Still in our Croatian paradise, we woke and enjoyed a cup of coffee on the balcony as the sunlight draped across the sleepy town below us. It was Saturday morning, and the man who lived below our flat was pruning his grapevines before the heat of the day set in. Can you imagine anything more romantic? But as the day progressed, the romanticism of the day only got better.
We got an early start to the day and headed to the famed Dubrovnik Cable Car. To get there, we took the number 6 bus to the Old Town and hiked up a little hill that housed the car port. An adult one-way ticket was 60kn. In our active wisdom, we decided we would ride up and hike down saving a couple quid and burning off some of the wine calories from the night before.
The ride up the Srd Hill took a whole three minutes hovering over the beautiful terra cotta rooftops with a front row seat to the big blue. We walked around the small platform taking in the views when we actually bumped into someone we knew! Of all the cities and all the attractions in all the world, we ran into one of Jeff’s softball buddies and his girlfriend. We laughed at how small this universe was before Jeff and I embarked on our descent.
At 10a, the sun was already beating down on us, but we powered through the jagged and slippery rocks to the bottom in just about an hour. Each zig-zag turn was punctuated by a stone carving telling the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Since we were walking down, we saw the story in reverse thanking our lucky stars we decided against climbing up the rock.
As a reward for our active morning, we indulged in some fresh sushi at Shizuku Japanese Cuisine. We were the only people in there just before the lunch crowd, but that didn’t stop us from having some ice cold sake and incredibly fresh sushi. But dessert took the cake. Never have I even considered coffee jello, but the Ice Cream and Coffee Jelly was just that. How simple! Coffee flavored jello with what tasted like a hint of Kahlua with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. In a future blog, I will describe my attempts at replicating this novel idea at home. Stay tuned.
It was a perfect lunch to have before slipping into our bathing suits and making our way to the Lapad beach.
Did you know the nickname for Dubrovnik is Croatian Athens? Everywhere you turn, Dubrovnik looks like the love child of Italy and Greece with less crowds and less of the touristy pop-up stalls. But also Dubrovnik means Oak Grove, which my poor husband was on the wrong end of. We tried to escape the allergies and hay fever of England only to fall in the middle of pollen city. But all that went away as soon as we stepped onto the beach and the salt air filled our lungs.
Not to complain about being in the Mediterranean, but the beaches in Dubrovnik were not sandy! They were pebble beaches. Walking on these hard and sharp rocks left some of the romance to be desired, especially as I glanced at the other beach goers sunbathing on the concrete ocean side.
We walked as far as we could around a small bend, far from the poolside images of cement and metal stairs into the water, and found a few empty chairs facing out to the almost golden blue water.
I was perfectly content with my book under my umbrella, but Jeff found his new obsession among the rocks: sea glass. Like a kid in a candy shop, he spent the majority of the afternoon combing through rocks and underlying sand for the rounded shards of green and white sea glass.
That night, from our balcony, as we enjoyed our Fourth of July dinner, I saw a man in the distance watching the sunset. His silhouette looked so serene as he stared off in the distance. What was he thinking? I hoped he was a local not blind to his own backyard. We hear many stories from locals in all of our travels who look at us in a confused, head-tilted way when we gush about the surroundings. “When you live here, you take it for granted,” is the typical response.
The next morning, we were off to Mljet. Getting to the ferry was a little hike to the marina, but you cannot buy tickets ahead of time. So again, we woke up early to guarantee our seats. We took off on the 90 minute ride at 930a to then hop on a Jeep into the depths of the National Park of Mljet. You can rent bikes or walk the 3 km to the next ferry port, Pristaniste, but we decided to save our legs for later hiking.
This smaller ferry takes you to a tiny island within a lake. And on this magical island is a deserted monastery dating back to the 1200s. It’s completely abandoned now save a trendy and expensive restaurant and tourist shop…just like the days of yore.
You can walk around this island within an island in four minutes, but who would want to? Each side and angle gave a new perspective to the intense blue and green of your surroundings. We immediately regretted not bringing our bathing suits, but we did bask in the beauty of it all. From one end of the island you can hear children playing opposite through the wind. It gave a ghostly and ethereal quality to the old church.
We headed back to the small ferry depot and hiked to Soline, a small tourist fishing village about 3 km away. There was a trail that followed the water and also a road for cyclists to travel on. We traveled between the two terrains until we came across the sleepiest of all sleepy towns. There were a few restaurants that had a sprinkling of patrons, but it was mostly empty. The hostess of the cafe we stopped at was enjoying her own family lunch when we barreled in. We felt like we were intruding on their sacred ritual, but we enjoyed a little break before we headed back to the ferry.
Dinner that night was exquisite. It was our last night, and we decided to wear our nicest clothes and enjoy our final Croatian meal. A gluten-free blog had recommended Taverna Otto along the marina, and luckily, we were able to get a table without a reservation (although, gambling is not recommended). Beef carpaccio with balsamic and pesto, grilled tuna steak with olive tapenade and white bean puree ending with an array of local Croatian cheeses and honey was our meal. And much like their Italian cousins, Croatians have their own version of grappa.
Jeff and I each had a shot of espresso and a shot of different flavored grappas: mine being cherry Sljivovica and his being the traditional Lozovaca (we should have switched). It’s a fruit brandy made locally in the Serbian area and then flavored accordingly. So, we shot these liquids down. We didn’t feel the same effects as we had in Rome with the grappa and espresso, but it was a nice and traditional end to our day.
We couldn’t leave Croatia without one more morning at the beach giving Jeff a chance to sea glass hunt. We headed down to the beach as the sun started to shine over the water, me with my book, and Jeff with his green toy shovel discovered discarded among the pebbles.
That early in the morning, vacationers were still sleeping off their hangovers, so we had the water to ourselves: the sound of silence. It was completely majestic and romantic as the little waves kissed my toes.
We had a lovely time in Croatia. While we do wish we had seen more of the country like Split or Zagreb and maybe a sandy beach or two, we would not have changed anything about what we had seen. A sleepy city with a lovely history, mostly untouched by world wars but having seen its own devastation during the Bosnian conflict, Dubrovnik is a hidden paradise among the grapevines and fig trees.