Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Yes, Please: Dubrovnik

At the end of August, Brittany and I boarded our Turkish Air flight direct to Istanbul, ready for two and a half weeks of eating, beaching, touring, and relaxing in Croatia and Turkey.  

Our first destination was Dubrovnik, a picturesque, walled fortress of a city that feels like an Italian Disneyland: tons of ambiance, even more tourists.  There's one main shopping street that shoots from one end of town to the other, with offshoots that lead to residences, restaurants, and art galleries.  The city was ruled by Venice for awhile, and those Italians really left their mark.  There is Venetian architecture throughout, as well as lions, and there weren't too many menus sans a pasta dish.

 Our Airbnb was on a cute cobblestone path, which grew ever so slightly less attractive with each step up (especially with luggage!)

The view from our place: note our chiseled neighbor
Our first stop on the tourist track was the Franciscan Monastery, which is one of the oldest European pharmacies still in operation today.  My favorite feature of the monastery's architecture were the Romanesque-Gothic double pillars in the cloister.  So unique! 

Dubrovnik's clock tower, in the main square, is rung on the hour by two bronze men named Maro and Baro.  We entertained ourselves on much of the trip looking for the real-life Maro and Baro, who we imagined would be very handsome brothers that would each fall madly in love with one of us, and once each couple married,  Brittany and I would be sisters for real.  Let me spare you the suspense: we've already returned to the states and the search continues.

It took some time for us to adapt to the heat.  You'll find we're wearing hats in almost every picture, and my fan was in my hand even more often than my phone.  Fortunately, the evenings cooled down a bit, and that first evening we got to enjoy Buza, one of two bars that are accessed through a small hole in the city's wall and float precariously on the cliffs of the sea. 

Our full day in Dubrovnik was dedicated to walking the walls.  We geared up to be under the hot sun for a couple hours, and made our way up to take in the layers of history, the effects of the war, and the panoramic views.

We felt we had earned a great lunch, so we checked in with my other BFF, Rick Steves, who recommended Lady PiPi, a restaurant with a "comical, anatomically correct, and slightly off-putting statue out front".  We weren't quite sure how to pronounce it, and when Brittany asked directions from a lady at the ice cream shop, she exclaimed, in the cutest, high-pitched voice, "Ohh, Lady Pee Pee!"  Once we saw the statue, it really all made sense, and we couldn't stop quoting that lady.

I ate my first whole fish of the trip here, and Brittany tackled a bowl of shrimp (with heads), while we relaxed on the garden terrace that overlooked the town.  Those grilled vegetables may have been the most delicious part!

Fortified, we continued our explorations by heading up to Mount Srd (pronounced "surge"), to get a view over the city.  A modern cable car, put in recently, sweeps you right up to the top.  You can really appreciate the resilience of Dubrovnik's people from here, who survived eight months of siege in 1991-92 during their fight for independence from Yugoslavia.  To get supplies up to this fort, which was crucial in defending the city, everything had to be walked up by foot or donkey.  Hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed during this time, and while the town seems to have rebounded well and tourism is definitely on the up-tick, you can still see and feel reminders of this dark time throughout.

We never could seem to get our act together in time for the sunset, so that night we instead ended up watching the moon rise over the harbor.   It was the most pristine, perfect evening out, and we had to be practically peeled away to make our dinner reservation at Proto, a recommendation made to us by our Croatian flight companion, Zorro, and one that I definitely would pass along.


On that, our last, evening in Dubrovnik, we decided to push through the final moments of jet lag and check out the town's nightlife.  It was a Saturday, and the streets were hopping.  We stopped and listened to live music for awhile, before stumbling upon this great street, where bars overflowed into the alley, pillow-propped people perched on the stairs, and a a structure had been set up for Sasha, the enviable dancer who had great moves, an even better dress, and could speak something like five languages.