The Old Town from Land and Sea Days 1 and 2: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik at sunset is gorgeous. We arrived just in time to see the pink and purple streaks fill the sky from our balcony. Lemon trees bear fruit the size of softballs, hibiscus flowers perfumed the air, and the grapevines just below our feet added to the majesty of our surroundings.

2015-07-02 18.37.42When we decided on Croatia for our summer holiday, we weren’t exactly sure what we were getting into, but over the following five days, we were met with incredible sights, ocean breezes, and some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had.

On our first night, exhausted from layovers and bus rides, we went to Pantarul (“fork” in Croatian) just down the way from our flat. By “down the way,” I mean that literally. Dubrovnik, and in particular the neighborhood we were staying in, Lapad, is all stairs. The roads are all one-way making foot traffic follow side alleys and staircases that rival St. Paul’s Cathedral.

We sat down next to a makeshift bookshelf filled to the brim with cookbooks and were overwhelmed with extraordinary choices on the menu. I decided I would go off the beaten path for once and try things I had never had before. My starter was foie gras, which was delicious if not a little “gamey.” I then had the most incredible monkfish with a polenta and marscapone base, fresh tomatoes and a charred chili. For dessert, an almond brittle semifreddo. Talk about heaven!

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IMG_2507The next morning, we woke up before dawn to catch the sunrise. This was about 5a, at which time I could have taken or left the sunrise due to exhaustion. But after a mug of coffee was in hand and a front row seat was perched, it was completely worth it. We heard church bells in the distance ringing in the morning and watched as the sunlight creeped over the sleepy town below us.

We jumped on the number 6 bus to the Old Town where the massive  fortress and ancient city walls stood tall. At 100kn per person (less than £10), you are given a ticket to take in the perimeter for about 1.75 miles. Just beware that no mile is the same when stairs are involved.

Armed with cameras and cold water, we ducked into each turret to see how the ocean and town looked from every possible angle. Would you believe there wasn’t a bad shot in sight?

The Old Town fortress is a major set piece for the popular show Game of Thrones. It acts as the famed King’s Landing, for those of you who watch. From each spot, we tried to imagine certain scenes being acted out and asked ourselves: was that body of water Blackwater Bay or was it that one? There are dozens of tour guides at the base willing to give you a Game of Thrones walk, but we politely declined despite the shoving of pamphlets and trumpeting voices.

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Each flight of stairs brought us to a new view, so we never minded the climb. What we did mind was the encroaching heat. We have lived in London now for 18 months, and we have grown accustomed to the mid 60s temperature. So being thrust into the mid 90s by 10a was a shock. We finished our circuit and had some really awesome gelato (whiskey swirl with dark chocolate fondant) before embarking on a Croatian tradition: siesta.

2015-07-03 17.13.47Our cat nap was perfectly timed since we were due back in the Old Town for a sunset kayak tour around the Lokrum Island. Standing on top of the ancient walls, the island doesn’t look that far off, but I can tell you, 7.5 km is far. We took off around 530p and made our way first to a little cove where we could swim in the icy water before continuing on. Around the back of the island, we were met with an endless and hypnotic horizon making us feel like the smallest people in the world.

The Adriatic Sea is something I never thought I would see  in my lifetime. But here I was, sitting in a kayak at sunset, rocking back and forth.

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On the other end of this island was an old, abandoned Benedictine monastery. The stories our guide began with were mesmerizing. Benedictine monks founded the abbey in 1023, but in 1808, they were kicked off the island by the French. On their last night, the monks put a curse on the island so anyone who would purchase it would have an untimely demise.

Now, I’m not big into legends and myths, but hearing the list of people who bought the island and then perished soon thereafter was uncanny. The first to purchase the island were the Habsburgs. When Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand was crowned Emperor of Mexico (shortly after his purchase), he was murdered by his new citizens on a diplomatic visit. His wife, Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, then went insane and committed suicide.

The last man to purchase the island was Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria who met his early death just a few weeks later in Sarajevo thus kicking off WWI. The island now belongs to the city of Dubrovnik with no immediate plans of purchase underway.

The last stretch back to the mainland took all of our energy as the headwinds from Italy were picking up. A twosome of girls, trying 2015-07-03 19.29.22their best to only stab the water with their paddles, had to be tethered to our guide’s kayak and dragged into the bay.

What we found most hilarious about this small caravan was this guide, who kayaks these 7.5 km three times a day, everyday, continued to persevere against the wind and resistance while the girls took selfies of themselves as dead weight. #nohelp

We made it back to our cove as the sun disappeared over the horizon and were handed warm wine and towels for our effort before we made our way back to our 200+ stairs to the flat.

Continue reading for our tour of Mjlet National Park and the island within an island, but first enjoy our pictures from Dubrovnik.

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