17th Sept, 12:03
Dubrovnik Autobuska Stanica
Dubrovnik is indeed busy and expensive. It is, however, extremely pretty so I’m inclined to absolve it somewhat. Even half the world’s Game Of Thrones fans descending on location to wank themselves silly pretending there are naked women and dragons down every street can’t detract from the turns-out-the-pictures-weren’t-photoshopped blue of the sea, outstanding weather, and… err… the sea again (to be fair, that is most of the appeal of the place).
I only spent a day exploring, however, and only looked around the Old Town, as the bus on the way here took an absolute age to go through border control, although that was only the second most traumatic aspect of the journey (the first being when boarding the bus, and a gang of hardfaced little girls with moneybags swarmed around me with outstretched palms, giving me serious evils when I truthfully told them I had no marks to give them). I was slightly detraumatised on arrival at the bus station, however, as it turned out that the hitchhiker we’d picked up over the border was Maike, one of the Mostar Sniper Tower Climbing Society [see previous entry], so we caught up briefly before she headed off to Montenegro and I went to find the place I was staying at.
On arriving there, my limbs were aching all over, not from the rucksack but from general exertion over the past week and a half. We’re not talking a mild pain in my legs or back – every single bit of me felt bruised inside and out, and all I could do was lay around resting and wallowing in the beautiful, beautiful bliss of having a single, private room. Even if it did feature on the wall a picture of a small boy urinating, there was no interference from other people, no massive rucksacks littering the floor so you have to navigate an obstacle course to get out of bed and, best of all, NO FUCKING BUNKBEDS.
However at some point I had to leave my paradise of solitude and find some food. Noting that the Old Town was tourist hell and therefore likely to be inflated prices hell too, I sought somewhere outside of it in which to eat, finding a restaurant near the city gates and next door to the Hilton. Being on the coast, the seafood here is meant to be excellent, but I only like prawns. Craving pizza, it turned out there was room to compromise as a pizza I’ve never seen on the menu in England was available: shrimp pizza.
The novelty combined with the chance to consume some local produce made it the perfect choice, and it was actually surprisingly good – good enough to inspire a second prawn-based meal from the same place on the second night, this time in a risotto. This time I pushed the swag boat out and accompanied the meal with a Baileys, partly because I will happily pickle my liver in Baileys at any opportunity, and partly because I’d withdrawn too many kuna. At times like this, my philosopher is Drake and my motto is YOLO.
After a hugely revitalising early night it was time to see how overrated the Old Town was. With aforementioned kuna excess, I felt my budget could stretch to a guided tour that cost nearly a tenner in kuna equivalent, even though most cities have free walking tours. Ah well. It was a good tour – it’s always good to hear some context to what you’re seeing – from which I discerned that a) there really are a lot of tourists, and b) the nicest place was the relatively unspoilt gap in the wall that allowed access to the water for a swim. ‘Relatively unspoilt’ in Dubrovnik terms means there’s only one bar there.
Returning to the room to make some nutritious Nutella sandwiches (in lieu of a knife, I spread the Nutella with my finger – class, thy name is Jen) and get some suntan lotion on, it wasn’t long before I was ready to go again and pay over the odds once more to do the obligatory tourist activity of climbing the city walls. The view is nice, although fairly samey, but happily I found a quirk hidden behind the uniform prettiness you see from the streets; tucked away behind the buildings was a basketball court with bright blue floor. This made me happy – having 50 identical pictures of the sea and Old Town may please my family, but I like finding the weird things. Weird things have soul.
Despite the tourist overload it’s a shame to leave so quickly, as it would have been nice to island-hop, although my budget is sighing with relief. The visit was briefly clouded by the disappearance of 100 Euros from my wallet, and by missing the 11am bus to Kotor by mere seconds (the next being at 3pm) thanks to missing Euro panic, but was redeemed when the Euros turned up at the bottom of one of the side pockets of my rucksack. Suspect this may have happened in a fit of drunken logic in Sarajevo, but we will never know.
Dubrovnik’s smaller, cheaper and hopefully less busy cousin Kotor, in Montenegro, is up next. Stay tuned…
An increasingly suntanned Jen