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Last Dance with Dubrovnik

Fantasy Island was in our rear view: now it was time for futbol.

We limp-hustled to the apartment, switched out some last minute laundry (can I tell you how much fun it was to use that old school clothes line, watching our modern day duds flap in the breeze above that ancient wall?), and head to our recommended venue: an Irish Pub.  I knew we were late, as usual.  HWSNBN thought I was exagerating, as usual.  We arrived to a SRO venue, and I resigned myself to stand for the next few hours.  But the atmosphere was great: on the patio they were going to show the Argentina game, inside the main event (Croatia v Iceland).  Drinks were flowing, and food looked fanatastic. But HWSNBN did not want to stand, so left and found ANOTHER Irish pub around the corner. We managed to squeeze into a table when some non-soccer fans scurried out.  That was the good news.  Bad news? No food would be served any longer, and the bar would only sell beer.  Singer Girl was displeased.  During halftime they had to wander off in search of sustenance!

We were cozy with another table — a couple from Norway.  They were rooting for Iceland, but we liked them anyway.

Croatia won! It was fun, but not the same frenzied joy as when we were in the park in Split — but still awesome to be there.

The night was young, even if two-thirds of us weren’t.  We wandered around the electric city, finding areas we hadn’t yet explored.

 

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We found an odd little corner, nestled up against the southwestern edge of the wall. It was mostly residential, with so many cats it felt like a trap.  Like the cats were in charge, as they lured my companions into a small square…

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I stayed behind, just in case I needed to fetch help. but my surroundings were just as creepy:

Yes.  That is a guillotine.

We decided to wander elsewhere, and hopefully find a little liquid courage.

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We closed the place down, and headed back for our final Croatian sleep.  In the morning, we had to be out of the apartment by 11, but we were allowed to leave our luggage there.  Our wonderful hosts texted me in the morning and said that becasue it was raining, we could stay until we departed for the airport, which was more than generous.  The rain wasn’t enough to keep us inside — we had shopping to do.  So with the treachery of slippery steps in mind, we ventured forth.

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We finally got a good, uncrowded shot of the infamous “Steps of Shame” from GOT fame.  Did you know that was the single most expensive television scene ever shot, as they producers not only had to shut down several streets, they had to pay all the retailers on those streets.  Worth it, though.  The steps themselves? Go to the Jesuit high school one of our tour gides attended!

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Every time we went up this staircase, HWSNBN suggested I reenact it (you know, nekkid).  I politely declined, but if I had, I would’ve availed myself of the nearby bar’s tribute cocktails: IMG_9940

Another thing Dubrovnik is famous for is having the oldest working pharmacy in Europe.  Originally part of a Fransciscan monastery, it was founded in 1317.  They didn’t allow photos inside, but these are some shots of the surrounding grounds (with some more doors to feed my obsession):

I tried to google translate the Italian above the door, and it has something to do with beating an infernal enemy.  Dante’s Inferno was published a few years after this place opened shop, so maybe it was kind of the in thing. You know, hell and purgatory and all that.  Good times.

So. Shopping.

We were looking for a few different things.  I was smitten with the traditional Dubrovnik jewelry — fillagree metal balls were in stores all over the city, and we searched street by street until I found the one shop I had seen the day before that looked more traditional than all the rest.

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I wanted one for a Christmas ornament, but one of that size would’ve cost me a thousand dollars.  So I hemmed and hawed and pondered and finally settled on one as a pendant.  Singer Girl also found some fantastic keepsake jewelry.  If you are in the area, go see the father-daughter team at Beni, od puca 25 (that’s the address).  Singer Girl couldn’t decide what she wanted, so they created something on teh spot — took one bracelet, cut it down to her size, and made earrings out of the removed pieces.  Very cool, very special.

Our last stop was to get a necktie for Drummer Boy.  Why? Evidently the cravat was invented in Croatia.  Who knew?

Purchases in hand, it was time to retrieve our luggage and head to the airport. It was not easy saying goodbye to Croatia. What had started as an afterthought, the second fiddle to our trip to Greece, ended up being so much more. But now we turned our eyes southward, to the land of gods.  First stop: Santorini.  I’ll save the details for the next entry, but I’ll tease you with these snaps of our hotel upon arrival:

Doubling Down in Dubrovnik

You may recall our decision to avail ourselves of tour guides for the rest of the trip while floundering about in Split.  On our second full day in Dubrovnik, we took two.

First up: a walk-the-walls tour.    As always, I was in charge.  I don’t necessarily mind that, but being responsible for all the info all the time means I am not always on top of things.  I knew roughly where we needed to meet, but I had negelected to get precise info.  There were tons of tour groups, speaking so nay different languages.  I was trying to hobble, leading my crabby crew up and down the stone staircases.  I have no pride, or qualms, when it comes to asking for help, so I grabbed a tourist guide and asked: where does the Dubrovnik Walks (http://dubrovnikwalks.com/) tour meet? I was right: all the guides know each other. The gal rolled her eyes and gestured outside the city walls, so we scurried off.  Found another large group — asked them — and they pointed me to a group that was already walking away.  The guide said yes, this is the right group, but no, we couldn’t join without first checking in.  We rushed to the proper place, checked in, attached our little headsets, then frantically (with the aide of a sub-guide) to catch up with our crew, about about 10 minutes late.  Like every other person we met in this magical town, everyone was gracuious, kind and understanding of our touristic feebleness!

So: we started our tour hot, late, sweaty and grumpy wth one another.  The hot and sweaty part never went away, but the grumpy part sure did.

There is no persepctive from which this city doesn’t captivate.  Our tour guide was terrific: all of his speech was peppered with deferential references to his beloved speed metal, which of course endeared him to this rocker chick and her musical daughter.  But he was appropriately sober when required, especially when telling us what it was like as a child fleeing from the under-siege city with his mom and living in a refugee camp.

I took tons of pictures, and they say more than I can.  Here are some of my favorites, with periodic captions:

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HWSNBN, wearing his treasured Croatian soccer jersey, wondering where I am. I was up in one of the tower niches, like the one you see behind him, capturing a dazzling succession of pictures, which you will see below.

One of the funniest moments on the tour was also one of the most weirdly charming.  While strolling about at ground level the previous day, Singer Girl notced what we thought was a tennis court, stashed behind a small alley entryway.  But up on the wall we got a closer look. IMG_1824

Croatians love their sports — and especially basketball.  But the city walls of Dubrovnik are not very forgiving when it comes to space.  So when the city needed a public basketball court, they changed the court configuration.  Our tour guide said he rememebred when this was a dirt area.  He and his friends celebrated Croatia’s historic third place win in the World Cup 1998 by kicking up a storm in this spot. The court may be fancy and new, but nestled into the centuries old city walls, it retains its whimsical appeal.

We completed this tour, then went tograb some lunch and regroup before our next one.  We had lots of time — I had selected a city tour for early evening, so it wouldn’t be so hot.  So that meant two things: back to the beach, and then a nap.  Our trek to the starting point of this tour was easier, since this time we knew where we were going (of course, we still had to DO the trek.  By the end of our 3 1/2 days in Dubrovnik, we would walk about 37 miles, or 322 flights of stairs, or more than 90,000 steps.  And yes.  I was in das boot).

Our tour guide strolled us around Dubrovnik on street level, where we admired architecture, lamented war damage (this guide, too, was a war refugee), marvelled at history and folklore, and fell deeper in love with the city.

We saw so many cats — I have never seen so many stray cats so well loved.  Everywhere you looked there were water and food dishes set out for them.

So much charm and color!

After asking for restaurant suggestioins, and what we should do on our last day, we said goodbye to the guide then went home to clean up to go eat.  The next day was going to be good: a trip to fantasy island, and another Croatia World Cup game!

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