Thursday, 16 July 2009

Croatia - Day 3, Dubrovnik

After we left Bosnia there was still fifty kilometres to go and the worrying thing was that we were leaving the clear blue skies behind and travelling south east directly towards nasty black rain clouds. I complained about this (several times) and was chastised for negative thinking but it really didn’t look very promising at all and my mood was in freefall. Despite the weather the scenery was good with tall grey mountains covered in lush green trees to the left, scarlet poppies by the roadside, blue sea to the right and a very good view over the green islands.

We had been driving non stop for nearly four hours now and I was beginning to get a bit irritable and my mood wasn’t helped when just as we approached the outskirts of Dubrovnik there were rain spots on the windscreen and still in the rear view mirror I could see the blue skies that we had left behind us. To be honest this had not been a great journey! Dubrovnik turned out to be much bigger than I was anticipating and this meant that inevitably there was difficulty finding the hotel. We were staying a few kilometres outside the city centre on a peninsula full of modern tourist hotels and do you think we could find ours? No of course not! We drove around in circles looking for signs or inspiration and my mood was deteriorating and my nerves fraying with every passing moment. Eventually we found it of course and as we pulled into the car park I wondered whether I should enrol for hotel location anger management lessons when we got back home.

The room wasn’t quite ready so a tension reliever was called for and was supplied with a relaxing glass of KarlovaĨko from the hotel bar. We sat outside and as if by magic the irritating clouds completely disappeared and in a matter of minutes left behind a clear blue sky. There had clearly been a lot of rain this morning and the improvement in the weather instantly brought guests scurrying from their rooms. They emerged blinking and adjusting to the sunlight, reaching for sunscreen and making for the swimming pool. They were obviously relieved to see the sun and so was I.

The Tirana is a modern package holiday hotel that had been built in the Yugoslavian holiday boom of the 1970s in a functional sort of eastern Europe concrete sort of way and refurbished just a couple of years ago. We had a nice room with a shady balcony and although it is not the sort of hotel that I would say is my first preference it was clean and comfortable and the service was excellent.

One thing that we really wanted to do was see Dubrovnik in sunshine and as the weather seemed to be a bit unpredictable we decided to go and do it straight away. There was a bus stop at the end of the hotel drive so we walked there, caught the bus and went to the city. The old town looked spectacular as we walked through the sixteenth century Pile Gate and were transported into an alternative world of narrow medieval streets, magnificent buildings constructed of white Dalmatian stone and a riot of red tiled roofs. We knew that we had all day tomorrow to explore the city but we were impatient so purchased our tickets and climbed to the top of the walls for the two-kilometre walk around the splendid tenth century guard’s walkway.

It took a couple of hours to complete the walk around the city stopping frequently to admire the breathtaking views of the cathedrals and churches, the battlement and towers and the busy streets bustling with activity at the base of the walls and through the city to the other side. The route took us first alongside the Adriatic and then at the Fort of St John into the old city port past fishing boats, yachts, pleasure craft and water taxis all floating gently on the gentle sea within the protective walls of the harbour’s medieval defences. Then we were on the land side where there were there were the best views of the tiled roofs and on to the highest point at the Minceta Tower where there was a steep climb rewarded with an expansive panorama of the city and the vivid blue sea behind it.

After the walls we agreed not to spoil tomorrow by doing everything in a rush today so instead we found a restaurant with a pleasant garden and as we had missed lunch due to the long drive enjoyed an early evening meal before catching the bus back to the hotel where we relaxed, drank a bottle of Croatian merlot and prepared to go for a final walk.

It was getting dark when we left the hotel and followed the path to the stony beach where there was a bar where we finished the day listening to the gentle lapping of the sea rearranging the pebbles on the beach and watching the occasional Mediterranean cruiser slipping out of the modern port en route for its next destination. Eventually we tired of the tedious conversation at the next table where a group of elderly travellers were competing with each other with tales of wondrous holidays and grand family events so we climbed the path back to the hotel and after taking a last look at a clear ink black sky finished the day in an optimistic weather mood.

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