After catching up nuff ZZZs on the 8am bus from Split, we were finally in Dubrovnik – a beautiful, medieval castle town, perched right on the water. Besides getting that hawt instagram with the fortress, Dubrovnik was also our conveniently located launching pad into Montenegro and Bosnia. It’s a must-see site on it’s own accord, however (in case you hadn’t heard).
We arrived at the bus station just before 1pm. Even with Koy letting me carry his little Mary Poppins’ bag… with the heat and terrain it’s a bit of a hike into Stari Grad* where we stayed- just outside the Old City Walls. So hop in a cab. It should be no more than 10 euro.
*Stari Grad translation: Old Town* although it also happens to be the name of a town in Hvar! (Most of these cities have a Stari Grad and a Novi Grad. The Stari Grad tends to be where the castles are… hence the ‘Old’ I guess)
On that note…
When searching for somewhere to stay, be aware that Dubrovnik is BIG, and if you too trekked all the way there for a fortress insta (don't lie) then chances are you're going to want to stay in Stari Grad.
Our AirBnB was an enjoyable 10 minute walk to the city walls, had a rooftop balcony, modern amenities, INCREDIBLE hosts, and it was very affordable at $84 CAD (also keep in mind how late we booked- it's normally about $60 CAD). As soon as we arrived, our hosts Mira and Toni greeted us with local Croatian alcohol called Rakia, some local wine and snacks! We had great conversation; they showed us cool restaurants and helped us figure out our car rental situation (we still hadn't booked transport to Montenegro the next day)!
So far we were 3 for 3 on the accommodations (yes, I included the train). In Dubrovnik, you can also stay within the Old Town walls- but be aware that inside is a bit like a maze, with a lot of steep stairs so be prepared to lift that suitcase on some inclines!
On that note:
Are. EVERYWHERE. I know, us included, but... It really is a zoo. And get prepared for prices and authenticity to both take a lil left turn in their respective directions. Of course, it was nice to see Dubrovnik IRL, but unfortunately everyone else in North America shares similar aspirations.
An aside: While we were in a local taxi we heard on the radio that they are in talks of setting up non-stop flights to and from JFK! If you absolutely must go, go now, before more people get converted into diehard GOT fans.
Just One More: Koy was reading his great grandfather’s autobiography along our trip. His great granddad had visited Dubrovnik as well, and even during his trip in the 1950s it was considered a touristy destination.
There was a sense of untapped adventure paired with exploring new places that I missed in Dubrovnik. Knowing that hundreds of thousands of tourists, even generations before you, have been to a destination is definitely cool. But I couldn’t help but get the sense that the ancient architecture, and the colourful history had become overlooked, or exploited. It felt a bit used and abused, commericalised. (Not that I seem to mind above)
Food, water, tours, even the holy PIVA jumped in price. There were cool looking restaurants in every alley, nook and cranny, but we found a lot of them to be unjustifiably expensive. You know it's bad when they have dishes priced in $USD -the horror.
On that note:
Keep in mind we'd just slept on a train, and a bus- we were starving for a pampering. Thank goodness for our Dubrovnik family feeding us snacks to tide us over (although paired with a disproportionate amount of Rakia and wine made it all a bit counter-productive). After freshening up we headed out to scope out the resto scene. Here's where we ended up:
Mea Culpa 🌟🌟🌟
I don't think ashamed is the right word, but we definitely had a massively gluttonous feast at this touristy pizzeria and I kind of loved every second of it. It was our first real meal since Lake Bled, Slovenia and as Koy was zooming up the stairs and through the alleys exploring the castle, I was strugglin'!- You know when you just need a pizza? No? Then get off my site! (jk) Eventually I pulled a GF card and decided that we would eat at the next place we saw. Unfortunately the next place we saw only had juice and sandwiches (randomly) but the server there recommended we go to Mea Culpa. Tbh, it was delightful- the servers were amazing, they gave us a special happy hour discount, and the food was YUM. Not our typical place to stop but hmm... maybe we should eat more mainstream more often.
Bar Bota 🌟
So like most trendy millennial women, I enjoy oysters. I can't say I've ever come across an oyster I didn't like... Not even a sketchy one- and I've caught and shucked them myself before! HOWEVER, this restaurant, unfortunately, muddied that relationship. The oysters tasted like sewage! Like I truly eat anything but this was rly sewage. And, you know, maybe I've been spoiled by awesome oysters but when you head across the world to a seaside Mediterranean city, there are some expectations that should be met. Such as: less hints of sewer. The cherry on top was when the martinis we ordered arrived and they were just the vermouth brand 'Martini' in a chilled glass. Because I’m a nice lady they get one 🌟 for trying... Participation Points 🌟.
Buza Bar 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
This is the Go-To spot when visiting Dubrovnik. Roughly translating to “Hole in the wall”. Our hosts described it as a local secret, that they somehow only really open to the public during summer months… You’ve got to work a bit to find it’s unmarked door… which is half the fun. It’s kind of like the Low-Key Hula Hula of Dubrovnik… Cliff jumping, cold drinks and one helluva sunset.
Located on top of Mount. Srdj. It is scenic, delicious, and very needed once you reach the peak there (photos below). It's just a matter of getting there, earn that Alfredo sauce! (photo also below). Also to note, the patio was closed when we went- because of that darned wind as well- so although it's a big pull factor for the place, it may not be open and seating inside is très limite.
Paparazzo🌟🌟🌟🌟 (for presentation)
We only just walked by here, perhaps ogling the olive wood cutting boards of aesthetic foods a bit and basking in the BBQ aromas, but this place would be first on our list to dine at if we return! I'm getting hungry just thinking about those platters.
We found ourselves in a situation with a local boat rental man that is so bizarre you can email us if you want to hear it*, but it led us to this restaurant, making it all worth it in the end. This place is on the edge of the castle by the water, with fresh oysters and a decently priced menu overall. It was a spot we originally overlooked as it looked too nice, but luckily the random man brought us together and it was beautiful. I definitely recommend.
*It may involve us accepting money and walking to a random store to purchase him a burner phone and us getting free beers, but not the free boat ride to Hvar we were hoping for.
Our first day and evening were spent meandering the fortress and exploring every nook and cranny we could, while of course, doing some sampling of food and beverage –strictly RnD. We called it a night at about 11pm, picking up a local bottle of vino (15%!), and Koy buying his own beloved olive wood board to recreate the scene at Paparrazzo, then retreating back to our own fortress; Martina’s Villa (Our AirBnB). When we got back, Toni saw what we were up to and insisted on setting our table on our balcony with glasses and nibbles on a fresh summery tablecloth: A perfect, peaceful way to end the hustle and bustle of the day. (See pic of me #justbeinabeh)
We woke up the next morning knowing we had to get it together and find a way to be in Montenegro to make our AirBnB in Budva that night, but we ALSO knew we HAD to go to the top of Mount. Srdj that overlooks Dubrovnik in all its glory. We left as early as we could, Toni and Mira let us leave our bags at their place and we headed over to the gondola at the base of the mountain. Unfortunately the gondola that brings people up and down (120 kuna round trip) was closed due to high winds (apparently closures for this reason are common). We were about to give into a v persuasive taxi driver to get a ride up for 100 kuna /pp but instead were pulled aside by an Aussie couple who told us about city bus #17 that takes you up and down for 30 kuna. The gondola ticket lady confirmed the existence of the bus but we had to go to the Pile Gate. Bus 17 left hourly. We had some difficulty finding the exact location where to catch it, and nobody that we asked had any idea either! Finally, 10am struck and our eyes raced around the area. Koy spotted a shuttle bus across the road in the BUS BAY (weird!) with the number 17 stuck to the windshield and we darted across the road to wave it down.
Our shuttle driver. I don’t know where to start. In his retro van, hacking a dart in one hand, yelling about a man named Rikael in the other, vodka airport bottles rolling at his feet with the local news blaring. It was a beautiful scene. Naturally some fear kicked in as we wound up and up the remote mountainside, but it was that authentic Croatian sight I’d been craving.
He definitely dropped us off high up, but it was not the top of the mountain we needed. There was still another half hour hike to the Visitor’s Centre, not including photo-ops along the way. It was a sweaty but interesting hike up; with war memorials and signs for possible landmines off in the distance.
We were so excited when we reached the air conditioned bistro haven at the top that we so mindlessly carbed up on pasta and beer, and then raced down to catch the crazy shuttle van man who was soon scheduled to be at our original drop-off location. He was a bit late and we wondered if he was even coming back, or if we’d be stuck up there. Luckily, he arrived and we swerved back down the hill. Between more calls about Rikael and lighting his fresh cigarettes we often wondered just what was steering the vehicle.
He let us off at a spot closer to our place, AND refused to accept our payment for the journey! Just the most chill man alive, or maybe he had a bigger fish to fry with Rikael… So, although it was a bumpier ride than it had to be, #noragretz.
Two things before you go: We were so out of it when we reached the Visitor’s Centre at Mount. Srdj that we didn’t even notice the War Museum next door!! I still don’t know how we missed it but am v regretful that we did. I was so curious the entire planning phase, during the trip and now still to this day about the different parties' perspectives of the 90s conflict… Sewage-y oysters aside, I would definitely return to Dubrovnik just to see this museum.
Another factor of this trip up the Mountain was that it put us quite behind for our vehicle pick up and drive to Budva. We had found a decently priced car rental by our accommodation that morning and were now late to pick up our car. Businesses have some weird hours, we were lucky it was only 2pm and it closed at 3pm!
We signed the rental papers, assured the rental people we knew how to drive stick, and we headed out to the parking lot to start our Montenegro/Bosnia adventures. Koy was convinced the racing game he played outside the Yonge & Eg Silver City was enough practice he needed to hit the roads. He put his foot on the accelerator, the car lurched forward, and the engine cut out.
Dun Dun DUN.......... To Be Continued o_O