Banje Beach for Breakfast in Dubrovnik | Day Two in Croatia
Tuesday was filled with a whole lot of the two things I really wanted to do on this trip — eating and doing absolutely nothing. We started our day early, since it’s been impossible for us to sleep in past 6 a.m. By 8 in the morning, we had already stopped at the local bakery for breakfast, the local market for water and a Croatian six-pack, then hit the beach.
Banje Beach is Dubrovnik’s most popular. Sounds crazy to say that we were on the beach at 8 a.m., but it was already nearing 80 degrees, so time was irrelevant. The majority of the beach is occupied by a beach club, the kind that allows you to rent chairs and cabanas, then have bottles of champagne delivered promptly under your umbrella. At this time, though, the majority of the beachgoers were 80-year-old locals getting in their water aerobics.
The water in the Adriatic is clear and pristine; you can watch tiny fish swim through your legs and tickle your feet. The beach offers a stunning view of Lokrum island to the south and the city’s old town to the west. By 10 a.m., I was seven shades darker and the beach was nearly full with selfie-taking tourists and local children practicing their soccer skills in the water.
After quite a few hours of water play and bronzing, it was time to seek out our first meal of the day. But not before a giant boat would go by, creating the largest wave of the day and swallowing all of our stuff. Luckily, I had picked up my camera just seconds before this occurred. But our towels were a lost cause.
We showered off at the beach club and head to our preplanned lunch destination in Old Town. Barba is a small, modern, Croatian street food joint — it looked a lot like something you’d see in San Francisco. The menu only offers 12 items — ensuring customers these 12 items will be done very well — using fresh, locally sources ingredients. This is my kind of place, as I have a distrust in restaurants that have menus resembling novels. We snagged the best seat in the house, just at the window and next to the young woman working the counter, allowing us to chat with her throughout our meal.
“Where you come from?” she asked. We replied that we live in San Francisco. Her eyes lit up big and brightly, like she just saw seven simultaneous shooting stars. “Oh myy, I love — with the big bridge and the Full House and the DJ; oh my God.”
She continued to tell us how much she loved Full House and how she had heard a “rumor” that the United States had a new version of the show. We confirmed that the rumors were true and she committed herself to somehow accessing the episodes on the internet after her shift. I guess Netflix isn’t a thing here, but her excitement was adorable.
The best thing about this place, for starters, was the fact that they know people want to come in and taste everything so they've created a menu item, a platter for two, that contains every single item on the menu. YES — of course we ordered this. The platter came out, in all it’s glory, and consisted of many treats: an octopus burger, octopus salad, fresh and fried oysters, calamari, fried sardines, shrimp tempura, and bread with homemade fish pate. The restaurant woman we befriended explained how the fish pate was her mother’s homemade recipe; Barba was a small, family-run business.
The meal was delicious, proving to be an excellent choice. Lunch led us to post-meal drinks at a colorful, quirky bar just outside of the Old Town called Art Cafe. The interior is accented in all sorts of bright colors and the bench-style seats we were sitting in appeared to be tubs, cut in half and adorned with seat cushions and pillows. Here I tried a homemade honey liquor, then an afternoon nap began calling my name.
Nap time was hard to come out of for some reason — still having a hard time adjusting to the hours here. We had an 8 p.m. dinner reservation at a restaurant that we were probably the most excited for on this trip. The restaurant was located outside of Dubrovnik, so we had a little journey to take. To get there, the first step was to take the cable car up to Mount Srd, the highest view point overlooking Dubrovnik. The views are stunning. You have a clear view of a number of islands, and you can even see Montenegro to the south and the mountains of the Croatian-Bosnian border to the east.
Back in the day, Napoleon built a fortress on top of this hill. The cable car came later to allow visitors to enjoy the views from the fortress and check out the giant cross atop the hill — Croatia is a predominately Catholic country. The fortress and the cable car ended up being destroyed during the war in the 90s. The area was left in a dangerous condition, with minefields and unexploded objects scattered about. This has all been cleaned up and the cable car was clearly rebuilt, but visitors are still advised not to wander off of paths, as land mines could still be present.
Back behind the viewing point was an empty narrow road with one sign, and one arrow, directing us to our restaurant. It was about a one mile walk through absolutely nothing. The incredible views of the coastline continued for the entirety of the walk, but for a while I felt like I was being punked and led blindly into the darkness of the Croatian countryside.
We soon hit a small village named Bosanka and immediately ran into a small van labeled “Game of Thrones Tour” stopped in the middle of the narrow road. The tour guide had the entire group facing up-road, while he held up an 8X10 printout of a scene from the show. Apparently, we were standing in the middle of some popular scene, but I do not watch the show. Either way, I posed for a photo hoping that one of my GOT-fan friends might be able to recognize it.
I began seeing a number of gravestones on the side of the road as we walked through the village. I then came across a sign that explained how the entire village of Bosanka was destroyed in 1991. The Serbians moved in, attacked the village until it crumbled and then burnt the entire place to the ground. All residents lost their homes — they lost everything. They have been rebuilding ever since. The damage is still apparent, of both the infrastructure and the loss of life.
Finally, we found our destination, Konoba Dubrava. I found this place while doing some of my extensive pre-travel research. It was awesome — a true authentic, local experience in the Croatian countryside. It was located in the middle of nowhere, with the most beautiful, rustic, traditional character. We were welcomed with locally-made drinks —a walnut brandy and an herb-infused liquor.
The popular menu item here is meat cooked under an iron bell — the choices are lamb, veal or octopus. Each dish has to cook for three hours, so you are required to order in advance. Luckily, the kind woman allowed me to order via email a few weeks back. We settled on a mix plate of both lamb and veal. It was an excellent choice. Both meats were delicious and so tender, they just fell apart immediately. The potatoes were bomb, as they were cooked and soaked in the juice and fat from the meat.
Since we were in the middle of nowhere, the restaurant owners offered to call us a cab to take us back to Dubrovnik. The Italian couple next to us asked if we could share our cab with them. We had a nice ride back to town with the Italians, discussing our experiences in Dubrovnik thus far, and telling them how great their country is and how we think they have the best food in the world. They agreed.