Day Five: Dubrovnik

Today we docked in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and I have to confess I didn’t know what to expect. Croatia is a land even more foreign and distant from me that somewhere like Italy. When I see a sign in Italy that says “ristorante,” I have a pretty good idea what that means, but in Serbo-Croatian, I remain clueless.

Our breakfast friends Carol and Raymond, from London, have been to Dubrovnik before. Carol told us to take the shuttle bus to the Old City, the Stari Grad, and I’m so glad we followed her advice. Dubrovnik is like a city within a city. The Stari Grad, with its high, thick walls and towers, stands like a huge English castle on the cliffs overlooking the sea. And like most English castles, I expected to find museums and ruins inside. Instead, I found a busy city – homes, churches, and a bustling market road.

It was a lot like Ancona, in that narrow alleways (narrow staircases, actually), climb up and up from the main streets and plazas. People make their homes up there; some homes having the city wall as one of the walls of their home. The only thing I could think was that I certainly wouldn’t enjoy carrying sacks of groceries up those stairs from the market, wherever that might have been.

There were ruins as well. My first thought was oh, more Roman ruins. But I was wrong — in 1991, not so very long ago, Serbian and Montenegrin forces bombed the living daylights out of Dubrovnik’s Old City, for reasons I have yet to discover. Residents are proud of the fact that because the old walls held, and damage was kept to a minimum. That’s the story I was able to piece together today, but it might be worth a trip down Internet Lane to get all the facts.

We bought tickets to walk around the top of the Wall. It was an exhausting climb at times, but so worth it if only for the spectacular views of the city, old and new, and the glimpse back in time when the Wall was manned with men and cannons.

After the wall walk, I was pretty much wiped out. We had a gelato, just like in Venice, and thankfully the clerk let us pay in euros, because Croatia still uses its own currency, the krona. We found a shady park just outside the wall and ate the sandwiches we pilfered from the breakfast buffet, but because of all the walking and warm weather, I wasn’t very hungry.

A short stroll around the new town, another break in a park by the harbor, and it was back to the ship. Dinner again with Maggie, Helen, Gary and Carolyn. We spent a lot of time at dinner discovering how not to be eaten by alligators or sharks if we should like to come to Australia some day, how to successfully get yourself unstuck from an Australian riptide, and we learned how kangaroos are as desirable as giant rats. We also discussed Chinese birth restrictions and the habitual kidnapping of Chinese baby boys. Heavy stuff.

The photo shows a portion of the old city wall that we walked. Tomorrow we visit Corfu, “green island of olive trees.” I hope “green” means “flatter” – I don’t think I could take another day of walking around cities built into the sides of cliffs. Carol didn’t have any suggestions about Corfu, just to walk around and do our bit to help stabilize the Greek economy. I can do that quite cheerfully.

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