Dubrovnik, the Cat’s Meow…..

It’s day 5 of our journey and we’re just now starting to shrug off that uptight edge (the bad kind of edge) that all New Yorkers (and perhaps most big city dwelling Americans) have and have started to chill out a bit.  🙂  Those of you who travel abroad know what I’m talking about – when you first arrive at your international destination no one can do anything fast enough or competent enough, am I right?!

Oh, and speaking of New York, Francesca and I have discovered the way to rid New York City of it’s rat problem (those of you who have ridden the subway or live anywhere near garbage know the problem of which I speak). The answer: CATS!  If you ask either of us what our general impression is of Croatia (other than its extremely beautiful!) we’ll tell you its that there are cats EVERYWHERE! Fortunately most of them are cute little, fluffy things and not the narsty kind you’d expect to see running around back alleys in the Old City in Dubrovnik – like this ugly fella who was loitering down near the water on the outskirts of the city walls while we drank a beer and watched the sunset.

One-Eyed Jack

One-Eyed Jack

Dubrovnik Sunset

Dubrovnik Sunset

I honestly have never seen so many cats in one place in my life.  And, of course, more to the point, I haven’t seen ONE rat or mouse or any other type of rodent for that matter.  And it’s not that Dubrovnik is dirty, its actually quite clean all things considered, but it is a tourist city that generates copious amounts of garbage and left over food so to be rat-free is definitely praise worthy.

Dubrovnik's Old City

Dubrovnik's Old City

Now back to the beautiful part.  We’ve enjoyed gorgeous weather for the past 4 days here, although they tell us its about to end tomorrow with some rain which is fine with us as we will be well on our way to Montenegro by then. Since its 1am now and we’ve got an early start tomorrow I’ll just throw in a bunch of photos here with one or two comments to give you the flavor of Dubrovnik (and nearby Cavtat).  There haven’t been many crazy stories to recount yet anyway, but suffice it to say that Dubrovnik is definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area.

Dubrovnik Old City

Dubrovnik Old City

Francesca says, admiringly, that Dubrovnik looks a lot like Italy, although I have never been so I can’t corroborate.  But we’ll be there the day after tomorrow so I’ll weigh in then.   If it looks anything like this I’ll be very happy.

Laundry shot

Laundry shot

For some unknown reason I enjoy taking photos of laundry hanging on a line. Maybe its because we don’t hang it on a line and it seems very foreign and culturally significant to me?

Remnants of the war.

Remnants of the war.

Although it does not seem to be a topic of every day conversation among the local population (to the extent that we can tell not being locals) Croatia’s declaration of independence and the subsequent attack and siege of Dubrovnik by the Yugoslavia People’s Army (JNA) in 1991 still shows in the ruins including bombed out sections of the Old City.

Old City's main thoroughfare at night

Old City's main thoroughfare at night

We met the two ladies below as we watched the sunset at a bar located on a cliff outside of the Old City walls overlooking the water.  They are a mother and daughter of Iranian decent (interestingly they used “Iran”, not “Persia”), the mother was born in Iran and still spoke with a thick accent while the daughter was born, raised and still lives in London and has an English accent.The mother has been traveling non-stop for four years!!  Her secret?  She owns rental property in London and some other places and lives off of the rental income. Ingenious!  That’s the way to do it!  She says she dips into her savings for bigger ticket items like flights, but her day to day living expenses are paid 100% from her real estate rental income.   She’ s been to a lot of places, but since she tends to stay in a place for a month or two at a time she hasn’t covered as much territory as your typical backpacker.

IMG_0970

Her daughter is just with her for about a week and had actually extended for a few days, a fact her mother was quick to criticize saying that when she is with her daughter her money goes much quicker.   Sadly, yet understandably under those circumstances, she was eager for her daughter to return to London.

Croatian Youths 3Tourist 2!

Croatian Youths 3Tourist 2!

We saw these two Croatian youngsters playing football (ie soccer) below us from the top of the Old City walls as we walked the perimeter.  Amazingly they were still playing about 2 1/2 hours later as we wondered by – on their level this time.  I can nary resist an international game of pick up soccer and so I challenged them to a quick game to three.  I have played (and lost) pick up soccer games with locals in many countries including Argentina, Columbia, Japan and Jamaica, but what made this by far the most humiliating was the ages of my opponents (collectively about 1/3 of my age) and that I lost on a “nutmeg” (soccer lingo for a the ball going between your legs).  Francesca captured it on video and if I can figure out how to successfully convert my HD clips to something I can edit I’ll put a little montage together of my defeat.

View from near our apartment

View from near our apartment

As we like to do when we travel we are staying in an apartment.  Ours in Dubrovnik is called Villa Elly and is run by a retired Croatian shipping company executive and his wife.  The apartment is simple, but clean and only a short walk from the Old City.  After walking down a few sets of stone steps (ubiquitous in Dubrovnik!) you come to a street that leads down to the Old City to the left and to the right to a secluded “beach”.   Above is the view from that street as we descend the stairs from our apartment.   We went to the “beach” only to find that this beach like almost all in Dubrovnik are stone beaches and not that comfortable.  Actually, as we’d find out, many of the locals actually relax on cement “beaches” which makes these stone beaches seem like a luxury.

Stone beach in Dubrovnik

Stone beach in Dubrovnik

Another problem I have with the beaches of Croatia is that the locals, well, I guess even the European tourists – ESPECIALLY the European tourists – have a penchant for making the Speedo their bathing costume of choice.

Speedo kills.....

Speedo kills.....

Banana hammocks are bad enough when worn properly by men with the physiques to back it, but its worse when you have to endure the above display – a shot taken by Francesca at  a local “beach” in the port town of Cavtat – a day trip we took by boat from Dubrovnik.

Port town of Cavtat

Port town of Cavtat

So I guess I should address the Eating, Playing and Loving so far.  I have to say that the food in Croatia is nothing to write home about (or, I guess, blog about).  Its Mediterranean cuisine which, at least in Dubrovnik,  appears to be a wilted mix of Italian, Greek and American.  Its not bad, but not great either.  We are holding out for Italy to overwhelm our culinary senses.

Anchovies & olives, Artichokes & olives

Anchovies & olives, Artichokes & olives

That said we did have some delicious tapas at a port side cafe in Cavtat.  Olives are a major export of Croatia and so most every dish has some degree of olive in it – the above dishes were no exception.

We have also held off on the “playing” as well in so far as we define it as extreme or adventure sports (ie sky diving, scuba diving, hang gliding, bungy jumping, etc.).  Its not that they don’t have those things – I have seen sea kayakers and horse back riders, but we’re saving our Euros (actually the local currency is the Kune (Khun-ah) in Croatia although they are hoping to be admitted to the EU) for other places where the adventure sports are more a part of the cultural fabric like New Zealand, Australia and South Africa (which, actually do not use the Euro either, that was just a figure of speech).   Now for the loving part.  Well, suffice it to say that returning home dead tired and sweaty every night is no aphrodisiac.  🙂

[Be sure to check out more photos from our trip by clicking on our Flickr link on the right (‘more photos’)

In Retrospect (August 15, 2010)

Dubrovnik was the first “real” stop on our trip (Dublin was a mere 6 hours) and while I do remember it for its beauty and all the cats as I write about in the original posting, I remember it mostly as a transformative experience.  It was during our four days in Croatia that we got out of New York mode and work mode and settled into traveler mode. It wouldn’t be until after week 3 that it would really sink in that we weren’t just on vacation (the 3 weeks we took for our wedding and honeymoon had been our longest ever vacation from work), but it was in Dubrovnik where we got our travel groove back.

In the original posting I promised a video of my soccer game with the Croatian kids, but never got around to it.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Dubrovnik, the Cat’s Meow…..”

  1. John lusk Says:

    My favorite pic? You on the beach wearing a Texas shirt. 🙂 Look forward to seeing y’all later this month!

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thanks Lusker. I’ve gotten more comments on that shirt than I would have thought. It seems that you Texans (or at least the Austinians) travel quite a bit. Of course now I feel kind of like a tool for wearing it since I don’t live there, am not from there and didn’t go there. When I meet people from there I sheepishly mumble something about an MBA soccer tournament there over 10 years ago…as if that legitimizes it. 🙂

      Truth is, when Francesca and I travel we always get $10 t-shirts at Old Navy that we can just toss when they have outlived their usefulness. But I paid an extra $4 for the Texas one and I like the color so I may just hang on to it.

  2. Loving the posts, Dan! Are you sure La Recoleta Cemetery doesn’t have Dubrovnik beat in the cat race? They were creeping near every stinking grave stone and mausoleum we walked by – I had nightmares for days…

    • aroljahns Says:

      Haha! Yes, you’re right! Recoleta cemetery IS full of cats! That may give Dubrovnik a run for its money…..at least as far as cat density is concerned, if not total cat population. 🙂

  3. Fabulous! I need to find the Flicker link! Keep them coming. Lynnie

    • aroljahns Says:

      Hi Lynnie, Great to hear from you!!! Glad you’re following along at home. 🙂 You should be able to get to the flickr link just by clicking on the “more photos” link on the right side column of the first blog page. The last thing in that right hand column should say “More photos from our trip” and then it shows 4 random photos. under that is a link that says “more photos”. click that and it should take you to our flickr account for our photos that didnt make it into the blog. that said, i have not had enough internet time to upload many of our photos yet. hopefully i’ll get to do that over the next day or so. so keep checking back. Bye for now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: