As you all know (because I’ve been in a state of depression for the last 2 weeks), I’ve been brushing the dust off my university textbooks and trying desperately to adjust back into the real world. The ‘year abroad days’ are long gone, so surely that means I’ve got no reason to travel, right? Wrong. There is always a reason to travel! To DUBROVNIK, we go!
What better way to cure a broken heart than to fall in love with somewhere new? I’m equipped with my backpack, passport and travel buddies new (Ellie) and old (Stitch) and we’re attempting to tackle 5 Croatian cities in just 3 weeks. Here’s the low down on the first stage of our adventure…
The journey was a pretty smooth one (no lost passports this time, phew!) and despite frantically running through the airport to make our connection on time, we made it safe and sound. I’ll admit that I did stop for a second when I heard a flight to Madrid being announced on the loudspeaker and had to quickly convince myself not to start running towards that gate instead 💔
This trip couldn’t really have come at a better time for me. I’ve spent my last few days before the trip trudging around the UK, seeing reminders of my year abroad life pretty much everywhere I went and wasting hours thinking about places and people I’ll probably never see again instead of focusing on the future. I’ve finally decided to accept that my time machine is broken and there’s no chance of re-living this year so instead, I’m going to turn the page and embrace the next chapter… Wish me luck!
The first step on this ‘life quest’ of mine began with a social media detox. Much to my delight, Ellie was also feeling up to the challenge. So between us, we deleted all our apps and communication platforms (except for messaging our parents and Instagram because, well, we like pretty pictures) and felt ready to truly enjoy the present moment! At first it was hard, and we found our fingers subconciously searching for the Facebook icon to no avail but now we’re starting to settle into a ‘social media free’ routine. It’s not meant to last very long, just long enough for us to rediscover that the universe doesn’t implode if you don’t open your messages straight away… 😉
Upon arrival to Dubrovnik, we faced our first hurdle: where the hell is our hostel? After lugging our backpacks up and down hills, through nooks and crannys we eventually found our destination…. and it turned out to be about 10 metres from our starting point – oops. Hostel Marker was in a great location, right in the heart of the Old Town but the quality of rooms and service was seriously questionable for the price we paid. They were turning sofas into beds to make more money, provided 1 shower between 20 people and couldn’t store our bags when we checked out. Now we certainly aren’t fussy travellers (this is coming from the girl who slept in a flea infested Ecuadorian hammock), but when you’re paying decent money you expect a decent experience. Also, as with every hostel in the world, we stumbled across some of the classic characters: The girl who complains far too loudly and far too often. The travellers who ask ‘is this -major landmark- even worth seeing?’ and then proceed to spend their entire time getting drunk in bars. And of course, the 40 year old creepy guy with a stash of weed who leaves at 6am every morning to go somewhere mysterious…. Perhaps these people think we’re the weird ones. Who knows?
All hostel woes aside – Dubrovnik is fantastic! The first day was pretty rainy and grey, but somehow the city maintains a very vibrant atmosphere. We saw some incredible scenery and I found myself pretending to like Game of Thrones a lot more than I actually do… I can see why they chose Dubrovnik as a filming location – it’s absolutely magical!
We also witnessed some pretty insane storms during our time and thought it would be a great idea to brave the rain and run through the streets like maniacs (when am I not doing this?) but as always, the decision turned out to be a bad one when we realised that our waterproofs weren’t actually waterproof and we were just soaking wet and freezing cold while everyone else was taking shelter. Oh well, I’ll never learn!
In terms of things to do in Dubrovnik, I’ll sum up the key attractions:
- The Fortress
A short walk up from the centre of the Old Town is a small fortress. You have to pay to get in (we declined – student budget and all) but even if you only want to look at the outside and experience the views, I still think it’s totally worth it. We found ourselves a cute spot under a tree to sit and talk about life – which is an optional activity, but I’d still recommend it 😉
- Cable car and Mt. Srd
We decided to buy the cheapest one-way cable car ticket (do I really need to mention our budget situation one more time?) and hike down afterwards, which I would say is the better option than a return ticket if you’re fit enough for the trek and you can save some major £$€!
The cable car queue was pretty long seeing as it’s a huge tourist attraction, but we could not have imagined hiking up – long, vertical climbs aren’t really my thing since Machu Picchu. At the top, we decided to grab some food at the 360 degree view restaurant, because views like that are once in a lifetime kind of views and, let’s face it, we will always be happy to spend money when food is involved.
We paid our bill and went to find a cute spot to watch the sunset. Luckily, we managed to bag ourselves the perfect little ledge and I can’t tell you how peaceful and content we both felt there. I’m surprised that more people weren’t around for the sunset, I couldn’t think of anywhere more perfect in the city to watch it!
Sunsets are my favourite. It’s the time of day when you feel like anything could happen – darkness is creeping in, city lights are gradually flickering on and the colours of the sky blended with the shadows of the scenery will never fail to make me reconnect with what’s really important and I find myself falling in love with life over and over again. I’m definitely romanticising it, but I’ve never once found myself looking at a sunset and not thinking that the world is a beautiful place.
Aaaand that’s enough of my over-emotional ramblings. For now. No doubt there’ll be more in a few days (sorry, not sorry). The hike down was pretty straightforward aside from the fact that it was pitch black… Luckily, we found a German couple who accompanied us and we shared phone lights to make sure that we made it down in one peice. A perfect evening, indeed!
- City walls
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is surrounded by huge walls – to keep invaders out during the wars. Nowadays, in the 21st century, these walls are nothing more than a tourist attraction offering breathtaking views of the city.
First things first: a student card is vital as it more-than-halves the entrance price. Otherwise, it’s actually a pretty expensive experience and probably not really worth it if you’ve already hiked up the fortress and the mountain.
We spent a good few hours in the scorching sun trekking up and down stairs and along walls, admiring scenery from the viewpoints and taking much needed breaks to regain our energy. It is kind of hard work, but hey, we aren’t going to say no to exercise when junk food is our prime dietary source…
Talking of food… we encountered our first major food mishap. Croatia is famous for it’s seafood, right? So, naturally, we had to try some of their delicacies. Much to our surprise ‘small fried fish’ turned out to be a huge pan full of tiny, crispy fish with heads, tails and bones all intact instead of a peice of fried fish like we imagined. We gave it a try but I struggle eating anything with eyes on it because it reminds me that what I’m eating was alive, just living it’s life, before it ended up on my plate – Perhaps it’s time to bring the veggie days back, haha!
Overall, we had a blast in Dubrovnik. Even the hours spent sitting on the pier, reading and writing and enjoying the sea breeze made me feel like I was back in my element again. I’m happiest when I’m carefree and travelling, I know that. But sometimes I let stupid, little things break my happiness and I forget how awesome my life is. Discovering new places with beautiful company is proving to work it’s magic yet again ✨
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next stop: HVAR!