Croatia Part 2 – Dubrovnik

Day 57: May 8, 2018

When I went to bed I turned on the air conditioner and Danny was turning around on the couch from the cold. I threw a blanket over him and went to bed. He slept there all night. I had a very good sleep. Danny woke up with a back ache.

I showed him some stretches for low back pain. I do know a lot. We had eggs and toast with Nutella for breakfast then drove about ten minutes to drop off the rental car. We decided to walk back to our Airbnb which was supposed to take about thirty minutes.

We stopped at the mall on the way back and picked up some groceries we were missing. I purchased another SIM card as well. From there, we went down to the beach which we could see from our place. There were tons of hotels and restaurants around. We walked along a path beside the water. A sales lady told us about renting a jet ski and going to a blue cave which looked pretty cool. We took a brochure and kept walking.

Eventually we decided we should go up so we ascended the stairs to the main road passed our place. We got home and had some salad for lunch. Danny did ten minutes of yoga with me. I did some blogging. Then fixed our Russian visa applications and booked our flights to Cairo and Casablanca in June.

Danny fried pizza for supper. We planned pizza before realizing our place didn’t have an oven. The crust got a little burned and the cheese didn’t really melt, but it wasn’t too bad. We watched some Outlander and went to bed.

Day 58: May 9, 2018

Woke up and Danny made eggs, sausages and zucchini for breakfast. We headed out and caught the number six bus to the Old Town. We found the dock with the ferry to Lokrum island fairly easily, but we were a bit early to buy tickets.

We walked around a bit talking about how we wanted to see all of the Game of Throne sites and oh yeah maybe some of the town’s actual history. We went back to the dock and chatted with a couple from England while we waited. Fifteen minutes before 10:00 am a guy sat at a desk and started selling tickets: $30/person (150 kn/person) return.

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Ferry ride to Lokrum

It was a ten minute boat ride to Lokrum. We walked around the island viewing the many peacocks and bunnies.

We stopped in the Benedictine Monastery where there was a Game of Thrones exhibit and a replica of the Iron Throne. We took tons of pictures there.

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Iron Throne

We climbed to Fort Royal which was built by Napoleon. On the climb it started pouring rain. We hid under the trees as we walked up. We waited inside the fort until the rain subsided. At a bench, we ate our lunch, but the rain came again so we had to move under some trees.

We looped back to the main part of the island and found the “Dead Sea”. It is a small lake connected to the sea by underground channels. It was sprinkling a bit, but we decided we would still go for a swim. The water was very clear and you could swim out to a little cave. We were the only ones swimming. I was expecting to be able to float really easily because of the name, but it just felt like swimming in the sea.

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Swimming in the “Dead Sea” of Lokrum

From there, we walked to the nude beach. It was on rocks and the water was slamming against them so it didn’t look very safe to swim. There was also no one else there. We sat for a bit and decided we would catch the 2:15 pm boat back because it didn’t look like the weather was going to get any better. Of course, once we were on the boat the sun came out.

We caught the bus back to the mall near our Airbnb and found the place our host said we could get visa pictures taken. We also bought some sandwiches for lunch tomorrow and more burek. I have found Danny’s weakness!

Danny was disappointed with our beach day so wanted to walk to the nude beach on Babin Kuk. I wanted to go home, but didn’t want to be a stick in the mud. We walked to the end of a beach then had to climb over rocks. I was getting frustrated. Danny found a spot and we laid down and read our books. The sun went behind the clouds so we weren’t too hot. The water was still crashing on the rocks there a bit so we didn’t end up going in the water.

We climbed back up and found the main road. We walked back and were super sweaty by the end. I made soft tacos for supper and we watched some Outlander before bed.

Day 59: May 10, 2018

We woke up, had breakfast then walked down to the traffic circle to catch the bus. It always seems to be just leaving as we arrive. Luckily, it runs every ten minutes. It was another warm day so we stood in the shade.

I was feeling off which is never a good start to the day. I wanted to look up exactly where we needed to meet for our sea kayaking tour since we would only have fifteen minutes once we got to the old town. I can’t even remember what we fought about, but when we got on the bus we stood at opposite ends.

We arrived at the old town and walked around trying to figure out where we needed to be. We found one company, but it was the wrong one. The next one was also the wrong one, but they told us where to go. We arrived with still a bit of time. We placed our stuff in dry bags and stripped to our bathing suits. We received life jackets, water bottles and paddles.

We boarded the sea kayaks two at a time and paddled out of the little bay to the Adriatic. The water wasn’t too harsh, but there were small waves. The kayaks were very stable.

The tour guide told us how Croatia was founded in the 7th century. The city walls were built in the 13th century. Dubrovnik now has a population of 40,000 people.

We reached the north end of Lokrum and we were given the option of a 1.5 hour kayak or a 30 minute kayak with more beach time. We chose the longer kayak tour as we were both very much enjoying it.

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Sea kayaking

We went around Lokrum island and into Pigeon’s Cave. We thought we had seen it the day before while we were on Lokrum, but it turns out we were one cave over. We took some pictures there then continued around past the nude beach. There weren’t many people there again.

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Pigeon’s Cave, Lokrum

During the paddling, we discussed the cruise ships with our guide. He mentioned they do limit the number of ships allowed into the bay at once. He said the problem with the cruise ships is that they are all inclusive so people from the ships aren’t spending money on food or hotels within the city. The ships are charged a fee for entering the bay, but the money goes into only certain people’s pockets.

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Passing a ship in our kayak

From the east side of Lokrum we cut across to a cave on the mainland where the rest of our group was swimming. We were able to swim and snorkel. Some people were also cliff diving. Danny found a new love in snorkelling. Sadly, I wore my glasses and none of the goggles fit over top. I did have a pleasant swim.

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Danny snorkelling

We had about 30 minutes there and jumped into our kayaks to paddle back. We chatted with some women in another kayak: one from South Africa and the other from Calgary. Our travels have given us more to talk about with people from other countries. We were able to talk about our trip to Africa as well as skiing in Canada. We are trying to talk to others as we do need more conversation than just ourselves.

We arrived back and dried off a bit. We walked into the old town and got some ice cream. There is definitely a different mindset here. We were standing in the line for ice cream and were next up. These two women came up and were looking at the flavours. They were just about to butt in front of us to order, but we spoke over them. This has happened a couple of times where people here don’t understand the concept of lines.

I started thinking about the next tour and remembered we needed cash for it, but couldn’t recall how much. We stopped to look it up, but it all fell apart. We ended up fighting and stood there huffing for a bit. We agreed to meet at 4:00 pm for the tour.

This was probably the apex of our fighting. We were both really angry and said things just to hurt the other. The time apart was probably good. I sat on the steps of the cathedral a bit to cool down then walked around a bit.

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Dubrovnik Cathedral

Even in a safe town it does feel a bit unnerving walking alone especially down some of the side streets. I bought some postcards and sat at the fountain near the main gate. Danny came along and set next to me, but I was still a bit upset.

We went out to wait for our tour. We found the guide and the tour started. We walked to Lovrijenac Fortress where many of the Red Keep shots from Game of Thrones were filmed. Season 1 of King’s Landing was filmed in Malta, but it was too expensive or Malta kicked them out depending on which story you believe. Seasons 2-6 were filmed in Dubrovnik. They’ve now moved to Spain claiming Dubrovnik was too expensive.

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Lovrijenac Fortress on the right

The guide had a book showing shots from the show and where they were filmed. The fortress was easy for the crew to rent out. Scenes on the outside of the fortress meant they had to shut down parts of the city walls as well so that no one could see what was happening. Shots inside the old town were harder because they had to let people passed every so often. They avoided filming on days when cruise ships were present due to the amount of people.

Many people from Dubrovnik were hired as extras. They were paid 30-40 euros/day. Since the show became more popular they are now paid 70 euros/day.

The best view of the old town was from that fortress. We chatted with another couple from Canada. They said they would drive each other nuts if they had to spend a year together like us. We agreed, but after they walked away we hugged and kissed and made up. We do really love each other and the rest doesn’t really matter.

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View of Dubrovnik Old Town from Lovrijenac Fortress

We went to “Blackwater Bay” and then into the old town. We saw a couple of shots where Cersei completed her Walk of Shame. Apparently the actress was pregnant a the the time so she had a body double, who was fourteen years younger than her.

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Location of Cersei’s Walk of Shame

We saw the door to Little Finger’s brothel.

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Door to Little Finger’s Brothel

We chatted with a couple from Australia about our trip and they mentioned that Bali has become too touristy recently. They said Vietnam is amazing and certain areas of Thailand away from the crowds. The other couple on our tour was from India.

We were able to take pictures with replicas of swords from the movies. I really liked Needle. Danny and I showed how we were feeling that day.

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One of our many fights

Dubrovnik used to be an independent republic. It had lots of money to pay for protection until Napoleon showed up. We saw the Rector’s Palace where the leader of the republic would stay. There was a new rector every month.

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Rector’s Palace on the left

The guide suggested a place for pizza so we walked there after the tour. Trying to be reasonable we ordered a pizza and a salad to share. We ended up ordering a second pizza because it was so good. The walk to the bus ended up with us buying very expensive, average tasting candy. It was so appealing because it was stored in the huge barrels.

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Dubrovnik Old Town

We caught the bus home and walked the rest of the way. We went to sleep after a long day.

Day 60: May 11, 2018

We slept in and then had some breakfast. We ate the remaining yogurt and berries with a piece of Nutella toast. We discussed renting a jet ski to go out to the blue cave, but decided after our day yesterday we just needed to rest.

We decided to go to the library to see if we could print our Russian visa applications. We took the bus and then walked a bit. We realized we had no more cash to pay for printing so we walked in the opposite direction to find an ATM. It is a tough balance to have enough spending money, but not have too much leftover.

We went into the library, but it looked more like a book storage. The lady there was kind enough to tell us the location of a copy place. We walked up the road and found the place. The man was very helpful and let us use his computer to get everything printed.

We caught the bus going the wrong way so we had to do some extra loops. We stopped in at the store to look for a cereal box to fit in the envelope we bought to make it more sturdy. There were none large enough, but as we were walking out we found a lid to a box of coffee. Danny asked the clerk if we could take it and she didn’t really care. It was large enough and I was able to cut it down to the right size.

We walked back to our apartment and ate leftovers and broccoli salad for lunch. I found the documents our travel agent had given us listing the documents required for the Russian visas. It was from a different visa company than we had been calling. There were some items that I had forgotten as well. We will have to find another place to print them.

Danny called the Canadian Embassy in Athens and they said they would be unable to send the mail, but could receive it for us. That will still be very helpful because we were worried about having to use an Airbnb host to accept our mail.

Danny went for a run and I did some blogging. Danny made pasta for supper with our remaining food. We watched some Outlander and then went to bed.

Overall I did feel like Croatia was below my expectations. Pictures and Game of Thrones idealized the place in my mind and it turns out to just be a town. One of our tour guides did mention how much tourism has increased especially in the last five years. It is now overrun with hotels and tourists so it doesn’t feel as untouched as it might have years ago.

We do feel we missed out on seeing some of Croatia. My sick days threw our plans off a bit from seeing some nature.

We do think we could have spent more time than we had in Dubrovnik. The old town was more grand than others we had seen. We would have liked to have seen the blue cave and gone jet skiing.  Alas, we only have so much time.

M

Croatia Part 1

Day 46: April 27, 2018

Early wake up for us (6:00 am) to head to Croatia. My nose has been running like crazy and stopping me from sleeping.

We packed up the rest of our stuff and Marta arrived at 7:00 am. She made us tea, eggs with sausages, juice, bread and a heart-shaped cake. She took a picture of us with the cake and then in front of the house. Her place wasn’t the best and her food was okay, but she did everything we love. It made our stay very special. We gave her hugs before we left and drove to Ljubljana.

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Cake from Marta

We returned the rental car right beside the bus station in Ljubljana. Our bus arrived a bit late, but we weren’t in a big rush. I was able to catch some z’s on the ride. At the border we had to get off the bus twice to get our passports stamped: Slovenia and Croatia.

The bus took us to Zagreb bus terminal and from there we took an Uber to the car rental office. They always try to up sell you on everything there. I’m glad that Danny handles it. Our new car is a Renault Clio. The first thing Danny does when he gets in a new car is touch the dash and doors to see the quality. Then the first twenty minutes of driving he gives a full assessment. I think he watches too many “Regular Car Reviews” on YouTube.

We found a parking garage in the downtown and went out to check some things off our to-do list. I found a book store and bought a new journal and fiction book. Around 3:10 pm we found a barber that could cut Danny’s hair at 4:00 pm which gave us time to buy groceries for the next couple of days. We returned to the barber and when she looked at the back of Danny’s hair she was shocked. Remember the chunk of hair I had zipped away. His hair looks much better now. It’s one of the best hair cuts he’s ever had.

We walked back to the car and headed out of Zagreb. Traffic was awful and I was feeling worse and worse. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose or my mouth because I was so stuffed up. We drove about three hours to our Airbnb in Starigrad, north of Zadar. We hadn’t heard back from the host so we weren’t sure about check-in. It turns out she lives downstairs so it wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t speak much English, but showed us in. We sat on the balcony and had supper with a view out to the bay.

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View from our balcony in Starigrad
Day 47: April 28, 2018

Danny made me breakfast in bed. I still wasn’t feeling well. I stayed in bed while Danny walked up the road to the store looking for some juice and popsicles for me. He returned with apple juice and pudding. I guess popsicles aren’t a thing here. We ate salad for lunch and did some planning. Danny made fish for supper. I Googled the type of fish and it turns out it was a small shark. It was very tasty. I went to bed fairly early and Danny stayed up a bit.

Day 48: April 29, 2018

I slept in again. I think I was feeling worse than the day before. My nose wasn’t running as much, but I had the start of a cough and my throat was sore. Danny really wanted to go and do things, but I was just too sleepy. He brought me yogurt for breakfast and I went back to sleep until noon. We had salad for lunch then decided to head into Zadar at 2:00 pm. He had been pacing all morning and really needed a walk.

We parked just outside the old town and walked in through the Land Gate into Five Wells Square.

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Five Wells Square, Zadar

We walked around to the market, but it was closed because it was a Sunday. We saw the Sea Gate then had some ice cream. It was another super hot day in Croatia. We went on to see St. Anastasia and St. Donatus churches and the Roman Forum. We walked along the water to the Sea Organ which didn’t sound as pretty as I imagined, but the idea was pretty cool. They also have “The Greeting to the Sun”, but it’s only cool at night I believe.

We walked back into the streets and found somewhere to eat. We ordered olives to start. I love olives and they are so fresh here. Danny had sea bass with sautéed Swiss chard and I had pašticada which is a slow roasted beef with gnocchi in a red wine gravy. It was very tender and delicious.

From there, we walked back to the car through the gardens. We decided to drive to Vir, an island just north of Zadar. We went right out to the point and pulled the car over. The quiet was amazing and the view was gorgeous. You could see out into the Adriatic. The water and the sky blended together.

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Adriatic Sea looking north from Vir

We sat on the rocks and stuck our feet in the water. The rocks were quite sharp and the cray fish kept tickling our feet. After our bums started getting numb, we drove back home and went to sleep. Danny was thinking we had an extra day here, but I think our day in Zagreb and my sick day messed it up. Tomorrow we head south in Croatia.

Day 49: April 30, 2018

We woke up, had breakfast and packed up. I broke a glass while washing it last night, but the lady said not to worry about it. It seems most Airbnb hosts understand that things do break. We drove to Krka National Park. We tried to drive in, but were stopped and told we had to park and walk in or drive back a bit and take the boat. Both were the same price, 110 Kuna per person. We walked the 4 km along the lake. It wasn’t very scenic and it was very hot.

We arrived to the main area of Skradinski buk waterfall and it was super busy. It was a long weekend so that could have added to the number of people. We did the walking loop around the falls, but didn’t enjoy it that much. There were people everywhere. The view would have been very pretty with all of the little waterfalls, but we were just annoyed.

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Walking around Krka National Park

We had planned to go in the water, but were debating not because there were so many people. We thought we would regret it if we didn’t so we stripped to our bathing suits and climbed in. It was rocky until you went out deeper so we kept our flip flops on. The rocks were not very sharp. The view with the falls in the background was beautiful.

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Danny swimming in front of Skradinski buk waterfall

We exited the water and walked to wait for the boat which was leaving in fifteen minutes. We arrived back in town another fifteen minutes later. There was a huge line up of people waiting to get on the boat to go out to the park. The walk back to the car took about ten minutes.

We drove on to Split, mostly so that I could see Froggyland. It hosts a set of 507 taxidermy frogs set up to represent the lives of our ancestors. It was created between 1910 and 1920. Some of scenes include a school, a circus and a blacksmith shop. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I don’t know if I expected them to be bigger. It was cool, but I wouldn’t say it was a must see.

We walked around Split a bit and saw the sea side. From there we went through a market beneath Diocletian’s Palace and then to the outside. The palace was gorgeous. We also saw a statue of Gregory of Nin who introduced the Croatian language to religious services. Previously, services were held only in Latin.

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Statue of Gregory of Nin, Split

We walked back to the car and drove the coastal road to our Airbnb in Tučepi. It took us awhile to find the place. We came up and unloaded our things. Danny was in a grumpy mood which doesn’t happen very often. He was disappointed that we didn’t get to see much around Zadar and mad at himself for not venturing to the National Park up the road from us on my sick day. I try to preach all the things I’ve been learning recently about it being human to make mistakes. After talking about it, Danny felt much better.

Danny had our leftovers for supper and I had some salad. I ate two buns at lunch and it was just too heavy for the heat. We couldn’t get the wifi working and realized that we forgot the travel adapter at the last place (another reason for Danny’s bad mood). We will have to buy a new one, even though the one we had was amazing.

Day 50: May 1, 2018

Danny booked the ferry to the island of Brač the night before. We weren’t sure how far in advance we needed to show up. We went to the dock around 7:30 am for the 9:00 am ferry. There was no real indication of where to go so we ended up driving around a bit. We found the booth where you buy tickets, but it didn’t open until 8:00 am. We decided to go to a couple of grocery stores to look for a SIM card. The reloading of the Slovenian one didn’t seem to work. The grocery stores didn’t have them, but we found them at a newspaper stand. I figured out the install fairly easily. Luckily the instructions were in English because it was a tourist SIM card.

At 8:00 am we went back to the ferry booth and found out where to line up. I bought some pastries and we sat on a bench by the dock waiting for the ferry to board. At 8:45 am we loaded onto the ferry. It was fairly small, maybe 30 cars. We sat up top for a bit then went and stood at the front. The ferry took about an hour to get to Brač.

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Arriving to Brač

We drove off the ferry and headed to where the hike for the Dragon Cave started. Danny had read about the Dragon Cave on some travel websites and it seemed really interesting. We asked a local where the trail was, but he didn’t seem to know what we were talking about. We walked up where we heard some English. It turns out the English was coming from four Canadians also looking for the Dragon Cave. They had walked around the hill, but not found it. They said to try the trail through the gate straight up the hill.

We went there and hiked up and up and up. We reached a ruin house and it got very steep and we weren’t sure which way to go. I Googled the cave and someone had written that only one guy has the key to the cave and you have to book a tour. I was a bit frustrated at that point. Danny was fine with just getting out and hiking, but I wanted it to be for something! We did have a nice view to the Adriatic since we were so high up.

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View to the Adriatic Sea from our hike

We slid back down the hill and back to the car. We drove to the beach in Bol. We were expecting a sand beach, but it was rocks/pebbles. There were quite a few people there, but it wasn’t packed. I imagine it would be quite full on a weekend.

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Beach in Bol

We found a spot near the water and stripped to our swim suits. The rocks hurt a bit on the feet and later they were pretty hot. We went into the water right away to wash off the sweat from our hike. The water felt cold, likely because we were sweltering. It was around 30 degrees out. The water was super clear. You could see some fish if you looked down. The ground dropped quite rapidly so you didn’t have to go out far for a swim. There were a bunch of boats anchored fairly close to the shore. We went in and out of the water a couple of times and had our salad lunch.

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Merai swimming in the Adriatic

Danny and I had talked before about going to a nude beach. I didn’t know if I would be able to just strip down and bare it all, but the idea did sound freeing. Seeing the nude beach the other day made me think, “Okay, I could do that”. We read that to the west of the main beach was the naturist beach so we climbed over a couple of rocks and there we were. There were maybe two couples and one lady there when we arrived. We laid down our towels, then we laid down and stripped. We laid there for a bit not feeling ready to stand.

Finally we decided we just had to go into the water as it was so hot. Once in the water it was spectacular. We swam around quite a bit and then walked back out. After that a barrier was broken and we were fine. Some more women showed up and even a grandmother, mother and daughter. No one there cares what you look like and you don’t care what they look like. You’re just humans. It was amazingly liberating. We’ve decided only naturist beaches from now on.

We stayed there a couple of hours going in and out of the water. Around 4:00 pm we decided we should head back to the ferry. There was a momentary freak out on the drive back when I looked up Croatian ferries and it said the last one was at 3:30 pm. I looked at the ferry company’s website and it said 6:00 pm. Whoo.

We drove back and there was already a line up. We were a bit worried we might not get on the last ferry of the day. We parked and walked around the town, but there was really nothing there. We sat back in the car and had some snacks.

At 5:30 pm we started boarding. We were maybe halfway through the line up that got on the boat. We watched as they told the last few cars they weren’t leaving the island today. The purchase of the tickets was a bit misleading because the ticket we bought online said “guaranteed departure”, but if we hadn’t been in line early enough we wouldn’t have gotten on; we would have been sleeping in the car.

We stood at the front of the ferry again. Back in town it was quite busy. We tried to find somewhere that sold adapters, but no luck. We then tried a couple of grocery stores because we had a ramen craving. No luck with that either. We drove back to our place in Tučepi and made pasta with eggplant for supper. We turned on the air conditioning because the night before was so hot and the noise out on the street was too loud with the door open. Danny planned our drive to Mostar then we went to bed. Both of us are looking very red from the beach.

Next up is a road trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. We are a bit nervous as we aren’t sure what to expect. After our road trip we head back to Croatia to visit Dubrovnik. My sick days definitely made us feel that we missed out on some of Croatia. Those times are bound to happen when you are traveling for a year so we are taking it in stride.

M