Europe | Croatia | Dubrovnik – George Bernard Shaw was spot on.
The journey from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik is a most diverting way of passing a morning and early afternoon. The Bosnian countryside is incredibly beautiful and the towns horribly scarred. Gashs of valleys. Shells of buildings. Chunks of mountains. Piles of rubble. Raging of rivers. Then the Dalmatian coast and sails bobbing in serene azure fjords. I never thought five hours on a bus could be so exciting.
When we pulled into Dubrovnik station and the doors opened a horde of yapping women attacked the bus screaming sobe, room, zimmer. Unluckily for them I’d rang ahead and booked the hostel. But they didn’t want to take no for an answer. I had to run. There was even a woman lurking behind a wall near the hostile entrance. She gestured to me conspiratorially. She had a wild look in here eyes. It was kinda scary.
I got a bit lost trying to find my way into the centre of town. But I got there in the end. At first I thought the walled old town was one big tourist trap, with it’s marble floor, ornate palaces, sparkling fountains and expensive T-shirt shops. I took the washing lines for props. But apparently real people live there.
I walked the walls. They’re real high and about 2km long. The city looks like it was cut from one big milky rock. By the time I got down I was fit to drop. I had a leisurely sea food pasta dinner and strolled back to the hostel. It’s related to the one in Zagreb, but it’s recently had a fresh lick of paint and houses no refugees. There’s a terrace with a view where you can get lunch and/or dinner. The cook looks like Nanny from Count Duckula, but the foods ok. When I retired I found I’d the whole dorm to myself. Nice one.
I slept through breakfast. So I bought a sendvic in a shop and washed it down with a peachy yoghurt drink called AB. Then I went swimming in the Adriatic. Hadn’t done that before. The water was surprisingly cold. But you get used to it.
After I sat in a little place half way up the walls and watched four brown young fellas messing about in a boat. They played water polo, dived off some high rocks, went on their way. It reminded me of the Talented Mr. Ripley. But no-one got their head smashed in. It looked like a good life.
At dinner the comely waitress plied me with a free spirit before and after. It seems it’s tradition. Then, slightly drunken, I left her behind and sat by the lapping Adriatic, smelling the salty sea, watching the sun go down on the water, reading Moby Dick, quite smitten with Dubrovnik. After Sarajevo I needed a rest. No better place.
After breakfast Wednesday I climbed the rocky hill overlooking the port to get a good look at the place. It was very peaceful at the top, but quite vertiginous. You could see all the jumbled red roofs of the old town, and the cute little islands scattered around. I decided to take a short cut down t’other side through the scrub and rocks. Cut my feet to bits. But they’ll be ok.
After lunch I took a ferry to Cavtat, a little down the coast. The ride was fairly boring, just me and a bunch of wrinkly octagenarians. Cavtat was not much to write home about either (but you can’t stop me). A few ruins and a nice graveyard.
I got the bus back in time for the SEE Docs in Dubrovnik Festival. They were showing films on a huge screen in the open air by the sea. They were in Croatian, about the war. My Croatian doesn’t stretch far beyond hello, goodbye, beer please and thank you, but I got the gist. The war wasn’t a good time.
I didn’t get much sleep that night because the guy in the bunk over me snored all night. He woke up a few times when I accidentally slammed the door and repeatedly turned on and off the light, but it was no use. Ah well, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. That’s the plan.
For my last full day in Dubrovnik I took an early ferry to Lokrum Island, ten minutes into the bay. I spent the day swimming in the cool water, reading, writing and exploring. I stumbled across a naturist beach. It was different than I’d imagined. I took one look at the saggy, hairy naturists and legged it.
As it got dark I returned to the cinema and watched a cautionary tale about a black German policeman who was bullied, became a celebrity, and then lost the run of himself. It was subtitled in English and very, very good.
I really, really like Dubrovnik. My fellow Irish hirsute George Bernard Shaw said: ‘Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik’. He was spot on. Quaint marble streets and splendid buildings in the old town, swimming in the cool, quiet Adriatic, sleepy nights at the open air cinema, salty sea food and cheap beer, living comfortably on 30 euros a day, here I could stay forever. Only I can’t, cause I’m booked on a ferry to Split tomorrow. Gotta keep moving.