Croatia Dubrovnik 2002.09.23 - 09.25

Pearl of the Adriatic

Old Town Dubrovnik is the Croatian highlight recommended by many travel books. Other travelers we met in Sofia also recommended the city. Our first stop on our first visit to Croatia was therefore Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic Sea".

As our bus from Sarajevo braked for its terminus at the Dubrovnik bus station, a dozen locals competed to make eye contact with us before we disembarked. These people had rooms for rent in private residences. Elderly women honed in on a tourist and claimed their intended victim. The woman who focused on Wes was like a wildcat defending its food. With arms spread to shove her competitors aside, she insisted that we look at her room. Meanwhile a jolly man in shades grinned patiently while holding a sign that said, "ROOM, OLD TOWN". Masami escaped from the vulture hovering over us and asked the man some questions. Every time he tried to respond, the vulture woman hissed and barked. Let's just say she didn't make a very good impression. We agreed to look at the jolly man's place.

The man is Ivo. He has an apartment 1-minute walking distance from Dubrovnik Old Town. His fee is reasonable, and he prepares dinner and breakfast on request for about half the price of a local restaurant. This is a no-brainer. We stayed at Ivo's place.

Dubrovnik Old Town is, like the guidebooks and other travelers claim, interesting. It's like a polished living medieval town. Unlike a true living medieval town like Fes, Morocco, Dubrovnik has the narrow stone allies of an old town, but the stores sell expensive upscale name-brand items in buffed glass display windows. It's an "Old Town" for wealthy tour group tourists. And there are many of them. The good news is that the tour groups arrive at 10:00 and leave at 15:00. The remainder of the day, the Old Town only has several thousand tourists. No, Dubrovnik is not a place to visit for relaxation. One full day is enough to see every alley, walk the fortress wall perimeter (Kn 15 admission, and highly recommended) and explore some sections of Dubrovnik outside the Old Town.

Because we ate at Ivo's house, we can't recommend any Old Town restaurants. The Internet Cafes all charge the same rate of Kn 20 per hour. The Internet Cafe just outside Old Town's Pile Gate was especially helpful and let us network our laptop to their LAN. The helpful and friendly tourist information office, also near Pile Gate, provides a free Dubrovnik Guide containing a map, ferry schedule, and long-distance bus schedule. Local bus tickets bought at a kiosk cost Kn 7, and the same ride is Kn 10 when paid directly to the driver. The Dubrovnik Guide also has the city bus routes.

Buses run hourly between Dubrovnik and Split (5 hours). Daily buses run to Zagreb (12 hours), Ljubljana, Slovenia (15 hours), and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (9 hours). Daily buses also travel to cities in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. All these buses pass through the sliver of Bosnia-Herzegovina that juts out to the Adriatic Sea between the Dubrovnik part of Croatia and the rest of Croatia. Customs and immigration through this border crossing is so lax that buses are almost always waived through without inspection.

Old Town Dubrovnik is a living fortress on the Adriatic Coast. The best views of the city are from atop the perimeter wall.
After the attempted siege of Dubrovnik in 1991-1992 by Serbs and Montenegrins, many of the old town structures were ruined. Today, most of the replaced rooftops are a clean bright orange.
Small sections of the old town were spared from military shelling. These old roofs blend better with the town's rock foundation.

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