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The Pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik, Croatia


I've spent the last three days in what is, without a doubt, the most beautiful city I have ever been to. Dubrovnik is exquisite in every way: clear blue waters, historical architecture, Mediterranean weather and a friendly and relaxed culture. And somehow, it is multidimensional, changing with your mood and what you do - whether you view it from above or walk within the ancient city, or even lie on a beach and look back towards it. At different times of day and with different weathers, the light quality alters so dramatically that everything appears beautiful in a new way. But what struck me first of all, when I arrived was the smell. Most cities, certainly most cities you are new to, smell different to you. Split smelled of fish and smoke, for instance - it is usually a negative quality in a place, even if it is a characterful one. In Dubrovnik, the air smells of salt and pine pollen, and combined with the heat and the heavy but pleasant pressure, I couldn't help but feel like I was back in New England.

When I arrived at the port, the family who runs the hostel was there to pick me up. The son drove me through the city, and, as we approached the hostel, he apologised for the round-about route we were taking - the old access, he said, was destroyed in the war. And I suddenly realise that he's talking about a war that happened in my lifetime. Indeed, later in my stay he explains how the very room we are sitting in was the home for his whole family for three years as they sheltered from the bombs.

It being too late to fully explore, I took a walk along the coastal path as the sun was setting, and was at once struck by the natural beauty of the place and the serene quality of the evening light. Even without a city here, this would surely be once of the most beautiful places on earth.

The next day I joined up with another guest at the hostel, a Californian girl, and we went to the Old City together. My description of the city will no doubt be inadequate, so I direct you to the photographs. We started be walking along the tiny streets and walkways; there are some ruins there, but mostly the place has been rebuilt since it was partly destroyed a decade and a half ago in the war. The people who live here clearly take great pride in their city, as they decorate it with beautiful plants, with the odd guillotine and plenty of cats for interest (see photographs!). After lunch, we walked the circumference of the walls, and managed to get some interesting, if somewhat daredevil, photo shots - the concept of health and safety clearly hasn't reached Croatia, as there were no bars or warning signs in sight, and consequently it's probably not the sort of place you'd want to take young children or rebellious teenagers, but in reality you'd have to be pretty set on personal injury to do yourself much damage.

I spent the remainder of the day again exploring the coastal path near the hostel, and found a private beach which I had all to myself to get some reading done. On the second day, when I returned there again, I managed to slice my foot fairly spectacularly on a rock in an attempt at swimming, and for some time couldn't work out why the water had turned crimson. I never did get to swim as the water is still fairly icy, and so the pedal damage was for nothing.

On the Thursday morning, myself and two of the American hostel guests were taken by the owner of the hostel to the top of the mountain overlooking the city. Before I came, I had decided this is a journey I would walk: a fairly foolish idea given the extreme heat and the length of the journey. Luckily, therefore, we were driven, and only had to walk the last 50 feet or so! The views from the top are breathtaking (and I think I can use that word non-metaphorically for the first time): on one side, the red-tiled roofs of the city hundreds of feet below and the calm Adriatic stretching into the horizon; on the other, a harsh rocky and mountainous landscape, where you can see not only Croatia, but in the distance both Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. The hostel owner acted as our guide, explaining where the boundaries to Montenegro and Bosnia were and telling us stories about the war, in a brave attempt at English, interspersing his language with French and Italian words and phrases.

For my final full day here, two of us decided to visit Cavtat, a local fishing village and apparent favourite of visitors. The twenty minute bus ride offered stunning views over the cliffs to the sea, and when we got there we managed to find a tiny pier from where you could see the Dubrovnik city walls in the distance and the surrounding islands. The village itself was attractive, but nothing could compare to the city we had come from, and so after a couple of hours relaxing in the sun and some fish-viewing in the rock pools (during which I managed to overbalance and land in the water), we headed back.

I cannot possibly do justice to this city in this blog, and I am sure I will return here again and again. The only two things I could find lacking were good sandwich shops and sand, but I suppose if it had these, Dubrovnik would be infested by even more tourists than it already sees in the summer.

permalink written by  BenWH on April 7, 2009 from Dubrovnik, Croatia
from the travel blog: Gap Year Odyssey
tagged Croatia

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splended travel hub I will get to the Adriatic some time,
Ira


permalink written by  Ira Palova on April 11, 2009

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