After nearly a week with friends exploring Croatia’s National Parks and bar hopping in Hvar, I was ready to board the Jadrolinja Ferry to Dubrovnik. We were dropped at the port end of town so I shared a taxi with two other solo travellers into the centre. It was dark but probably still 35 degrees celsius, and the scenery so far had been relatively unimpressive. That was until our driver slammed the breaks at the gate to the old town.
Approaching the draw-bridge I was already in awe of the medieval structure. How could something so real feel like a movie? Perhaps it was the three piece band playing Game of Thrones’ opening theme. Following the procession of tourists cramming for a photo, I climbed the staircase to my old town hostel, Villa Angelina. That was enough to put me off exploring again until morning. After checking in, I took a shower and got some much needed sleep.
The next morning I woke with a grumbling stomach so I made a beeline up some more stairs and along the inner wall to find Lady Pi-Pi, a garden terrace cafe which had been recommended for breakfast by my hostel. I don’t remember my order because my attention was swiftly snatched by the outlook over old town. That was my first proper view of Dubrovnik; it’s burnt orange tiles between white stone and blue sky – a sight for sore London eyes.
After breakfast I decided to explore the old town for a bit, the whole time wondering if I’d somehow stubled into Universal Studios because the cinematic quality was 360 degree HD. I came across jewellery stores and gelato, the old town market, art galleries and a cathedral before the 40 degree heat got to me and I retreated to air-conditioning.
Later that evening it was time to walk Dubrovnik’s city walls. Just before sunset is a perfect time as the rays cool and the retiring light adds to the magic. If you thought they were impressive from below, just wait till you’re walking above. Boats are reduced to bath toys, bobbing about the shimmering Adriatic, and there’s no need for rose tinted glasses. Navigating anti-clockwise the views only grow in grandiosity to the point it becomes hard not to laugh at those simply bouncing a basketball below the top.
Now I was starting to miss the group of friends I’d made in Split, but I knew not far away at the hostel would be a flurry of fresh check ins also keen to hang out. Sure enough a quick survey of my 6-bed dorm returned a new crew for the night ahead. With them and a couple of hostel staff we danced in Dubrovnik’s night clubs ’til the dawn.
Overdue for a swim, the next day I walked to a nearby beach, home of Banje Beach Club. That first dive through the water is such sweet relief, over and over again as the beads of humid perspiration form quickly on the beach. Having spent most of the morning here I wanted to get in a couple more activities before flying out that evening.
Earlier in the trip I’d spotted an intriguing war photography exhibition called War Photo Limited and had been saving it for a special visit. Particularly interesting and harrowing for me was The End of Yugoslavia exhibition – a part of very recent history that up until now I’d not learnt much about. The photography is deeply emotional and with english audio guides this is well worth a visit.
Last but not least I couldn’t resist a final farewell drink at Buza Bar, also known as Dubrovnik’s cliff diving bar. If the weather is calm you can bring your swimsuit for the unforgettable chance of dipping into the big blue on the outer side of the city walls. With a storm brewing we just enjoyed the view.