Continued from Split + Hvar
Our bus to Dubrovnik was at 9.15, so breakfast went exactly like the previous day. The hotel folks dropped us off at the bus station in their little electric car. As we boarded the bus, we heard an elderly man complain about having to pay 7 kunas for storing the luggage in the compartment. His co-traveler, presumably his wife, replied, “Ha! Wait till you reach Dubrovnik”. It is true though, the prices kept increasing as we moved south. Not a coincidence that the places became more touristy too.
The internet had advised me to sit on the right side of the bus. The view was fantastic, especially the Makarska stretch, but the mountains on the left were fantastic too! However, the journey took almost 6 hours instead of the 4 that it was supposed to. The attitude of the driver and conductor indicated that this was always the case. The bus stopped for their lunch and we had a pastry to stop the grumbling – ours and the stomachs.
From the station, it was a 10 euro ride by taxi to the Pile Gate. Our stay – SunCE Palace Apartments – was a short walk from there. SunCE was quite an advanced set up. We had an access code and an envelope was supposed to wait for us there. We could call a number if we needed assistance. That being said, the person in charge happened to be there when we arrived. No elevator again, but first floor again too! The room was quite classy, but we were famished and quickly stepped out for lunch. The planned lunch spot turned out to serve only seafood, so we chose to have pizza at Baracuda, right next to the hotel.
We just about had time to freshen up before heading for the City Walls. Kristina had advised to start late – after 4.30. That’s sound advice because the sun is merciless in the afternoon. The walk takes 1 – 1.5 hours depending on how you pace it, and involves quite some climbing. We started from the Pile Gate but there are couple of other options too. The ticket checker complimented me on my tee. 😀 The views from the wall are completely worth the effort. Old Town Dubrovnik is pretty enough to want you to relocate! We learned the next day that these were the rooftops that SRK ran over in Fan.
While on the wall, we spotted both versions of Buza, which is famous on the interwebs for its location – pretty much perched on the wall – and the view it offers.
We went back to the room for a quick refresh before heading to Buza. Contrary to what the web would have you believe, it’s quite easy to find on Google Maps. Finding a table though, not so. We just about managed. This is a place which has been built on hype. The drinks are expensive, they are served in plastic cups, and there are no more than two munching options. Compared to some of the other views we had seen, this was just par for the course. But I have to admit, the place has a hippie vibe, complemented well by their playlist.
We had planned a few options for dinner, but ended up at Stara Loza, which we had picked up from one of the very helpful booklets at our hotel. Beyond the excellent wine and superb food – Ravioli and , what impressed us most was the fantastic, old fashioned service. Helpful, informed and confident. Highly recommended.
We had a GoT tour starting at 9.30. Finding a breakfast place seemed difficult because the guys who advertised 8AM didn’t really start then. But the main street – Stradun – offer enough options, though costlier than the others in the lanes off Stradun. We had arranged the tour with the Game of Thrones, Croatia folks. Despite some good instructions, we found it a bit difficult to spot the meeting point. D got it just in time. Robert (not a Baratheon, I checked with him) was our tour guide. If GoT had to have a hometown, it would be Dubrovnik. It’s King’s Landing from Season 2 onwards, and Qarth in Season 1. We began with the Lovrijenac Fortress, which serves as the Red Keep. From there, we could also see the setting for Joffrey’s death scene. We walked then to the docks where Tyrion sent off Myrcella to Dorne, and Littlefinger tried to persuade Sansa to come away with him. We also saw the entrance to Littlefinger’s brothel, the streets where the common people rebelled against Joffrey, the Sept of Baelor, the House of the Undying, the palace of the Spice King, and the steps and streets in the Walk of Shame. We learned that the venue of the duel between the Red Viper and Mountain was a hotel 40 min walk away. Wish we had planned for it.
Robert, and many of his friends had worked as extras in the series. At various points, he showed us photos of the exact scenes filmed, and it made us realise the amount of CGI (and work) that had gone into the making! Robert also had a few prop replicas from the show – Longclaw, Oathkeeper, Needle (turns out they were made in China) and the Shame Nun’s irritating bell. The tour was for around 3 hours and Robert made it really interesting. Also helped that he was a Star Wars fan too!
After the tour, which ends at the opposite side of Old Town, we passed by Banje beach and walked back to Pile Gate because lunch was planned at the Dubravka 1836 restaurant and cafe. (part of Nautika Restaurants) Once again, fantastic food and very good service. This time, a superb view too! The person who took our order had worked in a cruise ship and told us how he had been in Bombay a few times. We finished our shopping before heading back to the hotel.
We then went back to SunCE for a quick nap. The evening plan was the Dubrovnik Cable Car. We had booked tickets online but that seemed such a rare event that it confused the ticket booth staff massively! Maybe buying the tickets there is a better idea. The cable car traverses a steep path and takes you to a plateau which offers the best view of Old Town Dubrovnik.
At the top, we sat around a bit because our reservation at Panorama was at 6.45. This restaurant is also owned by nautika and had the most spectacular view I had ever experienced. We had booked a table on the first row, and that gave us some incredible views, especially towards sunset. The food and drinks (except for my Cuba Libre) turned out to be pretty good too. The prices are slightly on the higher side, but I think it’s absolutely well worth it. It was extremely windy and they were actually giving blankets! In fact, we got quite lucky with the timing too. As we were leaving, they stopped bringing up people because of the wind. But, we couldn’t have had a better last evening for a vacation.
Dubrovnik is touristy and therefore costly, but not a place to miss anyway!
We had some adventure remaining though. For the next morning, we had booked a cab via Sun Transfers. The driver was supposed to show up at 3.50 AM. He didn’t. Thankfully, we managed to find a taxi from Pile Gate. At the Dubrovnik airport, there were only passengers, all wondering whether there was a flight at all. Counters opened exactly an hour before take off. 3 flights, Logan and Arrival later, we landed in Bangalore.
The trip cost us around 3.5L including everything. My advice would be to book the flight tickets much in advance, especially the Prague – Zagreb one. We got lucky with the hotels we choose – they were perfectly placed for all the things we wanted to see. Try the walking tours, they give context to the things around. There are enough around for you to book after you get there.
After last year’s trip, I thought it would be difficult for any place to defeat Morocco in terms of looks, but boy, Croatia did!