Sunday 7th October.
The weather was overcast and rain was threatening when we woke but we managed to fit in a walk before breakfast. We were surprised to see that we weren’t the only ones dining in the hotel’s breakfast room and so, clearly, we weren’t alone at the Hotel Saudade, Gradac. I consider our stay at Gradac as the only error in trip planning thus far; even when we eventually arrived at Dubrovnik our host, rather perplexed, asked us why we had thought to stay there. Enough said!
Our Sat Nav suggested it was going to be a two hour drive down to Dubrovnik airport, to drop off our car, and so we set off around 10.30 am. Actually, for future reference, it was closer to a three hour drive. The road to Dubrovnik from Gradac hugs the coastline for the entire trip and is a spectacularly stunning route with limestone cliffs dropping down into the Adriatic and dotted with the occasional village along the way in a kind of ‘Dalmatian coast meets Cinque Terra’. If only the housing stock matched up to the Italian version for here, too, there were more abandoned and / or incomplete homes. One can’t help thinking of the current refugee migration but apparently they pass through Croatia without staying as there is no EU welfare in place here yet. There’s lots of room for them though. The water is a spectacular turquoise colour due to the limestone presence helping to make for a very pretty drive, and all of this despite the bit of rain we experienced. Mark commented that if he was ever back in this area he’d prefer to sail down from Split to Dubrovnik so that is something to note as well. Part of the journey involves passing a checkpoint to enter Bosnia, for just 10 kilometers though, and so that is something worth mentioning; especially given the most unfriendly KGB-type police on checkpoint at both borders.
Words cannot explain how beautiful the approach into Dubrovnik is though; it is just amazing. We had to keep driving for about another 20 km though to drop the car back at the airport and the mountainous terrain along the way had both Mark and I wondering just where on earth they’d managed to carve out an airport. We found it alright though and, with the car safely returned, we caught a taxi back into town and made it easily to our apartment by about 2 pm. Our AirBnB apartment for our four night stay is the home of our host, and her husband and two young children, and they vacate during the summer to enable holiday letting. Thus, the place is well set up for a holiday stay with all the creature comforts you’d expect a family home to contain. The only difference for this home though, as with so many here, is that it is located along a a pedestrian only track and up a number of stairs from the road access.
We spent an hour settling in before heading down to the Old Town to have a bite to eat and explore for a bit. We ended up taking a 60 minute walking tour at 4.30 pm and our reservations about the value of such a relatively short tour were well placed. The young guide was knowledgeable enough but the 60 minutes was really just a regurgitation of facts and so it proved to be a bit of a waste of time and money. The 90 minute tour, offered by a different company, would have been better but wasn’t on until 6 pm and we didn’t think we’d last until then.
We did pick up a few facts though:
- Dubrovnik: means ‘Oak’ and the first city wall was made of Oak.
- 80% of the town was destroyed in the 1667 Earthquake.
- Napoleon was the only person to conquer Dubrovnik in 1806.
- There were only two access gates before Napoleon; he added a third, the North gate.
- Croatians consider Dubrovnik a ‘new town’; relative the observable history at other cities given Dubrovnik was rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake.
- Current cathedral is post the 1667 earthquake but is on the site of two previous Cathedrals that are currently undergoing archaeological research but though to date back to 6th Century.
- The place was filled with tourists; they clearly all got the memo NOT to go to Gradac 😦
- Dubrovnik Mayor is limiting Cruise ships to 2 per day next year; currently, there can be up to 5 ships per day depositing 50,000 extra tourist.
- Yesterday, the queue to get into the Old Town via one of the three access gates was 45 minutes long due to the Cruise ships!
- Game of Thrones is an even bigger deal here than Split!
Our walking tour finished at 5 pm and so we then walked home via a small market to collect some items for a home cooked meal. However, once home, we weren’t at that hungry and so dinner ended up being a glass of wine and slice of cheese. It had been a big day and we were looking forward to more exploration tomorrow.