It’s 7am and we join all the other backpack clad 20-somethings in Mostar at the bus station where a coach is due to whisk us away to the enticing world of Dubrovnik. We’re neither surprised when it’s late nor when the only available toilets are my old hole in the ground friends. I’m pleased to report they make for a positively luxurious experience compared to their Belgrade counterparts. In no time (comparatively to our other bus failures) we’re seated together and enjoy what has to be the most picturesque coach journey I’ve ever taken along the Croatian coastline.
By the time we arrive around 4 hours later I’m already in love. We enlist a taxi and have a very quick lesson/rude awakening in the cost of inflation across the Bosnia/Croatia border. It’s too early to check in so we do the next best thing- collapse on the beach outside our soon to be apartment. We later learn Banje Beach is regarded as the best in Dubrovnik. Families and tourists brave the pebbles to swim in the mild crystal waters, the views back to the beach and across to Dubrovnik’s Old Town just enhancing the experience. Around 2pm we retrieve our turtle shells and climb the steps up to our Air BnB. The instructions leave a little to be desired and the cat distractions along the way certainly don’t help but eventually we make it. We’re in. And in no time we’re out and back on the beach again to see out the afternoon under the Croatian sun. This is all a bit too relaxing and we end up heading into the Old Town a lot later than planned with the already disastrous scenario of having “nowhere in mind to eat in a tourist centric area” unfolding.
Hunger aside, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is like nowhere I’ve ever seen. Winding narrow streets encased within historical walls; each turn as pristine and pleasing as the one before. It really is tourist central though and almost reminiscent of Venice…minus the canals and unbearable humidity.
After passing a satisfying number of scrawny cats and a choir outside the cathedral we cave to the 50th person trying to lure us into their no doubt substandard restaurant. The fish selection appeals so I opt for Sea Bass Tagliatelle in a Vegetable Sauce. As the waitress comes I confirm the meal; I’ve learned by now that when you have a cream intolerance this is always wise. “Sea Bass, vegetable sauce. No cream?” I check. “Sea Bass, vegetable sauce. No cream.” She confirms.
15 minutes later a plate of cream pasta appears in front of me. There are few words I know in Croatian and “are you kidding me?!” are certainly none of them. Tom gets the cream plate. I get his fish with canned vegetables. It’s a sorry state of food affairs and their attitude to rectifying the situation (i.e by giving zero cares) is soothed only by the Prosecco we’ve ordered. Gusti Bistro- if only we’d checked out their TripAdvisor page before we sat down.
Matters are soon redeemed upon entry into D’Vino wine bar. Now this is a place not to be missed. A charming, cosy nook that spills out onto a rustic street serving some exceptional wines at exceptionally cheap prices. I’m not sure how prevalent Croatian wine is the UK but I’ll certainly be looking out for it from now on.
Memories of “vegetable sauce, no cream” almost gone we happily make our way to the beach bar on Banje Beach which is impressively cool with an array of fun, white (definitely how they would describe it) beach furniture to enjoy cocktails on. The cocktails are strong and the first thing on the agenda for the next morning are two ibuprofen. Luckily super Tom has already been out and provides a breakfast that finally doesn’t consist of bread and cheese. Yogurt and granola has never tasted so good. We set off into the 9.30 am heat (hotter than London mid summer) and spend the morning walking history books and films sets alike along the ancient city walls. It’s well worth the ticket price and the photo opportunities seem endless. There are also endless people seeking out the photo opportunities but it’s worth the battle. For a real evening walk to remember- drink every time you see a selfie stick*
*not actually advised.
The terracotta terrains juxtaposed with the aqua Adriatic make for a very lovely time.
*Impending fail klaxon*
Our bill for these two average iced coffees comes to £12.
I have nothing more to add so I’m just going to leave that there. And say that my love/hate for Dubrovnik’s gastro scene is switched firmly back to detest. Here are some more city pictures.
Luckily, we’ve booked in for an afternoon of sea kayaking which is just one of the most joyous activities I’ve ever taken part in so all is soon forgotten. Our guide Mario compliments mine and Tom’s kayaking “skills” as we mentally hi-5 and thank our past selves for our Macedonian practice excursion the week prior. The route takes us from the harbour, under the city walls and along the coastline past “our” beach until we stop to admire a villa atop of a hill. This villa costs a casual €7000 a night and comes complete with 10 staff. Next time, we think.
It’s then onwards to some caves where we snorkel amongst beautiful fish and Tom flings himself off the edge of a cliff all in the name of pleasure. We then circle Lokrum Island which looks just stunning and houses lots of wild rabbits which is basically all the information I need to convince me to make a return trip. We paddle back to shore trying to take in the magnificence of all these moments.
Having learned from our mistakes we home cook some pasta which beats anything a restaurant could offer and take some wine to the beach before planning on going to a concert in the square. The concert turns out to be the next day. Never mind, we stay on the beach and check our bus reservations for the morning. They don’t exist. Now this scenario had the potential to go several ways but the combination of sand, stars and vino meant that in no time a hire car had been booked for the next morning and an impromptu road trip to Split was planned. It seems like we’re destined to fulfil the planes, trains and automobiles quota after all and in that moment we thank ourselves for WiFi and for Dubrovnik- two truly beautiful things.