Tuesday, August 2, 2016
We arrived in Dubrovnik in a puddle, of wee to be exact and a complete meltdown by our three-year-old that precipitated said puddle. Oh, the many joys of parenthood witnessed by all and sundry at the bustling arrivals hall. I can tell there were many who felt sorry for me, probably those with children themselves as I mopped up what seemed to be an impossible amount of water for such a small bladder. A man points me to a bin as I wander the halls looking for a bin, leaking wee all over the floor. But his body language tells me he thinks I have the plague.
Five minutes later we are in the back of a taxi heading for old town, the landscape outside is all grey rock and dust, with clumps of brown shrubs clinging to its sparse surface. We begin our descent from the mountain and before us looms the Adriatic sea, sparkling like a million shards of glass in the glare of the hot afternoon sun. And then, we see it – the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik. Being summertime, the cruise ships are in town and the city is knee-deep in tourists. We fight the crowds to get to our apartment in a narrow alley full of pizza joints, and we are pleased to see it is cheerfully bright and airy like our hosts. They advise we settle in till the evening when it isn’t so hot, and when most of the crowd heads back to their ships.
When we do emerge, we are relieved to find the city more breathable. We meander by a bridge to marvel at the breathtaking first view of Dubrovnik’s old port, snacking on freshly baked goods from a nearby patisserie we watch the world go by. Hearing snatches of conversation all around the consensus tells me they are just as awed to be here. The stone underneath my feet is still warm and for a few minutes, everyone is hushed as we watch the sun setting over this enchanting city. I imagine others who did the same centuries ago from this very spot. But as night approaches young twenty-somethings start to descend into town, dressed to the nines for a night of heavy partying. Many amongst them are British youth, and I imagine that the Brits in Spain are like the Aussies in Bali.
Walking along the main square of old town I find myself gliding along, I am surprised for I expected to be bumping along viciously wrestling the pram across the stubborn cobblestone pavements we have become so accustomed to. But no, it is so smooth and oh, so shiny. Peter tells me that the pavers are made of limestone, over the centuries and under the footfalls of those who have come before us has transformed it into a highly polished catwalk. Where we found Prague to be so elegant, Dubrovnik feels masculine with its fort and imposing walls soaring high above the city. We take in the main sights the city has to offer – a swim in the Adriatic sea, jumping off the walls of the Buza bar into its icy cold turquoise waters; a walking tour of the historic city; a cruise on a Karaka – a replica of a medieval merchant ship used frequently in the 11th century, as well as a prop for the popular Game of Thrones TV series. Sofia’s favourite is the cruise, but it is not the sumptuous Adriatic coast that she has eyes for – rather it is the costumes on deck for passengers to partake in some cosplay. Our guide is dressed like the Khaleesi Daenerys herself while King Baratheon wanders up and down the decks urging us to join in.
My absolute highlight – hiking around the city walls and up to the fort, taking in the cluster of terracotta rooftops juxtaposed against the brilliant blue hues of the clear summer sky and the impossible greens of the coastline. Ancient towers and domes crown the rooftops as they vie for attention. Walking the walls, we see narrow alleyways winding around each other, I hear the sound of local chatter echoing through the tall buildings as people go about their day, catch sight of flapping white sheets dried stiff from the sun hung high between the buildings and breathe in the salty air.
Being a port town, seafood is in abundance and we indulge in bounties of freshly cooked Whiting, octopus and squid with chunks of crusty bread to mop up the olive oil it is cooked in. As we sit in a restaurant overlooking the old port, our children playing at our feet amongst the pine cones freshly fallen from the tree, I know we are somewhere truly special.