Ever since some of my best friends visited Dubrovnik a number of years ago, I have wanted to go there. It just sounded like the coolest place.
I’m proud to say that my urge to visit had nothing to do with Game of Thrones.
The reason I’m proud to say that is that from the second you walk through the gates of the Old Town, you are accosted by all things GOT. It is as though the centuries of history in and around the place just pale in comparison to the fact that some fictional character from a TV series walked her way up a flight of stairs for a 3 minute scene.
I know – crazy!!
But once you wade your way through all the stores selling Jon Snow merchandise and you fend off the hawkers selling GOT tours, you can start to focus on the real heart of this amazing place.
I must start by telling you a little story about our arrival into greater Dubrovnik. After a long windy road journey, through a strange passport check-point where no-one was the slightest bit interested in checking our passports, we hit the outskirts of the city.
Its a long drive from Markaska and Lovely Hubby was getting a little tired and we were all a little hungry.
Our hire car had an awesome GPS so we placed complete and total faith in its abilities and plunged ahead to find our hotel, right near the gates of the old town.
It brings us to the top of a steep little street which looks very narrow. There are cars parked all the way down one side and a thick stone wall on the other.
We hesitate at the top for a moment. “Do you think this is the right way?” “It looks a little narrow.” “It looks like it gets thinner at the bottom.” “Why would the GPS lie?
I’m sure most people in a strange city with no other option than to rely on this small but pivotal piece of technology are familiar with these types of conversations.
Faced with no immediate alternative, lovely hubby takes the plunge and heads down the road.
This is it… our trip is over
We are literally millimetres from the mirrors of each car and the wall on the other side is encroaching more and more upon our space. We’re nearing the end and can’t quite see around the corner so we inch ahead.
We get to the bottom and there is a line of motorcycles parked all along the bottom of the road. And the road narrows to the point that a bike is really all you can fit.
We both sit and stare in disbelief.
I start to panic. Is it viable to get out and move every single motorbike/scooter off to the side? Can we fit our little car through this teeny tiny gap? There’s just no way.
The immediate urge is to start crying and give up. The hill is so steep… the gap so narrow… we will have to reverse… the list goes on.
And so, Lovely Hubby make the decision and whips the car into reverse and starts to move.
Now, we are talking actual millimetres of clearance here between an ancient stone wall on one side (very bad for the hire car) and the mirrors and doors of all the cars parked on the other. And the gradient to reverse up is extremely steep.
I stand behind the car, of course completely useless at directing.
A gentleman walks past, stops and has a look at the situation. I’m so relieved as I think he’s about to step in to help. He merely asks to squeeze through the gap and then continues on with a cheerful call of “good luck with that”.
Chivalry really is dead.
Lovely Hubby’s finest hour
Hubby continues with basically no help from me. And honestly, this is probably one of the absolute finest hours of his life.
He is riding that clutch to within an inch of his life. He maneuvers, virtually , blind, backwards up that hill like a professional reverser. I mean seriously, he has missed his calling in life. These skills are not normal to have!
We finally get to the top and there is strange smelling smoke pouring from the wheels. We sit for a moment, both staring blankly ahead, hearts pounding.
The kids are completely silent in the back but for a quiet whisper of “what’s that smell Mama?”
I turn to look at Hubby and he is completely covered in sweat and breathing heavily. We look at each other but say nothing. There are no words.
Lovely Hubby calmly winds the windows down and continues down the road on the other side of this one towards our apartment. The crisis is over but will never be forgotten!
This is our welcome to Dubrovnik!
Where to go and what to do?
We gingerly drive the car to find our VRBO apartment, smoke still pouring from the wheels. We take the standard hire-car driver approach of “let’s pretend that didn’t happen and continue as normal”.
Our apartment turns out to be just outside the city walls in a little apartment complex with a big backyard and a beach across the path. Best location ever! And literally a 4 minute walk to the Old Town.
There are lots of accommodation options within the Old Town itself, but the prices are exponentially more.
So we grab a map from the visitor centre at the front gate, and head off to walk.
Mandatory wall walk?
Now, everyone will tell you that you ‘have’ to walk the walls of the city. And I agree that some of the views are quite spectacular.
But with our Little Chubs teetering on the tantrum edge of having to look at old buildings and not getting every toy along the way, we are hesitant to even attempt the walls. They are steep, there are lots of stairs, and most of all, they’re narrow. Everyone has to walk in one direction to ensure minimal accidents. Add the 35deg weather to the mix and you have a damn good reason to stay on the ground.
Besides, there are plenty of great vantage points around the city where you can still get some beautiful shots with the sparkling Adriatic in the background. And all of the Churches, monuments, galleries and restaurants inside the walls can keep anyone amused for days.
There’s buskers everywhere, musicians, arts and crafts and generally just a cool atmosphere.
Our only absolute ‘must do’ aside from soaking up as much of the Old Town as you can is to do a tour up to the peak overlooking Dubrovnik. This gives you some of the most stunning views of the Old Town and the Adriatic Coast. There’s a cable car that’s pretty expensive, or you can get bus tours to take you there and take you around the local area to see some other cool sites too.
The other thing we hear lots of people talk about is the island of Lokrum. Tranquil, green, relaxed is what the lovely host of our apartment kept telling us.
So we think it’s worth a shot. Anytime we leave Dubai, we love to soak up as much green as we can. So we catch a little boat, completely packed with hot, sweaty humanity out for some tranquility.
We are a little dubious to start with upon arrival.
All the plants look heat stressed and brown. The day is hot. There are people everywhere. We’re not seeing any proof in the promises at this point.
We head to the famous ‘swimming hole’ to check it out, only to find it heaving with humanity as well.
For a change, we then have to deal with a Miss Sparky meltdown. Somewhat unusual as it’s normally the Chubs who loses it at regular intervals. She’s apparently outraged at having to change into swimmers in a centuries old rock walled room. Somehow she thinks someone will see her through the three-inch thick walls of stone.
This pretty much sets the tone of the rest of the afternoon.
And just to really add a highlight, The Chubs decides he needs to poop in the middle of the park under a bush. He proceeds to drop a man poop the size of my forearm. It scares me just a little. It’s so big, I have trouble burying it. All while surrounded by happy picnicking families.
So far, the day’s looking like it’s gone down the toilet – pardon the pun.
Lokrum Beach is well worth it
But then, we reach the main swimming ‘beach’.
I’m sure I’ve discuss the pros and cons of Croatia as a beach destinationn and this one is no exception. It’s tricky to get into the water without cutting your foot on a rock, falling over from balancing on sharp rocks, or slipping on slimy wobbly rocks.
However, once you get in the water, everything is suddenly worth it.
There are SO many fish of amazing colours and varieties. The water is beautiful and warm and clear and it feels like the heaven we heard about. Such an amazing end to the day.
Actually, hold that thought.
Especially relevant here is the one grand finale we get to enjoy as we head back to the mainland on the boat.
The far side of Lokrum is a Naturalist (read nudist) beach. And they love boatloads of people.
I haven’t seen more schlongs waving around than the last time I accidentally got stuck in the mens change room at footy training. And they all like to jump up and down, wave and call hello, completely proud of themselves. Very funny, especially seeing the faces of some of the older folks on the boat watching!
Dubrovnik needs time to chill
The best part of Dubrovnik by far is the opportunity to just sit and be a part of history whilst nibbling delicious food, sipping a crisp rose and listening to beautiful music.
That is what this place is all about I think!
Because it’s not all about finding Kings Landing or walking the ‘walk of shame’. And don’t feel bad if you really just can’t be bothered walking the walls either. Dubrovnik won’t hold it against you.
My number one tip though – if your GPS says to go down a steep little street lined with cars on the way to your hotel, IGNORE IT!
Have a great week all. I’m off to give Lovely Hubby yet another hug for that stellar effort!