Good Morning, Dubrovnik | Day One in Croatia

Timed perfectly with the sunset over the Adriatic, we landed in Dubrovnik just a little before 8 p.m. Our flight was one of those where everyone claps and cheers when you land. Only certain groups of people are flight-clappers, and I’m always entertained when I find myself amongst them. 

The airport was small and easy to get out of, after making it past the very serious women working passport control. Our host volunteered to come pick us up from the airport, saving us on potential issues with directions and language barriers. “I’ll be by the cash machine with a blond-hair braid,” she had told me.  Sure enough, we walked out and there she was.

Such a warm, hospitable woman, she immediately started calling me ‘darling’ and rushed us into a Mercedes with a driver named Nikolai. They insisted on stopping at the local supermarket so that we could buy Croatian wine — which turned into wine, prosciutto-flavored chips, actual prosciutto, and Croatia’s version of sour peaches.

Lovorka, the owner of the apartment we are staying in, and Nikolai talked to us about where to go, and where not to go, for the 20-minute drive. We arrived at the apartment, got a quick tour, then our sweet host decided to head to the kitchen and make us Turkish coffee. She sat with us for a while, discussing restaurants to visit and how to avoid over-priced tourist traps. She is in her early 50s and has lived in Dubrovnik her entire life; she was born in the apartment we are staying in.

We were completely content staying in our first night and admiring the view from the balcony. I thought I was impressed with it at night in the dark, but when I woke up this morning and looked outside, now illuminated by the freshly-risen sun, I realized I hadn’t yet seen the best of it. We enjoyed a 7 a.m. coffee session outside before heading out to explore. 

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It pays to head out early before tour buses start arriving and before the cruise ship passengers start unloading into the streets of the Old Town. We started the morning with a light meal and Croatian beer before exploring the small, quaint streets and the local outdoor market. The only plan set in stone for the day was a noon reservation at a popular Bosnian restaurant, so we spent the next four hours wandering.  

The Old Town is magical, completely surrounded by walls that were once used to protect the city, often helping Dubrovnik sustain its independence while other parts of the country were invaded.  The main street, Stradun, is paved in limestone, making it look very shiny and slippery. It’s beautiful — Game of Thrones fans would freak out here, as this is where a majority of the show is filmed. I actually regret not watching few episodes before coming.

Walking around in awe, it’s hard to believe that in the 90s this city was being rattled with bullets and bombs during the war. It’s very sad to think about it when you see the locals and imagine what horror they must have experienced, how many family members and friends they probably lost.

I committed to watching a six-part documentary on the war in Yugoslavia before I came on this trip. It’s pretty dark and devastating, but opened my eyes to things I never knew about. I think it’s important to have a good sense of a place and its history before traveling. I do my best to be more than just an average tourist, shoving past people to get a photo of something that I know nothing about.

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Wandering Old Town led us to a sign that was directing us to cold drinks and great views, so of course we followed. We entered a small gate in the middle of the cliff that inserted us seaside with a panoramic view of the Adriatic and Lokrum island. The cliffside bar offered your typical beverages and was slightly overpriced, but it’s all about the view. 

A set of very dangerous-looking stairs can be followed from the bar area down directly to the sea. We made our way down and were able to jump right in to the water. Braver patrons were jumping off of high rocks, but I was fine watching them from below where my life was in much less danger.

The sea is calm and easy to swim in — the only wave action you experience is when a boat passes by. Which is not uncommon; there are a ton of people out on the water here — kayaks, jet skis, yachts, glass-bottom submarines — there’s something for everyone. We made friends with a few British travelers at this spot and I had to keep myself from talking about Adele. As if every British person automatically adores her.

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Swimming-induced hunger set in just in time for our lunch reservation. I’d read a lot about this Bosnian restaurant so I made sure to come extra hungry. The popular item to order is a platter for two, including a variety of Bosnian meat dishes. It was a lot of food, but it was delicious and this is vacation — you are supposed to eat a lot. The only sad part about the meal is that our waiter apparently didn’t understand the hand gesture for to-go box, so he left with our meat and we never saw it again. I guess some things aren’t universal.

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Meat coma set in quickly so we decided to make our way back in the direction of the apartment to rest and get out of the heat. We intentionally took the route past the port and Dubrovnik’s most popular beach, Banje Beach. We need to spend some time there, but showing up mid afternoon doesn’t work well when it comes to grabbing a good spot amongst that crowd of people.

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I was all excited to head back home and relax, then I encountered this. It's not really fun to climb 40 flights of stairs in the 90 degree heat. I'm not interested in any form of cardio while I'm on vacation. So now I'm immobile under an air conditioner, eating Croatian sour peach candies and again, enjoying this beautiful view.

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