5 days in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is probably the most visited city in Croatia, and it is packed with the crowds to show it. We had scheduled this visit in to coincide with the holiday trip of friends from Chicago. Our schedule being slightly more fluid we adjusted around their plans and they booked a large AirBnB apartment for the four of us to spend the week in. The place was just up the street, maybe 1km, from the old town, and since it included parking it was just what we needed.
We pulled into town earlier then had been communicated to the host, so she was still cleaning the apartment when we arrived, but we used that time to head out and get some shopping done. As we would have a full kitchen we planned on being able to cook a few dinners and have breakfasts in the apartment. Just because we were meeting up with friends the plan was still to try and adhere to the strict travel budget that we had put ourselves on. By the time we returned from getting groceries the apartment was ready and our friends had arrived from the airport and were getting settled in.
Dubrovnik has a lot to offer, it is a UNESCO city (since '79), and the old town is stunningly amazing to just get lost wandering around the slick stone streets. Tina had done her bit of planning and had a good idea about what she wanted to see and Sharon had also done extensive reading up on the city and had a great list of places to see and things to do.
First things first, we settled in and then headed down to get our first views of the old city.
The first night we wandered down into the walled city, marveled at the old city and eventually found ourselves a tiny restaurant down a side street where we enjoyed a nice bottle of white and an amazing fish dinner.
Day two was more of the same, touring the old town, but this time we started with a free walking tour. These tours refresh the information you've read about, give you some new facts that aren't in the standard guide books (we learnt about Dubrovnik's first orphanage), and just help you to put history to the places where it happened. There were maybe 8 of us on the tour, but with the crowds in the city it was a sometimes cramped tour and at times we had issues hearing our guide over the masses of people wandering around.
Apparently a lot of the Game of Thrones is filmed in Croatia, mostly in Dubrovnik, and tours now seem to be centered around the show. You'll know that it is filmed there by the fact that every single souvenir shop mentions the show. We won't talk about that element of the city, we've never watched the show, Elaine and Sharon are somewhere mid-season one, and luckily the others on our tour weren't too interested in that aspect of the city.
Heading down past the bell tower we get the story about the two statues "The Greens" that work to ring the bell at the top of every hour. The bell chimes for the count of the hour, and then ten minutes later it counts them off again in case you were too busy working and didn't get to count the number of gongs the first time around.
There is a local market that runs until around noon or a little later, depending on how their daily sales went, we stopped there one day to purchase some veggies to make into a salad. It is nice to see that there still are enough locals living in the core of the city for a market to continue to exist. The main city still has about 3,000 residents, but has changed to be mostly AirBnB rentals and other hotels. I'm not sure the exact number, but I want to say that our tour guide said it was something like 10,000 tourists that stay in the city.
Another fun fact that we were told, and very quickly learned ourselves, is that the old city is built right into the hills, and walking to the different gates in the city requires walking up hundreds of steps. I think the statement Sharon later quoted to us was "it's at least 200 steps anywhere you go in Dubrovnik."
Later that afternoon we took the cable car up to Mount Srd to get some of the amazing panoramic views of the city. The ride up is quick and with some great views, and it sure beats the option of walking up - which can be done. You can also drive up, but I'm going to say that the cable car is the way to go.
What's nice about the top of the mountain overlooking the city? There is a restaurant up there and you can stop and have a drink as you take in the view, relax in the slightly cooler weather, and enjoy a welcoming breeze.
Day three and it was time for us to take a trip out of Croatia and into Bosnia. We headed to Mostar, one of the biggest day trips out of Dubrovnik. The other trips are to Kotor, Montenegro, or to some of the islands, but with us having a car it was easy to do a tour trip over to Mostar.
We took the longer route out of the city, we looped south so that we could get some great views from the highway. It sounded like a good plan, we drove south, stopped to take the photos of the city and then headed east to the border. To a one hour wait at the border, a wait that is on a small winding road on a steep incline, inching forward one car length at a time. Not the best time to be in a small car that isn't comfortable when full with four people, but also not sitting with a manual transmission on that hillside. The time it took us to get through the border would hurt us later in the day. If you're driving and doing the Mostar day trip, take the main roads and get through the border quickly.
Mostar is a great little city, just also be sure to check when you are visiting it. It's known for its bridge, the one that was destroyed during the wars in the 90's, and has since been rebuilt using all original materials and construction methods.
So, Mostar and its bridge, it's known for the divers that will jump into the river below when they are properly tipped. Turns out the weekend we were there it was a Red Bull diving spectacular weekend. We walked up the to the main city only to find the bridge closed off to tourists and the area crowded with television cameras and reporters.
So we stopped for a meal, their Cevapi is amazing, and tried to plan a visit that doesn't include crossing the iconic bridge that everyone takes photos of and from.
Turns out we were there a day early and this was only the preliminary elimination round of dives, by the time we were done with lunch they were done and packing up. We got a few photos from the riverside and when we walked up we could head over the bridge and see the narrow stream that they were jumping into.
Then, as we listed out the places we wanted to visit - the Turkish baths, the Turkish house, the museums that the city has - the skies clouded up and we could see heavy rains coming over the mountains.
Seeing the rains coming in, and watching all of the street vendors quickly hurry to pack up all the magnets and other knickknack crap they have out, we realized that we needed to head out ourselves.
On to the next stop, the Kravice waterfalls, and in driving there we managed to drive out of the rainstorm that was bearing down on Mostar. We hadn't brought our swimsuits so we just strolled through the park and enjoyed viewing the falls.
From the falls we headed back into the city to wander the old streets some more as we enjoyed another meal at one of the local restaurants.
Day four, and once again we are walking through the old city and enjoying the sites.
We walked through the city and then booked the ferry over to Lokrum island. A small island just off of Dubrovnik, it was easy for us to head over and spend the day. We enjoyed it, it's got some old buildings, a great little pool that people can jump into (I did strip down to my boxers and jump in), and a nude beach. We enjoyed a few hours on the island, but sadly when we look back none of our photos are that great.
Back to the mainland, we took more photos again, and this is when we decided to take the wall tour. It cost to walk the city walls, when you look during the day the walls are packed with tourists - we presume they are all off of cruise ships - but in the evening the crowds thin out somewhat.
Day five was perfect, we felt we had seen enough of the published sights and we just enjoyed wandering around the city as non-tourist tourists. One of the things that we had to make sure to see was the Buza bar, the bar that is just outside of the city walls. We could see it was we walked the walls, and on this last day we all headed down and through the wall to sit on the cliffs and enjoy a drink at this bar...
It was great to see and catch up with our friends, they stayed another day and we headed south to Montenegro...