Before boarding our overnight train to Split, we had about two and a half hours to kill in Zagreb. The sun was setting, so we stored our bags in a locker at the train station and headed out into town to see what we could see. As we neared the main square, we hear the recognizable thumping of Bon Jovi. No real surprise here as every freaking radio station, bar, band, or iPod seems to have 80’s and 90’s American rock playing, but this particular Bon has the reverb of a live band on a large stage. We turn the corner and BAM! We are smacked in the face with yet another festival going on, this one seeming to be for the EuroCup as hinted at by the large soccer balls, flat screen TVs, and Croatian banners.
We listened to the band play some Roy Orbison and Aretha Franklin, watched some footie, ate the Croatian version of funnel cake (seriously, it’s funnel cake, but in ball form. And none of that wimpy “powdered” sugar stuff. No sir. These fried dough balls were covered with straight sugar. Good for the diabetics among us) and did a quick spin around the square before heading back for to catch our train.
We arrived in Dubrovnik and caught a bus to Old Town (the original town within the city walls) where we were staying. While beautiful, it turns out to get most anywhere in there it is required to walk up at least 50 stairs. And of course to get to our apartment it was 67 (don’t worry, Kristi counted). Not too fun with our 40lb bags on our backs but we needed the workout after having nothing but pork and beer for the past few weeks. We parked our stuff and headed out to explore, passing tons of cats (there were hundreds of roaming cats throughout the city), somehow ending up at this amazing place called Buza Bar that sits just outside the wall on the rocks leading down to the Adriatic. I say somehow, but really we just followed a few hand painted signs that said “Cold Drinks.” Like moths to a flame. The view was amazing and we knew this would be a spot we would return to during our stay (a few times, it turns out). We ended the night with a local wine tasting at D’Vino, where we sampled three local red wines (one of which was described as “for the ladies” and accompanied with a wink) and ate a plate full of Dalmation Coast ham, sausages, and cheeses.
The next day was June 13th. And if that date doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are obviously not in this marriage. That date officially marked our three year anniversary, and what better thing to do on your anniversary than sit on a secluded beach in Croatia and do absolutely nothing. And that is what we did.
We read about a small secluded area called Saint Jacob’s beach that was about a 30 minute walk from Old Town near an old monastery. We “decided” to take the long way, and found ourselves way above the beach near an abandoned hotel. However, this particular abandoned hotel had beach access to St. Jacob’s beach, so we followed the pathway past the empty pool and haunted looking dining room and found ourselves at a small beach. With sand(ish!) There were only a handful of people there coming and going throughout the day and there was even a little cabana where you could get food and beer. In other words, perfect.
We (along with a group of English people sitting near us) also watched this guy try and try and try to do a back flip. It took him about an hour of this – plus some gentle making-fun-of-to-his-face by Kristi – to finally give up.
We spent the whole day there before trekking back into town and heading for a celebration dinner at a fantastic seafood place called Restaro Dubrovnik. Upon the waiter’s suggestion, Kristi ordered an entire sea bass – which turned out to be cooked in a salt block. It was delivered to our table still its little salt coffin, and the waiter took a literal CHISEL and CHISELED that little beast out. I on the other hand had monkfish medallions, sans chiseling. (I just did a Google image search for monkfish and, good lord, that is one ugly beast. One delightfully tasty ugly beast.) We also discovered the surprising deliciousness of strawberries, ice cream, and peppercorn. Who knew?
The next day was June 14th. And if that date doesn’t mean anything to you, then you obviously did not schedule a full day of scuba diving on that day. It had been three years since we had scuba’d (on our honeymoon in Anguilla) so we took a little refresher course in the morning. You know, so we wouldn’t die. The plan for the morning was to shore dive (with about 5 other people), do some refresher stuff under water, and then see a small cave in an ocean wall. We got through the refresher stuff, although a little rougher on me because my awesomely mannish beard kept ruining the seal on my goggles and they kept filling up with water (a foresight into the troubles of the afternoon dive). I had anticipated this being a problem and tried to do a quick trim the morning-of; the problem with that however is that I a) only remembered 5 minutes before we left and b) only had a straight razor, which is great for the removal of hair but very much not ideal for the shortening of hair. The result? Patchy-mustache-full-beard-Blake. And that Blake apparently doesn’t enjoy scuba diving as much as the clean shaven Blake.
Either way, we got through the refresher and were descending the wall to the top of the cave, when all the sudden our dive master shoots up and tells us all to follow him to the top (through angry motioning). Apparently one of group members – an older Swedish guy – decided it was time for him to surface for some reason and thus make us all have to surface. The dive master was mostly pissed at him for doing that (rightfully so), especially when we were so close to the entrance of the cave, and we ended up having to slowly make our way back to shore without seeing too much action. The entire group beforehand had talked about all going out for a boat dive later on that afternoon, but after that show the dive master told the Swede that for safety concerns he couldn’t come with us (Seriously, don’t mess with Croatians when it comes to safety. Multiple times on this leg of our trip, we watched an inept tourist get told “No. It is not safe for you. You have no skill. You stay behind.” They do NOT mince words, that is for sure). Bummer, but at least we were still able to go.
So after lunch we gathered back up, took the scariest boat ride ever out to a small remote island (scary in that it was very rough waters and we were all sitting on the edges of a small zodiac boat), and prepared for our second dive. Besides having one freak out moment by yours truly (the never ending water-filled goggle-beard battle under water got to me; but at least I didn’t surface and make us turn back), the dive was fantastic. We saw many starfish, a million little eels popping their eel-heads out, an octopus (kind of made me sad about eating his brother the day before), a creepy rock fish, and approximately 500 sea-cucumbers, went through a cave where we had to fit through tiny spots eventually coming out on the other side of the island, and ended in the “boat mish-mash.” During the recent war in Croatia, Dubrovnik was bombed and many ships were destroyed in the harbor, so they took them all out to a few spots around the islands and sunk them; now scuba-diving tourists can check them out on their excursions. They weren’t the large ships we saw in Anguilla, but they were still neat to see. The dive master took a lot of photos during the dive and we bought a CD with all of the pics, but this computer doesn’t have a disc drive so you will just have to wait to see the underwater action shots.
Oh, and the whole dive center loved Kristi. Mainly due to her not really showing any knowledge of how to set up her tank and equipment (she cut herself, she snapped her sunglasses in half when the tank made a loud popping noise, she put the vest on backwards) but showing everyone else up when it came to handling herself underwater. The dive master made comments about how he was worried about her at first, but that she does fantastic under water. He also said, in a thick Croatian accent, “She’s like a child!” adding “You know, in a good way.” when she would get excited about things such as getting in the backseat of a car. I know man. I know.
That night we celebrated Patchy Beard and Child Diver with what turned out to be probably our top dinner all trip at a place called Lady Pipi. I could show you a picture of the fountain that gave the restaurant its name, but this is a family blog. There is nothing lost in the translation, so let your imagination take it from there. However, the food was amazing. We ordered the “seafood platter for two” and received a “seafood platter for a family of 4-6.” Our plate came stacked with whole fish, tuna steaks, mussels, giant shrimps (that somehow had arms? Really, little arms were sticking out), octopus, and the most delicious squid you can imagine. Oh, there were some vegetables in there too. Everything was cooked in an outside oven on a vine-covered terrace. Delicious.
Footnote: I really wanted to call this post “Isn’t it Dubrovnik, Don’t You Think? I Little Tooooo Dubrovnik. And, Yeah, I Really Do Think.” But I wasn’t sure if the Alanis Morissette “Ironic” reference would take.
Random Picture Alert!