January 26, 2015

Captivating Croatia Part 1.....DUBROVNIK

The irony of sitting here watching the snow fall outside on the streets of Frankfurt whilst thinking back on our time in sunny, glorious, captivating Croatia has not escaped me....

The posts to come over the following days are very long overdue but necessary to document as our 12 day trip to Croatia was unquestionably one of our favourite holidays of the year. It took us a little while to get to the decision of Croatia,  as the Greek Islands had been bandied around in conversation a bit. Ultimately, we chose Croatia as it had the perfect balance of sea, sun, sights, boating & partying. Contrary to what you may believe (like us) whilst Croatia still holds its own currency it is by no means the cheapest destination to visit, so if you think you are going to have a cheap holiday in Croatia, think again. But with scenery like this, who cares?

The weather in Germany in August was quite a let down. Instead of enjoying the last month of summer it was quite cold and miserable, so it was time to head south east. Cue holiday planning somewhere warm, somewhere that boasts 2800 hours of sunlight per year. Cue the Dalmatian Coast! To do it justice, we booked for 12 days, flying into Dubrovnik and out of Split so that we could boat hop along the coast line and visit a couple of islands between the two. 

Rather than stay right in the thick of it all, we chose to stay in Lapad Bay, about a 10 minute bus ride to the Pile Gate in the Old Town. This was perfect for us, as we wanted to be close to the beach and have a bit more of a chilled out time. We arrived at our guest house, got familiar with our surroundings and headed straight into the Old Town to start exploring. Surrounded by medieval defensive walls, this UNESCO heritage town is truly something very special. As you walk along the marble stones in the Stradun, you feel as if you have been transported back in time. From the grandeur of the baroque style buildings and churches to the many little lane ways it doesn't take you long to be utterly charmed by the beauty of the Old Town. Ok, ok, a lot of work has had to be completed to return this city to it's former glory after the Croatian War of Independence but I still got swept up in the romance of it all.
The Stradun

We wandered the streets and lane ways, allowing ourselves to get lost in our surroundings. We had heard a lot about the Buza bars in the Old Town, so after a bite of lunch we found ourselves hot & thirsty enough for some beers. We found the Buza Bar quite quickly (Chris is much better at reading maps than me, not my strong point!) and understood why so many people had recommended it. Cut into the cliff face, sits Buza Bar 1 (there is two, however we didn't visit the second) with tables, chairs and a fab cocktail list. A firm favourite with the locals & holidaymakers it's also a great spot for a swim, which is often necessary after walking around the town as the sun radiates down on the marble, making the streets in the old town rather hot. 
Buza Bar 1

Reflecting over a glass of Croatian wine at La Bodega
That evening we explored the main street of Lapad, which has a pedestrianised street with lots of bars and restaurants.

The following day Chris went diving in the morning, so I spent the morning exploring Lapad and the beach area, referred to as Uvala Lapad as I had worked out the previous evening that there was some lovely scenic walks that can be taken along the coast line. I was so impressed by the colour and clarity of the water there.....you could see all the way to the bottom. All the other tourists were up early too, finding spots on the rocks to lay their towels down for a day of sunning and swimming. Each little area had ladders from the edge of the rocks into the water to make it easier for you to get in and out......absolute paradise! That evening we headed into Town for sunset drinks on the beach and dinner at a semi traditional taverna.

The crystal clear waters of the Adriatic
Uvala Lapad
Overlooking the Old Harbour from Ploce Gate
Friday was our main sightseeing day and we made sure we were up and ready to head out fairly early, as quite a few cruise ships had docked in town the previous evening and we didn't want to get caught up waiting in queues with them onshore. In the sweltering heat, we wandered through some of the little lane ways and climbed many, many stairs to get to the cable car which would take us to Mount Srd for sweeping views of the coastline. This is a must if you are visiting Dubrovnik, the views are spectacular and well worth the 100KN. Whilst up there, we also visited the Homeland War Museum, which is set inside a Napoleonic Fort. The museum documents Dubrovnik's wartime history, with a large emphasis on the Croatian War of Independence in the early 1990's. Being a mere 5 or 6 years old when this War took place, it was a poignant moment for me to realise the magnitude of the devastation that was inflicted on Dubrovnik & the Croatian people during this time.   
Wandering the laneways of the Old Town in the heat
Upon leaving Mount Srd, we headed to Hotel Dubrovnik Palace for the afternoon, as Chris had booked another half day session diving. I was able to enjoy an afternoon of sunning and reading whilst he was diving the wreck of an old Italian cargo ship.  Just before 6pm, we made our way into the Old Town to walk the walls. We arrived just in the nick of time, as they close at about 6.30pm. We chose the perfect time to visit, it was fairly quiet and the best time of day for taking photos. The views did not disappoint, the scenery at sunset was spectacular and we enjoyed looking at the city from a different perspective. We completed the whole circuit and were even lucky enough to witness some filming of Games of Thrones! 
Bokar Tower

After the walk, we stumbled across a fabulous wine bar, D'Vino which is owned by an Croat-Australian. If you visit Dubrovnik you have to visit, the staff are really friendly and the wines are fantastic! There we took a white wine flight, sampling delicious wines from Malvazija in Istria, Posip in Korcula (one of our favourite Croatian varieties) and Grasevina in Slavonia. D'Vino also serve up yummy local cheese & meat platters which we also sampled. We ate a lovely meal at Restaurant Dubrovnik before heading to the Revelin Nightclub which is located in the Revelin fortress. A bit of fun, I soon realised that this near 30 year old's heydays are well and truly over!

On our last full day in Dubrovnik, we took a water taxi to Kolocep Island to eat at Villa Ruza, which came highly recommended by a friend. You can read all about that in the next post. That evening, we ate at Bar Bota Sare, a seafood and sushi bar close to the Cathedral. This was our favourite meal of our stay in Dubrovnik and well worth a visit. Later that evening whilst wandering around the town, soaking up the atmosphere for one last time, we walked up a grand staircase that led into a square with a beautiful church, St Ignatius. Where ever I travel, I like to try and find the prettiest church possible to light a candle as a remembrance to Dad. Dubrovnik felt like even more of a special place to do this, with the Croatians being so passionate about their catholicism and faith (a bit like Dad could be). I know Dubrovnik (and Croatia in general) would be a place that Dad would have loved, the religion mixed with the grand architecture and the boating lifestyle, sea, weather, wines, food etc. So when I saw this church and its interior, I knew it was the one to light a candle. Whilst I was there, I also took a moment to light a candle for Britt Lapthorne, an Australian murdered in Dubrovnik in 2008 whose death has never been solved. A slightly bittersweet end to our time in Dubrovnik.

Sunday was an early start for us, as our ferry was departing at 8.30 for our next stop, Korcula. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our time in Croatia! 

We stayed at Lapad House and ate at Oliva Pizzeria, Sesame, Restaurant Dubrovnik and Bar Bota Sare (our best meal in Dubrovnik, you need to book ahead). We also had drinks at Buza Bar 1, La BodegaEast West Beach Club, D'Vino Wine Bar & Razonoda Wine Bar

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