Day 13, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik was a surprise. When we arrived we found, as we had been warned, that it was absolutely crammed full of tourists. But none of us were prepared for just how touristy it was. We barely saw or heard any locals in the three days we were there.

Day 13 was officially the last full day and night of the trip so we went on a tour of Dubrovnik as our last group tour activity. The view from the city walls was stunning, Dubrovnik is certainly very beautiful – nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic. Our cameras were on overdrive as we walked around the famous Old Town, which was bombed to bits by the Serbs during a seven-month seige.

A chart near the entrance to the Old Town details the damage done by the seige.

Chart showing damage done to the Old Town during the Serb attacks

The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and after the bombing it was rebuilt in the original style. However it wasn’t possible to find roof tiles whose colour exactly matched the originals, so the roofs that you now see are something of a patchwork of the slightly different orangey/red colours used.

Although this was officially the last full day of the trip, almost everyone had booked an extra couple of days in Dubrovnik. We were staying in Private Rooms for the trip – which is the most common form of accommodation in and around the Old Town area. Paulina’s house was right beside the gates to the Old Town and was the perfect location for seeing the sights in the next few days. We were warned that the neighbours were particularly averse to noise and had been known to open their windows and pour buckets of water on revellers. AND apparently they had been known to pour buckets of OTHER things too. Yuck. Needless to say we were very very quiet as we entered and left the house 🙂

We were originally going to have dinner at a seafood place by the harbour (see next day’s entry for details on this place, which turned out to be the lamest restaurant in the Balkans), but it turned out seafood wasn’t to the taste of everyone in the group so we went elsewhere.

As it was the last night we had a big discussion about the highlights and surprises of the trip which each person picking a biggest highlight and biggest surprise.

My biggest surprise:

I picked Sarajevo for mine, for reasons I touched on in my post when I arrived. Sarajevo was a place I really should have known like the back of my hand, but everything was so new and unexpected – I guess you just can’t really learn about a place no matter how many books you read or pictures you look at. But in no way was it ever disappointing – everything was greater and more diverse and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

My biggest highlight:

My highlight was Little Borjana, strange as it must sound given these little people are everywhere not just in Bosnia. But she stuck in my mind throughout the rest of the trip. She was the very first impression I had of Bosnia, a little thing filled with laughter and fun and hope, and so she really summed it all up for me. And she was so silly and cute that she made me think about a lot of things in my own life, as I played with this girl who had it all ahead of her.

Among the rest of the group the boat cruise around the Bay of Kotor had been both a surprise and a highlight – the main surprise being how great it was, as it wasn’t really a part of the trip that had stuck out at us as we read the itinerary.

I was very touched though when Michael chose travelling with me as his highlight – he said I had really inspired him to learn more about the Balkans and that having me there to ask questions or explain things had really made a difference. That was a very sweet thing to say.

A few people on the trip had told me that my own knowledge of Bosnia had inspired them to go back and read up on it. It feels quite nice to think that I am helping to spread awareness and interest in the history of these beautiful places.

After dinner we went to a bar round the corner but I was pretty tired and didn’t stay too long. As so many people were staying on it didn’t seem so much like a big goodbye so I wanted to get an early night so I could meet some people the following morning to see more sights!

Day 15, Dubrovnik (continued)

On my last evening I went to check out a War Photo Gallery in Dubrovnik’s old town, quite a modern gallery with a lot of photography from Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. Some of the images were quite horrific but others very touching – there was also a special area focussing on the aftermath of war and life getting back to normal which was nice.

I found these two photos particularly interesting so I took a snap of them when no-one was looking.

Help Bosnia Now

Welcome to Sarajevo

Day 15, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Well, I’m on my last day, everyone else has just about left over the past two days (which I booked extra) so I thought I’d get today’s slightly out of the ordinary adventures down before I get back to updating you on the last week.

The sub-title of today’s post is “Cuts and Ass” aka my mishaps at the nudist beach. I haven’t told anyone in my family about this blog so this is a story I can safely tell.

Me and Gavin and Bea went to Lokrum Island today just off Dubrovnik, a nature reserve full of history and also known for its nudey beaches. Well I am on holiday and it’s not every day you can go skinny dipping without people looking at you funny, so after we had a walk around and saw the other sights, I left Gavin and Bea and headed to check out the nudist beach.

I don’t really see it as a big deal stripping off like that if everyone else is so I wasn’t really embarrassed, but it was actually a very cool experience. No-one there (well almost no-one) is perving, certainly unlike most normal beaches, and because everybody is nude nobody really bothers or pays attention. The view across the Adriatic was amazing and just lying there getting the full heat of the sun all over was just great.

Oh and occasionally some naked honeys would walk past. Perfect.

It was actually one of my highlights of the stay in Croatia, just absolutely relaxing. That is, until the usual Alan mishaps began to occur.

The first spoiler was when a skinny Irish bloke stood over me (don’t even try and picture it it was horrible). He asked me if the water was OK. I said yeah it was cold but nice. He asked how long I was here, where I was from blah blah. When I said Glasgow he said “oh yeah I hear Glasgow has a great gay scene”. I thought “oh for fuck’s sake…”. He then asked me if I wanted to meet him tonight!!

I told him I couldn’t as I had a very early flight the next morning, but in hindsight maybe that was a bit of a lame excuse. A direct “I’m not gay” might have done a better job, but then I guess when I said it I was worried that might sound like he was being really blatant and obvious. Which he was. Maybe that would have been nicer on his feelings though rather than a straight rejection. And a straight rejection it certainly was. I was thinking though, even if I was gay, I very much doubt that a skinny Irish guy with a tiny penis would be my type. He really shouldn’t chat people up on a nudist beach, it can’t do him any favours.

I’m always telling people that people always think I’m gay. I don’t know what it is about me, but it’s definitely true.

As the sun moved around I moved along the beach to a better spot, coincidentally near two spectacularly beautiful sunbathing girls. A spot of luck that was. I decided after a bit of sunbathing to go swimming again, but the area I was in was very rocky so it was a bit of a chore getting in, and I was keen not to humiliate myself in front of the girls. I got in fine and swum around for a little bit, it was great.

As I tried to get out, the waves got very strong and I had trouble getting a footing. All of the ‘beaches’ were rocky, but this one particularly so. I got to a part where I could stand on a rock just a foot or so underwater, and then climb out. But this rock was narrower than I thought, and as I put my other foot down it was straight into the sea. My whole body plummeted a few metres, and just as I got back up to the surface a wave came in which bashed me right into the side of the huge rock in front of me. I grabbed onto the side and held on trying to get a footing and the next couple of waves came in rubbing my body against the rocks. Eventually I got out and as I stumbled up onto the dry rocks, I was greeted by three naked German men who had seen me disappear and had rushed over to check I was OK! It was surreal.

I climbed back up past the honeys and to my sunbathing spot and I lay down on my towel to recuperate, only to realise that my whole left arm was covered in bout 30 or 40 tiny cuts, all showing blood but none thankfully gushing. Both my hands were cut, my foot was cut too. I looked a mess.

I licked my wounds and sunbathed a bit more, before packing up to get the last boat home, which the honeys were doing too. I was able to gain back some of my dignity by helping the two of them up the steep rocks from where they were sunbathing to where I was, and towards the path out of the beach.

The lessons from today:

(1) Sharp rocks and nudity do not mix.

(2) Gay Irish guys will try to pick up *anywhere*.

(3) Needing to be rescued by three naked German men is almost worse than drowning.