Two noteworthy things happened on the way to Dubrovnik.
First, I got a new stamp in my passport – the first since landing in Munich more than six weeks ago. I was now outside the Schengen Visa zone, where each new country would once again mean a new currency, new border controls, and new passport stamps. Since I’d renewed my passport just days prior to leaving on this trip, I’d started with a clean slate – an empty set of pages. Time to start changing all that 🙂
Second, I almost lost my bag – permanently. At the bus station in Zagreb I tossed my pack into the bus’s opened luggage compartment – like always – and hopped on, ticket in hand. Then, literally one minute before departure I decided to pop my head out just to confirm one last time that I was in the right place. My bag was sitting alone on the curb.
Apparently in Croatia you have to pay extra for luggage, even on buses (lame), and when the driver saw my unpaid bag in the cargo hold he tossed it out without even bothering to say a word (extra lame). Just imagine if I hadn’t stuck my head out, we’d driven away, and I arrived in Dubrovnik 10 hours later with nothing. Total nightmare.
Luckily I arrived – with my bag – in one piece 🙂
Although it would’ve been far more ideal to take a daytime bus that would’ve offered the opportunity to watch the Adriatic go by outside the window, time was just too short – so I opted for a night bus instead, sleeping the whole way there. It wasn’t until sunrise, just a few towns North of Dubrovnik, that I opened my eyes and caught my first glimpse of the Adriatic coast. The cabin was still dark and silent, but I actually blurted out “Oh my god” – a genuine reaction to the landscape before me.
It was just as gorgeous as everyone says.
Rocky cliffs on one side, crystal blue water on the other. Small green plateaus jutted out into the sea, each hosting a small cluster of homes, all nearly identical: white sandstone walls and peach shingled roofs. In the expanse of water beyond, I could just make out the outlines of a few of the thousands of tiny islands that dot Croatia’s coastline, earning it the unofficial title, “The New Greece.” It was absolutely stunning.
When I arrived at the bus station my phone was completely dead from a full day in Ljubljana followed by Zagreb and a 10 hour drive, so I wasn’t able to do my usual “GPS to the nearest hostel” scheme. Instead, I was immediately approached by half a dozen touts looking to fill their extra rooms; a common experience in much of the world but a first for me in Europe.
I ended up going with a private room in a villa on a cliff overlooking the harbor, for 20EUR per night. Although the room was fabulous, as was the rose-covered terrace, I was a little mad at myself for taking it so quickly – especially when I later realized how far it was from the Old City (25min walk). Plus I could’ve gotten a spot in a 3-bed hostel dorm for less, and that probably would’ve been more fun.
Oh well, I guess it’s just two nights – and two round-trip walks across town 😛