18.07.2013. The stern man behind the immigration was not fussed, perfect for me after a rather uncomfortable plane ride (and just 2 hours of intermittent sleep at the airport the night before). I did my customary check on my passport and smiled. My entry to Dubrovnik is now evidenced by the new EU stamp, which is different from the one I had when entering Zagreb 3 months earlier, before Croatia joined the European Union. Collecting stamps on passports is a superficial pursuit.
Besides Wales and parts of England, my main purpose of this 3 months break is to visit the Balkans region, the relatively unknown part of Europe. Since leaving Cardiff, I stopped over at my old home of London for a few nights. Bidding goodbye to this wonderful city wasn’t any easier the second time round.
There isn’t any good direct flights into this region from London that favoured me. I promptly decided on Dubrovnik, which at the southern tip of the Croatian coast, should offer good transit into the neighbouring countries. At £200+ for a single ticket, it wasn’t the cheapest place to visit in summer, and as a rather popular tourist destination, I was not looking forward to the crowd either. All my concerns were wiped out of my mind when I stepped inside this beautiful city.
I have always seen pictures of Dubrovnik, and had a rough sense of what to expect- red tinted roofs and medieval walls set against the Mediterranean sea. What caught me by surprise is the sheer beauty of its old streets, most reminiscent of that found in Rome, one of my favourite cities. Indeed, after a severe earthquake in 1667, much of the old city in Dubrovnik is rebuilt, and the result is a very consistent Baroque and Gothic style of architecture, most notable along its main street- Stradun.
I would have been happy to just lose myself in the beautiful streets, but the lure of the Adriatic sea constantly pulled me to the beaches. While these beaches suffer from a clear case of overcrowding, it is here where the city is at its distinguished best- the clear green and blue waters against the medieval walls. It is a sight I could not get enough of.
Dubrovnik has been nicknamed ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, and despite being such a popular destination that could have easily over-promised, it stole my breath away the very second I arrived. Tomorrow I will depart Croatia to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country I know nothing about, which makes it terribly exciting.