Hello from the gorgeous country of Croatia. You have to visit here just to see the colour of the crystal clear water – love it here!
A Short (Recent) History of Dubrovnik….
Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands! The country’s population is 4.28 million, most of whom are Croats. Croatia is a World Trade Organization (WTO), NATO and joined the European Union in 2013.
Throughout history, the City of Dubrovnik had always been spared from enemy attacks. Not a single shell had ever been fired at Dubrovnik; civilizations had that much respect for the city. That all changed during the Croatian War of Independence. Dubrovnik was besieged and attacked by forces of the Serb-dominate Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) in late 1991, with the major fighting ending in early 1992 and the war, in 1995.
During the Siege of Dubrovnik, 563 of the 824 buildings (68%) in the Old Town had been hit by projectiles. Nine buildings were completely destroyed by one of several major fires that occurred during the siege. The walls proved very effective at resisting modern weaponry saving many more buildings from destruction during the bombardment. The estimated cost for restoration was $9,650,000 and by 1999, over $7,000,000 had been spent. (While I was editing this section, very loud fireworks started below us on the beach; was a little unsettling).
At the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the prosecution alleged that, “It was the objective of the Serb forces to detach this area from Croatia and to annex it to Montenegro.” During this trial, Montenegro’s foreign minister stated this about the bombardment: ‘What we did is the greatest shame that was done in 1991.’
Tuesday, May 5 – Friday, May 8 Dubrovnik Apartment #1 ‘Lapad’
Croatia is incredible! Our first apartment was awesome, it had a spiral staircase leading to a 2nd bed / bathroom. We had a living room, fully stocked kitchen and the best part was a deck with a picturesque view of a campground and a huge island. For $70/night!
Every night we heard a live band playing hits from the 80’s and 90’s. We tried several times to walk to the music, but never did find the party. The cruise ships sailed in front of us several times a day; they sure party on the way out!
Lapad is one of the biggest and most beautiful parts of Dubrovnik, just west of the City. It is home to a residential area, many hotels, beaches, lovely promenades, and walking trails. Lapad is sometimes called the lungs of Dubrovnik because of the dense oaks. The trails provided fantastic views of the beaches and Cruise Ship berths:
We toured through the ‘life styles of the rich and retired’ hotel area along the shore. Here are a few samples of the stairs leading down to the incredible, secluded beaches. The few sunbathers did not seem bothered to be lying on pieces of slate or big rocks. The gorgeous blue water looked warm and inviting.
Really wish we owned this Villa – it was amazing:
Our hotel told us to be sure to visit the ‘Cave Bar’ with yet another beautiful view. We had a drink inside the cave where it was cool after having walked a long ways, and on the wrong route:
We ate breakfast and lunch at home daily and had some great dinners out. One menu featured a Croatian ‘dumpling’ dish that I thought would be a nice change, only to be served about 15 little fried sausages. They were tasty with a nice spicy sauce and but not what I expected. Joe was also fooled another time when he ordered a ‘scallop’ dish only to receive veal scallopini.
This dinner was expensive but worth it:
Of course the sunsets from our deck were breathtaking and everchanging:
By Friday we were very excited knowing Spencer and Lindsay would be arriving the next day. They had flown from Florence to Rome, where they were staying for the night. They had some concern that their flight to Dubrovik may be delayed as there was a major fire at the Rome airport the day before, and of course it was in the terminal they were flying out of. But we crossed our fingers and looked forward to seeing them at 11am Saturday.
Saturday, May 9 – switch hotels (Spence & Lindsay!)
Received a horrible, two word text from Spence at 7am – FLIGHT CANCELLED. Cancelled – WTF? We never even considered it would be cancelled! The kids said the airport was absolute chaos and the smell of fire was still very fresh. The airport and airline were absolutely no help at all in finding an alternative flight out. Luckily, and at great expense, they found a Rome / Copenhagen / Frankfurt / Dubrovnik flight that would get them here by 9:30pm. That would mean they would lose the day here but it was their only option.
While we waited for them to arrive and we prepared to move, Spence sent another text asking us to please pick up their ‘race packages’. Unbeknownst to us, they had registered and had been training for months, for a Half-Marathon on Sunday. They wanted to surprise us and they sure succeeded. To us, a 21k run was insane – 2k is a challenge! We were very excited for them!
We took a 10 minute walk and picked up the packages, followed by a ten minute taxi to our new Airbnb apartment. Spencer and Lindsay booked this place and it was perfect; 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a massive patio that we had some great ‘wine sessions’ on.
And the best thing about it was it was a 7 minute walk into the Old Town.
We had purposely stayed away from the Old Town as we wanted to experience it together with Spence and Lindsay. However without them for the day, we ventured in.
Dubrovnik, fronting the Adriatic Sea is known for its Old Town, encircled with massive 16th century stone walls. We have visited a lot of Old Towns in our 8 months but this one was truly the most majestic. The streets are paved with limestone and lined with many shops and restaurants. The walls are very, very tall, the streets very wide. We were in awe.
Cruise season had barely begun but about 5000 cruisers arrived here most days, so it is busy too. And on top of it, the plaza was being prepped for Dubrovnik’s First Annual Half-Marathon. It was a good vibe and we spent the afternoon exploring.
St. Blaise Church
Gothic Rector’s Palace, now a history museum
Each little street off the main street was filled with restaurants and a very long staircase:
By 9pm we heard from the kids; they had landed, but their luggage had not. What a day those two had. Four countries in less than 10 hours; even customs was questioning the why and what for. It wasn’t surprising their bags couldn’t keep up with them when they held the flight for them in Frankfurt and literally had to run to the gate. But it certainly was not fair and very inconvenient.
They arrived at the apartment and it was oh so nice to see and hug them! They had had a long day but were excited about their first ever marathon in the morning. Luckily they had good intuition and had all of their running gear with them. We all took a walk into Old Town so they could see the starting gate and get a feel for the setting of the race. Dubrovnik has to be one of the most scenic places to run a marathon – they were pumped now. Early night – big day ahead!
Sunday, May 10
Our racers were filled with nervous excitement this morning.
Joe and I were thrilled to be a part of this experience and stood with the crowd as the racers lined up at the starting gate. At 6’4″, Spencer is easy to spot and we captured the moment they started the race.
It was a hot, hot morning – already around 25c at 10am. We headed home for breakfast and returned to see them both cross the finish line. We were so proud of them – 21k in the gruelling heat, on a course with unforgiving hills and at points, gale force winds. Gold medal performances!!
The rest of the day was understandably a little laid back but still included many walks, talks and good food. The missing luggage arrived! It was Mother’s Day and in edition to the gift of time with Spencer and Lindsay, they also took me out for a lovely lunch. Love them!!
Our game playing family doesn’t miss the opportunity for some fun and we ended our day with several rounds of a new game. Not sure what it was called but it was like Password and the game was on Spencer’s iPhone which you stick on your forehead and throw your head back or down to flip the screen, long story short. Very humourous to watch and play. We had many laughs to end a great day.
Monday, May 11
Our Marathoner’s were stiff and sore today, but were already talking about the next race and how to use this experience to better their times. We hope to watch them race again.
They were still up for a walk around the Old Town Walls. The walls are considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period.
The walk is 2km (1.2mi) in length and it is one of the best ways to appreciate the majesty of the Old Town and get some amazing views of the Adriatic Sea.
And of the city:
LOVED the family time!
The Minceta Tower protects the city’s northern edge;
Bokar Tower protects Pile Gate (the city’s main entrance);
Lovrjenac Fort protects the west;
The Revelin Fort protects the eastern entrance.
Dubrovnik is one of the cities where The Game of Thrones is filmed, so we were on the lookout for recognizable locations.
Next we took a 15 minute water taxi to Lokrum Island, 600 metres from Dubrovnik.
Austrian archduke Maximilian once had a holiday home on the island and a monastery and a botanical garden still survive from that era. The island is also inhabited by families of peacocks brought over by Maximilian from the Canary Islands. They were everywhere!
A restaurant is located in the former monastery, and walking routes round the island are marked out. There is also a nudist beach at one end of the island, that Spencer was pretty sure we could just bypass to get to another attraction. Bypassing was not possible and it was an attraction. We saw more things than we had planned that day.
Were you expecting nudity?
We spent some time in an adult playground; we have seen a few of these. They are filled with non-mechanical exercise equipment, we had some fun figuring out how they worked. These two really enjoyed themselves:
We also stopped at ‘The Dead Sea’, a salt-filled lake in which you can float in the Adriatic Sea-fed waters. It was very colourful:
These rocky cliffs were fun to explore and provided excellent views:
Love this picture, I told them to stop and look at me – would make an awesome album cover!
We ended the day with a fantastic bottle of champagne that Lindsay picked up during her visit to the Champange district in France and went for a nice dinner in the shadows of the Medieval buildings of Old Town. Dessert anyone?
Played the game again and had some great laughs at ourselves and everyone’s under pressure, crazy answers.
Tuesday, May 12
Last day together already! The kids were able to take a quick dip in the sea before we went for a last lunch. We were sad to see Spencer and Lindsay go but we jammed a lot into a little time. We missed them right away! We were so happy to be a part of their first marathon and that we had this time together. We filled them (too) full of tips on visiting Istanbul – their destination today on this vacation. See you in Vancouver! xoxox
Wednesday, May 13 – Dubrovnik to Makarska
We loved the beautiful city of Dubrovnik and will miss it here….
A three hour bus trip today will land us in Makarska, another coastal Croatian city. It is half-way to Split, where we are meeting Jordan and Amy in eight days! Very excited about that!
Enjoy the rest of your week!
Paula and Joe