Thursday, April 12, 2012

Travel Thursdays: The Rest of the Story about My Trip to Croatia

Remember that time I went to Croatia? No? Because it was so long ago and I never finished writing about it even though I said I would? Well here I am with a big oops, sorry..., and the rest of the story of what that trip seven months ago (oh my god was it really seven months ago?!) was like.

After our day of what I will call hand-holding scuba diving, we woke up entirely too early for the vacation time I was on to take what we were told would be a 4-hour bus ride along the Adriatic Coast to Dubrovnik. I've learned to take the estimated time of buses with a grain of salt, especially when traveling in places like Eastern Europe or Central America, so was luckily neither surprised nor bummed when it took more like 5 1/2 hours. But the whole ride was literally right along the coast, on a windy mountain road with nothing more than a steep drop-off to the bluest ocean I've ever seen on our right, and mountains dotted by the occasional wee town on our left. It was stunning. I wasn't even freaked out by the height factor I was so mesmerized by the beautiful view (although, believe it or not, I seemed to have not taken any pictures of it. How very un-me).

The highlight of that ride, if you will, was our border crossing and 30-minute ride through Bosnia--which evidently cuts through Croatia and extends for a small span to the sea, who knew? Kathleen had been, let's just say, a bit nervous about this border crossing. Primarily because she had more than one beer at her parents' house one night after we'd booked the trip, told them we were "going through Bosnia," and proceeded to get regaled with exclamations such as, "What?! You are not, it's not safe!", "You can't take a bus through there! You'll have to fly!", "No, you're not going! That's Eastern Europe!". In the end, we went, of course, and the border crossing consisted of an armed officer boarding our bus and checking our passports, and a 15-minute pit stop at a grocery store, where we most definitely bought magnets from Bosnia for her parents.

A few hours later, we made it to Dubrovnik. Our destination, and our adorable B&B we had booked, was within the old walled city, which has a lot of stairs, no cars, and is the most expensive place in Croatia (always a nice way to end the trip, don't you think?). But it's gorgeous.

Arguably the most amazing thing to do is climb the old city walls and circle the entire city from above. We, of course, because I always do things like this when I travel, started out going the wrong way along the walls (perhaps counter-clockwise is counter-intuitive, but to us it made sense to go left toward the mountain and end along the water. Not to you? No?) and therefore got stopped halfway along by a guard who told us we were going the wrong way. (The path narrows significantly at points, making more than one single file line of traffic next to impossible, which is why there is a "right way" and a "wrong way.") Since we had already paid the exorbitant entry fee, we asked if we could just please continue. His answer: For such pretty ladies, yes, of course. Big smile. (At the next guard we came across, we were not so lucky, however--he just growled at us from afar, so we had to hightail it across the city to the entrance once again, tell them, to their laughter, we went the wrong way and could we just finish the rest of the wall, (we could), and make the walk along the ocean going the right way.) Despite our mishap, the experience was almost magical--I mean, when do you ever get to see an entire city from above, with an entire ocean just beyond it?--if mildly terrifying when the path ran right along the ocean. Hello again, vertigo.

At the end of the wall (well, the end for us; the beginning for most) is Buza, a bar carved into the wall and rocks and perched over the water, that I had heard about but not expected to see. But lo and behold there it was, and amazing it was, so naturally we had to go there next (and also the following night. It was a one of a kind experience, after all).

The next day we decided to get our last bit of sun for a while at a beach just walking distance from the old city; ride the cable car up the mountain just north of the walled city because, you know, we didn't get enough spectacular high views the day before, we had to get some from higher; have a drink at the top, but of course (and this time we decided to be very New York and have martinis); and then do the obligatory souvenir shopping and street wandering that one must in any European city.

  Come on, could you resist?

The next day was our last and we were heading to one more island, Mljet, "the most seductive," according to my guidebook,whatever that means. I was sold on it when reading not that (well, maybe that), but also that it was, according to legend, the island where Odysseus was captivated for 7 years. This was our nature day, so to speak, because Mljet is a National Park and the main attractions are the forest, two lakes, and a Benedictine monastery in the middle of one of them. It was also our boat day, as we had to get to the island by ferry--a ferry that seemed to have been booked by an entire elementary school on a field trip, I might add--and the monastery by another, much smaller, ferry. You can bike through the forest to the lakes, take a tourist shuttle that is supposed to come every 15 minutes (key words are supposed to), or hike, as Kathleen and I opted to when we were 2 of the last 6 people waiting for a the last tourist shuttle that appeared to have forgotten about us. We were very appropriately dressed for a hike, after all.

So we swam in the lake, toured (and had a beer at!) the monastery, reminisced about our trip that seemed, now, to have gone by too fast, and caught the school children-overtaken ferry back to Dubrovnik, for a last drink on the water, a traditional dinner of Croatian meats and macaroni, and a goodbye the next morning to Croatia. 

All photos by Natalie.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning photos! I'm a bit concerned about the houses on top of the cliffs though. Hope they're all earthquake-resistant.