we happen to go, but this was a new level as we strutted off of the bus.  Everyone there just wanted to meet us, to shake our hands ... OK, and maybe to sell us a place to stay as well.  First, we confirmed on the phone that Hosteling International is in fact the worst value and service ever: most new travelers pony up the money for this card, which serves as a piece of security at first as you assume before you leave home that this gets you set with lodging for your whole trip.  However, we found very early on that the HI hostels were not only poorer quality, and further out of town in general, but not even cheaper (even with the membership card) than the numerous other options in each city.  Back to the ecstatic throngs of touts, we naturally got convinced by the most attractive girl there (funny how that always seems to work) and were whisked away to the spare room of a sweet elderly couple.  It was about a 15 minute ride out of town, but we were right on the bus line, and we stormed into Dubrovnik to not only eat and watch the World Cup, but to properly represent our nation and celebrate the 4th of July in style.
Ryan was to take no chances and we straightaway stopped in at Godfather's Pizzeria in Stari Grad (Old Town).  Like we had done many times, we were discussing the tournament and the forthcoming matches, though after a few "I hate Italy"s from me, Ryan stopped to help me contemplate that sometimes sentiments are better kept inside while dining in Mafia pizzerias.  Full and happy on my Don Corleone pie and Ryan's Mafioso, we meandered to the most hoppin expat bar with big screen TV to watch Italy vs Germany.  We made friends with the South African Brady Bunch, 2 brothers and 2 sisters all traveling together, and all commiserated when Italy prevailed at the very end of overtime.  Sad, and even sadder because I was not an Azzuri fan at the time (still bitter at the disgraceful show they put on against the US) but I'd have to root for them as the final would take place as we were scheduled to be in Rome!
With the South Africans and 3 random British lads in tow, we found a club called Fuego and toasted early and often to America and its 230th birthday.  South African Greg Brady got very sloppy and very weepy, as in his slop he damaged the sparkly shirt he was wearing, which we were to find out between blubbers was a gift from his ex-love-of-his-life.  Later on in the evening, Ryan was discussing the situation with Brit Ed the Red, and after saying something like "yeah man, it's tough when you lose a really special girl" he noticed that Ed was looking at him funny.  When Ryan pressed as to why, Ed confusedly and hesitantly asked "wait, so ... you ... and Misha ... aren't ... ?"  Ryan: "What?"  Ed: "You know, you and Misha ... you aren't ... together?"  Ryan: "What?!  No! ... NO!!!"  Made the funnier because Ed claimed that he only thought so because Peter Brady told him so, who I had earlier looked at quite skeptically when he insisted that he was dating a "woman" at home.  Now I've never found stereotypes to be very useful or true, but this mix-up was made even the more odd by the general media portrayal of a gay man as more effeminate, well dressed, and well put together than his straight brothers.  Ryan and I (feels odd typing that now, hmmm, how about "Ryan ... and also I") were among the gnarliest we'd been on this trip so far, with ragged and ripped shirt and pants framing the matted and patchy beards and the greasy and dirty hair just ever-so filled with various debris.  Goes to show, you never know, huh!
At another club we both made sure to reclaim our stereotypical heterosexuality, with me chatting up a group of girls from Oregon and Ryan almost getting into a fight with a big Croat who thought that the 2 glasses of water that Blubbery McSadpants spilled on Ryan and subsequently splashed on near bystanders in the crowded bar were in fact Ryan trying to provoke this ex-military man's rage by getting him slightly wet.  The Croat threw water back.  Blubbery cried some more.  Ed the Red, Tom Green, and Dick Black laughed.  It was a fun night.
The nice thing about being in places like Dubrovnik, which is where Europeans go for their summer beach holidays, is that you're not really expected or plan to do much of anything besides chill.  The next day was a late starter, with sandwiches, pizza, and beer mixed in with internet and beach time.  The beach isn't so much a beach as you'd expect with things like sand, but rather was the rocky border of the town jutting right into the refreshing water.  We walked around the edge of the city wall and found a place to lounge, sun, drink, and play water polo with Croats, all of whom didn't mind the fact that they were wet.  We watched France vs Portugal and I was glad to see prettyboy cheater C. Ronaldo get his and cry, Ryan pooped everywhere, and France's coach is just as cute as a button!
In preparation for our exit to Italy a day later, we procured our tickets in hilarious fashion, and made our way back to the beach.  This one had very small rocks rather than large ones.  Sandals were a boon.  We swam, saw sea urchins, Ryan read The Elegant Universe and got his hair dyed orange in the sun, and I went on a little adventure.  It's always a thrill setting off by oneself in a new and exciting place, unburdened by maps or plans, and with a camera and curious nature on hand to capture whatever there is to see.  I came across the Hotel Libertas, heavily bombed during the way, subsequently abandoned and sea-logged, now under massive construction in anticipation of its rebirth as a superresort.  Swimming through the construction site unnoticed, I could still spy and touch pieces of rubble and even found an old abandoned used shell beneath a pile.  Onward.  Maria Church had the diapers of Jesus.  Also on display were St. Blaise's leg, hand, and head.  It's the way he would have wanted to go.
After walking the length of the town twice, the second time in hunt of the fabled outdoor movie theater we'd heard so much about but not come across, Ryan and I met again for a delicious fresh seafood dinner and got our tickets for Omen, the Liev Schrieber and Julia Stiles remake of the horror movie about the Antichrist as a child raised in the family of an American diplomat.  I'd normally not discuss seeing a movie here, but I felt compelled to do so to discuss a) the power of advertising, and b) how much of a giant, overimaginative wussy I can be at my yearly horror movie.  Though this was not a flick that either Ryan or I would pay to see first run, just another horror film with cheap thrills and semipredictable ending, this film was SO well advertised literally everywhere in the world leading up to its release that it did slowly seep into our consciousness and finally we had to succumb to our curiosity.  Plus, it was the only one playing, but seriously, good job on the advertising, y'all.  It really was the perfect night to see a horror movie, with the spooky, dark, barely filled outdoor theater projecting the film to the background of ominous clouds and nearby thunderclaps threatening a downpour at any time.  The light fog coming on isolated one from one's own sense of reality and disconnection from the story, especially if that one thinks about things waaay too much.  Ryan, tragically, was born with his vivid imagination missing, and was unphased by the spooky story unfolding.  We almost did resemble the couple that the Fuego boys thought we were, except whenever there was a particularly startling moment, rather than curling up in his big strong arms, I would punch him hard in the shoulder and with wide eyes yell "Did you SEE that?!?!"  For whatever reason, we walked back home with me truly believing that the Antichrist was well on his way to world domination (c'mon, Treaty of Rome, people!), and Ryan was under strict orders to not mess with me in any way that night as a joke as I would quite likely attack him in self-defense.  No observations, strange looks, voices, cats, large black dogs, photos, and yes, a nightlight.
The next morning I was sufficiently unspooked and Ryan let loose with making fun of what a giant little girl I am.  I had little ground to argue.  We were slowed on our trek to the ferry by an argument with the old couple who owned the place over a never-mentioned and superfluous charge.  This was a common occurence in Dubrovnik, though I must say not one of my prouder moments when I reflected afterwards at the smallness of the discrepancy and the frailness of the couple who I could tell did not need any more stress or argument in their lives.  As a last tribute to our rockstardom, we were interviewed for Croatian TV right as we boarded the vessel, and away we sailed for Bari, Italy!

Moral of the Story: Are you sure there are no birthmarks ... anywhere?!
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