Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last views of Trogir, first views of Dubrovnik.


T
oday is the day that we left Trogir and headed down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik. It will also always be remembered as the day that Lei got relieved of her duties as "clock keeper". We had an early morning departure - catching the 5:45am bus. As with all the other travel days. Lei awoke about an hour and a half before me to prep herself for the day and to do her last minute packing.




Unbeknownst to me, Lei had not reset the clock from our time in Turkey so we were an hour ahead of ourselves. We had already checked out of the hotel the night before so when we were ready, we simply headed out the door, onto the street and started walking towards the bus station. Even though it was in the very, very wee hours of the early morning, Trogir was a happening place - music was blaring out onto the streets from nearby bars and there were people milling about on the streets.




The fact that the bus station was completely empty - not a single person was in sight should have been a clue to us....but oh no, we blamed the lack of bus traffic on the *bad* Croatian bus system. When the bus had not shown up by 5:45a, I went inside the station and that's where I saw the time on the clock....uh, we're an hour early.....hmmmm, how did that happen? Of course it did not take me long to figure out what happened. I pounced on Lei for not having set the clock back by an hour. She looked puzzled for all of 1/2 second and once she realized what had happened, she then tried to lay the blame on me - something about me having set the clock in Istanbul. What did that have to do with Croatia. Nice try on her part but no go. I have to say, we both had a good laugh and I will never let her live this incident down....! She will no longer hold the clock on future trips :-)

As expected, the bus arrived on time. We boarded for the 6 hour ride to Dubrovnik. It was a very uneventful ride.

Lei had booked us into a small apartment in Dubrovnik and had made arrangements for the owner, woman named "Nives", to pick us up from the bus station. We got off the bus, retrieved our luggage and looked around. We had no idea what Nives looked like but we figured she would recognize two Oriental women - we definitely stood out in the sea of people :-)

We decided to call Nives but the phones only took cards so poor Lei had to buy one. Lei placed the call and Nives answered - she was just a few minutes away. A scant few minutes later and a cute little blue car with bright yellow seats pulled into the bus station, right up to where we were standing.

A tall blond woman got out of the driver's side and we immediately introduced ourselves to Nives. Her car had basically no trunk so I was afraid we weren't going to get all our stuff in but somehow it all fit. I piled into the back seat and Lei got in the front. Neves pulled out of the station. As she drove, we talked. Turns out Nives owns a travel agency and she has a network of apartment owners that she works with. Apparently, there was an issue with the apartment we had actually booked and so we would be staying somewhere else. My initial reaction was "oh no, we're being ripped off" - pay for reasonable place, get relocated to dump. I kept my fingers crossed that all would be okay.

Traveller chit chat filled the air. Soon we arrived at the Pile Gate - entrance to the old city of Dubrovnik. Waiting for us there was the owner of apartment that we would be staying in. We thanked Nives and followed the owner. Lugging our possessions with us, we entered the Gate and got our first glimpse of the old city of Dubrovnik. We will see more tomorrow but for now, we were intent on getting to the apartment.

The entire old city is off limits to vehicular traffic - great for strolling without having to be worried about being run over. The main street in the old city is the Stradún. Off the Stradún are narrow neighborhood alleys. We walked for a short distance down the Stradún and then headed up one of the alleys. So far, so good - even with all our heavy luggage, we managed to make it to this point unscathed. Then we saw them.....the steps. The steps that we would have to take to get to the apartment. We asked the owner where the apartment was and she pointed somewhere up towards the sky....not good....far from where we were standing. We sucked in a big breath of air and started the ascent. As we climbed, Lei counted. 1, 2,3, ...10....breather....22....breather....36....huff,puff....45....more huff, puff,....57....oh, look at the pretty buildings....60 something or other....how much longer....77....gasp, gasp....82. Finally..., we made it!

Once we entered the apartment, my fears that we were going to be holed up in some dump disappeared. We actually had a very nice one bedroom apartment that had a separate kitchen and a bathroom equipped with a clothes washer.

We settled in and then headed out.....down the same 82 flight of steps. By now, it was past our usual lunch hour and we were both famished. We found what I would refer to as "restaurant alley" and checked out the menus on display - we were in search of seafood. Hunger pangs were ringing loud so we quickly settled on a place. Lunch was enjoyable - it was our first introduction to Croatian food which is reminiscent of Italian food and quite reasonably priced even though we were in the heart of the touristy Dubrovnik. After lunch it was a quick stop at an internet cafe and then down to the Stradún.

Along the way, we did some souvenir and window shopping. As I would come to find out later, Dubrovnik is a town filled with artists. There's a lot of interesting modern art in different forms - from clothing and jewelery to the paintings and sculptures.

The pictures show it well but the Stradún was absolutely P-A-C-K-E-D with tourists. Huge, ginormous cruise ships dumped their passengers into the city in the morning and sometime before dinner, the city empties out as the passengers return back to the ship. We would be fighting our way through tourists throughout our stay in Dubrovnik. But never mind, it's still a beautiful city, full of beautiful old stone, buildings that flank narrow cobblestone streets. Carvings adorn building surfaces. Terra cotta roofs abound. Stores are tucked inside the buildings - there are no obnoxious neon signs to intrude on your view. Old world European charm just oozes from every nook and cranny in this city.


We strolled up and down the streets exploring the city and just having a very relaxing time. The weather was spectacular and there was plenty of gelato to help cool down the body. Even though it was just mid May, it was already plenty hot weatherwise. We snapped photos at every opportunity. Here's some of what our camera lenses managed to capture.


































































































































Sometime during our walk, we made it to the harbor. By now, it was late afternoon and the crowds were beginning to thin out. We found some benches along the water's end and there we sat and enjoyed the scenery. It was the perfect way to end the day.




Tomorrow, we will see and experience much more of this enchanting city by the sea.