April 16, 2016: Dubrovnik

It is Saturday and today is our day for exploring Dubrovnik, Croatia.  I was awake first to the right, Adriatic sunlight pouring in through the windows and set off for a long walk to explore the old city before anyone else woke up.  The girls were fast asleep when I left and Dominica was only awake enough to let her know that I was leaving but she was still in bed.

It was a really nice morning and I enjoyed the walk down to the fortress and I put in easily two hours walking around the old streets.  Lots of tourists were already there by the time that I got there and more just kept coming.  I learned later that Dubrovnik has recently become famous for being a key filming location for Game of Thrones which I have never seen and have no interest in, which explains the extremely high ratio of American tourists in an Eastern European location.  I also learned that Star Wars VIII has been filming here, which will make tourism increase that much more.  This means that last year, in Spain, we got to see one major Star Wars filming location and now we are seeing another and we are considering seeing yet another in the fall – none of which was intentional nor are we into those things.  We just keep stumbling upon them.

I looked around and found neat areas to bring the family and checked out the food options.  I managed to find a place that looked like it would be good for breakfast and let Dominica know.  The girls had woken up.  It was nine thirty.  So Dominica started getting them ready and I hoofed it back up the hill to the apartment so that I could meet them and help walk back down to the fortress.  Plus I had the keys and was needed to lock up the apartment before they could leave.

Even though the girls were awake at nine thirty it was still a bit of a race to get the entire family ready and all of the way down to the fortress in time to get to the restaurant before elven when they would stop serving breakfast.  We made it, though, with a good ten minutes to spare.

We sat out on the main square of Dubrovnik’s old town and had a wonderful breakfast.  Luciana was so hungry that she ordered a giant omelet, a chocolate filled croissant and a cheese sandwich!  We all really enjoyed our food and the coffee was awesome so we sat, relaxed and enjoyed that for a while.  It was a great way to start the day.

From there we hit the farmer’s market or whatever was going on in the square.  We got a few small things, but nothing much.  Then we spent an hour or so wandering the old streets.  It is a gorgeous old town, really something to see, and really extensive.  The scale of it is part of what is just so cool.  You cannot see it quickly.

Sadly a lot of it has been given over to television and movie themed souvenir shops that have nothing to do with the city at all.  Like so many touristy places, Chinese-made junk with the city’s logo printed on it is taking centre stage and the local stuff and the reasons for going there are fading.  Dubrovnik is not that bad yet, but it is very obvious that the last couple of years have turned something amazingly historic and awesome into something that most people see as gimmicky and cheap.  And nearly every overheard conversation is not someone talking about the history of Adriatic empires or the history of the seafaring people or how the fortifications work or how the city survived the famous siege only a few years ago or how the reconstruction is going; but rather nearly every conversation is someone talking about how they binged on an HBO show and which episode was filmed where.  It’s so sad to see such an important historical and living location to be thought of in those terms. Now it is just a place where cruise ships drop off loads of day trippers out to see where their favourite fiction show set up their cameras, instead of where actual history took place.

The city is a bit tough to walk with the kids.  There are a lot of cobblestones and a lot of elevation changes and steps.  The girls wanted to get candy so we ended up at Pirate Candy, which is a nice, but oddly themed American pirate candy store with barrels of candy and treasure chests hanging on the walls and such.  Why an American pirate theme in Croatia, I have no idea.  But the candy looked really good and the girls found some things that they wanted.

After a lot of walking around the girls were tired so we found an open square where people had vacated and the stalls closed up because the wind had picked up and was blowing tables over and let the girls just play for a bit.  They did well for twenty minutes but just as we were getting ready to go Liesl came from the bright sun of the square into the shadows where we were sitting, didn’t see a big rock and fell and hurt her knee badly.  She didn’t cut it or even cut her tights but it hurt a lot.  It will likely be a big bruise later.   So I had to carry her for quite a while and help her walk for a  long time.

That was it for the Miller family in the old city today.  We worked out way towards the way back, did some quick shopping, took a few last pictures and were on the way back up the hill.  We only went a little bit, though, because we have been promising Luciana for days that we would take her to the beach and there is a decent pebble beach on the north side of the fortress.  I had seen it last night and scoped it out on the walk this morning and figured out that it is a public beach and that we could go there.  We ended up entering the beach through a new restaurant, lounge and club that has been built on it, BanjeBeach.  We figured out that this, probably the best and most expensive restaurant in Dubrovnik (mostly guessing there, but it is a very reasonable guess if you saw the place) just opened last week!  It wasn’t busy as we were early so we sat on the tables just off of the beach and let the girls go play while we sat enjoying mojitos.  It was nice to get a chance to just sit with some drinks on the Adriatic.  The sun was out, the waves were nice, there was people watching to do and the girls were endlessly entertained by picking rocks out of the sand and building a wall and playing some game of their imaginations that we will never understand.  They easily put in an hour or two at this elaborate and very effortful game while we just relaxed.

We would have stayed longer, as we were really enjoying the break and the girls were having so much fun, but the place was booked for a wedding and we were going to be in the way.  I took each of the girls down and let them put their “toes in the sea”, which was way too cold for anything more, and we were off to walk back to the apartment.  We stopped quickly to pick up pastries and pizza to eat at the apartment which would be far cheaper than going out again and much less effort.

Back at the apartment we discovered that the Internet was out there and would remain off for the rest of the day.  So while we have basic communications via our cell phones with have unlimited and moderately fast 3G, we don’t have Internet access for our computers to do anything much.  So no uploading the pictures from the Nikon or getting things posted to SGL or doing any sort of work even though we are back at the apartment early and had been planning on doing some of that stuff.  And we had planned on really putting in some time looking for places to stay as we are leaving Croatia in the morning and need a place to head to in Montenegro, but don’t even know what city we are headed for, yet.

I was hot and tired so took a shower, I had not taken one earlier this morning, and when I was done the kids were tired.  We went down to the public area and took over the outside terrace (there is only one other room occupied at the facility and they were not in so we could spread out all that we wanted) with the girls at one table and Dominica and I at another and ate our dinner from the bakery.  Pizza, that we had to remove the ham from as no one sells anything without meat here, and some cakes and such.  It wasn’t bad.  Could have been better and less effort if they were not so crazy about not making a single thing without meat added to it.

We kept hoping that the Internet would come back so that we could do travel research, but it never did.  We sat outside using the one cell phone that was working, mine, and tried to find places in Montenegro that looked like they would be good for us.  We probably did that for about an hour with the girls having gone back up to the room so that they could watch recorded shows on their Kindle Fire tablets (they want to watch YouTube but that is not working) before they came down to tell us that they were lonely and wanted us to hang out with them.

I had set up my laptop out on the terrace and started working on getting caught up on writing about our trip around the Balkans which I will try to post once we get somewhere with Internet again.  Then I brought it up to the room and set up on the table in the middle of Dominica and my room and wrote from there most of the evening until a little after eleven while Dominica worked on finding our next place to stay.  She managed to book us a place in Montenegro for two nights, so we know that we are able to get up in the morning and head south and have a destination to get to and we know that we get to chill there for two nights again.  That will be nice.  Another day, another country.  We did some research on places to stay in Albania but have yet to come up with what region of the country we even want to get to visit.  And I need to do some research on getting into Macedonia with the car or how we can get around to Kosovo by train and I need to talk to friends there but without Internet access tonight that was a bit hard.  So that will wait until tomorrow.

We talked to the owner of the apartment about getting the car fixed here and he said that the nearest place to do so would be at the airport, which sits on the Montenegrin border thirty five kilometres away.  Dubrovnik is expensive and difficult to deal with things because it is such a tourist area so we are hesitant to try to get the car fixed here.  It seems like it makes more sense to do it in cheaper, easier, more laid back Montenegro than to do it here.  So our current plan is to try to swing by the Ford dealer near the airport as we go by tomorrow in the hopes that they can just get us in and fix whatever is wrong.  If they cannot then we continue on to Montenegro in the bright sun of day and figure things out from there.

It was a very busy day and Luciana was asleep long before ten.  Liesl was asleep just after ten.  And Dominica was nearly asleep at eleven.  I wrote more then ten thousand words before turning in for the night.  That is a good chunk of catching up.