Throughout the night my mind dreamed of gliding over calm clear blue water and visiting the tranquil and remote islands of Elaphite. I woke up and realized I was high in the hills overlooking Dubrovnik. I jumped out of bed, excited to get started on my boat tour. I should say I tried to jump out of bed. When I stood up, my feet hurt so badly I fell back into bed. Apparently, an entire day of walking on stone paths of Old Town was more than my poor feet could handle. Tiptoeing to the kitchen, I was grateful to be spending most of the day on a boat to minimize further injury to my feet. My breakfast of sliced cheese, a tangerine and 2 cups of coffee was inhaled in 3 minutes flat and I tore out the front door.
After practically running down the 340 steps from my apartment to the Ploče Gate, I showed up to the dock only to be told that I am 2 hours too early. "Sit and have a coffee" is the employee's recommendation. It is Croatia, for goodness sake. Do you really need a reason to have more coffee? So, I did as I was told, tapping my foot impatiently the entire time.
When it was time to set sail, our captain and assistant who spoke no English, took a head count of passengers. We must have all been accounted for, because without any introductions, instructions or a howdy-do we pushed off. We left the Dubrovnik harbor on course for the Elaphite Islands. The calm sea I had fantasized about turned out, in reality, to be very choppy causing the boat to pitch sharply. At times, my shoulder was mere inches from the water. I began to appreciate just how small our boat was. The further we got away from the harbor the calmer the waters were and I could then sit back and enjoy the beauty of the Adriatic.
The first stop was at the island of Koločep. Again, our boat's crew said not a word to us. They just wrote on a black board the name of the island and "35 min". I assumed this was how long we had on this island. April is still considered the off season so there are no shops or restaurants open. There are homes in the hills but I'm not sure where they get supplies. I spent my time sitting on the edge of the harbor and taking photos. My view was of beautiful blue water ornamented with anchored boats and a mountain backdrop. I looked up at the houses in the hills and thought how lucky those people were to live in such a peaceful place.
When we got back on the boat we were fed fresh grilled fish, veggies and drinks. I had no idea how they cooked it on that tiny boat but it was delicious.
We finished eating just as our boat pulled into the next island of šipan. We had a full 45 minutes to walk around. There was one tiny café serving coffee and sodas and the rest of the town was made up of residences. The area around the harbor was adorable lined with white stone buildings and docked fishing boats. Children sat along the pathways and sold their sea shells to tourists. I'm not sure how well the tiny entrepreneurs were doing since it was the "off" season. A woman, displaying her crochet for sale, sat on a bench tatting and smiling.
As I walked down a path in front of a home, an elderly woman poked her head out of a window to wave to a neighbor. I was dying to take her picture so I asked her if I could. "Mi?" she exclaimed. The only word I could come up with is "bellissimo!" (My Croatian still stinks) She waved me off with an embarrassed hand but let me take her photo anyway. She had no idea how beautiful she was.
We finally arrived at our third and my favorite island, Lopud. We had a whopping 2 1/2 hours to explore. It was a more inhabited port with nice shops and restaurants. I walked up one the paths and, as usual, found myself completely alone within minutes. I think it's so funny that no one is ever interested in the same things as I am. Citrus trees lined the path with oranges and the biggest lemons you have ever seen. I really wanted to pick one but I exercised some self control. A sign for a church pointed up the hill so I set out to find it. I continued up the very steep hill for quite some time. I walked and walked and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Each time I was ready to stop, I thought I've come this far, surely it can't be much further. When I got to the point I thought I was going to collapse I gave up. When I turned around I was rewarded with the most fantastic view. I may not have ever found the church but I was definitely closer to God.
I practically flew down the mountain (it was so steep it was hard not to) and found a café to rest in. I sipped coffee inches from the sea and the let the sun warm my face. I stared out at the peaceful, hypnotizing water. It was a wonderful moment.
Sadly, our 2 1/2 hours came to a close and I dragged my feet back to the boat. I was the last one to return, as usual.
When we port back at Dubrovnik I realize I am starving. I stumble into a seafood restaurant, Moby Dick. When I ask them if they take credit cards they say yes but they would rather not. I just want to take the waiter by the shoulders and shake him. I tell him it is the only way I can pay so he reluctantly agrees to accept it.
My dinner was baked fish, mussels and black seafood risotto. I start with a mixed salad and my choice of salad dressing is oil and vinegar or oil and vinegar. Every bite melts in my mouth and I would lick the plate if I was sure no one was looking.
The owner, a chain smoker, sits next to me and tries to chit chat. He says HE is Moby Dick. I leave that one alone.
When the bill comes it is 266 Kuna. By Croatian standards, this is a small fortune for a dinner. And because I am paid in the local currency it is a small fortune for me as well. However, to justify it I tell myself, "But that's only $48." I do a lot of that kind of justification on this trip.
My last day in Dubrovnik is on Palm Sunday. I had seen local street vendors selling braided palms for 2 days now. It strikes me as odd since today they would be handed out at Mass. So why buy them? It's because in this country you bring your own palms to Mass. I am sure glad I figured this out before I went to Mass and started asking around where to get in line for the palms. By the time I try to buy one, most of the street vendors have sold out. So I had to buy a very sad one that had been picked over by everyone before me. It was the Easter version of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.
After Mass, I take the quick 15 minute ferry to the green and lush island of Lokrum. This is a peaceful and lazy island known for its Benedictine monastery and botanical garden. Families of peacocks are the only residents. After a couple of hours walking the island I have a relaxing lunch at the one restaurant on the island. Peacocks hovered at my elbow waiting for scraps of bread. Recently, Lokrum has become well known for being the location where Qarth scenes of Game of Thrones was filmed.
Early the next morning, I said my goodbyes to Dijana and Marko. I got a big hug from Dijana and Marko gave me a sweet grin as he peeked from behind his mother's legs. She told me which bus to take to get to the main bus station.
While I was excited to leave for my next adventure I was sad to leave such a fantastic city. My words in this blog can never adequately describe the impact the city had on me. The history, the architecture, the sea, the food, the people...all rolled up in one perfect package. If you plan to visit Dubrovnik, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see everything it has to offer. Trust me, this is one gem not to be missed.