Date: Friday, November 12, 1999 12:42 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Dubrovnik, Croatia! Oct 24-27, 1999
Current Date and Location: Nov 12, 1999...still at the parent's house enjoying the comforts of home. Comforts of home includes going to see good live music in Austin, Texas...last night, I went and saw a performance by an up and coming musician, Beth Wood...both a personal friend and a great
talent...reminds me that one doesn't necessarily need to travel the world to find great things. It was interesting...she now lives in Atlanta and says that performing in Austin is very bittersweet...because she loves Austin so much, but can not stay and make a living as a musician...so she is based out
of Atlanta so she can follow her dreams. Hmmmmm...sounds somewhat familiar...I certainly love Texas...but am travelling for now to follow my dreams...destination unknown...
Current Itinerary: Again, USA for about 2weeks. Birthday party for my friend Jennifer, Tx vs. TxTech with Terrill, and probably camping out for Renaissance Festival...all on the 13th. Ren Fest on the 14th, probably DFW on the 15th and 16th, Big Tree Ranch on 17th and 18th, Madrigal Dinner on
the 19th, Los Angeles on the 20th/21st (I think), and then who knows??? ...and off to S. America.
Oct. 24, 1999
Travel Day! This day was just slated to be solid travel. I said goodbye to all my wonderful friends in Ravenna...Raffaella dropped me off at the trainstation...and I was on my way. I had decided to take the land route to
get to Dubrovnik, Croatia which entails going up over Northern Italy and then East into Croatia, and then South along the coast to Dubrovnik...a long trip any way you slice it (the other option was to try to catch a ferry...I took land because I figured it would be just as quick, and much more reliable...I did not have the schedules for the ferries from Italy to Croatia.
I was prepared...I had bought the book "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer which details the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that claimed many lives. It was a fascinating read...and really inspired me (to do what...I don't know??? But it really did insipre me!). It is certainly worth your while to read it...highly recommended by me.
I had to connect from my train in Trieste, Italy onto a bus that would take me overnight and arrive into Dubrovnik in the morning...perfect. I was pretty stoked when I was able to secure the entire back row of the bus for me to stretch-out...it was Sweet! At one of the stops, I got out and started talking to another guy on the bus who was from Croatia. We had grabbed a quick bite to eat and when the check came, he insisted on paying. He had once been in New York with absolutely no US money (was not able to
convert the money he had at the time) and a guy bought him dinner and said don't worry about it...so he felt obligated to pass along the good karma. Later while talking with him on the bus, I discovered he was an avid climber and had not yet read "Into Thin Air"...since I had finished the book on the train (and I wanted to drop the weight), I asked him if he wanted it...he was thrilled...he had actually been wanting to buy the book...that is the thing about the world, we tend to get back the goodwill or ill-will that we
project...so always project goodwill...results in good karma everytime! He connected to Zagreb and I continued on to Dubrovnik.
The moon was almost full that night, and I will never forget being on the bus going through the Croatian countryside along the coast and seeing the scenery by moonlight from the bus...it was great.
Oct. 25, 1999
I arrived in Dubrovnik at 8am. I had planned on going to the Youth Hostel there...but then I met Sado. Sado is truly an amazing guy...he is probably 60 years old...but is wiry and full of life. He asked me if I wanted to stay at his guesthouse...I was somewhat apprehensive...but he said that his guesthouse was in the Lonely Planet guide and further, he would drive me around town for a tour, show me where the Youth Hostel was located, and if I didn't like his guesthouse he would drive me back to the Hostel or to anywhere I preferred in town...not much to lose, so I accepted his offer.
As we drove around the old town of Dubrovnik, he gave me a very interesting commentary on the city and the recent war with the Serbians. The times had been hard, the city was surrounded and the Serbians held the highground which allowed them to shell the city for 8 months in 1991. The city is recovering but has not regained the traditional tourist trade that it once enjoyed as a beautiful coastal resort. The city has many decaying hotels that have not been able to withstand the drought of tourists. We would pass
places and he would mention that folks had been killed here or there and that they were only able to have one bucket of drinking water per day during the war...enough to drink and to wash your eyes...that's it.
He pointed out the many beautiful aspects of the city of Dubrovnik, the beaches, the old walled city, the mountains, and the beautiful Mediterranean waters...it is truly a lovely place. We passed the youth hostel on the way to the guesthouse...then we arrived. I am not exactly sure what I expected...but all my expectations were surpassed! I was given a room to myself for the additional cost of $1/day over what the hostel would have cost...the room had a back door going out onto the big back porch which overlooked the city and beach and was covered by an overhead trellis that was overgrown with Kiwi Fruits! I have never seen Kiwis growing on the vine...and I am here to tell you, there were hundreds of them above my head on this balcony (unfortunately, they were still about 1 month away from being ripe...but they looked amazing)! Needless to say, I did not request that Sado take me back to the Hostel...I was HOME! Now...I don't often do this...but I am going to give the info on the Begovic Boarding House so other travellers who may wish to visit can have a truly wonderful experience like I had:
Begovic Boarding House
Tel. ++ 385 20 / 435 - 191
As it turns out, Sado is truly one of those absolutely friendly people who just want what is best for his guests and for his city. He almost seems too friendly at times (which when you travel, you sometimes find disconcerting), but once you get used to the fact that he really is THAT nice, you begin to see the sights through his eyes.
Sado informed me that they could do my laundry for only a couple of dollars and that he would drive me into the Old Town if I wanted to start my explorations of the city...I took him up on both offers. Being on the road isn't easy, and the opportunity to dump your entire backpack of dirty, rancid clothing and have someoneelse clean them for not much money is always accepted!
Sado took me to the old city...and true to form, did not merely drop me off, but walked around with me for 20 minutes to get me oriented and to show me some of the sights...then left me alone to explore. Dubrovnik's old city (called Stari Grad)(only a small part of the entire city) is right on the coast and is completely walled in by a high, thick brick and mortar wall. The entire old town is pedestrian only and has a main throughfare/walkway that is paved with marble...as the Lonely Planet says..."utterly
enchanting"...and it is.
I walked in the old town for a while and then went into one of the old churches...and for the first time in all of Europe I experienced something different...I was alone in a church and it really was "quiet as a
church"...it was a special moment that I won't soon forget. I walked around the city on the top of the walls. Beautiful views but also reminders of war everywhere with many buildings showing the signs of shelling and bullet holes...a sobering aspect of the city.
Walking out of the city, I met two guys...Adam/England and Adam/Australia...we talked for a while and were joined by a Croatian girl, Ivanna, who they had met a few days earlier in Split, Croatia. We went for
drinks and talked for quite awhile. The guys had to go, but, Ivanna and I ended up talking for quite a while. She was from Northern Croatia and was studying at the American Style University in Dubrovnik (this type of school teaches all classes in English). She had only been in Dubrovnik for about 2
months herself and had been in Split as a tourist just like the rest of us. She had an interesting story to tell...she had been in the USA as a high school student a few years earlier and had a poor experience. She never seemed to click with her host families and couldn't assimilate with her new schoolmates...she was from a world just too different from them.
She had been frustrated that her high school peers in the US were very interested in finding and drinking beer and who would be who's date at prom...and little else. Now, I agree that sometime certainly high school students can be trite...I was drawn to the conclusion that the kids in the US are insulated from quite a few of the realities of life. Ivanna, being from Croatia, had experienced first-hand the tough realities of living in a country that was in political, economic, and military turmoil and at war at
times... Now, Ivanna was certainly not from a poor family or an underprivleged upbringing...but had still felt the effects of her environment. Hard to say whether society does a service or dis-service by
insulating youth from realities of life... Anyway...it was great to talk with Ivanna and we took a walk around a part of the Dubrovnik peninsula and watched the sunset.
She had to study, so I headed back to the guesthouse. On the way, I stopped at a grocery store and bought a 2 liter bottle of Coke (NOTE: I have consiously avoided drinking very much coke on my trip...it is ungodly expensive in Europe and has lots of calories...nevertheless, I love the
stuff...so I figured that I could buy a 2 liter bottle and have coke for a couple of days because I had a refrigerator in my guestroom...didn't I mention that??? Yes...I had a refrigerator at my disposal!!! And I was going to use it!) and I bought a box of coconut tea cookies (go figure). Anyway, I arrived back at the guesthouse, opened my back door to the veranda...and was greeted with one of the most incredible sights a backpacker can experience...all my clothes were clean and hanging out on the veranda to dry. So I sat down on the porch, swigging from my 2 liter bottle of coke, eating my coconut cookies, enjoying the night in Dubrovnik, and looking at my clean laundry!!! ...sniff...sniff...it really was a "poetry moment" (quote courtesy of Beth Wood)... I must have sat out there for probably an hour...doing nothing, just enjoying the solitude and the moment.
I was finally joined on the veranda when another guest arrived back at the house, a girl named Ingvell from Norway. You think that I was enjoying Croatia??? She had been living at the guesthouse for almost 4 weeks and was just loving the heck out of Dubrovnik, Sado, and the entire Croatian experience. We were out there on the veranda for hours...watched the full moon rise over the landscape (and my laundry), ate cookies, drank coke, and finally called it a night around 2am...ahhhhh...Dubrovnik!
Oct. 26, 1999
Woke early (about 10:30am) :) ...it was a beautiful sunny day...so I went down to the beach. The water was a little cool for my liking but I enjoyed just sitting in the sun for about an hour...walked around the city...don't exactly remember what I did...really, it was great...but can't remember...Dubrovnik does that to you...
Anyway, that evening, I returned to the guesthouse for dinner. Sado was preparing dinner for the guests for a modest amount (about half what it would have cost elsewhere)...there where 4 of us who attended
dinner...hmmmm...don't remember names at the moment...but one of the guys was Mark from Australia who I had met while checking into Ostello Archi Rossi in Firenze...small backpacking world. He had just been in Sarajevo and had stayed with a friend of Sado's (who had referred him to Sado), aparrently a lovely lady named Taiba who speaks almost no English but loves to have travellers come stay in a guestroom in her flat in Sarajevo. He said that Sarajevo was very safe and very interesting...hmmmm...food for thought...
But, for now, the food for the stomach consisted of a wonderful meal prepared by Sado. Sado had previously been the head cook on various cargo and cruise ships for about 37 years...this guy knew his way around a kitchen. First course was 2 kilos of mussels prepared in an incredible sauce...mmmmmmm. Then we had salad which was followed by baked fish...truly a memorable dinner. Dubrovnik is known for it's seafood (being on the Adriatic Sea has it's advantages) and Sado did the city proud. We all ate
with relish (and bread and whatever else we could find) (...joke)!
Then we rallied and went out on the town...drinks at a local bar until the police came and closed it down! ...hmmmm...maybe an explanation is necessary...
Recently a law was passed in Zagreb (capital of Croatia) that forces all bars to close at 11pm...thus making the only places open the discos...hmmmm...aparrently, many of the lawmakers in Zagreb either own discos or have friends who do...so they passed this law to push the people into discos in the late night...this law passed just one week before I arrived...so it was new...and really, the police drove down the street shutting the bars down to the great disgust of the bar owners who were not happy with this new law...the bar owner at our bar was arrested for arguing...hmmmm...this stuff really happens in foreign countries. I got the feeling that the police didn't like any more than the bar owners...but it is the law and they had to follow it...hmmmmm...
That was it for the evening...
Oct. 27, 1999
What a LAZY Day! Woke early again (about 10am)...travelling has it's benefits! Went with a girl from Colorado (can't remember the name...c'est la vie) who was staying at the guesthouse and Adam/Australia (who we met along the way to the oldtown) and sat at a cafe in the oldtown for probably 2 hours...talking...it was great! The Colorado girl was a serious traveller...she had just come from travelling overland from India, through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and was now in Croatia...hmmmm...makes my travels
sound kinda tame, doesn't it???
We talked over coffee (hot chocolate for me...I hate coffee)...then about 2pm decided we were hungry...so we walked about 1 block to a restaurant...and sat for another 2 hours enjoying our food and location in the old town (I had the calamari...mmmmm...seafood in Dubrovnik is awesome!)...then we walked through the city a little...found the only way through the city walls onto a point overlooking the ocean...sat there for probably 2 hours talking and hanging out...then watched the sunset...tough
Went out to a bar with Mark and a couple of people from the guesthouse...returning late, I ran into Ivanna again...we went for coffee until really late...and crashed.
Notes on Dubrovnik: The city had been recommended to me by 3 guys in Budapest...if it wasn't for them I would have never visited this gem of a city. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to go to a world-class destination that is off the beaten track (unfortunately due to the recent war)...this place will again be discovered by tourists...get there as soon as you can!