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Published: October 3rd 2007
Dubrovnik October 1st
London, Gatwick was easy and efficient. We didn't have to officially arrive in the country but were able to go through another security check into the transit area of the airport. Here Judy lost a small pair of scissors that were in the medical pouch that she had moved from check in to hand luggage before leaving Mexico.(due to still not feeling well) They had already been through 2 American Airline checks without being found - ridiculous isn't it?
Arrival in Dubrovnik was also a breeze. Officials took a quick look at our passports and we quickly moved to where our luggage was already waiting before going through the doors and seeing Peter and Rachel immediately!
From the airport we drove along the coast to our new home. We could already see that Dubrovnik was indeed as beautiful as everyone had told us. Amazing scenery and we enjoyed having Peter and Rachel tell us about it.
Once we arrived at their home, we were given the grand tour - amazing how well an old shop on the bottom floor had been transformed by them into a 2 bedroom apartment for visitors. Not long after that
Judy collapsed for a much needed nap before dinner as not much sleep had been had on any of the flights.
Peter rang our doorbell at 6.15 and we headed to the marina where we were to have dinner. First we were able to stop at an ATM to get some local currency, Kuna, and shop at the supermarket next door for some milk and yoghurt for breakfast.
Dinner was amazing, with Peter and Rachel guiding us through the menu and helping us select local specialities. We started with an appetiser of prsut, a cured ham, with cheese & olives, followed by a fish soup. Mains were a squid dish for Judy and a pork cutlet for Rags. Dessert was a custard-type tart. We had a local cab-sav made by one of Peter's cousins with the meal. Interestingly, Peter & Rachel added water to this as is the local custom. Rags couldn't bring himself to do this as he felt there was little enough body in the wine as it was! He has realised that Australian wines are much heavier than most elsewhere.
Tuesday October 2nd
Today we ventured into Dubrovnik on the bus. Dubrovnik is
Our first dinner
Lots of Croatian tastes at our dinner with Peter and Rachael.
situated at the southern tip of Croatia and is only 20.5 km in diameter. The jewel in its crown is the old city of Dubrovnik entirely surrounded by a wall. The old city was bombed with mortars in the war with Serbia in the early 1990's but has been almost completely restored since then as is obvious by all the beautiful new terracotta rooftops that you'll see in our many photos.
The bus dropped us just outside the old city walls. We stood in a plaza and looked on the many tourist groups while we got our bearings. As we had almost no information about Dubrovnik and had four days to plan we headed for the tourist office as instructed by Peter. Here we found a man playing with his computer (perhaps doing accounts) but he hardly looked at us as he passed us a map and said “All information on the map”. Well, there really wasn't any. It was a map on one side of the old city with names but no other information of its various parts, the other side was an outline of the entire city of Dubrovnik with the suburbs and admin facilities marked. As
The Old City
We took so many photos we found it hard to choose the ones for blog.
we walked into the old city we felt that the excitement we'd earlier felt had dissipated especially as every which way we turned we had to purchase a ticket but we had no idea what we would get for our money. We started walking around the old city and it just appeared to be a lot of very expensive tourist shops.
After exploring the old city we started to feel a bit hungry but didn't feel like a big sit down lunch so we explored outside the old city. We found a little bakery where we bought ham, cheese and lettuce in divine multi-grain rolls and Rags also bought what he thought was a sweet roll only to find it was like Italian calzone and yummy! We found a little cove and some steps in the shade where we sat and watched others sun baking, swimming and fishing while we ate our picnic.
After lunch we continued up the steps to more wonderful views and on until we reached Fort Lovrijenac which is used now for dramatic performances during their festival. Peter later told us an entire Venetian fleet had been sunk from cannons at this fort. From
the top of the fort we had wonderful views over the old city and elsewhere.
Apparently the cost of entry to here meant it would be about half the cost of the city wall walk which we had considered doing on another day but now decided we should do at a discount today, so off we went. This involved much climbing as the walls beside being at least 4 to 6 meters thick are at least 25 meters high. They are reinforced by 3 round and 12 square towers, 5 bastions and 2 corner towers. The sun was blazing by this time but the effort was worth it - the views were stupendous from every stop.
By the time we walked all the way around it was late in the afternoon and our legs told us it was time to go. We easily found the bus and returned back via the local mini market where we bought some refreshments and the making of a chicken dinner.
Peter greeted us on our return and invited us to use his computer to check our email. He then introduced us to some of his wide selection of local liqueurs or
After the mortar fire many buildings were left like this - burnt out with no roofs.
grappe. These weren't to Judy's taste so Rags ended up drinking hers also and we still had to cook our chicken. By the time we'd done this Rags was well and truly ready for bed!
Wednesday October 3rd
Today we were up and about early as we needed to be at the harbour by 10.15 for an all day cruise we'd booked yesterday. As usual we were there well before so we had time to explore the main street, Placa, of the old town. We hadn't done this yesterday, choosing instead the less busy side streets. The whole of the old own is a pedestrian precinct but today we were early so saw several service vehicles that must be allowed in before the rush of tourists. The Placa is lined with exclusive little tourist shops and the cobbled street looked so clean it must have been washed during the night.
Only 8 people boarded the boat at the harbour, others had already boarded at Lopad which we would see on the return journey. Today we were headed for the three largest islands in the Elaphite Island group. Our first stop, 17 km to the north-west of Dubrovnik
was Sipan, the largest, where we had only 45 minutes. In the 15th and 16th century many noble Dubrovnik families had summer residences here but today people grow olives, figs, almonds, tomatoes, citrus fruits and grapes. Of course Rags and I chose the path that led past the local school and graveyard rather than around the bay and had to turn back as the time went quickly. Luckily we were back at the appointed time because the ship departed not a minute later than we were told!
Our second stop was Kolocep, an island made up of limestone and dolomite rock and covered with pine and carob trees. Here we were told that we were the first lunch sitting so stayed on the boat to be served our dinner. This consisted of 2 local fish, with similar flesh to our mullet and a robust salad. We ate with some English people we had been sitting and talking to, Dreen, Doreen, David and Dave - not hard to remember those names! We were also served a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine between the 6 of us. We demolished the white quite easily and they were
1 litre bottles.
After this we went for a stroll to one of the small settlements. This was quaint and very scenic.
Back on the boat we motored for Lopud, the second largest of the Elephite islands. Lopud is the only settlement on the island and is located on an idyllic bay surrounded by lush vegetation that includes cypruses, lemon, orange, pine and palm trees.. Apparently there is a lovely sandy beach on the other side of the island but we were quite content at Lopud. Here, after sampling the coffee with our new friends, we walked to a small monastery, currently undergoing renovation. Judy browsed in a couple of gift shops and made some small purchases at one, before we joined our English friends on a piece of sandy beach where we had a swim in the refreshingly cool and amazingly clear water.
It was almost 5pm by the time we left Lopud but it was still pleasant on the front of the boat as there was so little wind. We dropped our new friends at Lopad (confusing names) before returning to a wharf near the main cruise ship harbour. From here, after the purchase of some
View over Dubrovnik
Whoever makes terracotta tiles must do very well here.
local cheese, it was easy to board the bus for the return trip to our accommodation.
Dinner, after our substantial lunch meal was melted cheese on toast followed by apple.
Thursday October 4th
Rags was up and about by 7.30am leaving Judy, who hadn't slept well, in bed until 8.45am. After breakfast Judy cut Rags' hair and whilst the washing was on we walked up the hill behind the house to the small church overlooking the area. Interestingly, the only way up is by walking the 200+ steps. There is also a cemetery next to the church and to accommodate the graves the grounds have been extended out by a large concrete slab. These step down the hill for some distance. There are cut-outs in the concrete ready for a coffin to be lowered into the space below, before filling the opening with a headstone.
From there we went to the Old City to book our trip to Montenegro tomorrow. We must remember our passports as we need to go through immigration there - our passports are filling with some interesting stamps!
After a lunch of mussels and seafood risotto in the Old Town
There are many little coves like this with little areas to access the water.
we caught the bus to the wharf area where we booked a ferry to take us to Split on Sunday. The ferry leaves at 9am and the journey takes 8 hours. That means looking for last minute accommodation when we get there but we expect the touts should be about when the ferry arrives- all part of the fun.
Some grocery shopping followed, both at a shop near the bus-stop and again at a bigger shop we found by the harbour. Here we found more local prices which are quiet reasonable. As expected in Europe, meat is expensive but will probably be more so as we head west.
The afternoon was spent with Judy having a 'nanny nap' whilst Rags read. Rags reckons he has read more books in the last 2 months than in the last 2 years!
Dinner was pasta, pesto and corn - the pesto having been brought with us from Mexico. This was accompanied by some local white wine, with a flip top lid. (much to Rags disgust).
Friday October 5th
It was an early start with the tour bus from Adriatic Explore picking us up at the front
A little bit of green
Even in the old city with its cobblestones and walls people like some flowers!
door at 7.15. Although the bus driver was on time, we then had to wait 20 minutes in front of the tour guide's home before he was ready and then nearly an hour driving around the town to collect the other 8 passengers for the day. The last 2 to be picked up had been told to be ready at 7.15 so you can imagine how they felt! By the time we left Dubrovnik for our Montinegro it was after 8.30.
We passed through the recently burnt out Konalev Valley - luckily it was only the vegetation that was burnt although the fire came very close to some houses. This area grows most of the fruit and vegetables for Dubrovnik and was demolished during the war in the early 90's although it has since been rebuilt.
After going through the border control, quiet at this time of the year, we entered the beautiful Kotor Bay where pirates once reigned supreme. It is reminiscent of a Norwegian fjord in its setting surrounded by limestone hills. As it has a narrow entrance passage, the pirates would herd ships into the bay and then pass a chain across the entrance before plundering
One of several church towers in the old city.
The Franciscan monastery, home of the second oldest pharmacy in Europe constructed in 1667.
the ships. When divers went down in more recent times they found the remains of over 100 ships here.
We made a stop to admire the view of a beautiful modern day sailing ship sailing near 2 gorgeous little islands known as “The Lady of the Rock” and “St George's Island”. They were tiny and both had quaint little churches on them.
Our next stop was Kotor. This also has a little medieval town, completely rebuilt since the devastating earthquake in 1979. The town was traffic free and we wandered about but it seemed like the medieval wall only contained the modern shops you would find anywhere else in the world. We could see walls snaking up the hillside to a massive fort far above the town but our meagre 45 minutes stop didn't enable us to make this 260 metre hike this even if we had felt inclined! Apparently this helped the town to withstand many hostile assaults in the course of their history, particularly by the Turks who were never able to take the town.
Continuing on we climbed the hill behind Kotor. This involved 26 hairpin bends along a narrow road where one car
had to stop in a wider patch to let another pass. Along the way we had some magnificent views of the town and bay below but by the time we reached the top clouds had appeared and we could see nothing below.
Njegusi, a little village surrounded by misty peaks, was our next stop. Here, we were shown the room where the hams are compressed and smoked, one of the local specialities. Although the tour information said we would be treated to a snack here this was not the case and passengers were asked to pay 7 Euros for a snack. We declined in the hope we could get some better food at the next town and went for a walk through the charming little village.
We drove through the former capital of Montenegro, Cetinje, without stopping on our way to Budva. The tour write up said we would stop here at the museum but it was not to be. The landscape, apparently is described as karstic which means arid, stony and infertile. This type of lanscape has an interesting erosional phenomena which includes stalacite caves and much subterranean erosion including caves large enough to hide a submarine
The River Ombla
Right near us - this river comes straight out of the stone cliffs and is reputed to be the shortest river in Europe. It also supplies the drinking water for this area. It starts in Bosnia 23 miles away through limestone.
on the bay.
Budva consists of the old town, picturesquely situated on a projecting tongue of land. Unfortunately, once again we were unable to stop for photos as we left, when the light was best - that's what you get when you go in a tour bus! Budva is a popular seaside resort and our guide suggested that as they have kept their prices lower here than Dubrovnik, their tourist numbers have increased by about 35% whilst Dubrovnik's have dropped by 15%. We had most probably had enough of old cities by the time we reached here and were hungry so food was the first thing on our list of things to do. After getting supplies at the supermarket we sat on the shore and enjoyed the views while we ate. We did venture into the old city and walk around for a short time but the narrow paved streets are very similar to the the others we have been to today.
Luckily a shorter route was available for the return trip that included a car ferry from Kamenari to Plavda, a much shorter route. In the high season this ferry can be banked up considerably but today
Our home in Dubrovnik
The mountain is higher than it looks and is the border to Bosnia.
we drove straight onto the ferry and were quickly on our way to the border crossing.
By the time we, being the last drop off, arrived home it was 7pm - we were exhausted! This tour was certainly oversold and under delivered as we have come to expect in tours however the tour guide, once he warmed to our group, was very informative - he had to be as a couple of people in the group kept asking him questions! He one day hopes to be able to immigrate to Australia as he says there is no future in Croatia.
Dinner was had at the restaurant a few doors away. As we are well away from the tourist area their prices were much more reasonable. Rags had a mixed grill, certainly an ample helping and Judy had Hunter style pork which was pork fillet with a white bacon sauce. We also enjoyed a couple of house wines while listening to a chap in the adjoining room trying to sell mattresses (we think) to the people assembled there.
Saturday October 6th
We took the opportunity to sleep in this morning, so it was after 9am before we
View over Fort St Lawrence
A great viewpoint from our cruise boat.
struggled out of bed! Our itinerary for the day was to photograph the Old Town from the top of the hill as seen in brochures, and to then catch the bus to Cavtat, a coastal town about 15 km south of Dubrovnic. We set off in a bit of a drizzle and Judy found a spot not too far up where we could take a good photograph. However, this was not enough of a challenge, we continued up the hill via the zig-zag road. We finally got our photos, not as good as some we have seen because of the conditions, but still good.
Rather than return to the town to catch the bus it was decided to continue until we reached the main highway where we could catch the bus going through. This was not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, we were on a narrow one-way road with no footpath so whenever a large vehicle or bus came we had to move aside for safety. Secondly, it was much further than we thought and by the time we eventually reached the top we both were hot, sweaty and tired. The situation wasn't improved much when we were
informed the nearest bus stop was 3 km down the road! Fortunately Judy was able to beg a ride from a Croatian couple there and eventually the bus came and took us to Cavtat.
Cavtat is an attractive town on a bay, filled with tourist accommodation, and all sorts of bars and restaurants along the shore. We found one which seemed reasonably priced and sat back to take in the serenity and ambience. This was shattered by the roar of a jet approaching the airport, the bay being on the exact flight path to the runway. After several planes we tended not to notice too much but certainly this noise does detract from an otherwise idyllic spot.
We picked up a few supplies from a local grocery store on the way out as we probably won't have time tomorrow morning before we set off to Split by ferry.
By the time we returned to the unit it was time to try to get everything back into our packs before we sat down to a well-deserved scotch.
Dinner tonight will again be at the nearby local cafe, Le Papillon, as we enjoyed it so much last night and certainly
don't feel like cooking.
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