Craig and Ross in Croatia and Greece

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June 27th 2018
Published: June 27th 2018
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Wednesday, June 27 , 2018.

Episode 3: We didn’t want to leave Dubrovnik- and actually couldn’t!

After we split Split, so to speak, Ross and I caught the high speed catamaran down to the magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik. We were due to meet up with our friends, Carol and Alicia Brock, who were flying in from London. We met them at Buza bar, which sits precariously outside the city walls, facing the glistening ocean below. However, the bar was packed. It was standing room only for sardines, so we moved on. Our first stop was Fort Lawrence, a fantastic bastion from which we got super views across the entire city – see first image opposite. There was an outdoor bar by the water at the bottom, so we spent the late afternoon there. After a while, we decided it was time to head for dinner, via our respective apartments.

Carol said “Alicia and I staying just off the main drag.”

I said, “so are we.”

So, we started walking off. As we approached the area, Carol then said: “We are in a building behind that lovely cathedral.”

I said: “So are we”.

We walked further along….

Carol said: We are in this old building.”

I said: “So are we! “

We all laughed. It turned that that they were just one floor above us in the same lovely old building. Ross and I thought our stone-walled apartment was nice, but Carol and Alicia had a grandiose version. If you were all here with us, the whole place would have been a great party venue!!

Dubrovnik old town is a beautiful medieval walled city, encircling a compact array of terracotta roofed houses, grand cathedrals, and intriguing little alleyways. There are no cars – thankfully - but instead people wander the shiny marbled thoroughfares. When I was first here in 1990 – not long before the “Balkans wars”
began - it was a lesser known gem. Now, it is tourist central, but it still holds its charm. The world was horrified when it was shelled during fighting of the early 1990’s. Today, you can appreciate how much damage was done by surveying the terracotta roof tops when you do the obligatory walk along the top of the walls. Those nice new red roofs were ones that were hit by bombs and re-tiled. Quite a few.

In Dubrovnik, we ate at some great places, including a nice Bosnian restaurant (strangely called Taj Mahal) and more good seafood by the water. The weather was wonderful, the walk around the top of the city walls was superb, and we all had a fab time. The only annoying episode of our stay, until then, involved a ten-minute ferry trip to nearby forested Lokrum Island. On Lokrum, you can swim, albeit from a rocky shoreline. For the equivalent $14 each, we bought boat tickets from a stall where the woman said the price “included entry onto the island.” When we arrived at the island, they then wanted the equivalent of $25 each to set foot on the place.

Ross said “ What! For an island that doesn’t even have a sandy beach??!!”

After some discussion, Carol and Alicia felt that they might as well stay, so they coughed up the cash. Ross and I left them to it and got the next boat back. We returned to Dubrovnik, where we sternly complained to the woman who sold us the tickets. It was amazing how she told lie after lie, trying to weasel out of her dodgy dealing, so we gave up and left.

Back in our apartment, I was looking through my wallet. Earlier that day, I got more local currency (kuna) out of the ATM, but had forgotten we only had two more days left in Croatia.

“I think I got too much money out, we might not use it all,” I said to Ross.

“Oh that’s easily spent,” said Ross, “tomorrow we can take a boat trip Lokrum Island.”

Early each morning in Dubrovnik, I would visit a small bakery to get some pastries for breakfast. One morning, I walked down the usual quiet marble-tiled alleyway and saw two nuns carefully helping each other along. No one else around and it made a beautiful photo. I said to Ross later:

“I saw two nuns in the narrow side street early this morning, it made a great photo. They must have been heading out for the day.”

Ross said: “How do you know they weren’t just getting home? There’s a nightclub called Heaven near there.”

We all loved Dubrovnik, and someone commented on Facebook that Carol should get a commission from the Dubrovnik Council: for promoting tourism with her excellent photos.

Yesterday we were due to fly from Dubrovnik to Athens. It started on a high note, and we were blissfully unaware of the painful inconvenience that would unfold. We caught a cab and the cabbie said: “Would you like some music.”

We all said, oh yes, expecting some heinous Eurovision failures, as we had encountered previously in cabs. He said: “Looking at you people, you should like this.”

He pressed his phone and suddenly “Dancing Queen” started booming throughout the car! LOL! What on Earth was he insinuating?? He even stopped at a wonderful lookout and said to Ross "Would you like to make picture?" This afforded us some glorious parting photos of Dubrovnik.

After checking in and sitting in the departure lounge at Dubrovnik airport, we discovered that our flight on Aegean Airlines (remember that name) was cancelled. We spent a while in a stuffy queue to go back out through customs/immigration, then an interminable time to get our luggage back (even though it never got put on a plane) and then a horribly long time (hours) at a general info counter along with a loads of other hapless passengers. There were no Aegean Airline reps anywhere, just two poor overwhelmed Dubrovnik airport staff trying to find hotels for the whole plane. Eventually – many hours after arriving at the airport - we were put on a bus, and sent to a nice hotel by the water (airline funded), and had cocktails by the pool in the afternoon sun. We felt rather better about it all, as these things can happen.

This morning, we were up at sparrow’s fart for the re-scheduled flight (9.30am). We checked in, said good-bye to our luggage, were through security…then,we learned that our new flight was also now cancelled!! Both cancellations due to bad weather in Athens both days, apparently (though other airlines were flying in and out of there). Again zero customer support. There were, by now, many now stressed-out people, some of them fellow Aussies, and many with key connections about to be missed (thankfully, not us). We had gotten to know these fellow sufferers during the course of this two-day saga. This happens, doesn’t it, when you have a common calamity and console each other, get to chat to each other, lament, laugh, etc.? We met a nice couple from Newcastle and another couple from Melbourne. Anyway, we were all told the airline may not put us up in a hotel again, there were no other Athens flights at all today and they were not sure about tomorrow either. People then tried madly to re-book online via other airlines. The Newcastle couple got flights via Munch to Athens (i.e., going “backwards” first!) and the Melbourne folks via Belgrade that got them to Athens at 3am !! However, none of us four had internet access, so Carol and I went to Croatia Airlines counter and booked the first thing we could: tomorrow arvo at 4pm!

I then said to Ross, Carol and Alicia,

“I really cannot stomach the thought of waiting around in this airport for hours again like we did yesterday. With nowhere to sit, not knowing what’s going on, wondering when or if we will be put at a hotel by Aegean Airlines again. It took hours yesterday. Lets just grab a cab outta here, and come back tomorrow arvo for this Croatia Airlines flight.”

We all agreed, though we had to track down our luggage yet again as it had gone through the check-in counter (again).

We got a cab to the nearest nice hotel. We have checked in, had some lunch and are now relaxing. It's actually a nice little hamlet on the water that bills itself as “Dubrovnik’s Riviera”. Little stone houses, a seawall and some inviting taverns. We have our fingers crossed that our Croatia Airlines flight will happen tomorrow. Although it means basically wiping Athens off the itinerary, we could tolerate two wasted travel days. But, we MUST be in Athens tomorrow, as we have important things booked for early the following day (June 29). Ross and I, on a train to Meteora in central Greece, and Carol and Alicia, a flight to Santorini. In all our travels throughout the world – and Ross and I have done a shitload, Africa, Asia, South America, etc. – we have never had such airline trouble (and such bad customer service).

In this second hotel, Carol and Alicia are in the room next door to us. Ross just worked out how to make direct room-to-room calls and called their room, deepened his voice and said:

“Good Afternoon, is that Mrs. Carol Brock? This is a representative calling from Aegean Airlines. Congratulations, you are the seventh customer to have ever booked a flight with us. You have won a free flight from Dubrovnik to Athens. When would you like to take it?”

I believe she hung up on him.

So, a pear-shaped end to what was a magnificent stay here in Dubrovnik.

Hopefully my next blog will be from Greece!

Craig (and Ross, Carol and Alicia).

Some pictures are posted within the text and also below.

Additional photos below
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