Thursday, September 22, 2011

new friends, old walls, and always the freaking bells

our favorite section of the bookstore

took a bus from split, croatia to dubrovnik a couple of days ago. it was hard to leave the island of brac but the desire to see some more of the world overrode the desire to see another beach. hard to admit that.

we spent a night in split, a 50 minute ferry ride from brac, on our way to dubrovnik. we typically wouldn't even have mentioned this overnight but for the apartment we rented in the old city center. we've used a couple of times now and it's paid off in spades. we found a listing in split titled "next to the old palace." we thought "no way." split is centered on the remains of the roman emperor diocletian's palace. apparently, after persecuting thousands of christians, he was tired of the high life and retired to his ancestral home of dalmatia. over the course of, oh i don't know, seventeen centuries a town grew up within and around its decaying structures. we met our host who guided us right to the middle of the old palace and took a left into a doorway. "wait, is this it?" "yes, i said center." turned out it was kind of IN the old palace. srdan walked across the living room, drew back the curtain, pointed at a wall across the way and said "that's jupiter's temple," a 4th century structure inches from where we were staying. "we'll take it!"

the stradun, dubrovnik's main street. 
off to dubrovnik: our first bus experience in two and a half months, we dragged our roller bags and day packs down to the bus terminal, bought a couple of $45 dollar tickets for the four hour ride from split to dubrovnik, bought a ćevapčići sandwich (with ajvar, of course, duh), a bottle of water and off we went. bus pulled out of town in the rain and we were treated to the gray, drab streets of the outskirts of split. as we neared the freeway through some concrete, no name suburb, michelle poked at the window and uttered something like "hey, is that, wha... i, um, LOOK!" there, running through some people's backyards was a several hundred yard stretch of a beautiful roman aqueduct severed from its source and destination and sentenced to live its life looking at concrete and drying laundry. better than yard cars, i guess.

sure, it rained. and sure, our driver couldn't care less about road conditions, but we made it. (side note: border crossing from croatia to bosnia and back to croatia consisted mostly of a dude coming on the bus, tiring of checking passports after the first ten or so passengers, seeing us all in the back holding up our documents and just waving his hand and turning around. could. not. be. bothered. classic.) next thing we knew we were squeezing ourselves through the old pile gate and onto the stradun, old town dubrovnik's main street. check out the live "stradun cam."yowza, has this place changed since the time of a buddy of ours described it (from a trip twenty five years ago) as "refreshing to be in a place with no tourists or frat guys in flip-flops." still this place reeks of history and if you can block out all the people around you for a minute, you would have no idea in which century you stood.

emily, michelle and pascale.
easily, one of the most gratifying and ever renewing experiences we've had so far is meeting new friends and wonderful people along the way. emily and pascale were no exception in helping to further our appreciation. we headed out to walk the city walls our first morning and if there's one thing one should do in dubrovnik it's walk the city walls. we've read about this for years and all the superlatives held up. about a quarter of the way along i strolled up to the edge, turned to my right and said "hey there." there were our new friends from the bus the previous day, emily and pascale, a couple of final year university students from london, studying in bristol. michelle's mom has a saying when she likes someone: "they're good people." these are good people. we shared some good stories and some great laughs on the bus ride the day before and our conversation helped distract us from the windy roads. an hour amble over the walls turned into a near three hour tour followed by a cathedral and dinner for four in the old town. we had a right knees up. hope you guys made it to mostar ok! i'd say england's in good hands.

dubrovnik's city walls, facing the adriatic.

about that cathedral, "the cathedral of the assumption of the virgin." THEY ALSO HAVE A HOLY RIGHT! that's right, a right hand. readers of this blog may remember our fascination in budapest over "saint stephen's holy right," the thousand year old, mummified right hand of saint stephen that's paraded through the streets of budapest once a year on, wait for it..., "saint stephen's day." we were lucky enough to arrive there for that spectacle. in dubrovnik, "saint blaise's right" is sadly locked away and out of sight (well, you can pay to see it, but what fun is that?) but, my god, two "miracle rights" in one trip? what are the odds? dubrovnik ups the ante, however, and has not one, but several of saint blaise's body parts including his throat. and here's why. not only that, they hold a part of jesus' cross AND his baby swaddling clothes. it says it right there in the brochure, surely it must be true. sure, they lost track of him for 30 years but the swaddling clothes they kept. why would they lock this stuff away and charge for the privilege instead of allowing worshipers to share in the wonders? ah, travel, such a learning experience.

it's 9:17am as i write this and the bells of dubrovnik are going freaking nuts. all across europe, centuries old bells seem to go off at pretty much any time they damn well please. at first, we thought "oh, it must be the top of the hour." then we started checking and realized, "no, wait, it's 10:52 am," or something. we swear, it's just someone overly bored thinking "oh, i know! it's time for bells." if you're a light sleeper, and you're in europe? pack the earplugs, my friend, because a lot of times those bells are right across the street from where you're staying. here's one of the offenders...

bell tower, dubrovnik, probably ringing itself to death right now


  1. Oh, yay! I had forgotten cevapcici (supply your own diacriticals). Dubrovnik looks very cool. Must run for train now. Bye.

  2. Saint Stephen will remain, all he's lost he shall regain,
    Seashore washed by the suds and foam,
    Been here so long, he's got to calling it home.

  3. Just love the description of the Bosnian/Croatian border crossing scenario! Absolutely hilarious - you Amerikanskis - why bother?! Paula