Croatia -- The Last Stop
Since my return flight is from Split, I opt to take the local bus from Dubrovnik north along the coastal route -- a 4.5 hour trip that is both scenic, and a learning experience. Not only do I discover places like the "Makarska Riviera" which is gorgeous, but I also spend time in Bosnia. Seriously, I'd forgotten that Bosnia has a few kilometers of coastline that require a passport check It's a scenic ride and my ultimate destination is just north of Split to the islands of Trogir and Ciovo.
When I arrive at Hostel Marina Trogir, Rosa (a WorkAway volunteer from Germany!) is there to greet me, and I enjoy pasta and wine with a very friendly German family who are setting sail in the morning. Breakfast is social with Ollie & Angela, the owners (also German), a quiet gent from Slovenia, and a gal from Russia. When I return that day from a long walk and a quick swim in the sea, I'm the only guest for two nights, but I'm okay having my own apartment at the marina! I cross the bridge from Ciovo to Trogir and play tourist, eat fig gelato, shop for good food, discover fig brandy, and sleep well. Yes, I'm getting fig crazy. With a bit of a hangover the next morning, it's easy to spend a few hours on the backside of Ciovo lounging by the sea with a book, taking a short nap, and enjoying a swim. I've perfected my practice of "fjaca" just as I'm preparing to leave Croatia!
With the exception of a day trip north to Krka National Park, I'm moving slowly and enjoying my final few days here on the food I'll miss, the relaxing atmosphere by the sea, a little bit of tourism, and in the final 48 hours, much conversation. Two days before my departure, Romain arrives from France for a little R&R, and while we are an unlikely pair (in age, marital status, and who knows what), we hit it off and spend hours in conversation over coffee and wine. It's wonderful quality time (but we never take a photo!) and hopefully, we will meet again in the USA? in Europe?
My last morning, I roll my luggage from the marina to the local bus station at 8 am and take the $2 local to the Split airport. As I step off, the driver smiles and wishes me safe travels. I guess it's time to go home.
My Dubrovnik Experience
The ferry ride to Dubrovnik is my longest to date - a two-hour trip - and every seat is taken. This should have been a sign that I was heading to a busy spot, but I was still lulled by my weeks in the islands. Upon arrival, this city of just 43,000 residents feels a bit overwhelming. From the port, I do the 30-minute uphill walk toward my Airbnb, but stop two Croatians and an American on the way to ensure I'm heading in the right direction. It's hot, and I'm dying to rid myself of luggage.
My first impression of the apartment is "generic cinder block" but there's a view of the sea just across the street, and a wonderful little pekara right next door. God, I'm getting spoiled! Then, much to my surprise, I'm greeted by Ina (Katerina), my 86 year old host who gives me the tour and an icy sweet tea. It's all a welcomed surprise.
I'm in Dubrovnik for just 4 nights so it's chop-chop and off to Old Town to check out the scene. I'm happy to be here in early October when it's late season, as 4+ million tourists visit Dubrovnik annually. After being on the islands, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the number of people, the hubbub, and the push at the Info Center to buy the 250 kuna Dubrovnik Card so I can do what all the other sheep do! I choose to ignore it all until tomorrow, grab a giant slice of pizza, and go watch the sunset by the sea!
My first full day starts off right with a Turkish coffee & biscuits on the veranda with a view, and an hour-long conversation with Ina. This becomes our morning ritual, and the most coveted time of my days here.
Since I spent last evening doing my homework, it's time to begin hiking to the top of Mount Srd, a low mountain just behind the walled city. At the top is a fort built by the French in 1810, and a white cross of Brac stone erected in 1935 as a celebration of 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus. Of course, you can take a cable car up as the view is a tourist attraction, so I'm stunned at the number of people in pose mode when I arrive. Yet, I don't care, because the hike up is scenic, and the view of the walled city and the islands is stunning.
With gelato in hand, I return to Old Town and buy the Museum Pass to 9 marvelous museums, galleries, and studios for less than $20 US. My two full days of Old Town tourism are filled, starting with the House of Marin Drzic, one of the greatest Croatian writers (c. 16th century), and an all around interesting character. From here, it's museums and galleries until my brain is on overload, and by the end of Day 2, I'm sitting in St. Blaise Church simply enjoying the quiet. Sunset by the sea with a salad and a burek feels just right.
The last day begins with a special two hours with Ina, Turkish coffee, fig palacinka, and photos. There is no better way to learn about a place than listening to the life stories of an 86 year old woman who has lived here her entire life; in fact, 64 years in this same apartment I'm now sharing. How lucky am I?
With that start, I opt to see the other side of Dubrovnik, and walk for a few hours to Lapad, a lively local area, and Babin Kuk, a secluded neighborhood with a view to the open sea. I picnic, and my mind is wandering to the morning as I'll be heading to my final destination in Croatia.
It's a sincere 'thank you' and a fond farewell to Ina, with a promise to return for her 90th birthday celebration.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover