7 June – 8 June, 2014
My second full day in Dubrovnik began much as the day before: early start with the measly hostel breakfast, head into the Old City, pop into an internet cafe for a bit to take care of business. Once back onto the street, I could see an astronomical difference between a Friday versus a Saturday in the Old City. At 10:30 in the morning it was already hot and crowded with tourists.
I did find a beautiful Serbian Orthodox church, not a common sight in Catholic Croatia. I lit a candle and took in the beauty of the colorful stained glass windows and heavily decorated icons, until the man working there loudly and hilariously answered his cell phone and the serenity of the moment was broken. I also bought a pair of earrings from the same tiny jewelery shop I’d stumbled upon the night before. The man there (presumably the husband/father of the girl I’d met) saw I was wearing one of their necklaces and gave me a Dubrovnik sticker. Such a cute family of craftsmen.
I wanted to go to more museums, but the lines and crowds were so insane that I figured “If you can’t beat ’em, go to the beach!” I grabbed a sandwich and an apple and stopped at the hostel for beachy things before heading down to a tiny cove below the fancy Hotel Bellevue. I think the water there may have been the warmest and clearest of the many beaches I went to in Croatia.
Later in the afternoon, after a nap and shower, I took the cable car up Mt Srd, the mountain overlooking the Old City, to see the Homeland War Museum. The museum was. . . probably a waste of my time to be honest. I had wanted to see it for my interest in the Yugoslav Wars, but had read the museum was pretty one-sided, but wanted to find out for myself. Not only was it one-sided, but it was terribly hard to read. Not many pictures, but mostly text in horribly broken English that was far too dense for the casual visitor. I’d watched some documentaries and done research on the wars before visiting, but this was so specific I really had no idea what some of the exhibits were talking about. The old fortress building that housed the museum was very cool though!
As luck would have it, I had saved the best sight in Dubrovnik for last: the walk around the city walls. As an independent, civilized republic, Medieval Dubrovnik needed sturdy fortifications. They clearly did a good job at defending their city, as the walls were never breached. Today, the walls remain a source of pride for the city’s inhabitants, and strolling along the top is the main tourist attraction. At 18:00, it was still warm, with a nice breeze. The walls were not crowded, and bathed in a beautiful dusky light. It may not sound like much, but it was truly a magical experience. Each new section of the walk brings you stunning views. While peering down at the city, you see all the famous attractions of the city and throngs of tourists still in the streets, but also bits of humanity: a boy kicking a soccer ball on a makeshift cement field, a shirtless old man winding his watch in an attic room, adorable stray cats slinking through among the weeds. From this vantage point, I felt that despite its tourist trappiness, there is life in the Old City yet.
I finished my stroll and walked to the Pile Gate, the main gate into the walled city. There I met up with the Lads, a fun group of British guys I’d first met in Zagreb and went boating with in Hvar, as well as Logan and Gino, a laid-back Canadian couple. I gave them a mini-tour of the Stradun, the main drag through the old city, and we were enticed by cheap pizza and pasta specials at a restaurant tucked into an alleyway. We then splurged on gelato at the most awesome gellateria, where the guys working there had way too much fun fucking with tourists and juggling and throwing scoops of gelato at each other. We ate on the steps of the cathedral, taking in a little jazz music from a nearby jazz club.
Gelato finished, it was definitely booze time, and we set off in search of the legendary Buza bar, also called “Hole in the Wall”. It’s appropriately named, as to get to the bar you literally climb through a hole in the wall out onto the rocks outside! Picturesque, but unfortunately the prices were far to trendy for us. So we did the poor man’s version, and bought plastic liter bottles of beer and sat on less grand rocks that we didn’t have to pay to drink at. After much beer and conversation, the night ended in an Irish pub were the Sams became glued to the “footie” on the television screen.
I slunk back into my dorm and attempted to sleep. It was always hard to sleep in Dubrovnik because of the Bora wind, a hot, dry, strong wind that comes whipping through the city and was the worst at night. The next morning I choked down some bread and Turkish coffee, and headed into town, dodging tourists on the cobble-stoned streets with my huge bag in tow. I desperately needed to do laundry before the final leg of my trip, and luckily there was Sanja and Rosie’s Laundrette, an adorably retro-styled self-serve laundry that played ’50’s and ’60’s tunes and had free soap and wifi.
I was to meet my friend Jill in Budapest the next morning, but first I had to get to Budapest. My flight from Dubrovnik to Prague was smooth, as was Czech passport control, where I got a stamp even through I was only in the Czech Republic for an hour and a half on a layover. My plane from Prague to Budapest was the tiniest I’ve been on – I could see the naked propeller right outside my window! It made for a noisy and shaky flight.
Upon touchdown in Budapest, Hungary, everything was different. New currency, a new language, new geography. I loved the old creaky metro in the city, where a voice gives you a warning just before the doors bang shut. I got off the metro and went the wrong way, but a kind Hungarian woman who spoke no English got me sorted. Budapest was so different from the tiny, quaint cities I’d gotten used to. It was huge by comparison, and I already noticed homeless and crazy people. I’d been away from city life for so long. But I put on my “don’t fuck with me” face, and sauntered along to my hostel.
The Homemade Hostel in Budapest is the cutest hostel of my life. Every bed has a curtain and a light, and there are antiques everywhere. An old Singer sewing machine is the computer table, a Samovar and gumball machine sit in the kitchen, which is covered in knick-knacks. The nice guy working there directed me to the Turkish restaurant across the street for cheap eats. I fueled and Facetimed my sister, then tucked into bed.
The next day would be another long day of travel. My mission: go to the airport, find Jill, and make it to Slovenia.
To be continued. . .
Goodnight and Happy Travels,