Less than 24 hours after our flight from Barcelona into Dubrovnik international airport, Neil and I set aside our lunch plates and looked over at the muralled image of the city’s patron saint. While this city is hardly the hidden gem it used to be (judging on the morning cruise ship crowd), like many cities, this one runs the risk of overwhelming its visitors. People are everywhere. They’re looking for the bus station or searching for a cheap private room called a sobe. But regardless of why they come, once the initial shock of Dubrovnik’s beauty settles in, the small city seems to stick into people’s consciousness. The Old Town stands out as one of the most special places that we have seen on our 18-month trip.
From the Airport to Old Town of Dubrovnik
It doesn’t matter when you land. A shuttle bus will be waiting. Passed customs, passport control, and money exchange, large buses wait for newly arrived visitors. For the 30 minute trip, we paid 35 HK each (US$6.75). Since it was night time, we approached the pearl of the Adriatic as if in a haze. Street lights and harbor lamps hypnotized us as the Cliffside road dropped toward the bay and suddenly the cabin lights came on and the bus driver announced: “Pile Gate!”
Getting Around Dubrovnik
From Pile Gate, you can head east into the Old Town and down the famed thoroughfare called Stradun or the “ugly street”. In fact it is very beautiful with cobbled streets that reflect lights off the white stone buildings. The road runs straight toward the opposite gate entry, Polce. Stradun is like the backbone of the city. Other avenues run either parallel or perpendicular to it.
Headed west from Pile Gate, you’ll run into Lapad Peninsular where many people hunt for more affordable and higher value accommodations. Beaches are almost everywhere in and around the city. As our tour guide from Dubrovnik Walking Tours said, “All we need is a way into the sea and we will swim.”
For this four day trip, we chose the Peter Guesthouse which is located almost across the street from the Hilton Imperial and beside the Mimoza Restaurant. The room cost US$72 which is hardly a steal or a bargain on a mid-range, quasi-backpacker budget. But we get our own bathroom and room with AC, WIFI and cable TV. Last night we flipped between three English-language movies. We loved it and couldn’t ask for a more relaxing end to a 10-hour transit from Tossa de Mar in the Costa Brava of Spain.
Morning Historic Tour of Dubrovnik
I was shocked when we woke up at 8am, wide eyed and ready to go. Neil had researched several walking tours of the Old Town. We decided to go with Dubrovnik Walking Tours. Learning that the meeting point for one was just down the road, we headed to Latin Club Fuego where Anya waited. With a big sign in her hand, she said that we had missed the 10am tour but would call her colleague so we could join them at the Onofrio Fountain. We hustled through the double gates of the Pile and slipped into the group just as the guide introduced some of the city’s history. The tour was one hour and gave a great overview. While we had arrived after dark and enjoyed a Stradun walk with some locals and quiet couples, this morning the scene had changed. Like many days in high season, the cruise ships had dumped their passengers into the harbor to swell and clog the streets. Neil and I couldn’t care less. We have four days in the city that was literally transitioning from high season to low. Tourist crowds were already thinning out. Ferry service up the Dalmatian Coast was almost suspended. This is the best time to visit Dubrovnik and we couldn’t be happier that after a visit here, we’ve a small town apartment waiting for us in Jelsa on Hvar Island.