Road trip! Even though we flew into Dubrovnik’s airport when we traveled to Montenegro, we never actually saw the city. Not only did our flight arrive a couple hours late and way into the night, but the airport sits about equidistant between Dubrovnik proper and Herceg Novi.
As our good friend Justin from The Lotus and The Artichoke was in town for a week, we thought we’d sidle our way up the coast and visit said historic city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Well-known by Europeans and the cruising elite, Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits at the very bottom corner of Croatia, somewhat isolated from the rest of the nation. In fact, if you want to travel overland to the rest of the country, you actually have to cross through a small strip of Bosnia to get to it. Crazy, right?
I don’t want to get into geopolitics as it’s not my bag, so I’ll save the whys, whens, hows, and whats for real journalists, reference articles, and history books.
Anyway, Dubrovnik is considered drop-dead gorgeous, pointed to with awe by travel magazines, every guidebook, and retirees who dream of peering over the city’s historic walls and into the Adriatic. And you know what? They’re right. It is drop-dead gorgeous. I mean, seriously.
Alas, if we thought Herceg Novi was steep and full of stairs, we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. Dubrovnik is about twice as steep, with exponentially more stairs. It’s not even that big, with a population that hovers just under 50,000. But man, they have stairs. And back streets. And nooks. And crannies.
If you’ve never been to a very hilly, ancient city that lies on the sea, think of it as if you stuck a French or Italian town nearly vertical on a mountainside. There is no direct route from Point A to Point B. As is the case in Montenegro, be prepared to walk three times as far as the map says the distance is, and let it be known now that you will always be going up or down.
It’s so intense that the nice guy who drove us to Dubrovnik couldn’t even find our street. And he’s Croatian. And spends a lot of his time in the city. Fortunately, he was able to get in touch with our host for the week, who jumped on his moped to come meet us, leading us back to the apartment with a wave and a nod. Except, we were really a street-and-a-half away from our apartment when we arrived, because cars can’t actually go to the apartment. Stairs, mountainsides, and such.
The owner of the flat where we stayed is a nice guy in his forties, extremely fond of classic rock as each of his apartments have their own theme. A little Hendrix here, a little Bowie there. Clean and comfortable, our apartment was fully equipped with satellite TV, fast Wi-Fi, a separate bedroom, a living room with amazing views, and a big balcony with even more amazing views.
We also ran into our neighbors just after we arrived. One half of the couple spent over 30 years touring with the Allman Brothers, and they spend a great amount of time in Dubrovnik in their state of relaxing retirement. 5,000 miles away, and we run into a guy who worked with and is friends with some of Ang’s former colleagues and cohorts. (Ang spent many years in the rock industry.) Small world.
After some chit-chat, it was time to make our way into Dubrovnik’s Old Town, famous for its city walls, red roofs, and historic beauty. Oh, the price of those glorious balcony views meant we’d be going down to get there. And you know what that meant when we came home at night. Stairs.
As we made our way into Old Town, it was immediately understood why thousands of people flock here every year. After the war, the city was rebuilt and everything inside the walls is more or less immaculate. And while it’s crazy gorgeous, everything is clean. Too clean. Spit-shine clean. This is not necessarily a slight to Dubrovnik, but it almost felt like we were on a movie set.
We realized we only had a few days here, and knew we wouldn’t get to the outer reaches of the city, where many restaurants and other activities are starting to flourish. That mostly meant eating in and around the Old Town, and while that usually means more touristy establishments, we managed to run into a few gems. This all started with us agreeing to go all-veg with Justin. It was quite nice, actually.
Nice touch with the bill.
And that was about all we got out of Day One, as we barely hit the city before dark. The next day, though, we made our way back to the Old Town and did the traditional walk around the city walls. While I’d consider it somewhat pricey for a walk, the views of both the interior of the city and the sea and mountains around it make the money spent worthwhile.
It’s pretty insane to imagine how anyone could have built these walls. Not only are they huge, but they’re on the rocks above the crashing Adriatic. Even though you can see similar scenarios all across Old Europe, that doesn’t make it any less impressive, and I’m always intrigued by the skill and will it took to accomplish such a feat.
Plus, its strategic location and sheer beauty sort of cross out the whole ‘why here?’ factor.
Requisite proof we were there. Also, probably the only good picture of us in the history of the world and something that my mom can be proud of. Courtesy of Justin from The Lotus and the Artichoke.
We returned the favor by taking a picture of Justin guarding the fortress. I voted for this to be his Christmas card. Probably didn’t win.
Later that day, we made our way to a Bosnian restaurant. I know, Why Bosnian? Our hosts seemed not to understand our desire to eat at local places, with virtually no recommendations outside of touristy areas in Dubrovnik. But I’m not actually sure there are non-touristy areas in this city, with its influx of holidaymakers, their holiday rental cars, their holiday flats, and their holiday prices.
So anyway, the Bosnian restaurant had good reviews, and we figured, Why the hell not? And damn, was it good. Real good. So good that we would eat here twice during our short stay. And to boot, it was raining and our waitress gave a free umbrella to Justin, who came unprepared for the downpour at hand.
The next day, storms continued. As we saw Justin off to his flight back to Berlin, we drank coffee and headed down to a cove next to Old Town, where we saw the beast of a sea do its thing. Quite impressive, don’t you think? The sea was angry that day…
We also tried to take the cable car from Old Town to the top of the city, but it was closed for some holiday that involves a saint whose name we don’t remember. We stayed near the top of the city, though, so we’ll act like we were there. Sound good?
And that was about it for our short jaunt to Dubrovnik. It is undeniably quite a lovely place. One thing that should be noted is that Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia. That’s not to say it’s expensive, though. We’d put it about on par with the cost of doing your thing in Berlin.
The one thing that was a bit off-putting to us was the dearth of cruise ships, even in the off-season. We don’t take too kindly to Disney-esque crowds, and I can’t even fathom what this place would be like in high season. It might be fun, but it has to be downright slammed with zillions of tourists.
Beautiful? No doubt about it. Worth a visit? Most certainly. Everyone should see this incredible city, even if only for a day or two. Just don’t forget to bring your stair-climbing shoes.
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Have you ever been do Dubrovnik? If not, would you like to go? Tell your tales in the comments!
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