The above image is from the harbor on Mljet Island.
After spending a month in Eastern Europe, we realize that their history is as complicated, if not more so, as other areas throughout Europe. It is hard to imagine how one’s psyche has not been adversely affected from so many years of war, invasion, and unrest. Just the example of the former Yugoslavia to the current seven countries today leaves a path of horrible destruction in cultures, lives, and this beautiful land. You get the sense that most of the people cautiously look over their shoulders for the next unrest as they move forward with their lives.
MINI DALMATIAN COAST CRUISE
After a few enjoyable days in Split, we hopped on our boat in the afternoon for a 2-night cruise down the Dalmatian Coast. There were 35 of us, mainly of the mature status in life. Most of the passengers were doing the seven-day, round trip cruise. We were pleasantly surprised that our cabin was larger than we expected; not equal to the big boy ships, but roomy enough for us. Breakfast and lunch were provided, then we were on our own for dinner in the two ports.
Once underway, we spent a lot of time on deck at the stern, watching islands drift by. At times, it felt like we were in a half-hearted, sedated race with other boats heading south. We would pass a boat only to be passed by them a few hours later. Very civilized. After a day of on and off again rain and clouds, we pulled into Makarska at dark. Our dinner was next to a little church. Nothing else of note to report.
The next afternoon we reached the island of Mljet. For some of you Bible fans, there is a case that St. Paul was actually rescued here on this island instead of Malta. Some of the arguing points pertain to the lack of snakes on Malta and something about trees.
While on the island, we went to their national park and had a walkabout. The price of admission included a boat ride to an island on one of the two lakes. We checked out the monastery from outside and went inside the ancient church.
Fun fact: While waiting to get on the boat, we were entertained by “The Battle of the Tour Guides” fighting for spots on the boat for their own group. Heated discussions always sound more dramatic when they are in a strange tongue. We pretended to be with one of the groups and just walked on amidst the chaos. We did our best to look as Croatian as possible and kept our mouths shut.
After the park, we headed back towards the harbor and found a perfect location to watch the sunset. The featured image of this post is from this location. We enjoyed a beer as the harbor turned golden yellow and then fade into subdued blue.
After the sun went down, we headed back to the boat. Docking these boats was a new experience for us. Since there are many boats sailing this coast and limited mooring space, they simply ‘double park’ them, side by side. On Mljet, we had to walk through five other boats to get to ours … and there were three more outside ours. Our boat is the darker blue one in the image below.
Very early the next morning we set sail for Dubrovnik. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the stern deck. Just outside of Dubrovnik we stopped so people could go for a swim off the boat. Since we were getting off the boat that day, we decided not to jump in and have to worry about getting all gussied up again. Heading into the Dubrovnik harbor was picturesque.
We had a great apartment for our four nights here. It was located north of the Old City and sitting on a cliff, overlooking the sea. We walked down some 100+ steps to the water…just a beautiful location. We got all settled in and walked down to the Old city to meet our cruise group for the included tour. It was the perfect overview and helped us plan our later visits.
We both agreed that this was the perfect ending to our Eastern Europe visit: The Pearl of the Adriatic. The Old City of Dubrovnik is amazing. 500 years ago, it had the 3rd largest navy in the Mediterranean and took advantage of the distrust between the Venetians and the Turks by being the middleman of commerce; buying and selling to both, since they would not. Not only was this smart commercially, it probably reduced the risk of being attacked by either country. Diplomacy, what a great idea!
We were surprised to see how many people jammed the streets at this time of the year until we were informed that four million tourists flock here annually. We don’t think this city has an off-season for tourists.
There were three highlights of the city for us: viewing the city from high above on Mount Srd; exploring the narrow, twisted streets, stairs and alcoves; and strolling the well preserved, mile-and-a-quarter long medieval walls that enclose the ancient city.
The first day back to the Old City we took the cable car ride up to the top of Mount Srd. Looking down at the city and harbor gives you an insight to how remarkable this city must have been 500 years ago. It still is today.
We pulled ourselves away from this beautiful sight to walk east and look at the barren land and towards the mountains behind the cable cars. This was a very scary place during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Croatia wanted their independence, but the country of Yugoslavia and the Serbs challenged this with warfare. From 1991 to 1995 the hills and arid land sent missiles, bombs, and fighters over Mount Srd and into Dubrovnik. We saw walls with holes where missiles had hit. In one of the churches of the Old City, there is a hole on display showing were a rocket came through. For Marsha and me, this is not history from old, dusty books. We remember it well. Once again, the unrest and conflicts over the years must make living life quite different from most of us in America.
Although crowded in most of the major streets, we loved walking though the Old City. There are a few stores dedicated to Game of Thrones and Star Wars because of the filming done here. We ran into some Game of Thrones tour groups skipping about as they gleefully discovered different location shots. There are a ton of restaurants in the Old City. A 2017 TripAdvisor article reviewed 403 restaurants. We popped into several churches. The second image below is one of the new art pieces from a 2006 series depicting the Stations of the Cross; we were so moved by them.
Walking the old walls was the best way to conclude our stay in Dubrovnik. I couldn’t go more than ten steps without taking a shot. No matter where you looked, it was magnificent! It did help that the day was beautiful. Words really don’t cut it, so I’ll let the images below try to communicate what they can.
Some shots not taken from the walls.
Our Eastern Europe tour included Krakow, Poland; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and then Croatia – Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, Makarska, Mljet, and Dubrovnik. Our favorites were Krakow, Budapest, and especially Dubrovnik.
We enjoyed Eastern Europe but are really looking forward to getting back to Italy. We have fond memories of this fabulous country from past vacations. But this time, we are not on vacation, we are temporarily living as Italians!
So, until next time, “Ciao.”
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
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