Civilisation and santiy!

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Croatia  ,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

You just know you have arrived somewhere civilized when there is a bus from the main station that picks you up and the driver doesn't complain when you only have a large note (because you just went to the ATM) but drops you off at the next stop and points out where you can buy a ticket. You go to the tourist information center and it is actually open, you tell the lady the address you need and she marks it on a map, tells you which bus to catch, where to get off and how to walk the last 200m. It is especially driven home when you ask a taxi driver, just to check where you are and instead of driving you around the city, points out that is "just down that lane, look it's that old building..." I stayed in Lapad, which reminded me of the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, minus the snobbery, but with lovely old houses and cafes lining a car-free walk to a beach, with a cafe ON it. The Croatians have the cafe culture down to a fine art, they all sell alcohol, I've been working my way through the lists of Croatian spirits (very small nips) to accompany thimble sized espressos, all for around 2 Euros, nice. Odd thing is, none of them sell food, in any shape or form, you have to go to a restaurant or pizzeria for that, I went to the supermarket. So the first day was spent in the glowing sunshine, wandering around in a daze marvelling at old houses, bright blue seas and the old town.

You can tell the old town in Dubrovnik used to be the domain of rich people, apparently it was a rival for Venice in the merchant stakes, the buildings are large, the main streets and squares are impressive as are the churches. The side streets are the usual narrow lane ways, but seriously 'high rise' It is altogether different from the 'homey'  down to earth, medieval feel of Tallinn, which I loved. Dubrovnik actually has a rather scrubbed, almost sterile feel to it, that Split certainly doesn't. The shops are low-key tasteful and very expensive, I know I bought a handmade hat from a shop with a hundred year history, but I love it and try not to beat myself up too much over the price!

I walked the wall, great views of the coast and enough clothes lines and kids playing soccer to remind you that people actually lived there, all under red tiled rooves. The back streets aren't as renovated as the main tourist areas, but they have done a very impressive job on the wall.

Went to the art gallery, nice building and lots of 19th to early 20thC Croatian artists, who are really very good. Wonder why they were in none of my art (history) books or lessons? The contemporary art left a lot to be desired though...why is a row of used chairs from a cafe (even if the cafe was famous) an art work? Am I missing something here? If I hadn't seen the photo of it the Time Out magazine, I would've sat on one to look at the rest of the works in that room...I must truly be a pleb!! And no Socialist glorification, all wiped or never painted...

The highlight of my sojourn was a trip to Trsteno where there is a Renaissance garden, created by one of the rich merchants, who was more into gardening than big houses. The scenery on the bus trip was just awesome, the Adriatic at its gleaming blue best, endless inlets with small villages, not all old, but all picturesque, took some lovely bus photos. The formal part of the garden was really very small but the wooded area was lovely, huge old trees, some purported to be at least 500yrs old. A grotto, featuring Neptune and a couple of nymphs and an aqueduct leading into it. Picked an orange, because I forgot to take water, it was the most bitter thing I've ever tasted! Walked down the rather rocky and rough path through the grey green Mediterranean vegetation, that led to faux ruins, spectacular views of the coast and a coastal path back to the village, that was all old stone houses clinging to the hills. With nothing open except the post office. There are two gigantic Plane trees in the village, also some 500yrs old, and they look it! The walk up into the village went past some rather strange modern ruins of a church (I think) and a couple of falling down cottages. Caught the bus onto Ston to see the sunset, the ancient old town and the newly opened wall, which I didn't (and wouldn't walk) due to the length and serious incline up a very large hill. Had fresh local oysters for dinner accompanied by the local wine and wandered back to Dubrovnik.

The next morning the very convenient bus dropped me off at the bus station and off I went to Split, a city of a very different flavour.

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