The logical place to begin on my first day in Dubrovnik seemed the Old City, or Stari Grad. On the bus from the airport we of course passed by the outer walls, but that in no way prepared me for the size and beauty of the place once you step through the Pile Gate. Its marble streets, monuments, churches & palaces seemingly at every turn are simply breathtaking, even when overrun with tourists. After wandering the main streets and exploring a few of the smaller side streets, I found a quiet restaurant a bit away from most of the hustle and bustle to have lunch at. Admittedly I still wasn’t expecting much as food in touristy areas usually disappoints, but the salad of copun and seasonal fruit & veg I had was surprisingly good. After lunch I walked along the walls, which again offered spectacular views, something I quickly learnt was true for most places here.
So after getting of to a bit of a rocky start, both figuratively and literally , I arrived in Dubrovnik and quickly settled into the laid back, chilled out Adriatic lifestyle that seems to be the essence of this city. Which luckily is just what I needed after the last minute stress over coming out here on my own, followed by the most turbulent flight of my life – think being stuck on a roller-coaster for half an hour and you’re almost there; people were crying, I felt airsick for the first time and the whole plane applauded the pilot when he eventually managed to land – and inevitably managed to get lost trying to find the guesthouse where I was staying. But I made it in the end.
Having got talking to one of the tour operators outside the tourist information centre, I had booked a kayaking & snorkelling trip for Wednesday afternoon. This took us around the whole of the Old City, over to Lokrum Island, and then to a little cave beach where we stopped for food, swimming & snorkelling. It was great to see the city from the sea and the water is surprisingly clear and clean considering it’s a city with such a busy port. The whole thing was great anyway, though old habits die hard and I once again failed to wear sun cream while kayaking – something I always do and always regret the next day – which I should have remembered after getting the worst sunburn of my life in 2008 after kayaking down the Loire.
Kicking back in a kayak
After a fairly tiring day I decided to treat myself to dinner at a restaurant. I’m now getting quite used to this dining alone thing! On a recommendation from my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook and TripAdvisor, I decided to check out Taj Mahal, which deceptively is not Indian but Bosnian cuisine. I went for the pljeskavica, almost like a burger but unmistakably Eastern European, and it did not disappoint.
Thursday’s weather forecast promised heavy rain and thunder storms, and I woke up to the sound of rain hammering down outside and a slight chill in the air. I also woke up to find myself alone in the guesthouse as everyone else had left earlier that morning, so feeling a bit lonely I was just catching up on The Great British Bake Off and drinking tea (typical brit abroad) when the owner’s mum came to clean the other rooms and brought me homemade cake and juice. This little pick me up coincided with the sun coming out, so I headed into town, though still wary of the thunder storm that was supposed to happen that afternoon. But as the skies cleared and at a comfortable 25•c, it became clear that black jeans & an umbrella were perhaps not the best choice for today.
I had planned on using this day of bad weather for more cultural, indoorsy things, and although the weather had improved I didn’t want to miss out on them, so I visited the Rector’s Palace, which like everything else in this city was stunning inside, and with my 25 kuna student entry (sometimes looking young has it’s benefits!) allowing me free entry to some of the other museums, I also went to the Dubrovnik Natural Science Museum, which was deserted and a little underwhelming – but hey it was free.
Wee selfie inside the Palace
Being unable to resist the sun for too long though, I sat down at a cafe and caught up on some reading and people watching, which mostly involved watching the Game of Thrones crew setting up for filming, which had started the day before. I actually wandered onto one of the sets earlier on and while I’m not that into the show I admit it was pretty cool, as was seeing a scene being shot the night before when I was out for dinner. After my fair share of museums I headed down to the harbour to book my bus ticket to Mostar, and also to see the area which of course was also lovely.
On my last day I decided to visit Lokrum Island, which I hadn’t originally planned on but our little kayak jaunt out there made me want to see it. The boat journey over was cheap & quick but the second you arrive it’s as if you’ve been transported miles away from the busy Dubrovnik streets. Peacocks & rabbits meander around you and the whole place is just wonderfully tranquil, and at least when I arrived, almost deserted of people. After some sunbathing and lunch at the dead lake, which I had to defend from hungry peacocks, I explored the monastery, olive grove, path of paradise and the old fort which offers fantastic views back to the mainland. I then proceeded to get lost and spent a good hour walking around almost the entire island completely alone. Coming back to civilisation I found a nice flat rock to sunbathe, read, and generally listen to the calm of the sea, for a couple hours before catching the boat back. All in all a pretty perfect day, which of course I had to finish with some of Dubrovnik’s finest ice cream (my new addiction) – at 10 kuna for a scoop bigger than my fist, dozens of delicious flavours & very friendly staff who definitely remembered me from the day before, it’s hard to resist!