Day Eleven. Swim, Stairs, Sun, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

On Deanna’s recommendation, we all made our way into the Buzha Bar in the center of Dubrovnik. Located by the city wall on the side next to the sea, it is really a little paradise. A side note, this city has a lot of stairs. And we’re not just saying that, but seriously. This city has a LOT of stairs.

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The Buzha Bar is an absolutely great place to go for a swim. The sea is very warm around Dubrovnik in July, and getting in the water is no problem. Don’t be scared off by the title of the spot – it might be a bar, but you are not required to buy anything in order to go for a swim there. The rocky wall side offers a few niches to place your towels on, but apart from that, it drops off directly into the sea. We’d packed our swimsuits that morning and were quite excited to get in the water. There’s no beach, no easy entrance. You can dive right in, or climb down a ladder, but no matter what you do, you will find yourself swimming in deep, warm, Adriatic water. 

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An absolute gem, we would all go back in a heartbeat. For the adrenaline junkies among all, there is even a cliff side you could climb onto to jump off of, but it reaches a height of about 10-12 meters that you could jump off of. And if you think you could do it, just do it. We quite regret not having taken the leap off of it when we had the chance.

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Taking the opportunity to get a few photos that we had missed so far, our mood was quite high as we walked around town, joking and trying to appreciate our last day in this beautiful city.

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For some food treats, we stopped for a final supper here at a pizzeria, and Deanna and I satisfied our sweet tooth by indulging in some gelato right around the city center.

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Getting out of the city, we took in the last rays of the day while viewing St. Lawrence’s fortress in the dying light. Deanna and Nastassia finished their gelato, while Jan tried to find a good technique for skipping rocks on a choppy sea as opposed to a calm lake.

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In a last minute revelation, we realized that we could still maybe watch the sunset from Gradac Park. Running up there in less than 2 or 3 minutes – quite the feat when you account for a backpack, cameras, other belongings, as well as Dubrovnik’s never-ending stairs – we were a little disappointed when we realized that another hill blocks the sunset from that location. It was, however, still a cool spot to spend our last few hours, because it was not only a spot of yet another Game of Thrones scene (The Purple Wedding), but a beautiful park in the dusk hours, that offers a nice view of Dubrovnik from both sides.

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Day Ten. Game of Thrones and Time for Tours.

Jan and Nastassia are both fans of the Game of Thrones series, and a few weeks ago Jan found a GoT based tour that goes every day in Dubrovnik, and so the two of them signed up for that. Deanna is not so inclined, and decided to take the day for herself to take a general tour and to catch up a bit on her journal, rather than to take a tour based on a show which she had never seen. So all together we bussed to the city, and there we split up to do our separate tours, setting a meeting point and time for later in the afternoon. Jan and Nastassia’s tour started up on St. Lawrence Fortress, which offers a great view over the old town of Dubrovnik. The fortress features a few spots where Game of Thrones scenes had been shot. Something that we learnt quickly was how sporadic and varied the scenes that had been filmed in Dubrovnik are. Sometimes a huge area is used for nothing more than a clip of a second or two, and a small room is the set for a large event. Meanwhile, Deanna was walking around the town on her general city tour learning about the history of Dubrovnik.

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Both of our tours went over the highlights of the history of this scenic city, and some of the quirks of it. For example, Dubrovnik boasts that it is the only modern city that views it’s pigeons not as a pesky problem but instead feeds them every day in the central market square. 10 minutes to noon you can see all the pigeons flocking to one area and lining up – waiting for their regular feeding. When the church in the square tolls noon, the market keepers toss salad, corn, bread and other foodstuffs to the ground for the pigeons to feed on. An interesting sight, it is quite contrary to what we are used to in modern cities. Another quirk that we as tourists noticed, was the large quantity of cats present around the city. Other useful notes about the city that we learnt – there is a nunnery across the street from a monastery. When they were cleaning the substructure of the city a few years back, they found a tunnel that connects the two – one that is at least a hundred or so years old. Also, at one point the Dubrovnik Naval Fleet rivaled that of Venice in size and formidability. Deanna learnt of an interesting beach in Dubrovnik that we are going to check out tomorrow, too.

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While Nastassia and Jan trooped on with their super long tour, Deanna’s finished and she went for a bite to eat in the city center. Looking up while she ate some risotto, she saw some familiar faces in the crowd. Who else to bump into than our Aussie train buddies, Steph and Patrick. They caught up for a little while and swapped stories about what had happened since we had all separated in Split.

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Meanwhile, Nastassia and Jan kept a wary eye on the weather, as their tour led them up on Dubrovnik’s city wall. The forecast had been changing all day, and it looked like the evening thunderstorms were coming a little sooner than expected. Towards the end of the tour, the rain started sprinkling a bit, and some light thunder was even heard around us.

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The tour ended at a point on Minčeta Tower, where the most identical Game of Thrones reference was also made. From the season two finale, the only changes the HBO producers made was to remove a metal gate from the background, and to add some trees visible behind the surrounding wall to give the area the appearance of being on ground level.

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With the tour over, and the rain not falling too quick, Nastassia and Jan made the decision to complete their circle of the city walls. Around the same time, Deanna was finishing up a nice coffee after her lunch and some journalling. To Jan and Nastassia, the rain had quickly turned from a slight nuisance to a real problem, and soaked both of them quite thoroughly. About another 5 minutes later, both Nastassia and Jan gave up on finishing their walk of the city wall when some lightning flashed no more than 50 meters from them into the sea, giving both of them a complete shock. While the two of them scrambled down from the wall and tried to find a place to hide from the rain – which had turned into a torrential downpour – Deanna was calmly visiting the Rector’s palace museum, which was the house of the leader of Dubrovnik for a number of years, and as you can imagine, quite lavish.

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As swiftly as it started, the rain and thunder stopped, and before meeting back up again, Jan and Nastassia ran back to our apartment to grab some dry clothes, while Deanna visited Dubrovnik’s central market and picked up some traditional Croatian candy. Meeting back up, we decided that after our turbulent day, we could use a meal out, and went for some Mexican food.

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After some supper we took some time to show each other highlights from our tours that day, and walked around the city all together with a new perspective. We were able to catch more subtleties in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik before heading home to catch some sleep before tomorrow.

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Back at our apartment, Jan, who had been complaining of a blister all day, took off his shoe to find nothing other than a bunch of black splinters in his foot. Coming to the conclusion that he had probably made friends with a sea porcupine yesterday somewhere around the sea park, we then tried our best to get all the quills out. If that isn’t a good note to end on, then we don’t know what is.

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Vidimo se sutra!

Day Nine. Dubrovnik, all gears ahead.

The day got off to a rocky start, to be honest. Our bus was leaving the Split bus station at 6:15 in the morning – luckily we had arranged for our airbnb host to drive us there, which should have only been a 15 minute car ride. Nastassia awoke at 5:30 to the sound of the buzzer, and shortly thereafter Deanna and Jan woke up to the sound of Nastassia shouting ‘WE OVERSLEPT!!’. We packed last night, so luckily getting all our stuff together took no more than 5 minutes; getting dressed, brushing our teeth, and packing everything into the car took only another 10 minutes after that. We arrived to the bus station at 5:55, and made our bus with time to spare. However, we definitely learnt our lesson and will set more alarms for the rest of all our transfers.

Dubrovnik 101Our expected arrival in Dubrovnik was 10:30 am, and since we were only running on 4 or 5 hours of sleep we all took the chance to catch a catnap. We woke up in Bosnia-Herzegovina around 9 – roughly about 40 km from Dubrovnik. As nothing planned ever goes as smoothly as you’d like it to, we hit a traffic jam on a two lane highway. We went from a quick ride to a slow crawl and then to not moving at all. And officially, all three of us can say we’ve been in, and peed in, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We pulled into Dubrovnik a full two hours late, but luckily we had no transfers or anything of the sort to make.

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We made it to our airbnb apartment, and after appreciating the gorgeous view from our balcony, we made a stop at the local grocery store to grab some food to cook up for lunch. Lunch itself was pretty simple, but we decided to try a boxed croatian iced coffee drink and some lemon chocolate. Both were quite alright and let us end our lunch on a sweet tooth before packing up all our swim gear for the afternoon.

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When the three of us went searching for a beach, we knew that there was one somewhere close to our flat. We never imagined, however, exactly how close it was. A short 6 or 7 minute walk took us directly to one of the most popular beaches in Dubrovnik. Copacabana Beach, Dubrovnik, dubbed after the Brazilian original, was a great surprise. With a huge water playground, as well as a DJ every day from 5-10 pm, we were sold on it instantly. Nastassia and Jan were drawn to the water playground like moths to a flame, and were gone almost instantly. The water was clear and warm, absolutely perfect conditions and blue sunny skies on top of the package. Deanna didn’t feel up to the playground, but managed to get some great snapshots of the location while suntanning on the beach.

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Even Glubschi, our travel mascot, got in some rays. With a gorgeous view and a warm sea, who could resist taking advantage of the lovely beach time. We had planned to be at a beach for only a couple hours, but ended up staying for closer to 3 or 4.

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When we were all finally sitting on the shore all together, we cracked open a few beers we’d brought with us, and opened up a quick snack. Chips are always fun to try in new countries because of all the different flavors that can be found offered that aren’t available back home. We enjoyed the rays and some good conversation among good company before wrapping up to go home.

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We had planned earlier to go into the city in the evening to grab a fancier bite there, but by the time we got back to our apartment from swimming, all of us were just way too tired to even think of getting ready and packed up enough to go into the city. We made a second visit the the grocery store close by and cooked some bruschetta, pasta, and chicken as a welcome to Dubrovnik meal. Today was a long day, when you include the abrupt wakeup, the prolonged bus ride, and the swimming in the sea that we did. And therefore we bid you good night and sleep tight.

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Day Eight. No Sea Kayaks for the Adventurous

The three of us were feeling pretty ambitious when we planned to be at a Split walking tour for 10:30 am this morning. We forgot about the realities of a pub crawl, and the morning after a late night like that. To be fair, we were up by about 9:30, but that wasn’t nearly enough time to shower, eat breakfast, and get to town in time. We decided to skip that and to take the day a little slower, so that we wouldn’t have to stay overly rushed all day. We also planned to go to Diocletian’s Palace after the walking tour and then directly to a sea kayaking tour afterwards as well. Skipping the walking tour, we made ourselves eggs and sausages, and some wraps for the road.

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We headed into town and stopped at Diocletian’s Palace, in order to get ourselves back on track. It’s been there, in varying stages, since at least 305 CE. A huge fortress, it’s worth a look. The parts that exist were formerly the substructure of the palace, and were kept in really good condition due to the fact that after a few hundred years, it was filled with debris and garbage. Somewhat ironic but a good twist of fate for the building. Diocletian must have been a pretty impressive guy, not only to have been a caesar, but to get this built solely for his retirement.

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After the visit, we came out into the main courtyard, where plays are performed or bands play most evenings. We sat for a half hour or so and finished our wraps, but then decided to go book our kayaking tour and to get ready for that. We had a promoter for it come up to us even as we sat eating, so we were sure that there would be spots for us. Getting to the office, we asked to book the tour for that day, and the receptionist turned us away, saying that not only the tour was full, but that you have to reserve a minimum of two hours ahead of time, which is written no where. Not wanting to make a fuss, we went on our way and tried to make a new plan for the rest of the day. We were left extremely impressed by the private beach we were at yesterday, and decided to repeat that endeavour. We swam for a couple of hours and tried to enjoy the lovely weather for the rest of the afternoon.

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Walking back to town, we decided to go for a nice dinner, as the kayaking and the tour both kind of didn’t work out today. We found a lovely little place right off the main boulevard, and sat for a couple hours just talking the night away while we watched the sunset. Deanna ordered herself some fish and spinach, and Nastassia and Jan decided to share a meat plate that sounded delicious. The food was pretty great, and the company even better.

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Finishing the night off on a sweet note, we noticed that a gelato place had ferrero rocher flavoured gelato out, and we couldn’t resist. Delicious, sweet gelato to wrap up a good time in Split while staring at some twinkly lights over the water. All three of us went home perfectly content and now we just have to spend a little time packing up all of our stuff and making sure that we are ready to go for out 6:15 am bus tomorrow morning!

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Spavati zbijeno!

Day Six. Good Morning Croatia

Taking the train from Budapest to Split, Croatia, you would probably think that you would first wake up to some gorgeous scenery flying by. However, we actually woke up to a slamming on our cabin door and the curt exclamation ‘Passport Control!’. Trying to rouse ourselves as best as possible, we all presented our best and sleepiest faces to the officers checking our documents. Once everyone in the cabin was checked we relaxed, put our documents away, shut off the light again, and let our heads drop to our pillows. This short repose was disturbed by more knocking at the door and the exclamation ‘Police!’. When we unlocked the door and looked at the new officer with completely blank faces, he explained in ways we, in the midst of trying to regain consciousness for the second time in one night, could understand. Pointing his finger down the hall, ‘Hungarian Police.’ Pointing his finger at himself, ‘Croatian Police’. Understanding finally, we all got our passports from the depths of our bags again, and went through the process again. After this second intrusion, we all got to sleep for the last time that night. In the morning, all was as it should be, and we got to watch the hilly landscape fly by as our train came closer and closer to the sea, and to Split.

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Split’s train station is right next to their harbour, and the three of us had a quick bite next to the docks while we figured out how to get to our apartment. Our train had come in roughly 2 hours later than it should have, and our original plans kind of fell through. But with a little adjustment and a really nice airbnb host, we were soon at our flat.

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Our flat this time around wasn’t so central as in Budapest, and so we decided to take the day to get our bearings right and to make sure we really knew where it was located. We walked from our flat to the centre of Split – which took roughly 45 minutes. But the weather was in our favour again, and the hilly city kept us in a great mood while getting there.

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Split is a gorgeous seaside city, with palm trees down their most commercial strip and a really unique city centre built on top of Diocletian’s Palace. The constant up and down hillside nature of the city really keeps you working up a sweat while you go from place to place even within the city centre. We grabbed some gelato to help us ward off the heat, and enjoyed the sweet taste while staring at a gorgeous view with a seaside breeze.

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Testing out Split’s public transport, we made it home in 15 minutes once we were ready to head back for the night, minus a bit of time to make a pit stop at the grocery store. We cooked up some burgers, potatoes and salad to finish off the night, and then spent the rest of the evening doing some research into all Split has to offer in order to get the most out of our next two days here.

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Laku noć!