Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Discovering Dazzling Dubrovnik in Croatia

Saturday, October 1, 2016:

Dubrovnik, Croatia 

            We spent the entire day discovering Dubrovnik.  And what a city it was! And what a fine discovery it turned out to be! Having fallen in love with Split, we thought it would be impossible to find anything quite as enchanting. But Dubrovnik far exceeded Split in terms of charm-value.

Going in Search of Breakfast:

            We found breakfast pastries (apricot croissants, hazelnut twists) in a small bakery where we also found coffee and a very surly assistant serving us. We beat a hasty retreat, sat by the wonderful round fountain of Ornofrio right at the main entrance to Old Town called Pile Gate and ate our breakfast. When we were done, we were ready to launch upon our sightseeing for the day which began with our climb up the City Walls.

 Exploring Dubrovnik’s City Walls:

     The biggest (and most expensive) attraction in Dubrovnik is a walk around the City Walls—these are located right at the very entrance. For the equivalent of about $25 (paid only in kuna), you get a ticket and with it, you are allowed to enter the main door that leads to about four floors worth of steps. These are steep and narrow but they take you up to the very top from where you get unbelievable views—of the New City lying beyond Pile Gate, of the uniformly red roofs of the Old City, of the shimmering Adriatic with its multitude of watercraft.

            Encircling the City Walls takes about two hours—although much depends on how often you stop to take sweeping views of the landscape, how many pictures for which you pose, whether or not you stop for a cup of tea or a cooling juice drink (for there are small cafes dotted along the walls). It is a really unique experience and one I have not had anywhere else in the world. You are on the ramparts, basically, of a really huge castle—a castle that was built in Medieval times but in which life still carries on—for the place is a living entity of contemporary Croatian life. There are architectural elements, for instance, that you can only appreciate from a height. Occasionally you find yourself peering into people’s homes, taking in their terrace gardens and viewing their laundry that hangs out to dry. You see the domes and spires of grand Baroque churches (that you will visit once you get down into Old Town again). You see the bays and coves that are part of this visually stunning part of the world. Everywhere you turn, there is a picture postcard waiting to be photographed. It is simply visual overload and you will love every second of it.

            As expected, we took a little over two hours during which we had the time of our lives. I mean what was not to love? There was the weather that was just perfect. With zero humidity, we climbed up and down a series of staircases but we were never tired. There was the tourist energy of other people who passed by us, went before us or lagged behind us. We laughed and chatted with them as if they were close friends. When eventually we did have our fill of the sights and took enough pictures to exhaust the battery on our camera, we descended the stairs and came back to the center of Old Town again.

 Taking Three Self-Guided Walks:

           After we had refreshed ourselves with a long drink of water and a snack of gelato, we set out again for the next item on our agenda. The Tourist Information Center which is located right at the entrance to the Old City at Pile Gate distributes a rather nice map with three walking tours very clearly traced out in colored dotted lines. We decided to do all three of them with a stop in-between for lunch.

Free Samples and Nibbles in St. Blaise’s Church Square:

            It was when we were on our walk that we came across the Square of St. Blaise Church that was simply filled with tables laid out with goodies and manned by Croatian folk many of whom were in their traditional folk costumes. As we moved from stall to stall, we were inundated with requests to sample the goodies and indeed we did not disappoint the good salespeople. We tasted candied almonds, candied orange rind and loads and loads of jams and preserves. At one of the stalls, we were plied with samples of homemade brandies and liqueurs that were simply amazing. At another stall, we had savory nibbles—crackers and biscuits.

            When we’d had more than we could manage, we continued with our walk. All the while, we took in the breathtaking interiors of churches, the architectural wonders of palaces, wharfs and quay sides where we were plied with requests to buy tickets for boat rides and excursions to the neighboring islands. We visited the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius, we entered an ancient apothecary or pharmacy that has been in regular business since the 1300s, we saw cloisters attached to various abbeys and missions--for Croatia is staunchly Catholic. It does not seem to have gone through a Reformation and faith is firm. At about 4.00 pm, feeling very tired, we decided to return to our lovely comfy room to take a rest and a nap. This idea was great as it did both of us a world of good.

 Dinner at Taj Mahal Bosnian Restaurant:

About an hour or two later, when twilight was descending upon the city, we decided to go out for dinner and it was in a Bosnian Hotel called (of all things!) Taj Mahal Bosnian Cuisine that we experimented with a bit of local cuisine. Since I had not eaten the famous kebabs of the region called cevapi, I ordered those. They were served with pita bread (much softer and fluffier than American pita) with a dollop of sour cream and with diced fresh onions. Chriselle ordered the Brocolli soup that was simple divine and a large mixed salad which came with cured beef slices (similar to Proscuitto) which she (being a vegetarian) did not eat but passed on to me. The food was very tasty indeed and we could see why it is one of the most popular restaurants in Dubrovnik.

            Right after dinner, we decided to go for another short walk as the lighting brings a magical glow to the city by night—and we could not get enough of it. But by 10.00 pm, we were home and getting ourselves organized for our departure for Montenegro.

            Until tomorrow, cheerio…

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