Friday, October 8, 2010

Dubrovnik Part 1

We traveled from Korcula to Dubrovnik by bus - a 2 l/2 hour ride which included 1/2 hour on the ferry between Korcula Island and the mainland.
Back on dry land, we rode up the Peljesac Peninsula. I quickly lost count of the vineyards and tasting rooms. Quite different than the island of Korcula, these people realized the financial possibilities of their products and they were ready to sell.

Our Dubrovnik hostess, Minerva, met us at the bus station and took us to Old Town in her car. When we arrived at the parking area, it was full, apparently the usual situation. She called her father who speaks not a word of English and he guided us from the parking area to our apartment while Minerva waited for a parking spot.

I never mastered more than 'yes' and 'thank you' in Croatian, but by switching the two around we were able to make conversation and Grandpa and I were old friends by the time we arrived at the apartment. This is a subtle linguistic tactic that I highly recommend. However, it must be used with caution. The old guy was trying to hit on me the very next day!

The apartment is charming., but it is 54 steps from the closest cross street and then another 50 steps down to the Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street.

The city is sparkly clean! The only dirt in town is in flower pots and postage-sized garden plots filled mainly with ornamental plants. Everything is rock - the buildings, the streets, the alley ways. And that rock is kept clean. A street cleaner actually washes the long flat streets every morning and the penalty for littering must be horrible because it is virtually non-existent.

Aside from a few electric delivery vehicles very early in the morning, there is no traffic in Old Town.
The wall that completely encloses the city helps to keep the town clean. Everything and everyone has to come in at one of four gates.

Once divided by a canal, residents took advantage of the 1667 earthquake which severely damaged the town, to completely revamp Dubrovnik. The canal was filled in, unifying the town and providing the framework for the Stradun.

For the price of a cup of coffee, I can watch an international parade on the Stradun for a couple of hours. The people going by have so much more in common than they have differences. There are people here from all over Europe, all over the world. People who were locked in mortal combat in two world wars not so many years ago.

A group of Oriental people were seated at the table next to us one night. They had brought a bottle of very nice wine to open at the table. When the waiter had filled their glasses, they insisted that he pour a glass for each of us.
Were they Chinese? Japanese? Or yet some other label? I couldn't tell and it didn't matter. We toasted the beauty of Dubrovnik, clinked glasses, and there were smiles all around.

I see that as one of the best things about travel!

Tourism is alive and well in Dubrovnik. Aside from those of us who arrive by car, bus, plane, and private yachts, Dubrovnik receives over 800 cruise ship visits every year pouring thousands of visitors through the gates. These tourists spend money in high-end stores and artsy little trinket shops; they eat ice cream and hot dogs and five star gourmet meals. They visit ancient churches and war memorials; they invest in original art and pretty postcards. And they buy tickets to walk the top of the wall. More about this later.

And, as always, there are boats and many opportunities to take advantage of them. Some of the most aggressive salespeople we saw in the city were selling day trips to the many islands just off-shore. More about this later, too.

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