October 14 – 22, 2018
After a very cool overnight ferry ride from Bari, Italy (depending on who you ask) we landed in Dubrovnik, our first step into eastern Europe with a new currency and a very different language. Score one point for the parents: as we sat with a cappuccino at the ferry terminal after going through immigration and waiting out a couple hours before we could check in to our Airbnb, Amelia grabbed her phone and went right to her translator app, looking up Croatian greetings. This travel thing just might work to teach some life skills after all (with the help of technology, of course)!
We made our way to the apartment on foot with backpacks on – we needed to kill some time anyway, and who doesn’t need a good stair workout after an overnight ferry? The ladies were not pleased, except for the bakery stop and multiple stray cat sightings. Good learnings from this 30 minute walk were that sidewalks can be quite narrow in Croatia (if there at all), cars drive REALLY fast, and motorcycles pass cars and buses going around blind curves. And that Croatians are, unlike us, very tall thin people.
Dubrovnik’s claim to fame and big tourist draw is it’s incredibly well-preserved walled city. You’d never know how much was destroyed in the war in the early 1990’s.
We strolled through the old city many times – there are tons of cool nooks and crannies to explore, but also tons of tourists (and all of the restaurants and shops and tour-selling stalls that cater to them). If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll likely recognize many of the sights from the show. Croatia is a beautiful country with a complex history, over 1200 islands along its coastline, and layers of mountains paralleling its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Our first school assignment for the girls was figuring out the currency. Amelia translated part of our grocery receipt, and Annabelle made us a cheat sheet of Kuna amounts to US dollars.
The weather during our week in Dubrovnik was surprisingly fantastic (locals told us it was unusually warm for this time of year). So we took advantage of Bellevue Beach – a hidden gem a 15 minute walk from our apartment DOWN many stairs, and Banje Beach, just outside of the old town.
There was a mountain to climb (Srd mountain, with Fort Imperijal at the top), so of course the girls were psyched! Not so much, but they rallied and complained a lot less than expected on the rocky, hot, 412 meter climb (not including all of the stairs up just to get to the trailhead!). The incredible views at every switchback – 13 of them with plaques depicting the Crucifixion – and the important job of putting a rock at each cross along the trail were great distractions and helped a lot.
One day we took a local ferry boat trip out to Lopud Island – thanks to Amelia’s friend Nani for the suggestion. Unique in these parts is a sandy (vs. pebble or rocky) beach, so the wide, protected, soft sandy oasis Plaza Sunj made for an awesome day trip and the girls’ intro to snorkeling. And the sunset on the boat ride home was one of the most spectacular we’ve seen on this trip so far.
A super cool random thing that happened in Dubrovnik was that we met the Intrepid Family. Contrary to my hate/appreciate relationship with social media, Wayne tracks and shares all of his runs on Strava. After he ran up Srd Mountain, Strava suggested he follow a guy who had just done a similar run and had tracked many runs around Europe as well. Turns out Wes’s Strava profile was linked to a blog about his family traveling the world for a year. Awesome! So Wayne reached out and we got to meet and hang out with this really fun traveling family. The 5 kids got along famously and it was so great to compare notes and share our experiences and plans. Good luck in the Athens Marathon Wes!!