Once I get into the swing of things while traveling alone, I find myself taking social liberties that I wouldn’t normally take. Nothing big, just asking strangers simple things like: “May I join your table so I don’t have to drink my coffee standing?” Little things like that. I find that people usually respond positively- after all, the worst that could happen is someone might politely decline. Last night in Dubrovnk, I was glad I had taken such a liberty. After a long day of sightseeing I was tempted to continue my 7pm nap until the next morning. However, I decided that I owed it to myself to at least have a glass of wine in the old town- it was a Friday night, for goodness sake! While I was waiting for the bus, I started chatting with two Swedish guys who were on vacation. They seemed nice enough, so when they asked what my plans were, I asked if they wanted to grab a drink. They agreed, and a bit later we were sitting in a spacious square packed full of bars. Considering its small size, Dubrovnik must have one of the highest performer per capita ratios- I guess I had forgotten what tourist centers are like, but I saw everything from a traditional flute playing musician to a totally stoned fire-eater from Skopje, Macedonia. In the square where we were- live jazz played from one corner while euro pop blasted from another.
Michael and Wey-Han were super polite, and after some brief introductory chat, we had some really engaging America-Sweden conversations about politics, school-systems, boy-girl relations, you name it, we covered it all. Michael asked me to comment on his observation that Americans often speak in extremes, like “That was the most AWESOME meal I’ve ever had!” or “it was the WORST restaurant EVER”I had to laugh because I think I’m definitely guilty of that. He said that Swedish responses are a bit more reserved, comments like “yeah it was fine” are more of a mainstay. In any case, it was great to just be able to cut bullshit of get-to-know-you chat and talk about things that mattered with two people I had just met. They invited me to check out a club, but I had a catamaran to catch the next morning so I politely declined.
Dubrovnik is beautiful…..if you can manage to fight your way through crowds of middle-aged Americans, Brits, Germans, and various other Europeans. Everything was overpriced and you needed to keep an eye on the change you got back…it was like being a tourist in Venice or Florence again. Perhaps the Croatians have taken a cue from their Venetian roots?
Aside from that, the streets are shiny and white- it’s clean and full of expensive restaurants. The main road through the old town leads to a delightful clock tower, which swallows are constantly swooping around. The narrow little streets seem to all lead to big beautiful baroque churches. Another attraction: the 3rd oldest pharmacy in Europe- this only made me think of the summer of 2008, when Natacha and I rented an apartment right next to the actual oldest pharmacy in Florence. Who cares about number 3!
I had spent the day sightseeing- starting first with a walk on the city ramparts- someone told me this is the 2nd longest walkable wall in the world, but I should check if that’s true. Anyways, it took quite a while to get around, but there was a great view of the old city and the nearby islands.
I finished around 1:30 and was soaking with sweat- I overheard someone’s phone convo- they said that the humidity level was 80%. I believed it. My plan was to walk around the old town to do some sightseeing, but it became clear that I was going to pass out if didn’t find some shade. My sight-seeing turned into scouring the old town for wireless internet, which eventually I found. I had to take like a 2 hour break and drink a cold beer before I could feel properly refreshed. What can you do! I then went to the beach for a bit- the water was so warm- like taking a nice salt bath. Fortunately the closest sand-rock beach is just 3 minutes outside of the center.
I walked back to my rental room, which was terribly far- they had lied to me because this “15 minute walk to center!” was at least 30 minutes, which in this heat, translated to something like 1 hour in hell. Although I had bargained her down from 25 to 20 euro since I had been promised internet, it still annoyed me to feel taken advantage of. I had a room to myself but no fan, and the 20 euro price made it by far the most expensive and least satisfying accommodating of my entire journey.
Next time I will do it differently. Final impression: best to be there during a cooler month and when not on a backpacker budget.