Last Saturday morning Stefje and I barely made our flight to Dubrovnik, but we arrived in Croatia at 10:30AM and immediately started sweating upon stepping off the plane. After settling in, we went to the beach and took our first dip on one of the city’s rocky beaches, the salty water refreshing our sun-soaked skin.
Later on in the afternoon, we walked along the edge of a peninsula and peered out at the calm blue waters of the Adriatic. All along the pathway coves and rocky outcroppings appeared below us, each one a beach with sunbathers, swimmers, and tourists looking for a spot of shade away from the sweltering sun.
On the way back to our apartment we nearly suffered a heat stroke, but were able to make it back and cool down in time for a long and glorious afternoon nap.
That evening we headed towards the city center, stopping first at a magnificent fortress along the way. Here, we were offered the best possible views of Dubrovnik’s old town. A barricading wall protected the city from any form of marine intrusion, protecting the red roofs inside and leaving us to relish in the tremendous view.
From there we worked our way inside the town walls, passing through the city gate into a tourist mecca. Amidst walking tours, an overwhelming number of pedestrians, and restaurants lining every square inch of available real estate, we kept our eyes craned upwards at a wealth of ancient architecture that transported us back in time.
A long walk along the city’s port had us relishing in the atmosphere of the city: a crisp sea breeze, a hidden cove of ships, and finally a perfect sunset that struck just as we crossed in front of the city’s largest palace.
Late on Saturday night my friend Joe arrived from America. The following morning he, Stefje, and I relaxed in the quiet repose of our air-conditioned apartment as the sun began taking its toll on the city. By the time we walked the five minutes to the bus station we were drenched in sweat and thus fully prepared for the day’s activities.
Our exploration of Dubrovnik started with a meandering through the thin alleyways and crooked backchannels of the town we have begun to know so well as King’s Landing from Game of Thrones. Some of the locations were unmistakable: I turned my head at one point and immediately recognized the staircase where Cersei began her humiliating walk of shame.
As we criss-crossed beneath the imposing city walls, we came across a tiny archway and decided to explore further. Below a winding staircase was a cliffside promenade, the perfect spot for a morning dip or an afternoon cocktail, surrounded by the placid waters of the adriatic and the gorgeous facade of the exterior city walls.
Our feet led us through more of the city center, eventually stopping at the port. Here we boarded a ferry to the island of Lokrum, a forested oasis of tranquility that frames the background of most pictures of Dubrovnik.
Upon arriving we quickly jettisoned for the nearest swimming hole, of which there were many. The water was a deep turquoise and the visibility was astoundingly clear, so swimming was an inviting and delightful attraction.
On all sides we were basked in the delight of natural beauty: the sea, the island, and a forest behind us. Just as the sun was reaching its apex we made the misguided choice of strapping our shoes back on and setting off on a hike to the highest point on the island.
Along the way we got a good sense for the area’s climate and I can sum it up in just one word: arid. The trees and flowers here survive on a tiny amount of precipitation, necessitating a series of fire hydrants and reservoirs on call for a forest fire.
We passed through an intricately designed courtyard, meandered through an olive grove, and steadily began the brutal ascent to the round fort which serves as the city’s ultimate lookout point.
And what a sight it was! Behind us lay a steady stream of yachts, sailboats, and kayaks circumnavigating the island. In front of us lay the city of Dubrovnik in all its glory, the picturesque orange roofs popping from within the dull grey walls.
Yet the combination of the midday heat and the strenuous climb meant that after ten minutes we were more than ready to retreat for a cooler environment.
On the way down the hill we steadily overheated. Sweat poured out of every orifice of my body, yet soon our wildest dreams were realised. Stefje coaxed us down a trail that led to the waterfront and within a few seconds we had stumbled across our second watering hole of the day.
Instantaneously we stripped down and dived in, the cool clear waters doing wonders to rejuvenate our minds and bodies.
The view from our new favorite spot in the universe was downright mind-boggling. Across the straight, mountains of the Croatian coastline shot up violently from the calm waters of the bay. Busses wound through the hillsides at dizzying heights, slowly descending into the throngs of civilization. In the foreground a slew of beaches were overpopulated with umbrellas and beachgoers, yet the rocky cliffs were intermittently interrupted by private coves.
Right in front of us, speedboats and tremendous yachts dominated the view, matching perfectly with the crystal clear water to serve up the perfect slice of paradise.
Upon our return to Dubrovnik, we replenished our stomachs with a much needed lunch, then found a shady spot to down half a liter of beer. As the sun began its horizontal descent, we made our way to the highlight of any trip to this city: a long walk around the city walls.
The walk was one of sublime beauty. We moved from one tremendous vantage point to the next, slowly ascending to a massive turret where we were graced with the perfect panorama of the entire cityscape.
As the sun set across the open sea, we couldn't help but feel fully enchanted by the entire Dubrovnik experience. Perhaps the recent influx of tourism has made the city too popular for its own good, but astounding beauty and inspiring sights await any visitor who steps inside these imposing walls.