We arrived in Dubrovnik after a smooth enough bus journey from Perast.
First impressions were not good. Heaving with tourists, the main street entirely given over to catering to their needs, with souvenir shops, ice cream parlours and restaurants, I found it hard to see the undoubted beauty of the old town through the hordes and the heat. Goodness knows what it’s like in high season.
On day one we simply meandered – the streets were charming enough in their way, and the tourist tat was of a higher quality than elsewhere, but it didn’t feel like a lived-in city so much as a façade for tourists. The area just outside the walls where all the yachts and tourist boats tied up was actually quite pleasant, and we spent an hour or so people and fish watching. Lauren would lean over the harbour wall so far to see the fish that it freaked me out, which is probably why she did it. There were cats everywhere, clearly well looked after, much to Lauren’s delight. In fact, that’s been something we have noticed in the whole region – from the woman at the port giving the strays water on hot days, to the old ladies leaving out scraps, to the shops that have a cat sunning itself on the doorstep.
Prices in Dubrovnik were insane, presumably driven up by the popularity of the city and the yachting crew who are here in large numbers. We had a hugely expensive dinner – 30 euros for one main course which we shared and one glass of wine – in one of the squares.
After dinner, however, the city and its people showed itself in a different light, as we attended a concert of the Dubrovnik Symphony orchestra, in a beautiful open-air courtyard of a neoclassical building in the centre of the old town.
The audience was almost entirely local as far as I could tell, and impeccably well behaved – no fidgeting, no mobile phone checking, no talking, just appreciation for the exquisite music. A visiting pianist from Switzerland gave an incredible performance with two Liszt pieces, accompanied by the orchestra, her hands flying so fast Lauren said they were a blur. She got great applause, well deserved. After the interval, the orchestra played a Beethoven symphony, which also received full appreciation. I don’t claim to understand a lot about classical music – my appreciation is a little like that for good wine – I know what I like when I experience it, I seek it out, it moves me, but I don’t know (or care) how it’s made or all the intricacies of the production. This was music that could take you away from yourself, that swept you up in the power of it, and it left me feeling quite emotional. Lauren also enjoyed it, especially the rousing, lively and powerful parts of the Beethoven, and she was very well behaved, despite the concert starting after her bedtime. She did fall asleep ten minutes before the end, but still said it had been worth it. I’ve missed classical music while in Mozambique – no offence to the incredible work of the Xiquitsi orchestra – and I’m looking forward to being in Europe to enjoy more.
The following day we did what everyone does in Dubrovnik, and joined the throngs walking the city walls (again, at huge expense – 26 euros for the two of us! – but Lauren was keen to do it and the views were spectacular). Despite the Chinese tourists who would stop dead to take a picture, causing a ripple effect as everyone tried not to bump into the person in front, the French ladies trying to power walk round in their brand new ‘walking shoes’, the teenagers taking selfies, and the German couple who brought their dog, we made it round and did enjoy the views of the sea and the nearby islands, and the fort standing just outside the walls. Halfway round there was a café and Lauren had an ice cream, which melted rapidly in the intense heat.
After the walls, we found a shaded playground just outside the walls, and Lauren enjoyed the swings and the monkey bars. After all the steps and inclines of the walls, not to mention the heat, I was more than happy to sit in the shade of a huge tree and watch. At one point the children all gathered round a cat that had caught a sparrow. They had an almost gruesome fascination with it, and the poor cat eventually ran off into some bushes to enjoy her lunch in peace.
After this we decided we’d had enough of the throngs and headed back to the accommodation for a relaxing afternoon in the garden, before the evening catamaran to Mljet island, where we had decided at the last minute to spend a night, en route to Split, from where we would start a mad dash across Europe to get to Brussels and then onto the UK before our rail passes ran out.
Next up – Mljet Island.