Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2017: Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia September 2011
By Christy319 from USA, Summer 2011
Page 7 of 7: Dubrovnik
View from Apartment Viktorija
Then down to Dubrovnik for five nights/four days. We dropped off the car at the Hertz just south of the Ploce Gate ó it was very convenient though there was no obvious parking and we had to park illegally, run in, and ask what to do.
Our stay was three days too long. It was hot, humid (no breeze) and full of cruise ship crowds. The city is beautiful (that is, the city inside the walls ó outside is terrible sprawl) and the city walls are a wonderful walk. We did them right at opening so that it wasnít too hot (though even 8am was quite warm) or crowded. The town in general is much tinier than I expected, and the other ďsightsĒ arenít very interesting (I think we did just about every one of them). Iíve never felt so nickel and dimed ó every time I turned around we were paying admission to a mediocre sight or museum, or being offered cheap tourist trinkets. A lot of things were surprisingly expensive ó cabs, the Laundromat. You could probably walk every single street inside the town walls in a few hours. I expected weíd do a lot of exploring, and that it might be like a smaller Venice, where you can get away from tourist crowds and where there is something interesting around every corner. But it was so small, there was no getting away from crowds, and around every corner was yet another vendor selling trinkets. I had expected to do some day trips but once there, none looked that appealing ó they were all so touristy.
We took a boat ride to escape the heat, and this was fine but nothing special. The boat driver actually took a short cut rather than the advertised route.
We also took a day trip to Lokrum Island. Itís basically a city park for Dubrovnik, and has a worn-out, scruffy look (and cigarette butts everywhere ó and the island is supposedly non-smoking). We went to the ďbeachĒ (rocks with ladders) and the litter everywhere made it less than appealing.
The beach that was nice was St. Jakobís beach, south of the Ploce gate, about a half hour walk from the gate (and down 200 stairs). You can rent chairs and umbrellas here (I think it was Ä20 for two chairs and one umbrella). Warning ó you need beach shoes! Itís painful and very slippery without them. The beach was never crowded and the water is very nice. We spent three afternoons here.
I donít typically travel all the way from Seattle to Eastern Europe to go to the beach. I generally look for culture, history and good food in Europe. I know there is very interesting history and culture in Croatia, it just doesnít seem important to interpret this for the tourist, with good museums and historic sights, on the Dalmatian Coast ó the focus in on sun and sand. It reminded me of Mexico in this way. Once I learned that Croatia is the Mexico of Europe ó that Europeans come here for the sun and nice water, for cheap package holidays, I gave in. If you canít beat Ďem, join Ďem. So I relaxed and we had three very nice afternoons at St. Jakobís.
We stayed in Apartment Viktorija, about 1 km from the Ploce Gate. It wasnít large but it was fine for our needs, and relatively new and very clean. The sunsets were amazing due to lots of smoke in air, from forest fires inland. It had an amazing view over the town, sea and Lokrum Island, and a lovely balcony with this view. It was also a good value ó only Ä69 per night. The kitchen was more like a kitchenette, but the grocery stores are so small and inadequate that it was hard to buy enough groceries to make a meal anyway. Locals, our host told us, drive outside the city and shop in the large supermarkets there. Had we known that, we would have stocked up on the way in, before dropping off the car. The owner told us some very interesting stories about stationing 20 Defenders of Dubrovnik there during the war. Walking to and from town, about a 15 minute walk, got really old in the heat and humidity. Going into town (downhill) was fine but up the hill, ugh. We took a cab a couple of times and it was expensive for the fact that it was only a kilometer.
The restaurant and grocery situation in Dubrovnik is not good. Our host told us locals donít eat out, at least not in the old town. We pressed him for seafood recommendations, without luck ó there was nothing he would recommend. Our guidebook recommended exactly one restaurant ó the others, it said, were pretty bad. We ate at that one restaurant, the vegetarian restaurant Nishta, twice. There were some menu items that were pretty good and others that missed the mark, but the service and prices were good, and it was fairly healthy. We also had a decent (but not great) meal at a Bosnian restaurant called the Taj Mahal. The daily produce market is a good place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. And the sandwich shop and bakery called Patisserie Niko really saved us ó it was the only good sandwiches or take out we saw in town. So that was our lunch every day. They also have burek, fresh juice, desserts and other good stuff. I would also highly recommend the wine bar called DíVino. Itís run by a very friendly Australian who donates his tips to the local animal shelter (the stray dog situation in Croatia is pretty sad). You can enjoy well-chosen flights of Croatian wine here (cheese plates too).
As in Slovenia and Bosnia, everyone spoke English. It was easier to communicate here than it is for me in France or Spain.
Iím glad we took this trip but I donít feel the need to go back Dubrovnik or the Dalmatian Coast. I know I only spent a week there, but it didnít resonate with me, and all of the bad development, litter, stray pets (I forgot to mention all the stray cats that people put out cat food for, which broils and stinks in the sun and buzzes with flies), and the overwhelming number of tourists, made it unappealing. Like I said earlier, it reminded me of touristy parts of Mexico, where the culture has been totally subsumed to the almighty tourist dollar. The crowds at Plitvice and Dubrovnik were the worst Iíve experienced in Europe (maybe anywhere). And I have a hard time wanting to return to any place where the food isnít great. I donít mean to slam a place, but Iíd read so many reports of people who didnít mention any of these things, and I do want to offer a different perspective than others might have.
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