We had an early bus so I got up at 6am. I had several crazy dreams. In one I was at the Cardin Rd house setting up my laptop to start working on my travelogue (there were a lot of wires--when we lived there Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet, so it wasn't as simple as today). There was a commotion upstairs and I heard my brother saying "I messed up." My mom came down and informed me that Dave had confessed to some scheme in which he and someone else were using their Acme jobs to rob stores at 11pm every night. In another dream, I was at the Carney wedding, but it was in a different location from where the real one was held and from where it was scheduled to be held in the dream. The menu also changed so my original selection wasn't available. There was a strange outdoor bathroom, more resembling a shower room, where everyone was standing and peeing, and I had a slight accident. I had to use my Swiss army knife to open a watermelon, but this involved using the corkscrew to cut a hole in the top so I could stick my fingers in and lift half the watermelon, which had already been sliced in half. And there was only a tiny amount of flesh inside, which I had to carry up a ladder. These were weird ones. My sister's wedding is coming up in a few weeks so that's the general inspiration, and the knife thing came from cutting the strap off my shoe, but the other details of both dreams are bizarre.
Another non-chronological note: Giant moles and boils are very prevalent among Serbs. Even young people. I saw one on a cat.
At the hotel each of us received a breakfast bag for the bus ride to Dubrovnik, since we weren't stopping for food. The included beverage was peach nectar. I'd had orange nectar earlier on the trip, and drank apricot nectar every day for breakfast when I was young. What's the deal with nectar? Especially "D. Putro's Nectar of the Gods"?
At the bus station I learned a new Serbian word: "sexplosivno". I saw it on the cover of Scandal! magazine, under a photo of upturned celebrity asses on the beach.
The bus left around 7:50am and we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia (country #39) before noon. First time my country count has exceeded my age since I was 0 years old. Rounding the bend and seeing the city for the first time was like when you go around the mountain and get your first view of Vegas, or around that bend on the Schuylkill Expressway and seeing the Vet. I cleverly took a window seat on the left side of the bus so I'd get that view, but my window was so caked over with crud that photography was impossible. Also got a good view of the Tudjman Bridge.
Best photo I could get of the bridge, from the bus station.
Our accommodations were rooms in private houses. The trip notes said some of them require climbing 173 steps to reach, and I think that's the one we got. Brutal carrying my bag up there.
First thing I noticed in my room was this cable box. I asked the owner how to work the porn, and he had no knowledge of it--he thought maybe a previous guest had written that on the box. I didn't turn the TV on at all so we'll never know.
View out my window. Not bad at all.
In the hallway of the house there were photos of the owner in his army uniform, and one of the Hilton Imperial (prominently visible out the window, but not in the above shot) on fire in Nov 1991. Seeing our interest, he brought out his album and showed us all his photos from his time fighting the Serbs in the '90s. And he still had his army uniform and hat hanging in the hallway. Afterward I commented that those were the 10 coolest minutes of the trip so far. Everything in the former Yugoslavia has been rebuilt so well (except perhaps in Sarajevo) that it's hard to imagine what was going on there as recently as 12 years ago (or 8 in the case of the Novi Sad bridges during the Kosovo thing).
I had a hamburger up the street from Pile Gate, then we all met at 2:30pm for an orientation walk with Gorana.
While I was waiting I noticed this restaurant, Nautika. My dad was in Dubrovnik in 2000 and said he ate at a restaurant overlooking the sea. I though this was it so I took a photo. [I sent this to him before writing the travelogue and he confirmed this was the place. He had fish, wine "and some clear stuff that rocked our socks", presumably rakija.]
Gorana walked us into the walled city (this is not just Another Bloody Old Town), then we went up on the walls to do the full circuit at our leisure. Let's see if I can come up with a unique caption for each of these photos.
O-ee-o. Ee-o o.
I'm sure these residents love tourists looking down into their backyards.
You can take a boat out to that island. I didn't have time but it would have given me the photos I wanted. Not that these are bad.
Many of the houses/buildings in here have new roofs, on account of the Serbian shelling.
Looking east toward the starting point of the walk and the marina.
This is the highest lookout point at the northwest corner. It's atop a tower, higher than the rest of the path--note the staircase on the right.
Down Placa (Stradun), the main promenade.
Large Onofrio's fountain. You can drink from here. I did.
Nautika, and the restaurant next door called Dub where some people ate earlier. Meager and expensive food. I don't recommend.
Southwest corner. Are those flying monkeys?
From near the southwest corner looking generally north. Serbs used to fire shells from those hills.
Fort Lovrijenac and the cove between it and the walled city.
Box of Mystery. Or perhaps the Croats took possession of Al Gore's lock box, putting away their money for a rainy day. And that day is today. It had been raining lightly off and on, but right about here it started coming down hard. I was getting wet despite an umbrella, and I couldn't keep my camera lens dry to take any photos. Fortunately some French tourists invited me into their turret where I waited until the rain eased a bit. It didn't smell too bad in there, unlike some of the turrets that had been mistaken for turlets.
Fort and some of the sea-facing wall.
I don't know which Cannon has the rougher and darker surface--Dyan or this one. Hey-yo!
More of the seaward exterior.
Sweet-looking cafe on the rocks.
Hard to see, but there was a waterfall gushing out of the wall (runoff from the rain).
The marina. Whoops, I repeated a caption. It's because I'm back where I started.
Around 5pm I descended and left the walled city to go back to my room.
On the way out, inside Pile Gate, is this map. Shelling didn't only come from the hills, but from the sea also.
I passed the apartment on my first try, but then found it. I wanted to make sure I could get back later if intoxicated. Writing down the address was useless because you don't take streets to get there--just a labyrinth of stairs. Fortunately I'd noted a few key landmarks, recalling this lesson.
In the shower I coined a new sniglet: "H2 uh-oh" (or "uh-eau"), defined as that moment of dread when you accidentally bump the faucet (the kind that controls both hot and cold) and brace yourself for a sudden extreme change in water temperature. I'll settle on my preference for the term later. I always liked the spelling "ut-oh" in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic strip so maybe I'll use that. I did not like the "oh-oh" in another strip. Getting back to sniglets...yes, I still think of Rich Hall every single time I write a check and draw the meganegabar so the recipient can't add "and a million dollars".
My bathroom had the same set of electrical switches outside as in Budva, and I identified the third one--it's for the heater, to heat the bathroom and not the water. The heater was a loop above the door that looked just like the icon above the switch. I think the bathroom in Budva just didn't have a heater.
We were meeting at 7:30pm for our farewell dinner, so I returned to the walled city in advance.
Placa (Stradun) around sunset.
As this was the final night of the tour and I needed to get a buzz on (no offense to Buz), I went to a bar called fresh*, which I read about on the Web. It's known for cheap beers and the New York Times recommended it. So did Lonely Planet according to the sign outside, in a newer edition than mine apparently. I didn't like the atmosphere here--too artsy, and they were showing some Argentine film that all the patrons were sitting and watching with what seemed to be genuine interest. But the beers are cheap, at least for Croatia. The main draw here is the 3-litre beers--I saw the giant glasses hanging on the wall, but doubted if I'd be having one at all tonight. I started off instead with a Beck's. This was at 6:45pm. I noticed that happy hour (2 for 1) was starting at 7. It would be wrong not to take advantage. So I quickly finished that beer and ordered two more right at 7pm. But the 2-for-1 deal didn't cover Beck's--only 1/2 litres of draught beer. Surprising myself, I sucked down all 1.33 L in 40 minutes, and left at 7:25pm to meet the group, ready for action.
Clock tower where we assembled. It's VII:30pm.
Other direction down Placa (Stradun) away from the clock tower.
We went to a restaurant called Marco Polo but had to wait because our table wasn't ready. So we dispersed a bit.
We found these steps, which look very much like the Spanish Steps in Rome. "Same architecture," some know-it-all guy announced. Thank you, thanks a lot.
At dinner I had somewhere around 40 shrimp! Unlike the clams in Phnom Penh, I didn't mind peeling them. Also I had 3 1/2-L beers.
Final group photo. A waitress took this and it's the second-worst photo anyone's ever taken for me. All askew. The worst was her first attempt that I deleted because it was unusable, even though Jen was smiling in that one.
We left and did some goodbye hugs. These are always awkward because they're not necessarily final; we figure we might bump into each other the next day before people start flying out.
Gorana and me. I look like I've had a few in me.
The tour was now officially over. I went to bed at 11:20pm. I don't remember walking back to the apartment, but evidently I found it. My intake for the night was the equivalent of 8 beers, but maybe because I drank them all at once they affected me more.