After a rather expensive taxi ride (which was pointless after I found out the place does free pickups from the ferry terminal!) I found the Dubrovnik Backpackers Club. It advertises as a hostel, but I’d describe it as more like a hostel crossed with a Bed and Breakfast (which seems to be the vibe the further east you go).
The hosts are a lovely older couple, who as is the custom here give you a glass of Rakia (a liqueur which is a cross between petrol and lighter fluid, made out of the leftovers from winemaking). I’ve learnt my lesson from last year, so take a couple of sips then dispose of the stuff. Opting for beer instead. Our hostel was filled mainly with Canadians, a couple of yanks and some very .. ahem.. young girls from Finland.
The place has an excellent reputation (winner of the best hostel in Croatia in the past etc) and its easy to see why. The hosts do a great job of making you at home (even if the woman did think I was a raging alcoholic due to my habit of drinking coke in the morning rather than coffee or tea, and her getting it confused with cans of the Croatian beer – Karlovacko, resulting in my lecture on the dangers of drinking beer for breakfast!).
Rooms were 4-6 people, I was bunked down with a guy from Germany, a french canadian girl from Quebec, and a Girl from Tauranga who works for DOC in Greymouth of places (I swear, I can’t go anywhere without running into someone who has some sort of mutual friends back home!). I’m still wondering if there was some sort of military bunker out the rear of the place – hard to tell what it was, but judging by the razor wire etc.. hmmm
We checked out the local bars and restaurants. First think was obvious, Dubrovnik is WAY more expensive than north in Istria. I also don’t think the food is of the same standard. It seems to be more generic dishes aimed at tourists and first timers. The level of customer service is also lower.
That said we still enjoyed the food around the place, though the bars left a little to be desired (picture Globe Bar, except 99% british, with half the girls sporting bandages from their drunken holiday injuries being finger-banged by other travelers on the dance floor and a DJ who can’t mix. Still good for a laugh!
Walking around the old town is absolutely amazing. It is easy to see why this is a Unesco protected world heritage site. The walled city (built in the 12th century is a sight to behold) and is like stepping back into some sort of fantasy novel or video game. For someone who lives in NZ and the oldest buildings are 120-130 years old, its a real eye opener.
Around the outside of the walls on the seaward side are a few beach bars, where, regardless of the warnings of danger to safety or imminent death, you can cliff jump 20+ meters into the sea. I’m hardly a strong swimmer at the best of times, so I resigned myself to photographer/beer drinking/staring at women duties while our fellow travelers took the plunge. Pretty awesome, except for the price of beer (40kn for a 300ml bottle of beer – I got a pizza delivered to a 5 story apartment block and a beer for the same price back in Pula!)
The next day we had a few hours to spare before our bus trip to Bosnia. We decided to venture up Mount Srd by foot, which seemed like an amazingly smart idea from our air conditioned accommodation on the other side of town. Though, in the heat, discretion was the better part of valor and I opted for the Cable car to the top, giving me an extra half an hour of sightseeing at the top, along with the amazing views of the walled city.
The top of the mountain is home to Fort Imperial, built by Napoleons army in 1812, and the site of a defence of the city during the 1992 conflict. For 30kn you can view an exhibition on the Homeland war, which was quite a shock to see, considering we were viewing images of bombed out streets in the old city which we had been partying in for the last two nights. The other eye opener being the “Croatian Navy” which appeared to consist of little more than requisitioned fishing boats with a quick addition of armor and heavy machine guns to speed through the blockade of the town. Definitely worth the visit and an hour or so to check out.