Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dazzling Dubrovnik

             “The world is a book and he who doesn’t travel only reads one page.” 
                                                                                                              St. Augustine 

A few hours ferry ride, crowded but uneventful, brought us to Dubrovnik.  Wanting to book our return to Split while at the port area, we discovered we’d not be able to travel by ferry again.  Looking into a car rental, we learned that it’s a bit complicated as you must go through a customs/passport check on the road from Dubrovnik to Split, and the wait can be long (memories of the US/Canadian border after 9-11 sprang to mind.)  Simplest?  Taking a bus.  Katie quickly wrapped her mind around it.  I was used to buses after so many of those rides between Boston and NYC.  A long, or so it seemed in the heat, walk to the bus station and we easily bought our tickets for Friday. The cost: $38 for the two of us + $3 for our bags.  (It was very interesting how many entities only take cash in Croatia.  Thankfully, my account with Capital One has no foreign ATM transaction fees.)

View from our kitchen
View from our bedroom
After a cab ride from the port area to the “Old Town” of we found our host, Nikola, who graciously showed us to our home away from home in Dubrovnik.  It was a charming attic apartment, literally on the famous Wall, where I immediately had “dreams” of retreating to write that book I keep putting off.  Of course being hungry, we ventured down the steps close to our home to Nikola’s Friends’ restaurant, Konoba Storia.  Here we finally shared some black ink pasta with mussels that Katie had been looking for (a lot of black ink risotto, but not as much pasta) and a Greek salad.  ($37 with alcohol)  Perfect for a very hot day.  Then we meandered slowly. 

(And, unbelievably, came upon our 2nd major medical emergency of the trip.  I believe I have mentioned that since becoming a CPR/First Aid Instructor, these emergencies seem to pop up for me.  So, too, for Katie.  So, between the two of us…This one we had to take an active participation in.   A middle aged Lady heading into heat stroke.  I followed Katie’s amazing lead, and with the help of the Woman’s teenage Daughter, I pray she is fine.  The EMT’s seemed to take forever, but we left the Lady in good hands, and watched as they implemented IV fluids, which was exactly what Katie had said was needed.  The emergency number is 112 in Croatia and much of Europe.)

Cathedral at night
After that excitement, Katie went home to chill.  I headed into the Cathedral.  By most European standards it was small, but charming.  I had hoped to see the Titian that is housed there.  Instead, I simply sat, and yes, said a prayer of thanksgiving.  So grateful, for so much.  Funny, usually in Europe, I spend much time in museums, and Cathedrals and Churches as so much art is housed in those magnificent buildings. This trip, not at all.  More about the outdoors, eating, drinking wine!, and “being” with Katie.  Perfect.

Cliffs of Buza Bar
Having read much about Buza Bar, I wanted to check it out for sunset.  There are two, Big & Little, and they are set on the cliffs just outside the walls of Dubrovnik.  (Very close to our apartment!)  It was as promised.  A gorgeous setting and fun watching the “young ones” cliff jumping into the gorgeous Adriatic.  (Katie was ,oh, so tempted.).  After a couple of hours, we were, you guessed it, hungry.  So off we went.  And, literally fell upon our host Nikolas’ restaurant Konoba Jezuite.  We were greeted with big hugs, and treated like great friends of the house.  We started with mussels, and finally had the ćevapčići, the traditional sausage of the Dalmatian region, squid ink risotto with kettlefish and octopus, of course with lovely local wine.  Dessert was Nikola’s homemade cherry liqueur. ($51 with tip.  We received the very generous 20% friends and family discount.) 
Konoba Jezuite
Tuesday was hot, again.  So donning our bathing suits, we had a simple salad next door and jumped on the ferry for the quick ride to Lokrum, site of an old Benedictine Abbey and much filming for “Game of Thrones” (actually filming is done all over Dalmatia.).  Here we spent the day resting on the cliffs and playing in the Adriatic.  Meandering among peacocks, we had a lovely late afternoon snack of cheese, meats, wine for me, and Katie enjoyed her appertif of Aperol spritz.   Heading home we stopped into a cute little place, Pizzeria Mirakul for an amazing mushroom-truffle pizza.  And called it a great day.  Before and after our Lokrum excursion we browsed the markets of the town buying some lovely treasures.

Ferry ride home from the Elaphite Islands
Wednesday had us up and out taking a cab to the Port of Gruz (main port area), where we boarded a ferry to Lopud to explore the Elaphite Islands including Ruda and Sipan in sea kayaks with Adria Adventures.   ($150 including tip for the 2 of us.)  Benko met us at the ferry, a great young guy, who loved to talk politics (so many young Croatians seem to, and love to share their history), and really wants to come to NYC to meet “girls”.  (I have heard from him already, as he sent a picture of Katie and I that he took).  As the rest of our group met us, Katie was pleased to have a different cultural group.  It was quickly established that Katie was a “pro” and took off.  After explaining to Benko that she would probably be “taking off” all day he was delighted to let her take the lead as the others were quite the beginners. I even felt like a “pro”!  (Indeed one of the young ladies was a bit dismayed by my competence, I think.  One of the Men did his best to keep up with Katie..)  At the Green Cave where we swam one of the guys was just that ( a guy) and needed to be bandaged up by Benko.  I quietly told Benko about our background and he was delighted.   Katie got to do her cliff jumping here as well.  (And again, a couple of the guys followed..)  While eating yet another fresh seafood lunch (grilled squid and sea bass), we learned that four of our fellow kayakers had met in medical school in India.  The fifth was a sister of one of the guys, and had just received her MBA.  (She was also a bit afraid of the water, and dear Benko had to tow her for most of the day.  She and the other woman in their group arrived in denim cutoffs and no bathing suits for a day on the water..)  It was an amazing day.  We ended it by having a lovely dinner at Nikola’s Konoba Jezuite again.   This time we feasted on caprese salad, lamb served with delicious potatoes, panna cotta, wine, and more of his delicious liqueur.  ($45 including tip!) 

Our home from the Wall
Stratum (Main St.) from the Wall
Grand Villa Argentina Patio
View of Old Town from the Hotel
Thursday we slowly meandered the Wall around Dubrovnik as it was very hot!  I was a bit relieved when we walked by our apartment and noted that you could not see into our bathroom from the wall.  (One day as I took a bath I looked up and realized I could watch people walking by as I sat relaxing in the tub…I thought, what the hell, there’s nude bathing all over Croatia..)  Then we took ourselves to one of the nicest hotels in the city, Grand Villa Argentina Hotel, for our second spa day!  After another lovely massage ($75 with tip) we spent the afternoon on their patio overlooking the Adriatic and the Old Town of Dubrovnik (and swimming, of course).

Gradska Kavana
Final Meal in Dubrovnik
Deciding it was time for a cocktail and appes we meandered back inside the Walls and went into Gradska Kavana (The Arsenal Taverna) where we delighted in mussels and salmon carpaccio with our preferred cocktails, of course. ($48 with tip).  We then walked up and through the wall to Little Buza Bar for sunset and a cocktail.  Finishing our amazing time in Dubrovnik we ate a late dinner at Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota close to our little home.

Palace Augubio
Early Friday morning we climbed onto a quiet bus for the five hour trip back to Split.  Thankfully, as happened most of my trips between Boston and NYC, I slept much of the way.  Going “home” to our little apartment in Split was a treat.  And, then we decided to simply meander to find a good place to eat.  Oh, boy, did we!  Augubio Congo in the Palace Augubio was historical, beautiful, and served amazing food.  Perfect place for our last big meal in Croatia.  We ate long and leisurely, savoring the cucumber soup, gazpacho, black pasta with octopus, scallops and bacon with celery mash, and, need I say it, a bottle of local wine. ($90 with tip).  Then we did what one does in Europe.  We siesta’d.  Finishing our week almost where we started it, we had our final nightcap with Tin at his Marcvs Marvlvs Spalatensis.  

I was up and out at the crack of dawn, literally, Saturday morning  and picked up by the wonderful young man who had gathered me from the airport late at night almost two weeks earlier.  Croatia is wonderful, and will always have a special place in my heart.