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Published: August 27th 2013
Easy to imagine the intrigue in the city alleys.
Our first impression of Croatia after we left Montenegro was of more prosperity. It's all relative but a smooth, well-marked highway along the coast was a big contrast to what we had been bumping along In Albania and Montenegro.
But our first sight of Dubrovnik was, WOW!!!!!!!!! 10000 times wow. Our daughter Pip had said we needed to go there and now we see what she meant. If you've been there you may share our wonder or, you may just wonder what we're on about. We got dropped at the port and made farewells to our new chums in the van. Got a taxi to the Pile (Pee la) Gate of the old town and dragged our suitcases through the crowds into the eye popper. It's a movie set! Stone walls surround the town; stone buildings, narrow alleys, marble pathways, ancient buildings, crowds of people, shops going great guns in the old buildings, cafes, bars, restaurants, musical performances in the streets - all this in a setting that is in pristine condition after centuries of settlement. Forget the ruins of Greece or Rome, superb as they are, these are ancient and in top working order which is what makes it
Lyn having a peek.
all so special. And the setting, with the high stone cliff mountains to the east and the Adriatic Sea lapping at the feet of the town walls to the west - simply a symphony of scenery (note the alliteration).
Raymond and My from Sweden had flown in the night before so we enjoyed meeting up with them again for a few days. They were going to stay with us until Venice when Gavin and Heather will also leave for home.
Our apartments were very cute. The Old Town Ivory Apartments. They were in the heart of the town and upstairs above a restaurant in a narrow alley set out for many metres with dozens of tables and chairs from competing bars and eateries. The ambience was nothing more than simply a soirée of sensory salivation (note the......). Fortunately the eating and drinking crowds were not like Courtenay Place on a Friday night so we had no trouble sleeping while there. Shutters over the windows no doubt helped shield sound but we didn't see public drunkeness. The crowds were interesting in themselves as ages and budgets ranged from youthful backpacker types, through young and older families to tour parties,
From the western massif.
older buffers like us and all nations. Very well behaved given the crowds. The setting, we could see, had a lot to do with the behaviour. Why would you want to be a boofhead in such a beautiful place?
I could rave on about Dubrovnik for hours but suffice to say that we spent our time exploring the town. Walking the city walls a big highlight. Diving off the city seawall into the Adriatic a big one too for me. Swimming at the nearest city beach outside the walls with Lyn. Going up in the gondola with Raymond to the top of the massif to the east. But most of all it was simply walking the narrow alleys, gazing at the buildings, watching the people, choosing another great place to eat at and so on, that made it so special. Unfortunately for Heather she picked up a stomach bug so, in the most special place we had been in to this point, she spent a lot of it unwell and confined to the apartment.
Our last dinner in the town (only there for two nights) was noteable, not only for the food but also for Lyn flirting brazenly
Love those alleys.
with the charming Croatian waiter who, sensing a good tip, returned in kind. He had a pony tail so maybe that explained it.
After two nights, off to Split in a rental van. Raymond did the driving as he lives in Europe and is used to driving on the wrong side. He did a fine job and, most of the time, the back seaters kept quiet, so all good. Our road took us north up the Croatian coast. Croatia gets good press as THE destination to head for, partly because of the still relatively unspoilt nature of the coast. There are small resorts and beaches populated with touritas but I reckon go there before it becomes overrun with package deal holidays from all round Europe. It's getting a fair few of them already.
To put it mildly the scenery along the coast is absurdly picturesque. In the end we were suffering from scenery overload it was that good. We stopped a couple of times during the four hour drive. Our lunch stop was at a small place called Gradac where some of us had a swim while waiting for our food - the beach was literally two metres
Dubrovnik from the harbour entrance
Don't do the semi submersible ride!
from our table.
Finally we got to Split. But only after the GPS had sent us on the motorway to Zagreb, the capital city. A minor detour luckily because Zagreb is about 500 Kms north of Split. But as they say, "garbage in, garbage out" and that might have had something to do with the GPS glitch.
At first sight Split looks like many a city. The gritty port area, the high rise apartment blocks, the shopping areas but then you wander into the old town and in particular Diocletian's Palace and you see why daughter Pip again, rated this place as one to "must see". Trust ya Pip.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia but only about the size of Wellington. As a backdrop it has towering eruptions of massif-type rock overlooking it (I needed Diane Toole along for some of this stuff) and the Adriatic on the other flank. It's very dramatic. The piece de resistance though, is Diocletian's Palace. It's actually not a palace, as in being a distinct building. It's a collection of beautiful ancient buildings dating back to Roman times inside ancient walls but operating as a living city with the usual suspects vying for dollars. Reading about it doesn't do it justice. I had read about it but until I saw it, didn't appreciate its grandeur. I won't attempt to describe it. Go see it for yourself or look it up and read about it - then go and see it. A highlight for Lyn and I was rambling through the basements of the Palace. They've been archaeologically rescued from centuries of burial by rubbish and human occupation. Very atmospheric down in the bowels of the ancient city.
Only one day in Split unfortunately. It's a place we could easily go back to and explore more. that goes for Croatia in general. We had met up with an old school friend of Raymond's the one night we were there for dinner and it was good to chat with David and his partner Nadine now living and working in Amsterdam. They were going camping the next day in the wilds of Croatia but still had no tent. We also enjoyed swimming at a beach very close to the city. Summer in the Balkans is very settled and hot and perfect for those who like beaches and stuff.
What next? The morning after one night in Split we had a day then we were catching an overnight ferry from Split to Ancona in Italy. The ferry was to arrive at 0800 hours and then we were jumping on a fast train from Ancona to Venice. That was to happen overnight on the 26 and 27 of August.
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