Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik used to be known as the Republic of Ragusa and rivaled Venice in its influence along the sea. However, in the early 1800s it fell to Napolean and is now part of Croatia. Some people say it was the first country to acknowledge the US. Others say that it was really Morocco because Ragusa feared a backlash from England. I am not going to look it up.

My first look at Dubrovnik's city walls.

Dubrovnik treated me very well. I loved it and ended up staying two nights instead of one. I thought I might not like it because cafe culture was wearing thin on me. However, Dubrovnik had a ton of cafes and still worked for me. I am not sure what the difference was. There was essentially no cars. That helped. Also, someone suggested I liked the city so much because it is a used city and not just a tourist destination. I don't know how accurate that is, but I like it.

Dubrovnik's main street, called the Stradun, and Bell tower.

The view from the Spanish Steps.

I rolled into Dubrovnik just before sunset and was immediately taken in with how everything was lit up. However, some of that awe faded because I did not realize Dubrovnik was built on a hill. When I chose a hostel (since I couldn't camp), it was one that Lonely Planet had written up well. When I rode my way into the city and towards the hostel, I was pretty much the only bicycle around. When I got directions, I found out why. Steps. Lots of steps. The Fresh Sheets hostel was along the back wall of the city and I am guessing I had to carry my bike up a hundred steps to get there. The hostel was full. However, I told a story of woe about my sleeping bag and hauling my bike up the steps and they arranged it so I could sleep on the couch in the lobby after reception closed for the night. It meant I would be up longer than I like, but I would also get to stay for cheaper.

I love how they use all their space. This restaurant puts pillows on the steps for sitting.

Stradun at night.

The next morning I helped the one hostel employee set up for breakfast. She was sleeping on the other couch in the lobby and was over the top helpful. She was only in town for a couple weeks, but had been with the hostel during its opening year. She took me under her wing, gave me good stuff to do, and even guided me to a smoothie place where I had my first smoothie with maple syrup!! I have stopped putting extra sugar in my smoothies, but I might make an exception for maple syrup when I get home.

Looking up toward the final destination of the cable car.

Inner Harbor.

After exploring the city a little bit in the morning, I set out to get my sleeping bag. The Intersport store was closed which made my decision to stay an extra day really easy. Also, I was supposed to meet Davida under the clock tower. We said to meet at 9am, 10am, and 11am. Based on what I knew about his riding and what I knew about the ride, I did not think he was going to make it. I showed up for 9am and 11am, but he wasn't there. I was bummed, but wondered if it wasn't for the better because I had my crazy schedule to keep and don't like imposing that on others.

Fortress Lovrjenac, one of the two forts protecting Dubrovnik that are outside of the city walls.

Making a beach where there is none.

In Dubrovnik, I loved strolling the city streets. There was an inner harbor for the local boats. There were winding streets which I did my best to get lost in, but failed. There was the confusing Spanish Steps. In Rome, they were paid for by a Frenchman, but earned their name because they are connected to the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Embassy. In Dubrovnik, they have neither of those. I think the name is because the steps were modeled on the ones in Rome. Does Spain have any of these Spanish Steps?

A small family cemetery.

Dubrovnik from the cable car.

View from the Dubrovnik cable car.

There is a cable car to get a view above the city. There was also a path, but I couldn't find it. The cable car's best view was about one-fifth of the way up. There is no need to go to the very top where the cables block the best view. There is an unobstructed view from the top in a nearby building that is part of a museum. The trick is that you have to pay to get into that museum. As seems typical for these second tier museums in Europe, there isn't a clear ticket price posted or reception. It is often tucked just out of view so right when you are about to walk in and start enjoying, you hear, 'Ahem,' and turn to see someone wanting money. I don't like it.

Dubrovnik inner harbor from the city walls.

Another view of the harbor from the Dominican Monastery.

City walls tour (17mins?)

Some things I did like were the city walls and the fish dishes. As you walked past the cafes, you saw a ton of fish dishes being served up. The smell was everywhere. I think some people just had a giant plate of sardines (or some other small fish)! However, my favorite part of the city would have to be my city wall tour. They are 2km and surround the entire city. It takes between a half hour to as long as you can stroll to finish. You get great views into every part of the city. You get to see every attraction from a different angle and get a view into people's backyards. I was even able to score a free fig off a tree. It was amazing. As I understand it, they are the best maintained city walls from ancient times. They are a large part why Ragusa stayed independent for so long. Many tried to take it and it was only a one-month siege that made it fall.

I love that someone found a way to get a basketball court within the city walls.

The rooftops of Dubrovnik.

The upload speed in Dubrovnik, at the two places I tried, was painful. When the cruise ships sail into to town, the city is swarming. I loved my early morning strolls but the afternoons were a bit overwhelming. I was told that I was not experiencing anything. There was a maximum of two cruise ships when I was there. In the peak of summer, there can be five or six!! Eeek!

Stradun from the city walls.

Catching breakfast (for himself, maybe for the cats).

I had one of my biggest laughs when a good looking kid from Melbourne asked a hostel employee what there was to do around there because he had been there for four days, but had not seen a thing other than the clubs and hostel. Different strokes for different folks. European night life is an important part of the experience, but I just can't imagine paying so much money to go somewhere else to drink heavily and not remember things.

Inner harbor in the morning light.

The daily market.

On my final morning, I finally got a new sleeping bag. It isn't quite as warm, but is half the size of my old one and has labels about how much it weighs and what temperatures it is good for. My last one did not have it and I could never remember. Oddly enough, it is made by McKinley, named after the American peak, but sold by a Swiss company. I tried to get another smoothie, but they didn't have any to go cups left and I was in a hurry. Tear.

Orlando's Column.

A rarely deserted Stradun.

When I was getting ready to leave the hostel, I had a stroke of good luck. The one hostel employee remembered that someone had left behind a sleeping pad and told them to give it away. I have not used a sleeping pad since a friend borrowed it and didn't return it four years ago, but I figured I could give it another shot for free. Combined with my new sleeping bag, it was about the same size as my old sleeping bag, but still lighter.

Me on the Spanish Steps.

Perhaps someone couldn't spell it right and got sick of letting the wookie win.

After I got my gear together, I wanted to make one quick phone call before hitting the road. Then, I waited for the one hostel employee to join me on the walk out. There were a couple other things that slowed me up, which was really important, because as I ascended the road south and out of Dubrovnik, Davida a road above Dubrovnik. He saw someone that looked like me, but some of the colors were off because of the new sleeping bag and pad. When I stopped to take a picture, he caught up. I can't believe we met up again. We celebrated, and set off biking to Montenegro.

A cyprus tree cone.

An extinct volcano in southern Croatia/northern Montenegro.

Croatian tidibts before I go:
  • Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia.
  • A Croat invented the mechanical pencil and fountain pen in 1906.
  • The White House in Washington, DC uses stone from the island of Brac.

Walk to my hostel, part one

Walk to my hostel, part two

1 comment:

  1. this was the most picturesque post of all the places you've visited!!! my goodness, i'm drooling at all the beautiful stones and structures...and adding it to my "bucket list destinations."

    hooray for the new sleeping bag and pad!