10.10.2012 - 12.12.2013 25 °C
Episode 16: Podgorica to Dubrovnik
Azure sea, Ferrets and Cats
I know I am going to sound like a 13 year old nerd with braces who gets excited about the Mario Brothers video game, but the best adjective I can think of to describe Dubrovnik with its medieval churches, museums, historical buildings, fortifications, laneways and tiled roofs is Awesome. I very much liked the city as it is a city easy to like and enjoy.
As there are no trains that run along the Adriatic Sea coastline, the only viable option was to take a bus. Getting from Podgorica to Dubrovnik by bus takes minimal effort as there are a number of buses that travel between these two cities each day, although scheduling can be a bit mysterious. The bus also gave me the opportunity to split the trip so that I could have a two hour wander in the old Mediterranean port of Kotor before catching the connecting bus to Dubrovnik. And it’s cheap: the bus ticket from Podgorica to Kotor was 7.50 Euros and the bus from Kotor to Dubrovnik was 14 Euros.
Kotor is one of the pit stops for the cruise liners that ply the Adriatic Sea and unfortunately a liner was in port on the day I visited and consequently Kotor was crowded with way too many grey haired seagulls. Kotor is a very attractive town as it sits in a corner of the Gulf of Kotor which I read is the deepest fjord in the Mediterranean Sea and it was evident that it was a place worthy of a kayak or sailing trip or two. Two hours gave me enough time to meander a bit through the old town, along the main street and eat an ice cream.
The bus trip, for the most part, was uneventful: as long as you didn’t mind sitting across the aisle from a couple with a pet ferret. Most of the time the ferret was in its cage, but it was taken out a few times and allowed to squirrel around the seats of the owners. There was also a passenger that decided the perpetual Zorba the Greek music being played by the bus driver was not to their liking so played their own music at top volume resulting in a rather interesting din in the bus for most of the trip.
Dubrovnik received the rotten end of the stick during the 1991 Seige of Dubrovnik, fought between the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and the Croatian forces, and there are still traces of the immense physical damage that was sustained by the city. The siege lasted nine months and the Croatian War of Independence Museum in Fort Imperial, one of the first places to be shelled, provides a lot of history and pictures about the siege. It has been estimated that over 11,400 buildings in Dubrovnik were damaged by artillery and shelling, electricity and water were cut off, massive looting and pillaging occurred and over 15,000 refugees sought protection within the walls of the old city. In spite of the strong JNA offensive, Dubrovik never fell to the Serbian and Montenegrin forces and prides itself in the restoration that was carried out after the seige. And so they should be proud.
Today it is a restored, vibrant city surrounded by the clear, turquoise blue waters of the Adriatic. One absolute joy is to walk around the wall of the city early in the morning when everyone is still sleeping and the sun is rising. It’s quiet at this time, there are no crowds to tackle and the morning colours of gold and yellow on the sandstone and red tiled buildings are stunning. And it’s great to hear a city waking up – the clattering of cutlery, voices emerging from the shadows, garbage bins being brought out, wheel barrows of stone being shifted, cats getting narky.
I stayed at the Old Town Hostel in the old part of Dubrovnik. It was simple enough to get a bus from the main bus station to the Pile Gate and then it was just a matter of finding the correct laneway. The hostel was functional, convenient, busy and noisy.
I discovered five things to do in Dubrovnik old town that were not mentioned in the tourist guide:
* count the cats. There is somewhere between lots and heaps;
* try every flavour of gelato in existence and make sure you try a different one at each kiosk. I’m not sure what you would run out of first – gelato flavours or kiosks;
* drink a cappuccino at a different café every hour. You will never run out of cafés and the views from some which overlook the Adriatic sea are hypnotic;
* challenge your hearing and locate the position of every meowing cat;
* throw projectiles at the cat persistently meowing all night outside your hostel window.
As you can gather, Dubrovnik is a city of cats consisting of every colour, size, age, health and disposition that a cat population can sustain. Amazingly, you hear more than you actually see.
I arrived in Dubrovik in early evening and the old city was inundated by another grey hair mob from the cruise liner parked in the bay. Fortunately, the liner left during the night and the next day was bliss. All I did for two days was wander the streets, visit museums (my favorite being the maritime museum), swim and eat chilli mussels. A market was going on the old town square while I was there and the array of olive oil, dates, figs and other home grown produce and products was impressive enough to write home about.
As much as I would have liked to stay on, I was feeling the pressure of time. I was due to catch up with my sister and cousin in Prague and later catch up with my mother in New York as we were taking the train across Canada. So it was on to Makarska and Zagreb.
Next stop: Makarska