Tales of Croatia. Part Five.
Continued from part four...
So, we left for the airport around 10AM or so. We departed, loose and easy. Esad said we'd just take our bags to the cafe and hang out and see if we could get someone to give us a ride to the airport, which was about 20 minutes drive at high speed. We went to the cafe and sat outside drinking coffee. I bought a burek to eat, which is a pastry with cheese or meat inside it, savory almost like a pizza in ways, but stuffed with pastry dough on the outside. Greasy, though, always. They also sell a more liquid form of yogurt there that people drink and I drank one of these with plain yogurt with the burek, had espresso and mineral water. And, we got a ride! This guy with a small, speedy Peugeot gave us a ride. He was NOT a good driver, which made for a few lame moments. But, only a couple, then we were in the clear. He drove us fast at 170 to 180 kilometers per hour on the speedometer; 105 to 110 miles an hour. Jesus. So, we got there quick.
We went into the airport, which is very, very small. It's amazingly small, actually. We sat down and ordered some coffee and water. The waiter was a man in his 40s or so who looked like he'd had a very bad knife experience of some sort. He had one massive scar that ran the length of the left cheek of his face and part way across the other side, running very straight and horizontal. He called me boss whenever I ordered anything, which was a little disconcerting. Like "thank you boss" or "here you are boss."
Went through minimal security, boarded the plane and we were on our way. Maybe a two hour flight to Dubrovnik, going Southeast. We could see many islands when we got to the coast. Landed in terrain that doesn't look all that alien to anyone from Southern California. It's different from California, but not SO different. Very dry looking plants but with more green than California. Very rocky terrain too, though, moreso than California. No palm trees or any of that.
We arrived to light rain and cloudy skies, muggy outside. Dubrovnik itself was about a 20 minute taxi ride north from the airport. We could clearly see the change in terrain from Zagreb. Zagreb is hilly and green, but still a city. This was way more hilly with mountains running down nearly to the sea. The road ran along the foothill area. Coming into Dubrovnik, we could see the walled city below, down on the sea. We were booked into a pretty nice hotel called Hotel Lero, though I cannot recall what we paid. They messed up our reservations and had us with two beds, but we'd brought our proof with us of our reservation, and they had to upgrade us to almost an apartment style room. Basically, two bedrooms, each with two beds. One room large, one small. Nice. We wouldn't spend much time in that room, though, other than sleeping.
The first day, we just checked in, then walked down to the center area, where the walled part of the town is. It was about a fifteen minute walk away, not too bad. And, the walk gave some very nice views out over the sea, like this one.
Walking into the walled area, we resolved to find a lunch place. We walked around the area first, keeping our eyes open. On the South side of the city is their marina, and there are some restaurants there. It is there that we found our favorite food in Croatia. A nice little fish restaurant and cafe with lovely waitresses and outdoor seating right near the water. Nice!
The food they served was nearly all fish and nearly all very simple and tasty as hell. As it turned out, we loved this place enough that we came back and ate all three lunches there and also one dinner. It was really great. Before arriving, we'd agreed to eat pretty much only fish the entire time on the coast, which is exactly what we did. It fucked up Esad's digestion a bit as he's used to more continental Croatian cuisine; a lot more meat and potatoes kinda food. Great stuff, but very different. Anyway, at this place we had oysters, mussels, squid, octopus, anchovies in oil, breaded sardine-like small fish, just tons of fish. We slowly made our way through pretty much the entire menu by the fourth visit. The oysters were fresh and large, not like the small ones I'm used to in California. The octopus was in a salad, which is how I saw it on the coast over and over. Salata od hobotnice, Octopus salad. The squids we had in various forms; breaded as the usual calamari here in the States at a greek restaurant, but also miniature squids served whole in a super tasty sauce. We'd dip our bread in this sauce as well. The anchovies were salty in oil. The sardine like fish were tiny and breaded, and we'd eat them whole like french fries. We ate with our hands and licked our fingers at the end. My hands would eventually become coated in sauces and fish and oil. Licking them off at the end was tasty! A mix of everything I had eaten. I tried using a fork at first but was met with mocking for that, so went with the local stylings as taught by Esad. Eating like Conan is much more satisfying, actually.
We wandered around the entire walled city, walking up onto the wall to do that tour. The wall runs all the way around the city, very thick wall to give protection when this was a city state to rival Venice on the seas. They were very often attacked in those days and had the advantage for sure. A ship approaching had no reach with it's cannons. The cannons in Dubrovnik were up on the wall, high up. They could fire on any approaching ships well before the ships could fire on them.
One point up on the wall had a cafe and we stopped and had a beer and watched some of whatever World Cup game was on. We saw a lot of French folks that first day. Cruise ships stop in Dubrovnik, so when they unload, you get a large contingent or a certain nationality at that time. It changes and we saw a lot of different nationalities while there. The inner city area was bustling with activity, but outside of that it was pretty quiet.
End of part five.