Our first full day in Dubrovnik greeted us with a beautiful sunny start. We made our way to breakfast which was well prepared and bountiful. It was a lovely setting overlooking the sea with the walled City in the background. We didn’t linger long though as we were keen to get out and explore.
I had booked a walking tour staring at 10am but we realised when we got up that this was tad ambitious and so changed it to another one starting at 4.30pm. So instead we took a leisurely stroll down the hill to have a wander around by ourselves. The City itself is stunning and quite like a Land in Disney (although they would do it even better as Karen pointed out because they would have a Starbucks). Actually later on Karen described it even better when the sun started to go down by saying it was like being inside a really big Vegas Hotel like the Venetian.
The City was busy but not overly so. It was immediately obvious they were making the most of their Game of Thrones connections as every shop was advertising that they were selling the merchandise. We wandered around the various tiny streets and really enjoyed it. Although there were restaurants everywhere we struggled to find anywhere selling snacks as such rather than full blown meals but eventually came across one that advertised toasted sandwiches which we duly ordered. Like many places we found as the days went on we found it only accepted cash. This could later prove to be a problem as I didn’t have a lot of Kuna’s with us.
We wandered back up the hill which took about 20 minutes and then went and sat on one of the Hotel terraces and ordered pots of tea to rejuvenate ourselves. We had a glorious view in the sunshine and it was almost like being on holiday.
After a quick freshen up back in our rooms we then headed back to the Old City to the meeting point for the rescheduled 4.30pm walking tour. There were about 15 other people doing the tour.
Our guide was Vlaho who was not only terrific at his job but one of those people who makes you feel inadequate with your life achievements compared with him. At the end of the tour I actually felt humbled to have met him. He was a Police Officer in his home City of Dubrovnik at the start of what is termed here as the Homeland Wars. We know it as the Balkans war during the 1990’s. He helped form the Defence force when Dubrovnik was under siege for 7 months in 1991.
He helped to gather the arms together by various means which they intended to use to defend themselves if the opposing forces ever tried to enter the City. They were cut off completely by both land and sea and he said they survived living on chicken for months. Then when the City started to bombarded by air in December 1991 he helped to try and quell the fires and move people to safety.
He spoke of this not in a way to boast nor over dramatise events. Much of the detail only came out through people asking just questions. His main bitterness is the damage done to the City which is a Unesco designated site. No other wars or opposing forces over hundreds of years had ever done such a thing before.
Later he told us when he had been promoted to Commander of the Marine Police he had to accompany one of the big USA battleships for a while. Whilst doing this he learnt that they had arrived in position on that fateful day in December and were given the ready to start an offensive against those attacking Dubrovnik by the President. Evidently this information was leaked as the assault on Dubrovnik which has now been shown to have been planned to last 3 days ended at noon on the first day to prevent the retaliation.
I felt also disappointed in myself that this only all happened less than 30 years ago and at a place which is only 1000 miles from where we live and yet I knew so little about the war, what caused it and who was involved. We all get tied up in our own lives and world. I do not know what I could have done, but feel I should have understood more. I know all about the war atrocities which happened on both sides during the conflict but Vlaro’s explanation of all the build up and the history behind it was illuminating. I have since gone back and read all about it in more detail.
It reminded me of our visit to Robben Island a few years back when we were guided around by a former prisoner who served his sentence there with Nelson Mandela both fighting for their justice in South Africa. People who had made a real difference to the world. I suppose my legacy are my children but perhaps I could and should do more.
Aside from the Homeland wars, Vlaho explained so much about the buildings and history of the place in such an interesting way that we didn’t want the tour to end. We ended up paying more for this ‘free tour’ than any others we have ever done and felt it was money well spent.
My final question to Vlaho was for some recommendations of where to eat. His answer was very telling - ‘I wouldn’t want to put my names to any restaurant within a 20 mile radius’. His view was that the costs were ludicrous and that quality was poor as none of the ever expected repeat business so didn’t bother too much. This didn’t help us much though as we were by now quite hungry. So we made our way out of the City Walls to a Pizza restaurant we had seen earlier. The Pizzas were large and actually not too bad. The sun went down as we sat there and the temperature dropped somewhat as we sat outside. Karen took advantage of the blanket that she was offered by staff.
The City looked even more picturesque as we strolled back.
We went back up the hill again which seemed to longer and steeper at night. We called into a Supermarket en route and bought a bottle of Bosnian Red White to take back with us. It was actually very drinkable. Whilst I caught up on some holiday admin, Karen took advantage of the Wifi and our VPN to watch the first of the last series of Game of Thrones which had premiered early today in preparation for our booked GOT walking tour tomorrow.