It is SO beautiful here. I want to come back and we haven’t even left yet.
“How did you decide to come here?” They ask. A few of the Croatian women I’ve spoken with inevitably have asked this question.
“Well, you see,” I begin… And I continue to explain in a variety of manners how it came to be that we would spend some time relaxing in Croatia, during what appears to be off-off season. The short version of the answer to this question can be summed up in two reasons:
1- I saw photos of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in the REI-Adventure Travel Catalogues, and it looked amazing. And,
2-To be in Europe during the month of January, we needed to be out of the pinche Schengen.
Of course, the experiences here have come to be a bit more profound than the original two reasons muster, but they remain true, nonetheless.
The first week here has been spent in a lovely sea-view apartment just north of Dubrovnik. The apartment hugs a cliff side-as does every other property in that area- to which are also adhered the owner’s house above, some cement stairs leading all the way down to the water, and nicely constructed terraces overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
It has been recharge time. After about six weeks of extensive travel-which included not staying in the same place for more than three nights-it was time to stay put for a while. There were a few days when we did not even leave the comfort of the property. After all, with such stellar views, a cute and friendly neighbor-kitty, a lot of writing in store, and some recharging before heading out to see more of our world, why leave? Well, that first day we left to go grocery shopping. Taking the bus from there was a good trick. The walk to and from the bus stop would unnerve most anyone, the roads are, well, small. But by the end of the week, one of the two bus drivers already recognized us and remembered where we were headed and where we got off the bus. Now that’s a small town. [And, a good reminder that we really do stick out. Alas! Just can’t blend in.]
Dubrovnik itself is an extension of what is called “Old Town Dubrovnik”, which has been listed on the UNESCO World
Heritage sites since 1979. As we were walking down what apparently is “new” Dubrovnik [which must mean, like, only 1000 years old, and not built forever ago ], Brad starts chuckling. “What?” I ask him. He waves his arm around at the old buildings, the large-stone streets, the old-style terra-cotta roof-tops -all of which to us look quite antiquated- and says, “It’s funny to me that they would identify only a small part of this town as ‘the old city’”. The insinuation of-course being, to us, it all looked quite old!
Indeed, the majority of what is currently known as Dubrovnik appears to be a style of building that we don’t even have in the US: certainly not anywhere in the west.
Yet, once we enter the old city of Dubrovnik, it becomes clear why there is a distinction. Many of the buildings do look similar to the untrained eye, both outside and inside the
stone walls. However, the now-smooth limestone cobbles [after centuries of people walking on them, rain falling, it’s actually amazing that limestone can become as smooth as glass!], the proximity of the buildings against each other, the small walk-ways, and the imposing
WALL that contains it all, well, it is quite clear this is the first and original area.
Via a contact I met on couch-surfing, I invited myself to an English class in a school that is located within the Old Town. It was fantastic! Not only was their high level of English impressive, these high-school sophomores were eager to hear about “America”-as it’s called here- and ask questions and just do something different from their regularly scheduled coursework [hey, there’s more in common than we would think! Sound familiar?]. It was fun for me as well, since it’s been a while since I’ve been in a classroom! [Starting to miss my job, eh?]
One more point before we leave Dubrovnik. This is a very
popular tourist destination. Of the eight days we spent there, only the last two did not have a huge, HUGE cruise-ship in the port. Ever curious, I asked some of the locals their opinion about having the tourism of the cruise-ships coming.
The first person told me it had only been about three to five years (?) since the large cruise-ships had been coming to Dubrovnik. It seems that the general opinion about the large “cruisers”-as they are called locally- is understandably split. On the one hand, these large ships bring flocks of people yearly to this ever-more popular destination. More and more people from all around the world are bringing their money to this place, and tourism is a strong source of income. On the other hand, as one woman pointed out, “What do these people need? They have everything on the ‘cruisers’! They don’t buy that much here, except some trinket maybe made in China. They don’t need anything here!” She was not thrilled. In addition, according to locals, they pollute, they stink, and they smell. “They sit in port all day and leave the engines running, the smoke comes out the top all day”. It cannot be denied that the scent of fuel and combustion is noticeable when down wind of the beasts. I think in places like this there is always going to be that divide between those who work in industries that benefit from tourism and those that find tourism to be a nuisance.
From Dubrovnik we have come North and landed in a very small town that is barely on the map. Krneza is just northeast of the coastal town of Zadar. We are in the country. And it’s awesome. It appears that maybe a dozen families live in this small village. Our hosts’ father grew up here with his five siblings. Now it appears that mostly the older generation inhabit the area. Perfect example? In the local “Skola” [school] there are SEVEN kids cumulatively in grades 1-4. !! That’s small. Today we met two of the kids who attend this school. The third grader was excited to practice her English with me, even though she mostly appeared to be super-shy. She read a few sentences out of her book to me. I asked her some ‘easy’ questions like “How old are you? How old is your sister?” I could tell that wouldn’t last too long, so we sang songs. I taught them one in Spanish: pio, pio, pio, dicen los pollitos, cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frio. They were cute! We did the motions for hambre and frio, too. Then they sang one in Croatian, I think it was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. And apparently they know “Ba-Baa Black Sheep”, but their aunt -our host- told us that in Croatian “Ba-Baa” is more like a derogatory term for grandmother. I told her that-as far as I had always thought until now that I was second-guessing myself-I was pretty sure it was just the sound that sheep make [in English. I suppose]. Suffice it to say, it was an enjoyable part of the day exchanging stories and smiles.
The place we are staying is kind of atop a tiny hill. From the balcony a small portion of the Adriatic Sea is visible to the north, and to the east the beautifully stunning mountain range is in sight.
Next up? Gorgeous and incredible Paklenica National Park.