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.