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Published: January 1st 2012
City Walls, Dubrovnik
Looking across the Old Town to the Dalmatian coast.
The Dalmatian coast of Croatia is fast gaining a reputation as the new playground for the rich and famous. But the thing is you have to get there first! In my case the journey entailed catching a midnight bus from Zagreb in freezing temperatures, only to pull an all nighter on the aforementioned bus before a weary group of passengers arrived in Dubrovnik the next morning. The odd midnight bus ride is an unavoidable part of life on the road, and just goes to show this travel caper is not all supermodels and speedboats!
Let's rewind just a fraction, dear reader, to bring you up to speed on the journal. The Balkans adventure left off in Ljubljana, from where I caught a morning train to the Croatian capital of Zagreb. It was a scenic and enjoyable two hour journey, where I quickly became engaged in an animated conversation with a gregarious Philippino who lives in Denmark. We swapped travel yarns in the easy banter seasoned travellers inevitably fall into. From the train station I got lost trying to walk to my hostel, and couldn't find the streets on the map I needed to get my bearings. A taxi for a
Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik
The City Walls tower above the rocks on the coast.
few euros proved to be the only solution, as I find once you're turned around in a new city there's not much chance of a happy ending. The Funk hostel staff were welcoming and friendly, and I settled into a dorm room to myself for the first day in town.
Two days exploring Zagreb have been enjoyable, and the city centre is picturesque. I stumbled across a top quality restaurant with delicious main courses for under ten dollars, and this became my regular haunt while in town. Three french people checked into the dorm for the second night and it was good to have some company, but it was a brief introduction as my bags were packed ready for a taxi that evening to connect with the overnight bus to Dubrovnik. The Croats have built a freeway linking Zagreb with Split on the Dalmatian coast, and we motored along the first 400 kilometres of the journey at a decent clip. It's only the final 200 kilometres from Split to Dubrovnik where the road still hugs the coast, and when the sun rose that morning that leg of the journey featured spectacular scenery on steep and winding roads. The freeway
will eventually link Zagreb direct with Dubrovnik, but I'm glad our journey was along the beautiful Dalmatian coast from Split before arriving in Dubrovnik.
I'm excited to be here in the lead up to New Year's Eve, and Dubrovnik is a destination I've always dreamed about. The temperature hit a balmy eight degrees on arrival, and I jumped on a local bus from the terminal up the hill to Pile gate, the main entrance to the Old Town. Hostel Marker is superbly situated only a minute's walk from the main gate. My man Marko runs a thriving business at the hostel in summer, where up to 135 beds are available in various houses. During the peak season he employs six staff and says he is run off his feet. Winter, however, is an entirely different story and just now I'm the only guest in the house, with himself upstairs. He has a Japanese family in an apartment close by, but that's the extent of it for tourists at the moment. It feels like living in a fishing village, with row boats, nets and fishermen all around. I love it in Dubrovnik, and I've been strolling around in a relaxed
fashion for the last four days.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik must rank as one of the top tourist attractions in the world. It's a sublime sight, and the walk along the city walls to circumnavigate the Old Town is absolutely magic. The walls tower above the city in some spots, and the views of the Dalmatian coast have to be seen to be believed. Some of the sections along the walls are quite precarious, and it's with a touch of vertigo that you look down on the Adriatic sea below. The roof tiles within the Old Town are the same colour, as are the colours of the buildings. This creates a scenic effect for this beautiful fortified city on the Adriatic sea, and paying a visit is an experience I'll always treasure. The cable car ride to the top of the mountain is superb, with views on a par with those seen from the summit of Sugar Loaf mountain or Cable mountain. The Old Town surrounded by it's impressive walls look fantastic from above, and the views along the Dalmatian coast on a clear day are breathtaking.
It's alarming to note Dubrovnik came under heavy bombardment during
City Walls, Dubrovnik
With the Croatian flag flying strongly.
the Homeland War for an entire year. The town was under siege during this frightening time for the local residents, but since the conclusion of the war in 1995 the buildings have been restored to their former glory. The tourists are once again flooding into the Old Town as they've done for several centuries. Thank goodness for peace in the Balkans, as Dubrovnik is amongst the most spectacular tourist destinations I've visited anywhere in the world. The Old Town has been relatively quiet these past few days, but all of a sudden come New Years Eve the place is kicking harder than a sensei. Marko tells me up to 20,000 people flood in from surrounding regions to see in the new year, and I guess I'm one of them for this year anyway.
I wish you all the very best for the new year including great big dollops of peace and love, as it's about time this reveller gets out to Placa square. The new year's festivities featuring live bands are getting into full swing in the square, with the locals preparing for the countdown to usher in 2012. So as we ring in the new year you have
to say of Dubrovnik, basically all of you should be here now!
A cynical, mercenary, demagogic, corrupt press will produce in time a people as base as itself." Joseph Pulitzer
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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