Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
54Trip End Nov 04, 2011
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The ferry from Bari took just over eight hours to reach Dubrovnik but this was one form of transport that I wished had taken longer. I was in a private compartment with my own bathroom and eight hours just wasn't long enough to sleep and enjoy the ride. It almost didn't feel like I was on a boat as there was no motion, no waves and it was dark so I couldn't see anything out the window. When it started to get light and coincidentally there was a knock on my door for the breakfast call, I could see Croatia in the distance. Finally I had arrived in the Balkans.
I'd been to Croatia once before but only briefly. I once had a day to kill when I was in Slovenia on a business trip and as I had a Eurail pass which allowed me unlimited train travel, I hopped on a train to Zagreb, the capital city. I only spent a few hours there one evening and then had to make my way back. This time was different. Dubrovnik is on the coast and it's one of those "must see" parts of Europe, complete with a walled city, castles and superb coastline. As soon as the ferry arrived, I knew this was going to be special. I wasn't disappointed.
The hotel as not exactly walking distance from the ferry terminal but as I'd arrived too early to check in, I thought I'd take my time with my suitcases and idly make my way there, even if it took hours. I also didn't have any local currency (krona) so passing the time in a cafe' was not really an option. My plan was to dump the suitcases in the hotel and return when it was time to check in. Even though I've had moments where I could happily throw my suitcases into a river, if I had to drag my suitcases (on wheels of course) for a few kilometers, and if I could choose the scenery and terrain as a form of compensation for my efforts, I would choose this. The weather was perfect and it was early morning, not a cloud in the sky. The way to the hotel involved a footpath that circumnavigated a harbour with the mountains in the background. Even when there was an eventual uphill climb to get to the hotel, I didn't mind. I was getting some much needed exercise and enjoying the view at the same time. It was absolute bliss.
It was still early morning by the time I arrived at the hotel which was ten times better than I had imagined. It was also a five star hotel which I hadn't expected as I didn't exactly pay five star prices for the room. Before I could even explain to the receptionist that I was early and I only wanted to leave my suitcases here for a while, he told me that my room was ready and I could check in. Also, he told me that I had been upgraded to a room with a balcony and sea view. Already this was feeling like the best part of Europe and I hadn't even seen the old city yet.
If I had never visited the old city of Dubrovnik I would still say it was my favourite city in Europe, simply because of its scenery and its friendly people. Being in the old city was a bonus. It was just like those pictures I'd seen with its fairytale castle towers and crystal clear water with yachts and outdoor cafes. For the whole two days and two nights I stayed in Dubrovnik I had the best weather (no jackets required here), incredibly hospitable people, great food (lots of seafood), a fantastic hotel with the world's best view and an old medieval city to wander around. Across the sea from my hotel was Italy a few hundred kilometers away. I wondered why everything over there was so complicated and dysfunctional whereas here in Dubrovnik it seemed like the whole city was open to dealing with tourists. Amazing.
Eventually all good things must come to an end and I had to find a way to get to Sarajevo in Bosnia. Staying in a place for two nights instead of one is great because it allows me time to prepare for the next destination. I bought a bus ticket, booked a hotel online and made sure I was at the bus terminal right on time to take the six hour bus journey. It was sad to leave Dubrovnik but I know I'll be back one day.