A Tale of Two Cities
August 11 – 20
Croatia. The unknown destination on our itinerary that we blindly assumed would quickly make it’s way to one of our highlights of the year. I can’t describe it another way – we didn’t know much about it aside from its famed beautiful Adriatic waters and Dalmatian coast, but we had a gut feeling we’d fall in love with this island-dense country on-the-spot.
Spoiler Alert: Our romance was short-lived.
The courtship started out strong with views like the below out the plane window. Our breath hitched, this was the relaxing “beach vacation” we’d been waiting for. Forget the endless days of sight seeing, animal hunting, wandering museums and contemplating architecture. I was going to get my tan on.
We landed in Split, the easiest destination for a flight from the Czech Republic. Croatia flirted with us, welcoming us with homemade sherry and a spacious room with air conditioning (the one downfall of our room in Prague) courtesy of our non-English speaking host (EDITOR’S NOTE: Whose name we never knew. An unlikely theme throughout our accommodations in Croatia). Setting out to explore this Dalmatian city, to our dismay, we found the early-relationship butterflies quickly subsided. The beaches were SUPER tacky, filled with endless tourists, hot dog stands and naked children (seriously, your daughter is 10…get her a bathing suit). And everything was outrageously expensive.
It’s not your fault, Croatia. You’re the Mediterranean’s Prom King. Even the EU has decided to let you play with them. We chose to visit at theverypeakseason that every guidebook discourages you against. And maybe we were still wistfully hung-up on our hot and heavy fling with the Czechs. Add to that our discovery that there are no sand beaches in Croatia…it was over before it began. (Did we mention the amount of research we did for this visit?)
Not all was lost, with amazing views like old European men in speedos playing chess. Nothing says confidence like this.
We did the obligatory stroll through the city, exploring the charming streets inside Diocletian’s Palace and roaming the many beaches, trying to rekindle “the feeling,” but it fell flat. Perhaps we are more immune to small “historical towns” at this point of our trip? The 2-day stay passed quickly, with a highlight in the form of one of our fallbacks – an outdoor picnic.
We boarded a bus to Dubrovnik, with hopes that our second Croatian city would wine and dine us with more panache.
Let’s take a minute to acknowledge the incredible scenery your coastline brings to the table, Croatia. Proving further it’s probably not you, it’s us. If a second chance for romance arises, I would work to convince Dave to stay at one of these cozy looking towns in the middle of this amazing coastline.
We arrived in the city known for its formidable walls that run almost 2k around the heart of the city (and more importantly to some – ME!, ME! – as the location used to represent King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones) and felt our pulse quicken. Looking back, this could have been caused by the adrenaline rush from arriving in a city with no room booked, giving our loyalty to the bus station stranger who offered the best price for a private room, and a free ride in his station wagon…again, remaining nameless throughout our 7-day stay. We’re not proud. But it happened.
Also perched on the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik’s crystal clear waters and old city feel charmed us upon arrival. With a full week ahead of us and nothin’ but time, we looked forward to exploring. Our shock at the lack of sand beaches had faded and we found a secluded beach used mostly by locals, laid out our towels on the rocky shore and sunned ourselves, like contented cats in a patch of sun. Appreciating the lazy lifestyle (and lack of sand in our suits), we readjusted our attitudes and enjoyed some long strolls through the limestone-paved pedestrian streets of Old Town, even discovering a hidden entrance to a bar built against the walls (brilliant) where we watched locals leap from the cliffs.
We took a day-trip to the island of Lopud (also full of tourists, but the change of scenery added flavor), walked atop the city walls for the best views Dubrovnik had to offer, and even caught a water polo game flanked by a pirate ship (the fans being the most interesting part to watch). But, as our meals mainly consisted of groceries (see above: outrageous prices), often splitting a lackluster sandwich or salad, the usual food exploration we anticipated with each new country was left with much to be desired.
Overall, we were just missing “the feeling.” You know what I’m talking about. He’s gorgeous, he’s funny and smart, everyone loves him…but he’s just not “the one.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s happening? Where is this guy you speak of? Introduce me to him and see what happens.)
Our final day gave us the closure we’d been looking for, in that “what an awesome last rendez-vous, but it’s clearly still over,” way. We took a short ferry to Lokrum, a small island right off Dubrovnik’s shoreline. The heavily wooded island brought to mind Jurassic Park – minus the prehistoric carnivorous threats – and we felt ourselves fully relax. With some new experiences (Google FKK beaches…but not at work…and definitely not the images), a peaceful walk through the hushed island and a couple lazy hours spent reading on shaded benches, we counted the ways we loved thee in a bout of optimism.
However, in the end, still slightly disillusioned (and budget-conscious), we dropped the idea of heading out to the more high-profile Croatian islands, only to have our heart broken further, and instead decided to go back to the one that has never let us down. The butterflies were back. We were headed to Vienna!