Croatia has been one of those standout places on our trip I’ve been dreaming of visiting. Seemingly stranded way out there on its own hovering over the Adriatic Sea, I imagined it sitting along Europe’s less trodden trails just waiting to be discovered. Those remote red-roofed villages suspended on the mountainside along the pristine Dalmatian Coast, this was the Croatia I was after.
Claiming to be one of Croatia’s most picturesque cities, our first stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. Following a brief bus ride from the nearby Montenegrin border, we pulled into Dubrovnik and were greeted in true Mediterranean style: by a harem of dowdy women trying desperately to rent out their rooms.
Following strangers into their homes for a place to lay our heads has become commonplace on our Mediterranean holiday. Though it may seem quite strange to the outsider, it’s a nice option for budget travelers, like ourselves, who are feeling too old for the hostel scene yet unwilling to succumb to the high prices of hotels. But while economical, it’s also a gamble. We’ve won a few and struck out on quite a few more (story on our stay in the home of a porno-watching, 60 year-old female hoarder is a story we will save for offline!). This time around in Dubrovnik, we would win, settling into a room at the home of a middle-aged couple just steps away from Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
After enjoying a few glasses of homemade Croatian wine with our gracious hosts, we stumbled out to explore. Behind the protective city walls guarding the pedestrian-only Old Town, we found historic churches and public buildings, trendy shops and cozy restaurants, ancient sculptures and contemporary galleries, fountains and bell towers, monasteries and gardens. We discovered a little something for everyone… AND that we’d be sharing it with, well, everyone.
On our first day in Dubrovnik I realized a few things: Undiscovered Europe this was absolutely not. Croatia, and Dubrovnik specifically, attract hordes of tourists. Many are just docking here for the day on their cruise ship, but traveling in loud, obnoxious packs, they are hard to ignore. I also realized, with the sweltering heat of August, this was not the ideal time to visit. The heat was stifling. If you weren’t in the shade, in the water or at least under a sun hat, you were doomed.
While the naïve notion began to wear off that we’d be discovering this pearl of the Adriatic on our own, I also realized no crowds or even stifling humidity could destroy the allure of enchanting Dubrovnik. Mornings were spent over coffee on a park bench overlooking the panorama of red terracotta roofs. When the city filled up, we made our exit to the heavenly landscaped beaches outside of town. Here we listened to the turquoise water lap up against the shore while our bodies basked in the Mediterranean sun. At dusk, we walked the Old City walls and watched the sun illuminate the medieval stone buildings into a bright, golden hue, overlooking a sea strewn with lush islands.
Although we had to share its beauty with countless holidaymakers, jet-setters and backpackers, there was no denying it: Dubrovnik is special.