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Ten Things You Should Know About a Visit to Dubrovnik
Written by Katherine Frangos of Kate’s Explorations
Like most foreign cities, travelers are never fully prepared for the unusual nuances or cultural details that guidebooks never mention or overlook. Unless travelers experience through trial and error or stay for an extended period in the city, often they will miss the depth a city has to offer. Here are 10 essential observations and things I’ve discovered while exploring Dubrovnik.
1. Dubrovnik is Fiercely Independent And Has a Resilient Past
Most recently, the city has accomplished a major recovery since the war and fall of Ex-Yugoslavia. Although there were horrifying atrocities and devastation, Dubrovnik’s scars are healing. If you take a climb up her 14th-century fortified city wall, you can gaze upon the new red-tiled rooftops which were reconstructed in the mid- 90s. They’ve made great efforts to preserve and rebuild their city and it shows.
Going further into the past, Dubrovnik went through a series of foreign invasions and different rulers starting with the Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Ottomans, Venetians, Hungarians, French, etc. But her impervious glory sums up to one badass motto, “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro” (Latin for “Liberty is not well sold for all the gold”) In other words, no matter how much gold you try to bribe or impose, the people of Dubrovnik won’t have it! Freedom above all, even gold. The Dubrovnik people are proud of their independence, liberty, and unique culture. Their dialect, food, and wine are just a few of the many distinctive attributes they’ve contributed to the world.
2. Two Essential Words You Should Know
Although it may not seem worth it to learn Croatian in just a few days, knowing these two powerful words, “Hvala,” meaning thank you and “doviđenja” meaning goodbye can make a big difference. Sometimes we surprised cashiers and service workers for these simple, yet meaningful words. In any language, being polite goes a long way.
3. Cover it up
Croatia is an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Although there are masses of bikini-bottomed, bbeachgoerswho flock the streets, one should cover up before entering a store. Even if it’s a small convenience shop or supermarket, modesty counts, so cover up after a beach swim. I know having experienced a bit of an awkward situation when I walked into our local convenience market with a towel wrapped around my hips and my bikini top exposed. We were coming from the beach into the PEMO market for a quick snack. Heading over to the stacks of fresh yogurt, I was stopped by a young employee who asked me to cover up my chest. So make sure to throw on a sundress or T-shirt while stopping in a market or store.
4. Never Underestimate a Sailor
I don’t know why sailors get such a bad rap for being obscene, rude or inappropriate. Some of the most interesting characters I’ve met while traveling were sailors. We took a boat tour of the Elaphite (Elafitski) Islands and our crew was nothing but warm and hospitable to us. Some of the best highlights of our trip were shared with a group of Italians and Englishmen as we piled up on the tip of the boat. Maybe it wasn’t the safest to sit up front, but we felt like special VIPs with our captain hooking us up with white wine, cookies, and a fresh fish lunch during a stop-over to Lopud Island. Our captain talked it up sharing some of his travels around the world and even opened up over the painful memories during the war. As a token of fun, he joined us for a jump off his boat and swim in the majestic waters of Koločep.
Slurp Down an Oyster
Not everyone is into them, but if you want to be like a local, do as a local. The Dubrovnik people are proud of their fresh catch and nothing can come between them and their slippery, salty little friends, the fresh pearls of the sea. Squeeze a little lemon on one and slurp up the goodness. They taste like the sea, only better.
As an alternative, don’t shy away from their mussels either. They come swimming in the sauce of the gods I tell you! Prepared like ancient Romans and Greeks style, these are best served in a breadcrumb broth, simmered in fresh garlic, tomato, white wine and sea salt. Simple is always better. Yum!
6. Relaxed Vibes And Pedestrians Right of Way
First off, the old city of Dubrovnik (within the castle walls) is a UNESCO site so you won’t be seeing any cars. Secondly, maybe it’s just me, but I noticed the suburban Dubrovnik drivers have a rare patience I’ve never seen in a Mediterranean country. Normally in Italy or Greece, I’ve encountered hot-heads to the max. Nobody stops for you to cross. Sometimes cars are parked on sidewalks and they will run you over if you’re not looking. Even the cutest old ladies don’t stand a chance in a crosswalk intersection! Rules? What rules? On the contrary in Dubrovnik, I don’t know what it is, but maybe it’s the summer heat, or the fact that we are tourists… they always stop and allow you the right away. It was strange at first, but quite refreshing to not fear for my life crossing! Likewise, the bus drivers (from the airport and local ones) drive normal too. There are jaw-dropping views and cliffs overlooking the sea, so you definitely want a safe and sensible bus driver!
7. Exchange Rates do Vary
There may be an attractive exchange rate between the Croatian Kuna (HRK) and Euro/USD, etc. but be careful on how you convert the prices in your head. We know from experience having messed up the calculations numerous times. If you pass through the city market tents, don’t be intimidated to do a little bargaining. The vendors always ask for prices that convert moderately high in Euros so bargaining down a little won’t hurt. There’s plenty of competition and pressure among vendors so they know the guy next door might sell to you instead. As a tourist, don’t be fooled, play fair. This goes the same with taxis. Pretty much everywhere in the world you can easily get ripped. Ask to see the meter first and make sure they’re not ripping you off on an absurd scale. We also made a mistake on our first day by not asking our driver to start the meter on 5,6 Kuna max instead of 30 Kuna! But what other choice did we have when we were lost finding our apartment? Sometimes you have to bite the bullet.
Pebbly Beaches (a Few Sandy Ones)
Ok beach lovers, let’s see how much you love the sea. Does Dubrovnik’s have beautiful water? Yes. A vivid emerald green, in fact, check. Remote coves and caves to dive and explore? Yes! Check. Loads of sunshine? Yep. Check. Beautiful harbors and sailing? Check. Sand? Mmm..not always. Worth it? YES! If you’re like me, you may find the stones and pebbles a bit abrasive to the feet so pack some flip flops or swimming shoes which should do the trick.
9. Airport Pickup/Drop Off is Different
Remember, the drop off spot and pick up spot from and to the Airport are in different locations. The drop off (arrival) is at Ploče gate Gate which is the main gate into the city. If you want to return to the airport you must depart from the bus station next to the cable car. Don’t mess up and miss your flight. Prepare in advance. Bus tickets cost about 45 kuna (about 6 euros).
Dubrovnik Cable car
10. Speaking of The Cable Car, GO
It’s the perfect way to wind down after a long day of hard work lounging on the beach and eating delicious seafood. Tough life, isn’t it? Well, the pictures do justice. I’m a panoramic freak and can’t conclude a trip without a good birds-eye view of the city. Are these photos convincing enough?
Photo credits also provided by Lena @Lea.pie on Instagram
Kate’s an American travel writer having lived in Europe for nearly two full years. Exploring Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Portugal, she’s finally unpacked her bags in her new home, Amsterdam. You can follow her blog at Kate’s Explorations.
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