Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy
Day Fourteen – Delightful Dubrovnik, Where Are Kim’s Clothes, A Monastery By Any Other Name, English Spoken Here, Hitting The Walls, Watch Out For That Cruise Ship, Wine And Cheese With Jadranka and Springtime For You Know Who
As dreams of the Buza Bar and the blue water of the Adriatic swirled in my brain, I had a restful sleep at the Benrussi Apartments.
Although it was at our apartments, the four of us started getting ready to face the new day, because we knew that shortly we would encounter the “Attack of the Umbrella People” (aka the cruise crowd). On this particular morning, it must have been confusing to be part of a cruise tour, because it was raining and everyone had umbrellas, not just the group leaders. I envisioned mass anarchy amongst the cruisers, so Tracy and I scurried through the Pile Gate and found a dry spot with a convenient awning that caught most of the raindrops. We had been hard-rolled and jellied for so long, it was comforting to have a couple of ham and cheese omelets.
While we ate breakfast, Kim and Mary went to the nearby Croatian Airline office and were given the good news that their luggage had been found. Unfortunately, it had not been found in Dubrovnik. “Come back in a couple of hours, and we will have more news for you,” they were told, so they joined us for some more Dubrovnik strolling, only this time with a purpose. Although there are not a lot of so-called big ticket items, Dubrovnik does have some interesting sights.
We had already piled through the Pile Gate and its tourist masses many times, but this time we had more of a plan. After entering the Pile Gate, we saw the very tiny Church of St. Savior on the left and to the right is the Velika Onofrijea Fontana (Onofrio’s Big Fountain), one of two Onofrio fountains in Dubrovnik. The big fountain is where you see cruise ship people eating their gelato all day long (ok that’s just a guess, but whenever I saw a guy in plaid shorts, a striped shirt and huge belly, I leaped to that perhaps mistaken observation).
We walked down the Stradun, which had been made a little more slippery from the morning’s precipitation. At the far end of the walk is Luza Square and Orlandov Stup (Orlando’s Column). Orlando looks pretty passive for a knight, even with his sword and shield, but I still felt like belting out, “There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Orlando.”
Tracy shook her head and said, “Tom, that’s Fernando.” Ah, my lyrical Waterloo (actually, I knew it was Fernando, but I was trying to liven up the crowd on this misty morning). Speaking of something stupid (and I don’t mean the Frank and Nancy Sinatra song), Tom’s Tuscan Tours (I didn’t feel like changing the name from our Italian trip) then had a little slip up. “Let’s check out the Franjevački samostan Muzej.” Of course, I said it in English, “Franciscan Monastery Museum.”
We walked inside a peaceful, Mediterranean-style building with beautiful arches encircling a small garden.
But the highlight I wanted to show everyone was what is thought to be the oldest working pharmacy in Europe. The only problem was we couldn’t find it. Being a guy, I walked around the monastery a couple of times before asking the ticket man where the pharmacy was located.
“Where is the pharmacy?” I inquired. Much to my chagrin (and to the utter amusement of my traveling companions), he smiled and answered softly, “I am sorry, sir. You are at the wrong monastery. This is the Dominican Monastery.” Well, I was as quiet as a monk. We ventured back down the Stradun to the Franciscan Monastery, but we all agreed we liked the Dominican Monastery better. It was getting hot, and since I had been the only one to believe in the weather gods and wore shorts, the others decided to walk back to the apartment and change to more comfortable attire to beat the heat.
After the group rejoined me, it was time for lunch at a good little Italian restaurant on an alley. Kim and Mary also had news. “Our luggage will be here at 3 p.m.,” Mary said. I think the restaurant was called Renaissance or perhaps Tracy was starting to write down in the journal that I was a Renaissance man. It is unclear to this very day. In any event, I loved my veal risotto, Mary enjoyed her mackerel, while Kim and Tracy were happy with their calamari and French fries. It was about 2:15, so Tracy and I took a little walk and would hit the Dubrovnik Walls after 2:30 p.m., which is when Jadranka (our apartment host) said the crowd is lighter. Mary and Kim would gather Kim’s clothes and then meet us at Heaven On Earth (aka the Buza Bar).
As we walked along the wall, we found one sight quite amusing. There was a giant cannon pointing out to sea with its barrel pointed directly at two cruise ships, whose passengers were being whisked back to their behemoth vessels. If only I had some cannonballs and some gunpowder, I thought.
Soon we were looking directly down at the Buza Bar. Wine and relaxation beckoned us, but we were only about half through the wall journey. The sight of the Buza did hasten us to pick up the pace, however.
We continued our walk with beautiful Adriatic and then harbor views commanding us to take more pictures. There are a few places along the wall to enter, and I would recommend that if you try to walk before 2:30, you use one of the less crowded entrances.
As we walked on the side nearer to the hills behind town, we looked over the roofs of Dubrovnik and could see all the newer tiles that were needed to replace the ones that were shelled during the war.
With the Buza Bar was beckoning, and we hightailed it around the rest of the wall. We briskly made our way to tour appointed spot (AKA any table available). It was 4:30 and we secured one of the last empty tables. Soon afterward, Kim and Mary joined us. I could tell before they spoke something was wrong. Kim was still in my shorts (wait, that sounds wrong)!
“Well, the bus arrived from the airport that was supposed to have Kim’s luggage,” Mary said. “The only problem was the guy forgot to put Kim’s luggage on the bus.” A few vinos later, the problem seemed miniscule, and then Croatian Airlines called Kim on the satellite phone. They would have his luggage back at the office at 7 p.m.
As we sat and enjoyed another spectacular afternoon, our lovely server came over with an order of wine and chuckled while saying, “Did you hear the news? Two of the cruise ships bumped into each other not far from here.” Now, lest you think our server to be evil (she was nothing of the kind), she also knew it was just a minor altercation where no one was hurt (except for the reputations of the two captains).
It was another couple of hours in paradise, but we eventually got up and walked back to the apartment. Kim and Mary made their last trip to Croatian Airlines to pick up his clothes, and we picked up some wine for the patio. Later we met Kim and Mary on the patio.
Kim had been so excited to get out of my shorts, that he also bought wine, cheese, salami and bread. It looked like we would be on the patio for the duration of this night. The views at sunset were wonderful. What a spectacular evening! The weather was perfect, the wine was good and we got to meet our hostess, Jadranka, who came down to visit with us. She was a very gracious host who sat with us for nearly hour sharing her knowledge on the area and her thoughts about the war. We asked if she had left town during the war, and she said, “No. I had to make a living.” So each day, as shells were raining down on Dubrovnik, she and her husband would go to work and their children would attend school. Then came what could have been a very embarrassing moment.
Kim had brought his IPOD, and the four of us had been debating great sing-along songs before Jadranka arrived to sip wine with us. Kim had made a play list of what he perceived to be good sing-along songs while he was home, so he had said, “Let’s listen, and we can all decide.” As Jadranka was relating the tales about the war, out of one ear I heard “Germany was having trouble; what a sad, sad story….”
“Crap,” I thought, “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers was starting. While in college, Kim, myself and a few others would go down to the theater (in lieu of studying) and sit through Blazing Saddles and The Producers for a buck (we also had to suffer through The Twelve Chairs, but the other two movies made that 90 minutes of tedium worth the wait). In any event, we could nearly recite both movies verbatim by the time we ended our college careers (I’m sure my parents thought that was money well spent). At this moment in time, however, the juxtaposition of Jadranka talking about war and a goofy song from a movie that has a musical about the worst person in the annals of history just didn’t seem like a good mix. I quickly kicked Kim, who instantly realized the situation, and he turned off the song immediately. “Next time,“ I said to Kim, “we should stick to the theme from Blazing Saddles.”
In any event, we had a wonderful evening with Jadranka, who has a great sense of humor and was fun to talk with on this evening. Her apartments were quite charming, complete with a little kitchenette and air conditioning for spoiled American tourists such as ourselves. The patio with Adriatic view was quite a bonus. After Jadranka departed for a party for which she was now quite late (Mary’s wine pouring expertise should never be underestimated), we decided that we would just hang out on the patio and finish our wine, cheese and salami, and call it a night. Tomorrow, our plans were to pick up rental car number two and spend the day driving south and exploring beautiful, rugged Montenegro. However, for this group of travelers, it seems our best-laid plans sometimes have a strange way of going completely awry.
Next: Day Fifteen – Maybe We Can Visit Hugo Montenegro, T (As In Trouble) With Mussolini, Detour To Another Coastal Town, Danger: Parking Ahead, Goodbye Buza, Dinner By The Sea And Mary Takes A “Short-Cut”