Travel Diaries: Dubrovnik

Arrived as the sun was setting. And, skittering around the rollercoaster of edges and hills in the back of the taxi, we were painfully hungry. It was my first time in Dubrovnik and in our limited Croatian we grabbed some pizza and sat on the terrace that for the next 10 days would serve as our kitchen, living room and on the enormous stone table, our dining room, above a trellis that let the light fall through its colander of vines and orange tree branches in the mornings like a painting.

Most of our days were spent lounging and exploring, if we ventured out we had to be sure we got everything we wanted to do that day done because the trek back up the hillside to our digs was steep and hard and in the sun was steeper and harder. But we did it most days.

Dubrovnik is a strange place. They filmed a lot of Game of Thrones in the old town which brought the predictable amount of tat with it but still hidden away in corners were strange antique shops and the best ravioli I’d ever had. A mix of firs and palms, clear water and arid hilltops, a touristic old-town but off the main walkway, winding alleyways where people hung their washing between buildings still. Small docked fishing boats and obnoxious cruise-ships parked off the coast. It was almost like a town in the middle of a renovation that had changed its mind a few times before finishing and in it’s indecision its own charm had grown.

I had heard somewhere about a beach further along the coast that would be practically deserted compared to the pay-to-sit beach that was near us and we set off along the precarious road to see if we could find it. I’d heard once we find an old church in the middle of nowhere you’d find a ladder of steps behind it that would lead down. Eventually, we found the church in a clearing, tall and catholic.

Along the way we noticed odd 80’s looking pods dotted on the cliff sides and it wasn’t until we got down to the beach we realised they were lifts of long abandoned hotels that were supposed to ferry guests down to the sea. Our beach was at the base of what was once the Hotel Belvedere, a sprawling stacked palace with arches and columns before the Croatian War of Independence against Yugoslavia closed it and the others for good. Ending in ‘95 after destroying roughly 25% of Croatia’s economy but birthing its independence, the church made more sense now as the area was probably humming before the war.

Mid-afternoon, our English skin was tapping out and we headed back stopping off at the supermarket for bread and fruit. Most evenings we played cards and listened to music or read while the sun went down, we talked about projects we were working on and how Apple Cider vinegar was a cure-all, nonsense. On subsequent days we visited basketball courts in the old fortress towers and an island off the coast where fishermen lolled in the turquoise waters and we found a nudist beach and an effigy with a goats skull in the woods but that’s another story.