29 August 2008

Delightful Dubrovnik

Our arrival at the port in Dubrovnik was late afternoon after a wonderful passage up the coast in and out of the many islands along the way.

I had a booking at a guest house. It's not often that I succumb to modern travel habits of pre-booking accommodation, but I feared a tight market based on travel reports of tourism in Dubrovnik. I needed have worried, as I saw lots of random signs being held up around the part listing lodging in 4 languages as I disembarked. However, I couldn't have done better than what I had.

Initially there was a transport glitch. I had received an email from the guest house saying they would meet me, but I didn't see any signs of them. A quick phone call in the maritime office produced a young man on a motorbike to carry me off to Lapad Begovic Boardinghouse. He was sceptical of my ability to ride on the back carrying my rucksack, but I assured him I was an experienced hand at akward travel.

The location at Lapad couldn't have been better. Perched up on the side of the hill overlooking a small bay, with the cobblestone streets and stairs leading up to it, while at the foot of the hill is a major transit point for city buses and the start of a pedestrian promanade leading out along the cove.

The house had a self-service kitchen, a barbeque, patio dining area and wonderful coastal views. It made a good base from which to explore the area or a relaxing venue to kick back and enjoy.

Often referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik is indeed a little gem. Grad Dubrovnik, as the ancient city is called, is newly repaired after the Serbian-Montenegren attack during the siege of Dubrovnic in 1991-92 after the break-up of Yugoslavia. Founded in the 7th Century under protection of the Byzantine Empire, truly it is a stunning monument to Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches.

Situated high on a promentory overlooking the sea it was a natural fortress against invasion and so it is no mystery that the most striking feature are the city walls that run for 2 km with a system of turrets and towers that provide protection.

I went early in the morning before the crowds and the heat kicked in, and walked Dubrovnik's "wall." Another few hours spent exploring the medieval cobblestone streets and buildings, and I drifted off just as the tour buses began to pull up.

Since the overnight bus to Skopje only travels on alternate days, I opted to stay over in Dubrovnik. A direct bus was infinately more suited to my tight schedule at this point over the option of multiple local transport between the intervening countries.

With the gift of an extra day, I took advantage and explored the Elaphite Islands on a local one-day cruise. Three stops throughout the day at the largest islands wandering around ruins of former patricians summer residences on the islands wooded slopes. Midday the Captain and his crew prepare a splendid grilled fish lunch washed down with Croatian wine and the local firewater drink, Raikia. Fabulous finish to a lovely few days.

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