Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dubrovnik, Croatia: Easter plus Bosnia and Montenegro

Synopsis: Hmmm, another 3-day weekend coming up. Stephanie and I know what that means! 4-day trip to somewhere I've never been. Been wanting to go to Croatia for awhile, Dubrovnik seems nice. It's on the border of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, so why not go there too? Ok!

Trip Overview:
Day 1: Found a hotel right in Old Town, go check-in. Booked a city tour, so we head that way. Our guide, Heni was a knowledgeable guide and had good historical insights. The tour was the perfect amount of time, not too long that we got bored or tired, but not too short that we missed sites or skipped important stuff. We, then did the ancient city walls tour and it is clear why the ancient walls are the biggest attractor to Dubrovnik. Mari was a good guide with lots of insight into Game of Thrones trivia, for those who are into that show. The walk had stairs and inclines, but totally worth it to get the views and photo ops. The city walls ticket is also good to get you in Lovrijenac Fortress across the water. So we go there next and walk up the 4 bajillon steps to the top. Great view. There's a pizzeria across from our hotel, so we'll check it out. 

Thoughts: Good weather and great tour guides made for an informative and fun day. Staying inside of Old Town is cool, as I feel it really immerses me into the city. There are fresh water fountains EVERYWHERE, and we fill up often. Probably the first trip I've ever been on where I stayed hydrated. So, does that means I can eat all the ice cream I want?

Arriving in Dubrovnik
Me in front of Lovrijenac Fortress

Steph sipping from Onophrian Fountain

Me at a fountain
These large Easter eggs are everywhere


Steph getting close to Marin Drzic
In front of the harbor

The whole Old Town 

Old Town upside-down 

Steph looking over the cliff that protects Old Town

View from Fort Lovrijenac

Day 2: Wake up bright and early to head to our tour of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no one in Old Town at this hour...kinda eerie. The tour to Mostar is very informative and educational. We are 7 plus a guide (Mariana) and driver (Vlado). Our guide gives us some historical background on the cities and areas we visit.  Our driver is full of great stories and funny jokes throughout the trip. Our first stop is Medugorje, a Catholic mecca of sorts. Next, Mostar, where we have an additional guide in the city of Mostar, who takes us around and shows us a video on the war in the nineties. There are a few gypsies and their children, begging around the city, but not so many that it is annoying like in major cities. The prices are really reasonable and the crowds are not too big in April. We have sufficient time in each of the 4 locations we stop in. 

Night 2: Back in Dubrovnik and we decide to head up to the top of the mountain via cable car. Now, this is a view! Cappuccino time. Head back down to Old Town and walk around at night, ice cream in hand, checking out the sights.

Thoughts: I learned so much today about a war that I grew up hearing about on the news, but never really paid attention to. Amazing to be here almost 20 years later to see the reconstruction. You can see the blend of Muslim and Catholic influences.

Toto, I don't think we're in the EU anymore
Church at Medugorje
Hundreds of pews for an outdoor congregation in Medugorje
Picturesque town, Mostar is

Walking the streets in Mostar
Hangin' with the locals
Stari Most (Old Bridge)
What do you see, Steph? Stari Most to the left, catholic church in the distance, and the mosque to the right.

Atop the mountain with Old Town behind us
Almost fell off the cliff

Imagine seeing Dubrovnik from this angle

Old Town at night

In front of Pile Gate (pronounced, pee-luh)

Yay for ice cream 

Day 3: Booked a tour to Montenegro (and it's not pronounced mon-tuh-nee-gro like I've been saying, but mon-tuh-nay-gro). We plan to walk around in beautiful weather. But, obviously, the weather doesn't get the memo and rains on us like... with a lot of water. Vlado and Mariana are our driver and guide again from the Mostar tour. We are 16 plus the driver and guide this time so we have a minibus, which is clearly designed for children or people under 6 feet, as we are cramped and forced to sit sideways the whole trip. We wait 35 minutes to pass the Montenegrin border because there is a 40pax bus in front of us. Potentially Albanians? Perlast is a quaint town and we do not do the boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks, but we hear good reviews from the others. Kotor, a nice fortified town on the side of a mountain overlooking a bay, is where the reservoirs in the sky open up and unleash a fury of torrential downpours. There are legitimate rivers flowing through the city streets. The guide in Kotor does a good job, but we aren't experiencing Kotor the way I think it we should, but that is due entirely to weather. In Budva, we go to the recommended restaurant, Jadran, and the food is pretty good and fairly reasonably priced.  We eat with some interesting people from our group, which adds to the positive experience. Our minibus takes a ferry back to cut the drive time in half. We make the best of the trip and get to experience Montenegro and enjoy ourselves despite the poor weather. 

Thoughts: Montenegro is outside the EU so the smoking policies are non-existent, and thanks to the rain, everyone was inside. Therefore, I was forced to suck down second hand cigarette smoke every time we ate or went to a cafe. But, just like in Bosnia, we were able to get stamps in our passports.

Start the day with a light drizzle

Balancing Our Lady of the Rocks and St. George Island
First time Steph and I did our 4-in-1 shot, in Perast

Another Easter egg in Kotor
Non-stop rain

Because of Easter, you get free eggs in all the cafes

Fine dining, Montenegrin style
That's a big bell
No-look photography expert
Buddy-buddy with the driver, who's son is in the NHL now

Ferry ride

Ice cream back in Old Town

Day 4: We use this day to take a bus around Dubrovnik and quickly realize that it is a stupid idea. Everything is down by Old Town. So, we go back and I decide to get a straight-blade shave for the first time in my life. The barber is funny and it is just like a barbershop in the states, where there are people in there just chatting and yelling at the TV, but not planning on getting a haircut or shave.

Thoughts: Glad we set aside a day to just relax and not do much. Today was like a real vacation day.

Shaving my head

He knocked me out! lol, kidding, just shaving my beard

Checking it out. Not bad

Final Thoughts:
I think it's funny that the ex-Yugoslavia countries have their stereotypes about one another, and other european countries, and the people are not afraid to say it, and with the utmost sincerity too! We heard "ex-Yugoslavians are lazy, but Montenegrins are twice as lazy." and "Albanians, they're all drug traffickers and smugglers." Hilarious stuff.

Timing-wise, it was a perfect weekend to go to Dubrovnik, as the cruise ships and tourists hadn't yet taken over the city. Had the weather been a bit drier, it would have been even better. Again, a vacation that you rip and run, but have at least one day at the end to just relax, makes it my ideal type of vacation. Also, I got stamps in my passport, which is nice, since the EU has totally ruined my hopes of filling up my passport. 



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