Friday, 2 September 2011

August 23-26 :: Croatia


The Adriatic Sea…,    from Balkans 2011
The final stage of our trip through the Balkans is not straight forward, we cross borders three times during the 150km drive from Mostar to the isolated enclave of Croatia that includes our destination, the city of Dubrovnik.
This part of Croatia was once the Republic of Ragusa before being conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte and goes some way towards explaining its isolation but, like everything political in the Balkans, the history is very complex. We did not stay in the old town but a short bus ride away at the Lapad peninsula.
The Old Town, Stari Grad, is by far the most significant attraction of Dubrovinik. We set off after lunch for the short bus ride to the Old Town to take a look for ourselves. The Old Town is not very large, perhaps 10hectares, surrounded by ~2km of city walls. On this tour we have visited several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Dubrovnik Old Town is another one. That said it is not surprising that the Old Town is an architectural gem and that the damage inflicted during the 1991 siege has been repaired. However, for all its architectural charm and extensive history I was glad to leave the place. Why?

Clock Tower, Luža Square…,    from Balkans 2011
(i)   Too many people! I was told that Dubrovnik is the busiest cruise ship destination in the World, while this turns out to be an exageration it is in the top 10. The port authority now try to limit the number of passengers allowed to 8,000 each day but admit that sometimes it is up to 10,000. They are pretty much all in the Old Town and I cannot stand crowds.

(ii)  There is no character in the place, every establishment seems to be geared to separating the tourists from the cruise ships from there money in the short time that they are there. As for the restaurants, bars, cafés… they were all pretty bland, not international chains but infected with the same attitude as the shops.
One afternoon in the Old Town was more than enough. It doesn't have to be like this, I really enjoyed our visit to Kotor, another walled town that even had a cruise ship visiting on the day that we were there. I am not the only one who feels this way about Dubrovnik, take a look at Dubrovnik Travel.
During the rest of our time in Dubrovnik we spent our time in Lapad, walking, swimming and generally lazing around and enjoying being in one place for a few days. Lapad is pretty much a tourist spot but unlike the Old Town it is not invaded by hordes from the cruise ships. The pace of life is slower and more relaxed. Lynn made the most of these days and swam every day while I wandered aimlessly enjoying the coastal paths with few people and no traffic.

Map of the route map.