It has been two weeks since we had returned from Dubrovnik, but every time I think about our trip, I can still feel the hot sun on my face, see the sparkling Adriatic sea and hear the shrill screams of the swifts playing above the walls of the Old City.
The trip started with a pleasant realization that I have finally learned how to travel light. All my previous attempts failed, but this time I seem to remember that out of all the clothes I usually take with me, I end up using only one-third of it and regret bringing the rest. Not this trip.
This time packing was easy and fast and I was light as ever – down to one small cabin luggage. Granted, we were only going for 6 days and my handbag is so big, it can easily fit a couple of laptops and a fur coat in it (should the need arise). But that is beside the point. What is important, that I only had a cabin luggage. So, as a result – no standing in long queues at check-in, no waiting at the carousels, no paying extra, no dragging of heavy suitcases over cobbled streets and narrow staircases. It really made life easier.
From airport, we took a taxi by scenic route to our apartment where we were going to stay for five nights. From there it was a 7 minutes walk to the beach and 20 min to the Old City. Both routes involve going up and down the hills, and since we were doing them a few times a day, my calf muscles got a good workout and I have felt that we could justify all the food and wine we have been consuming during the vacation.
My first impression of the Old City was slightly negative – I was astonished by a number of tourists. But what did I want? It was the middle of July, a European resort in the Mediterranean. At least now I know, where was the whole Paris.
Soon I get used to the crowd, began to maneuver easily and avoid the collisions with people, who were stopping suddenly to take a picture. And truly, you wanted to take a picture with every step – the Old City was incredibly beautiful and photogenic.
I am not going to tell you where to go in the Old City and what to see – you can read about it in every tourist guide.
Instead, I would like to try to convey the atmosphere of this beautiful place.
Imagine the very old and narrow streets, all of them pedestrian, and some of them leading really high up towards the city wall. The pavement – beautiful limestone slabs, polished by time and thousands of feet. Imagine the bright-orange roofs, shimmering in a hot Mediterranean sun, the bells, tolling above the harbor, the cool shadows in the stone arches and passages, and the swifts, screeching and swooping so low, that their wings are almost touching people.
Even a big concentration of souvenir shops and other tourists attributes couldn’t spoil this timeless beauty.
And speaking of the souvenir shops, I want to mention (reluctantly), that Dubrovnik was used as one of the sets where the Game of Throne was filmed. As a person, who never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, that side was of no interest to me, along with all the dedicated memorabilia you can buy to take home. But, according to my source, who went to do a Tour of the GOT, it was educational, because, besides the information they give you on the series, they tell you a lot about local history and architecture as well.
Personally, I don’t like to follow the guide books, which gives you a list of “must do’s” and the places you have to visit. I like wandering the streets, discovering the unusual corners, observing locals, and, of course, sampling the food.
When I travel, I always trying to find places, where the locals eat. Here too, I was looking for the “hole in the wall” types of local places with a good, down to earth, inexpensive home cooking. And, I am sure those places exist, but not in the Old City.
Here, the setup was largely for tourists, although locals came here too. In fact, if I would want to describe the Old City of Dubrovnik in one sentence, I would say that it is one big restaurant under an open sky.
The range is wide – from the joints, which sell sandwiches and pizza by the slice to a higher end, sophisticated restaurants. And of course, there were also places of a “tourist trap” variety, you know the one: “pizza, pasta, seafood, steak” – you see them in every country.
The prices were very Parisian and every restaurant had a similar repertoire of local dishes with a heavy lean towards fish and seafood.
Not all the restaurants were equally good, but we did found some good food there. By trial and error. The trials were many, the errors-only two.
But whichever restaurant you choose, the ambiance of an outdoor setting is fantastic. Every corner and a narrow passage are used to put out dining tables. And they are made to look pretty. As the evening approaching, the streets look amazing. Longer shadows lay across the pavement, the liquid gold of the setting sun touches ancient walls and the starched tablecloths.
Add to it the warm evening air, the pleasant summer sounds of flying swifts and a bottle of good Croatian wine on the table and you are in a paradise. And you can see, why we were spending a lot of time sitting around in the restaurants.
And, as it turned out, I had a hidden agenda for these trip, which even I wasn’t aware of – то eat as much grilled squid, as I could, which I successfully fulfilled.
One day, while my friend went to the aforementioned tour of Game of Thrones, I have decided to spend my time in a more, what seemed to a snobby part of me, refined way:) That is to visit a temporary Picasso exhibition, which happened to be in Dubrovnik at the time. It was a small display, some of his pottery works and his posters and it was nobody there, except me.
I will definitely remember that exhibition, mostly not because of all the (endless) owl and goat and faun’s faces staring at me from the ceramic jars, but because it was the first (and I suspect, the last) time, when I was enjoying an exhibition, walking around with a beach towels thrown over my arm. Somehow, it created a special cozy bond with Picasso.
To be continued…