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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kotor and Budva, Montenegro Day 4

Our last day of Ryan's Birthday trip week we went on another excursion, this time to Montenegro. It was the same set up as before where we met our tour guides near the bus stop in Lapad and as it turned out we had the exact same woman as our guide.

Montenegro is south of Dubrovnik and driving along the coast we saw some spectacular views looking back at the town and Lokrum Island. We made one stop along the drive once we crossed the boarder for a bathroom break at a gas station and then one more stop at a roadside pull off to snap a few photos and then back into the van we went. Just past our photo stop we saw these two islands in my photo below. One is natural and one is man made, the only artificial island in the Adriatic Sea. I would have guessed the island that only seems big enough for the mosque on it was the man made one, but it is actually the one to the right that I now realize is not in this shot. I promise there is an island to the right that is man made but is mostly covered in vegetation opposed to the one that is in the photo with the Mosque on it.

The first place we visited was Kotor. It seemed like a small town but they have a lot of tourists because they have a port that many cruise ships dock at. Back in the day Venice would attack them a lot and ruled the city for awhile, but they have a unique thing going for them and that is the Bay of Kotor that the town is located on. It is situated in a way that is very protected from the ocean and the water stays calm when the ocean is stormy, so many boats come in there for shelter. This bay is a form of defense for them because the inlet to get into the bay is less than a mile long which makes it easy to protect and defend from intruders.

Kotor is a walled city like Dubrovnik, but their walls go way up the hill. We didn't walk these but I'd imagine they would be quite a hike. Because the old town is at the base of a huge hill people would often try to invade from over the hill, which is why the wall ran up to high. In the picture below you can see the wall on the hill and the church on the hill is a tourist attraction because it is said that if you climb up to it you will become more fertile... I DID NOT climb up to it.

We had a local guide meet us for a short tour just as we did in Mostar except this tour really was short. It was of the old town and the town isn't very big so we were definitely done by the half hour mark. Ryan and I were hungry and had seen a restaurant on the tour we headed back to. We each ordered a pizza and since it was less expensive to get a bottle of wine than two glasses we just got a bottle. The wine, which I have a picture of below is called Vranac. Ironically I have had this wine once before when Ryan found it in a check out room at work. I really liked it which made me want to try this one, but low and behold it turned out to be the EXACT same Vranac. I even have the empty bottle here in my room to verify that it is the same wine. So at least I knew I liked it. But since we didn't have very long to stay in Kotor before we had to be back at the Van we drank the wine much faster than we would normally and ended up getting just a little tipsy off of it. We also ordered a crepe, that turned out to be the best crepe either of us have ever had. But they weren't bringing the crepe out so Ryan went to pay and ask to get it to go. Another 5 minutes later it was brought out on a plate. With it being so delicious, the fact I always eat faster than I should, the fact we needed to leave, and the fact I was a little tipsy I bit my tongue super hard and made it bleed, which was no fun. Then we rushed back to the van and although we arrived right on time we were the last one which made the guide laugh after we were the late one two days prior on our other trip. Ooops! But I think the run to the van helped with the tipsy feeling and I was good to go other than the fact my tongue hurt really bad.

After Kotor we went to visit the town of Budva. We were going to drive past it to go to an Island were lots of super rich people go to stay and have done so for decades. Doris Day used to spend significant vacation time there. And as the stories go these celebrities would pay oodles of money to the resort owner and then whoever was paying the most would get the best vacation spot which is totally private with huge walls right on the end of the island (there is a big bridge connecting this island to the mainland). And then the other people would get other places that I'm sure are nicer than anything I've ever stayed at or ever will and they all had varied heights of walls and it was sort of a status thing that you knew the higher the wall the richer and more famous the person was. But due to construction or rocks on the road or something like that we couldn't get all the way there, so all I have is the picture below.

In Budva we ended up having more time than in Kotor, but since they didn't tell us that and we'd already eaten we just wandered around. We went into the old town which was also walled. The picture below is of a church and palm trees.

This picture is on the walls. We didn't see an official entrance but there was a turnstall that was unmanned so we just hopped over it and walked a little ways to enjoy the view and then turned around and went out the same way.

This is one of the many huge yachts we saw. Apparently lots of rich Russians are buying property and maybe boats and creating resorts and what not trying to draw tourists and rich people.

We left the old town and went to sit by the water before it was time to be back at the van. There was a bench we found on the beach next to this really cool boat that I think just sits on the sand all the time. And then we got so hot because the sun had come out so we went into the water up to our knees and it felt so good. I wished I had my suit for a swim.

We got back to the van before it was time to go and we were not the last ones this time. :) We enjoyed the drive back to Dubrovnik and sadly this was our last night. So before we left we went to have tropical drinks at a Cabana on the Lapad beach and enjoy the cool night air. This time though we decided to borrow the elevator of the hotel built into the hill so we avoided those crazy steep stairs we climbed all week.

The next morning some guy who I'd never seen before but was driving the same car the hostel owner drove, so I guess he was affiliated, picked us up and took us to the airport. We were sad to go and I know we'd both love to go back someday if we get the chance. And the most important thing to me... Ryan had a really wonderful and special 24th birthday week.

Back in Dubrovnik Day 3

Friday was May 7th, Ryan's birthday. I told him that we would do WHATEVER he wanted today. Being the smart young man that he is the night before he looked at the weather forecast for the rest of our trip. He saw that the weather looked the most promising on his birthday. A wonderful gift for him. So he decided he wanted to stay in Dubrovnik rather than go on another excursion.

We got up in the morning and had cereal for breakfast at our hostel. Going grocery shopping was a great idea. And then headed down to walk around the Lapad Peninsula on the walking path. It was beautiful. The entire walk was right along the water and with the sun out the water shimmered like sapphires. All along the path were random stairs down to rocks that had been cemented over in spots to create flat places to lay our a towel. A couple rocks had ladders from the water to crawl out of the water after a swim. I sort of liked it because it would be hard to get a spot packed with people like beaches typically get. I would imagine in the summer you just need to show up super early to claim your spot.

The picture below is the pools at a nice hotel along the peninsula. They were laying a new deck down that looked very nice. We weren't sure if the pools were open for swimming, but we did discuss poaching them (going swimming even though we weren't guests). They also had a roped off area in the sea in from of the pools for swimming.

Our goal on the walk, besides just having a pleasant morning stroll, was to find the Copacabana Beach. Although the Barry Manilow song was probably written about one of the other few Copacabanas in the world we still thought it would be cool to say we'd been to this one. When we reached the end of the walk I guess we were at the Copacabana. It was just a rocky beach in front of a big nice hotel, which I think is the only all inclusive option in Dubrovnik. We didn't feel inclined to stay for long, so we headed back. The picture below is from the Copacabana.

After we got back to the pedestrian street in Lapad we decided that we had to go swimming before we left. At this point of the day we weren't sure what the weather was about to do, but we didn't care. We were not leaving Dubrovnik without swimming in the Adriatic. So we went to the beach there at the end of the street and walked a ways down it. Stripped down to our bathing suites under our clothes (we were prepared) and waded in. And the dove the rest of the way under. Ryan was a little bit of a baby and thought it was colder than it was. I thought it was refreshing. But we didn't stay long and as soon as we got out and dried off it started to rain. Although that was short lived too.

From there we walked to the other end of the pedestrian street to the bus stop and waited for quite some time to get the bus to the Old Town. Once in town we went to lunch at a Kebab place. Ryan thought his kebab was good, but not his favorite. I had a salmon sandwich. They called it smoked salmon, but to me what it was was lox and it was good. Then we went and each got a gelato cone before heading to walk around the city walls. The walls around the old town are about a mile long and give you and incredible view of everything. They better with the amount the charge you to do it. But we were up their for at least an hour I'd say so we took our time to get our money's worth.
This picture is from standing on the wall.

Here is Ryan looking cute on the wall!

These were the first ruins I saw in Dubrovnik from the war in the 90's. They had a diagram of the old town showing buildings that were hit or completely demolished. Very few buildings survived, which showed up how much has been built and renovated in the last couple decades. But this picture gives a little perspective of what the entire city would look like had they not gone to work rebuilding.

In the upper left corner of this picture is The Fort of St. Lawrence where we went later in the day. You get to go for free if you pay to walk the wall. All that is really there is a good view, but it was worth the climb up to it for that.

Another shot from the wall looking over the rooftops out to the Adriactic.

This was toward the end of our walk around the walls. We look down below to a courtyard area and see this gilateen. Now what in the world was this doing here?

This picture shows the old old roof tiles that have been places on top of new ones. Dubrovnik is very proud of who they are and have been for centuries. So many people removed their roof tiles before buildings were destroyed in the war and when things were rebuilt put the old tiles on top of new ones to give the same look and feel the city used to have pre war. Of course not every building has the old tiles, which makes the city very unique to have such variation in their roofs that I've never seen anywhere else.

By the time we finished walking the walls out gelato was long gone and we were very hot. The day blessed us with incredible weather and being up high on those walls with nothing covering us made us realize the only thing left to do was go for a swim. We saw a little swimming symbol right on the other side of St. Lawrence Fort, so we headed in that direction.
It took some work, but we found the cove and it was wonderful. It was also very dirty and there was a ton of liter, but we loved it. And since the locals all still think that it is too early to swim we had the place to ourselves. There was a little bit of a beach there, but we laid our towels out on the cement at the far end of the cove with a perfect place to jump into the water and some old cement stairs to help us climb back out. Both Ryan and I tell people that this was our favorite part of the whole trip. The water felt great, the sun was out, what more could we have asked for? Well now that I think of it a pina colada or maybe a strawberry daiquiri could have hit the spot, but at the time our set up was ideal.
Here is a picture of Ryan jumping in the water to show you just how much fun we had. Click on the picture to make it bigger if you can't see the excitement in his face. :)

We finally decided it was time to pack up, which was to the benefit of another couple who had just showed up and immediately took our prime spot as soon as we left. We found our way to The Fort of St. Lawrence after this and my next picture was taken from there. The view is really cool because you can see the walls and the old town. The view from the walls was great too, but it was nice to see what you were standing on from this vantage point. Like I said though all that St. Lawrence had to offer was the view, so after we snapped our pictures we headed back down.

We went to the tourist information center in the old town to ask for a dinner recommendation. There was one place we new the location of in Lapad, so we thought we'd go there. When we got back to Lapad we first went to our hostel owner's house to sign up for the excursion to Montenegro the next day, then we each showered and changed and headed back down the hill to the restaurant.

As it turned out it wasn't our favorite restaurant. Although I did have a very good octopus salad. We came here because the seafood was fresh and I do believe that it was, but I think both our meals included too many large shrimps that where still in their shell bodies and we just aren't fans of having to figure out how to get the meat out. But the view was perfect. We sat outside right on the waters edge hearing the waves lap against the rocks and seeing the lights come on as the evening grew darker. That was our favorite part of dinner.

So at the end of the day I think Ryan would tell you all he had a great birthday. And that was what mattered to me.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina Day 2

On Thursday morning we met Mr. Begovic (who owned our hostel) outside his house and he drove us to the bus stop where a van would be picking us up for our excursion to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think we waited longer than he expected and a couple vans came that were full and left and he seemed to be very anxious (it was a little funny to watch, but you would have had to have been there to laugh). Eventually a vacant van drove up and Ryan and I along with quite a few others got in, buckled up, and hit the road for a new country.

The drive was BEAU-TI-FUL! The road curved right along the coastline. I realized how far away some of the islands were that we had thought about going to. The time it took to ferry to these islands made a lot more sense to me now. BH (I'll abbreviate) is an interesting country because there is one part that juts out to the Adriatic Sea, so to reach Mostar we had to cross three borders. First we crossed into BH from Croatia and came to a little town called Neum where we got out for a coffee/potty break. That is where the picture below is from.

After 20 minutes we piled back in the van and kept on trucking up the road. Not to far along we crossed another border back into Croatia. At this point we started heading inland away from the beautiful coastal view. Then we eventually crossed our third border, which put us back into BH.

Not to far before we reached Mostar, our final destination, we came to a tiny little town on a hill side with ruins of an old Mosque I think and a currently in tact Mosque. It was definitely a tourist spotting point because as soon as we exited the van women were coming up trying to sell us things and hte whole base of the hill had little shops with very touristy items for sale. We only had about 15 minutes to explore and probably didn't need much more, but it was cool to see. The picture below shows you the view up the hill.

This picture is of the in tact Mosque. There was a Muslim woman outside selling a variety of items including wine, which I find interesting because most practicing Muslims do not drink. What people won't do to take advantage of the tourists.

As soon as we reach Mostar the van let us out with all the other vans from the same tour company at the Franciscan Church because it has a very tall bell tower so it woudl be easy to find our way back to. The interesting thing about this church is that it was built in 1997 after the war ended. This is very unique compared to so much of Europe where the churches date back hundreds or even thousands of years. From this starting place a local guide took us on a walking tour of the town for what was supposed to be 30 minutes. But turned into much longer.

The picture below is of a former Turkish Bath house, but today it is so sort of museum I think the guide said. There are no windows because, well, it was a bath house and people need their privacy.

From that area we walked through a street crowded with numerous shops and some restaurants, which led us to THE symbol of Mostar. What apparently is the city's distinguishing mark is a large bridge running from one side of the rive to the other. I took the picture below while we were standing on the bridge. You have to be very careful walking over the bridge because it is very slippery from so much foot traffic that all the stones are polished. This is a problem in other areas too because many of the pedestrian roads have very old cobblestones. To help the slippery bridge problem when it was built they put raised parts sort of like stairs except it is just flat then a raised part then flat again, not gradual stairs.

This picture was of the ground that the rocks were on their sides, which I suppose helps it not be as slippery after people walk over it countless times (or at least that is my only guess as to why), but it seemed interesting because I'd never seen anything like this before.

Now on the opposite side of the river from where we started we twisted and turned through many other tourists stopping to look at many more shops. We were headed to a Mosque that was supposed to have a great view down the river to the bridge we just crossed. You tell me what you think of the view in the picture below. I think it is worth walking to see.

If we wanted we could pay 2 euro (even though BH does not use the euro as their primary currency everywhere in Mostar excepts it) to go inside the Mosque and Ryan and I did. I am glad we did so. It was very beautiful and it is the oldest Mosque in Mostar and is still in use today. The picture below is of the Mosque. But it is a view of it from standing on the Bridge.

After the Mosque we had the option of leaving the tour for lunch, shopping, and exploring, or continuing with our guide to a "Turkish House." Ryan and I thought we'd like to experience as much as we could while there so we following the guide. The Turkish House is in Turkish style (due) from when the Turks ruled BH which wasn't even BH back when, it was park of Yugoslavia. These homes have been traditionally passed on through the generations, but the previous owners of this Turkish House had no children so they left the House to this tour agency or something and now it is a museum or site of attraction or whatever you want to call it. The picture below is of our tour guide modeling the underwear they wore. Their outfits are similar to what the characters wore in the movie Aladdin.

Another interesting fact we learned about life in a Turkish House has to do with the picture below. The main item you can see is a coffee maker or holder or something for hot coffee. The item in the corner is the same coffee maker or holder thing except it is for cold coffee. If a guest were to stop by the host would never turn them away even if it was not a good time, but they would offer either hot or cold coffee. Hot indicated they were welcome and could stay for awhile, but if you received cold coffee from your host it was an indication that they did not have time for this visit and you were to drink your coffee and leave.

Once we left the Turkish House we all walked back to more of a central part of town where the tour guide recommended some lunch spots and then departed. I think the majority of us ended up at the same restaurant which had a great view right along the river. Because there was a lack of open table a couple of sisters from Russia asked to Join Ryan and I who were already seated. They were very nice and it was fun to spend time talking to them over lunch. Ryan and I shared a seafood platter for two and it was so delicious. It had two whole fish skin, bones, heads, and tails, along with some grilled squid. Our accompanying side was boiled potatoes and kale. It was all delicious. I had a glass of BH red wine and Ryan had a BH white wine. I preferred the red. I think for this entire are Croatia, BH, and Montenegro I just prefer red wine and don't care for the white.

It took a long time to get the bill, which is not unusual for European restaurants by any means. The problem was that it was three o'clock and we were supposed to be back at the van so we just got up and left the restaurant without paying..... just kidding... we wouldn't do that. We finally paid and then hustled back to the Franciscan Church where everyone else was waiting in the van. But we were only 10-15 minutes late so the guide didn't seem upset with us, but was relieved to see us I think.

It was about 3 hours back to Dubrovnik with one stop in Neum again for a coffee/potty break or just to stretch our legs. Back in Dubrovnik Ryan and I were tired and didn't feel up to anymore exploring so we just headed up the million stairs to our hostel. We had bought a box of Minestrone soup at the grocery the night before for dinner tonight. We each showered and then I went to the kitchen to get our food and start the soup. When I opened the box all that was in it was white rice. The picture on the front was of Minestrone soup (but with rice instead of noodles as I'm used to) and in large letters it said "Minestrone" on the front of the box. But apparently if I where able to read Croat I would have known that it was a box of rice to use in the making of your own Minestrone soup. So all we had for dinner was rice and we were too tired to walk back down and did not want to spend more money on dinner. I started boiling the rice and then began to think of any way I could spice up the rice. The only think in the cupboards was salt and pepper, but then I realized we had fresh lemons, limes, and oranges right outside. At this point it had started pouring rain, so I asked Ryan to go pick me a couple of lemons. Once the rice was done I squeezed in lemon juice. My idea was to make lemon pepper rice. But when I went to add the pepper I discovered there was barely a dash left. So it was more just lemon rice. It wasn't bad by any means. I think it would have been really delicious with a fillet of salmon on top of it, but all by itself it was a bit much for the quantity we both ate for dinner. Oh well it was only one night and I did the best I could with what was available.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dubrovnik, Croatia Day 1

This first picture is of St. Lawrence Fort. We climbed up to it on Friday because it doesn't cost any extra after you pay to walk on the town walls. Thank goodness because the fort itself really isn't anything to see, but the view of the Old town is great!

Croatia is BEAUTIFUL! I am sure everyone will agree with that from my pictures and I wish you could all see it for yourself. The waters of the Adriatic sea are so incredibly clear and when the sun is out the water is some of the brightest blues I've ever seen.

This trip had been planned for at least a couple months. I found good deals on flights and so I planned the trip as a surprise for Ryan's birthday. I had to tell him we were going on a trip so he could fill out the necessary paperwork to request the time off at work, but as to the location that remained a mystery. I couldn't contain my own excitement and I told a fair amount of people that we work and live with where we were going, so in a way I am surprised that the surprise remained a surprise, but I am also very glad because it was really fun. I told Ryan where we were going as we were in line to check in for our flight. He was very excited because just the week before he'd found a web site saying that Dubrovnik is one of the best places to go in Europe. I had seen the same site, which is what convinced me this would make a great trip for Ryan's birthday. So it all worked out just wonderfully.

Dubrovnik is at the very far south of the Croatian coastline. It is near both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. Later I will tell you about our excursions to these wonderful countries as well.

We arrived on Tuesday night and took a bus from the airport to the main bus station in Gruz. As we exited the bus to go get our luggage a couple gentlemen approached Ryan and I along with the other couple getting off the bus. I had read that this is typical. The men were each asking if we had places to stay lined up and thrusting photos in front of us of their apartments or rooms in their own homes that they rent out. During our time in Croatia we saw SO MANY signs on the sides of homes that said either "Sobe" or "Apartman" or both, which indicated that had either a room or an apartment that they rent to tourists. I felt like at least every 2nd or 3rd building had one of these signs. Some of these people come to the bus station and not only offer you their accommodation but try to get you to come with them and just leave where you were going to stay. Ryan and I were trying to call our hostel to come pick us up from the bus station as they'd instructed me to do. As we were sitting there struggling to figure out how to make the call with the country code (which we ended up not needing to use) one of the men continued to talk to us and tried his best to convince us to stay at his place. He asked if we had already paid for the place we had booked and we told him we had made a deposit for it. He went as far as to offer his apartment at his home, which he said was in the same area as where we had booked, for the price we agreed to pay our hostel minus our deposit. I told him that we had made this reservation a month previous and that we would be keeping it. EVENTUALLY he got tired of trying and walked away until the next bus arrived and he started heading toward those new comers. After awhile we asked for assistance and ended up trying the number we had without the country code and it worked. Within 15 minutes we were in a car on our way to the hostel.

The hostel was very reasonably priced compared to where we've stayed and what we've paid in other cities. It is family owned and the son who is in his 20's was our driver. Along the way he told us great information on how the use the bus where were good places to go and the hours that the cruise ships let people out and the streets in Old Town are the craziest. When he dropped us off his father and another woman were there to show us to our room. The next day we realized that they have a couple rooms under their home on a street below us where their "office" is and where the father lives and then I think our room and at least one or two others were under this woman's house who met us. It was like a conglomerate of people who turned part of their property into hostel rooms. It was very nice and homey though and had a bathroom, small fridge, and two burners all right there, which was nice because normally a hostel will have those in a basement far from your room. There was even a little terrace they were excited to show us with a table and chairs, a swing seat and an orange, lemon, and lime tree. It couldn't have been better as far as we could tell. But we were tired from traveling, and working in the morning remember, so we each showered and then went straight to sleep.

The next morning we headed down to the Placa for breakfast. Our hostel was on the Lapad peninsula, which is a little ways from the Old Town and a good mix of locals and tourist. The Placa is the pededstrian street covered with restaurants and cafés on both sides and at the end your reach the water with a rocky beach that I'm sure is packed with swimmer and sun bathers in the summer. We asked in the tourist information booth for a breakfast recommendation and she said just a few doors down they had great croissants. So we went to check it out. There breakfasts were already in packages I guess you could say so I had orange juice, black coffee (this means espresso in europe I don't know if anyone makes drip coffee here) a "roll" with honey (this turned out to be a loaf of bread... so good) and a chocolate croissant. Ryan had fresh squeezed orange juice (mine was in a bottle), coffee with lots of milk and sugar, a Mediterranean sandwich, and a chocolate croissant. It was all good, but we fell in love with the chocolate croissants. We went back on Friday to get just a couple of those, but had to settle for just one to share because that was all they had left. Also our waitress, who was very nice, popped up all over. We saw her up by our hostel and on the Placa, and on the walking path. She was everywhere.

After breakfast we waited for the bus to go to the Old Town. It turned out to be a good day to go because there was only one cruise ship docked. I don't think it is super busy into cruise season anyway because even when there was 2 or 3 ships on Friday it didn't seem too bad. In the high season June through August when the ships are in port it doubles the population of Dubrovnik bringing in 30,000 people. For those of you who have been here know that inside the walls of the Old Town is not a very big area. One worker we were talking to in shop said it is so crowded you can barely get down the street because no one is moving they are all looking up snapping photos.

Once we arrived we entered the Old Town through the Pile Gate. There are only two gate that let you into the Town because of the mile long wall surrounding it. We headed down the main street the Stradum. When you reach the end the picture below is what you see. This is the clock tower. I think most towns have some sort of old famous clock. I had the same realization when I was looking at colleges. They all had clock towers they were super proud of.

There were I think at least 4 if not more churches we went in on this day. The picture below is of the inside of the grandest. One of the churches was very white and stark inside which was very different from all the churches we've seen in Europe so far.

This picture is of the outside of the same church.

As we continued on along the inside of the walls there were signs for cold drinks with the best view. It was a great view and it is where I snapped this picture below, but we didn't stop for drinks. That island is Lokrum, which was a 15 minute ferry ride from the old town and the closest island to the main land but we never ended up making it over there or to any other of the islands. This gives us something to go back for though. :)

We continued to explore all the little streets like the one in the picture below. It is a very tightly packed area. We came to a bakery and of course had to go in. There was sign below some little donut hole looking things that said they are called "Prikle" and is "traditional Dubrovnik cake." So we got a couple of those and a piece of Baklava. We didn't care for the Prikle and the Baklava was super runny which is not normal for Baklava, so we didn't go back to this Bakery and didn't hit up any others while we were on our vacation. I've found that no bakery in Europe compares to a Bavarian bakery. I also think that other than traveling the thing I will miss the most when I come home is the Bavarian Backereis.

We continued on stopping here and there. We wandered into a building which turned out to be the Ethnography Museum or something like that. It turned out we were supposed to pay but didn't know that because you just go straight in and there is not admisstion booth or anything. And we would not have paid because we walked in walked around barely looked at anything because it looked boring and we don't even know what Ethnography means but it looked like agricultural history stuff of Croatia. So we were in and out in a matter of minutes.

Then we headed out toward the harbor with lots of boats and a few restaurants. Several people were trying to sell tourists trips on glass bottom boats so you could see under the water as you drove. There were people selling all sorts of things everywhere targeting tourists. The entire Old Town is basically a tourist trap I think although I would imagine some locals come there to eat occasionally and there is a fair amount of residences and of course I'm sure it employs a large number of people from the area.

There also might be a pigeon for every tourist. I hate pigeons! On Friday when we were in old town a woman (a tourist) was standing in a mass of them breaking off bread and dropping it without even looking at them and they were all going crazy. It was disgusting and Ryan and I avoided that area all together.

Around the corner from all the restaurants and boats was what I think is a swimming area. Although the locals think it is still to cold to swim. There are VERY FEW sandy beaches in Dubrovnik and the main place people lay out is on concrete that is poured in between rocks to make flat areas. That is what we are standing on in the picture below. And behind us on the right is a corner of Lokrum Island again and on the left is a little south of Dubrovnik headed toward the airport and if you keep going you'll reach Montenegro. (Does everyone notice my new Birkenstocks I am wearing in the picture I wrote about in a previous post? I love love LOVE them and wear them ALL the time. And I knew you'd want to know that.)

After we ended our photo op we walked back through the Old Town down the Stradum and came back to the front gate, but turned a different way to go into a little park courtyard area. There were a couple orange trees, so of course Ryan HAD to climb it to get some fruit. I have documented proof below. A man came walking fast down toward the tree so Ryan hopped out thinking he might be coming to say not to climb trees. It turned out he was a tourist from Poland and made Ryan get back into the tree so he could take his picture. Ryan had thrown me an orange so after the man left we opened it up and took a big big.... not so good.... very sour. So unfortunately that was the last Orange we picked in Dubrovnik.

Yet another view down a tiny street.

We decided we were hungry so we went for an early dinner to a restaurant both recommended in our Rick Steve's travel book and by a woman from our hostel we spoke with in the morning. It was a nice setting right at the harbor or the Old Town. It had been cloudy all day but started to drizzle, but we still sat outside under an umbrella. We ordered the Seafood Risotto that Rick said in his book was good, cheap, and plenty to share. We also made the mistake of getting a liter of the house white wine. I say mistake mostly because it more than doubled our bill and we didn't think the wine was great. I guess it was just the house wine, but I wasn't crazy about Croatian white wine the whole time we where there. The reason we got the wine was because earlier when we walked by we saw a couple guys sharing a pitcher or wine that looked good and they said it was the house white and it was cheap. But they must have had the 1/2 liter because ours came in a karaf instead of the cool pitcher and was way more than we wanted. The risotto was not great. All there food comes in a cooking pot that you dish out of and people think that is cool but I only think it is cool if the food inside tastes a lot better than this did. And then to finish the wine we were there at least two hours I bet, so it turned into a very long meal. Despite the fact we didn't think that suggestion from Rick Steve's was the best we still followed his advice to a side street to find some gelato. This turned out to be a good recommendation though because it was 7 kuna for a scoop instead of 10 on the main street, which is about 1 euro instead of 1,50 euro. AND after they put the gelato on the cone they asked if we wanted chocolate and we said yes so they dipped it into a pot of warm chocolate sauce the immediately hardened on the outside of the gelato. A great bonus at no extra charge. :)

From here we took the bus back to Lapad. We had decided we wanted to buy some groceries so we went to the store to get some breakfast things and dinner for the next night. The store was crazy busy. After shopping we walked up the million stairs (Dubrovnik is very hilly, there are a lot of stairs not for the faint of heart) to the Begovic family residence (our hostel owner) to ask if we could go on the excursion to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina the next day. They arranged it for us as we stood in the doorway with phone calls the father made to his son and then his son to the tour company I guess. We also learned from them, when they commented on our grocery bags, that the store was all 20% off because it was changing owners which would explain the chaos we experienced and the very empty shelves.

We finally got to go back to our room. We put the food away, we showered, and we went to bed after a fun filled first day in Dubrovnik.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


We've now covered Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of my five days off. This brings us to Friday. Ryan and I had an easy going day. We both slept in, which was much needed. But after awhile we decided to go explore toward Oberamergau, which is where the Passion play is performed ever 10 years.

We passed through Oberau, then came to Ettal. Ettal is a tiny little town with a GIANT church where they have a monastery. The monastery is known for making two things, cheese and beer. We parked at the building where they make the cheese and also have a little café. Inside the woman was very nice and encouraged me to speak as much as I could in German. I liked that. We asked about the cakes they had in a spinning case. We didn't want to try the cheese because is smelled nasty in there and I didn't want to eat the stuff that made it smell that way. She explained each cake, but emphasized that we wouldn't find a better cheese cake anywhere (you know because it is a cheese place). So we got a slice of cheese cake and a slice of apple cake to share. The cheese cake really was fabulous. Cheese cake over here is very different from at home and the NY style we're all used to. Here is is lighter and fluffy, not as dense. It isn't so rich that you can hardly finish a piece it is, well I can just think to describe it as light. And this one had a distinct lemonyness to it that was really good.

After we finished our cake, which did not take long at all, we headed over to the monastery to walk around. It is a very pleasant place to go for a stroll. The inside and the outside of the church are incredible. I decided that if I ever got married inside I think this church would be at the top of my list. I think I liked it so much because there was a ton of natural light, which lit the whole thing up. As much as I appreciate ever church I've visited in Europe so far and found each uniquely magnificent I just loved how happy and alive I felt standing in this one with the sun light shining in at me at 360 degrees.

From the monastery we headed on to Oberammergau, which was less village like that some towns I've been to and I expected it to be from what I've heard in regard to the passion play. It was a nice little town though. We stopped at the church here, which was nice. I had read in a tour book or on the internet that this church was a must see in the area, yet it didn't mention the one we'd just been at in Ettal. Sometimes I don't know how these authors on traveling decide what to write about or if they've even really discovered the area for themselves.

On the way back to Garmisch we stopped in Oberau at the Birkenstock outlet. I am so excited to tell you all I am finally the extremely proud owner of my first pair of Birkenstocks. I've wanted some for a long time now, but never bit the bullet and paid the price. But when I got home I looked up on the computer how much I would have paid in the States for these fabulous shoes and I saved myself $50 getting them over here. Not to mention they are made in Germany, so I find it appropriate I got them over here. I show everyone I meet my new shoes as if I was five years old and Ryan even wants to go back and get himself a pair now.

Even though we didn't go to far from home today it was a nice excursion on a beautiful afternoon and we had the opportunity to see things we had not yet discovered. And I got new shoes. :)