Dubrovnik is a gem of a city. The small coastal city is about as far south as you can go in Croatia and it took us an excruciating hot 8+ hour bus ride. Despite the lack of air circulation the ride itself was quite stunning since the route runs along the jagged and maze like coast through mountains and bays. Honestly I sat looking out the window the entire time, never once reading my travel book or dozing off. The views were that breathtaking.
Dubrovnik was originally a significant seaport for trade but now is a tourist hot spot for Europeans, mainly French, Italian, and Germans. Since the pan Balkan war of the 90s the city has been successfully boosting the tourism by allowing massive cruise ships to dock in its waters. On our second day one such boat unloaded hundreds of Americans into the small town. Still while the crowds got to be a bit much the city is still incredibly beautiful.
Our hostel was a bit of a hike from the old town but was in the hills, had a nice view of the city and was close to some cool beaches and sights. Not only that this was the first hostel we encountered where we got picked up from the bus station and later given a ride back for free. Due to the current wave of tourism there is a surge of people looking to rent out their extra rooms to backpackers looking for a cheap place to lay there head. When we stepped off the bus initially we were instantly surrounded by older women and men spitting off prices and accommodations features. Our hostel was very nice since we had a private three bed room still if I had been solo I might have taken up one of the offers at the station.
Our first night was spent just walking around our area and getting a feel for that part of the city. We walked down a cool path that runs along the rocky coast and has little trails down to the water every 100 meters or so. Similarly to Zadar, Dubrovnik´s waters are clear and light blue-the kind of agua that just begs you to jump in. Day two we headed early to the old town which is quite small (the city itself is surrounded by a massive stronghold stone wall used for defense) and checked out some of the easy walking sights such as the Cathedral, Mosque, Onofrios fountain, and a couple main plazas. The city reminds of me of Spain and Italy due to countless outdoor cafes, plazas, traditional drinking fountains, and a smell of fresh seafood and salt water in the air.
After a couple hours exploring the city we decided to take a ferry across the bay to the small island of Lokrum, which was famous for its secluded beaches, old hill top fortress, and botanic garden. The gardens were lame but the fortress was pretty wicked and was worth the long hike. As for the beaches, Croatia is mainly rocky so sun bathing is tricky and sharp but swimming in the ocean was extremely refreshing. We went to a couple of different spots and also found a cool inland natural pond (we didn´t go into this since it had been taken over by 45 screaming children). Paul picked up a bug of sorts in Zagreb and had been feeling ill for the past couple days so his experience was different, still he enjoyed the scenery.
For dinner we found a cheap pizza place (Dalmatia is similar to Italy in terms of food-pasta, risotto, gelato, and delicious thin crust pizzas!) I had one with olives, mussels, tuna and ham divided in four pieces. The next day we went back to the old town and walked on top of the wall, which goes all along the city, takes about 2 hours if your pace is enjoyable, and gives picturesque views of the coast and the town´s red roofs (see photo above). We also explored outside the immediate old town walking along the coast. Similar to Zadar, Dubrovnik has very little to see in terms of sights or museums but the scenery and pleasant walks offered definitely make up for its size. Three solid days was a perfect amount of time.
Our last day we got up early to catch an 8am bus to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. The hostel owner´s brother in law drove us and gave us a giant water bottle filled with homemade Croatian wine as a token of hospitality. While the wine was a bit harsh I really liked it and it once again showed the kindness of people and hospitable culture in Eastern Europe. (The wine made it all the way to Sarajevo where we were forced to leave a third full bottle at our hostel since we knew trying to fly with a mysterious looking water bottle filled with moonshine wine wouldn´t fly with Air Bosna security).
Sobering but beautiful Mostar is coming up next.
Keep on keeping on