Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 2021 (and trip summary)

Dubrovnik was, as you might expect, pretty amazing. Walking the 1.5 mile city wall (with 1080 steps) is incredible. But even with COVID, it was quite crowded.

We are very glad we came here before the cruise ship industry is back in force. We were told that before COVID there were on average 4 ships per day, for a total of 10,000 passengers, here every day July-September. This year it’s only 1 ship per day at 1/3 capacity. Every local we talked to said it was unbearable getting around due to the traffic jams and hoards of pedestrians 2015-2019 that time of year. But I think the drop in cruise ships has somewhat been replaced by the increase in Americans, as there are now 8 direct flights per week between the US and Dubrovnik. Most of the tourists we encountered in Dubrovnik were American, unlike in other parts of Croatia, where most were German.

It’s hard to imagine Dubrovnik under siege from Serbia in 1991, as it is so pristine today. I did a 1.5 hour hike up to Fort Imperial on top of Srd mountain just outside the city, which was where much of the shelling was happening. There is a museum in the fort with photos and videos showing the attack on Dubrovnik. Crazy shit.

The most interesting part of our time in Dubrovnik was a day trip to the city of Mostar in Herzegovina, which was almost completely destroyed during the war in the 1990s. The iconic Mostar bridge was completely destroyed (watch here), but has been rebuilt in the original style.

Officially the region has two official alphabets, Roman and Cyrillic, and road signs are in both. But depending on exactly where you are in Herzegovina, in some places the Roman is crossed out, and in other places the Cyrillic is crossed out. Clearly there are still some strong feelings about the war. I could try to summarize all the conflicting things we heard about the war, but that would be longer than you’d want to read, and would probably be wrong. Short summary: it’s complicated and fucked up.

We went to Ston area to visit an oyster farm, and for more wine tasting. Seeing how they harvest the oysters was quite interesting, and eating them right out of the sea was amazing. After trying more Croatian wines, we still prefer Californian wine.

We went on a sunset dinner cruise with an amazing sunset view and so-so dinner, but we had low expectations on the food, so were quite satisfied. The boat was a replica of a ship from the 1500s or so.

Did you know that Dubrovnik is a cat lovers paradise? There are 100s of well cared for ‘stray’ cats everywhere, and most are surprisingly friendly. We saw a lot of cats in Split and Sibenik too, but Dubrovnik takes it to a whole new level. Christine found she had to factor in petting time when planning to go out on the town.

View of Dubrovnik from nearby hill
Oyster Farm
Mostar Bridge

Croatia Summary

What’s up with all the 80s rock/pop, Croatia? I’ve heard more 80s rock in the past month than in the previous 20 years. And not just in touristy places, but in taxis, buses, shopping area, etc. There seems to also be a bit of 80s Croatian rock in the mix, but mostly American/British rock. The times we had a rental car, it seems like all the stations played the same 80’s Rock, When it wasn’t 80’s rock, it was modern loungy versions of 80s rock (have you heard this lounge version of “Should I stay or should I go” from the Clash?) Maybe someone can explain the obsession with 80s music here to me?

Croatia is a very comfortable/ easy place to travel. Avoid August if possible. Prices are similar to most of the US (and cheaper than most of Europe, San Francisco, New York, London, etc). Sibenik was our favorite spot, as we found it a nice balance of historical and tourist activities without feeling like the town is just for tourists.

I haven’t said anything about Croatian food yet, as I’m hoping Christine will do a posting on that. I’ll only say that everything we had was excellent and reasonably priced. The biggest surprise was that there was almost no alternatives to Croatian food. We saw 1 Chinese restaurant near Plitvice, and it closed down during COVID lock down and never reopened. We also saw 1 Indian and 1 middle eastern restaurant, both in Zagreb, and 1 Indian place in Dubrovik. We also went to a good/unique Asian fusion place on Korcula. I’m sure there are others somewhere, but not very many (and I’m not counting the scattering of MacDonalds). This is very different from the rest of Europe.

COVID rates doubled in Croatia during the time we were here, but still way lower than in the US. Mask use dropped too, but not sure if that was due to city differences in the south or mask fatigue. Many people seem to wear the mask below their nose, especially younger people. But no one seems to be worried about Delta, and hospitalizations are low (or so we were told.)

Full set of photos for the final week of the trip are here.

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