This week I explored the towns of Dubrovnik, Kotor, and Ston, and hiked along their respective walls and fortresses. Magnificent views, amazing history, and good old exercise! It was a great week, other than the rain. Here's the update:
I spent the first few days of this week relaxing in Dubrovnik, reacquainting myself with life on land. I rented a large top-floor apartment. I washed all my clothes and hung them to dry on the sunny terrace. I took a few afternoon naps.
My crew and I enjoyed a final pizza dinner and said our goodbyes.
Before continuing her own vacation, first mate Amanda joined me for a walk along the walls of Old Town. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and rainy that day. (This will become a theme over the next few journal entries, I’m afraid.)
We managed to finish the 2km walk and duck into a bar just before the heavy rain came. But it was like a scene from the movies. We sat down at a table with our drinks, but then could still feel the rain. We looked at each other, and then looked up at the roof: it was made of thinly spaced bamboo slats. Not much good against the rain. We toughed it out for a few minutes, but eventually downed our drinks and left.
By Wednesday, my crew and the other members of the 10-boat flotilla from San Francisco had left, and I was on my own again. I really liked Dubrovnik, but even this late in the season there were just so many tourists! I decided to move on.
I checked out of my apartment and hopped on a bus to Kotor, Montenegro, which was about two hours south. I had heard great things about Montenegro; and I was not disappointed at all.
I arrived in Kotor in the pouring rain, and wandered around the streets looking for the hotel I had booked. Hippocampus Hotel. With the help of a few waiters along the way, I found it.
That afternoon the rain stopped and I hiked up to St. John’s castle located on the hills behind Old Town Kotor. The hike included many steps along the fortification walls. The views were magnificent. Needless to say, I slept well that night.
On Thursday, I planned to ascend the historic “Ladder of Cattaro (Kotor)”. This is a 940-meter ascent up an old military road and supply line, connecting Kotor with Cetinje. The old road includes over 70 switchbacks and is supposed to take four hours each way. Unfortunately, the “7% chance of rain” turned into “rain all day”. After three and a half hours, I was drenched, the trail was slippery, and the situation became too dangerous. Without a trail map, a hiking partner, proper boots, or cell phone coverage, I knew that any misstep on the wet rocks and mud could be serious. Reluctantly, I turned around.
On Friday morning, the rain continued. I braved the walk to the bus station, lugging my three bags with me. Drenched, I boarded the bus back to Dubrovnik. In Dubrovnik, I would have a tight connection to make my bus to the little town of Ston, so when we were delayed at the Croatia / Montenegro border, I began to get nervous.
With each trip across the border there were two inspection points – one by Croatian police and then one by Montenegro police a few hundred meters down the road. Coming south, the process didn’t take too long. Croatian police came on the bus to visually check all passports, collecting a few for computerized scanning in the office. Then the Montenegro police came on and collected ALL passports for scanning in their office.
Coming north, the process took a lot longer. First, the Croatian inspection was a lot stricter. They made everyone actually get off the bus and go to the office for passport scanning. On the Montenegro side, it was actually faster – the police came on the bus with a handheld scanner. As soon as passengers start getting off and on the bus, delays happen – for bathroom and smoking breaks, in particular. Second, there were two tour buses ahead of us that had to go through the same process. I credit this to the fact that it was Friday afternoon so there were probably a lot of tourists going to Dubrovnik for the weekend.
Anyway, after over an hour delay at the border, we made it to Dubrovnik. With minutes to spare, I boarded my local bus to Ston.
The small town of Ston, and its even smaller sister town Mali Ston (literally “little Ston”), was famous for a few things: the second longest fortification wall behind the Great Wall of China, the oldest salt works in Europe (dating back to ancient Roman times), and the best oysters and mussels in Croatia!
The bus dropped me in the center of town. Yet again it was pouring rain so I ducked into a café for a coffee and WIFI so that I could pull up exact directions to my apartment. I was in luck – the apartment was only a few blocks away.
Marija, the landlord’s daughter, checked me in and showed me around. The apartment was across the road from the walls, and the balcony offered me a nice view of the town, salt works, walls, and towers.
I hiked the part of the walls on Friday afternoon, but Saturday was the main event. I walked on the walls over to Mali Ston, where I explored the town (took about 30 minutes) and had a fabulous lunch of wine, oysters, and salad.
After returning along the walls to Ston, I wandered over to the salt works for a tour of that facility. It is the oldest salt operation in Europe, dating back to Roman times. You can read about it here: http://www.solanaston.hr/en/the-history
I don’t know much about salt, or the making of salt, but this facility was pretty interesting, especially thinking about how long it’s been running.
Both nights in Ston I enjoyed fresh seafood dinners at Konoba Bakus. The first night was mussels. The second night was sea bass.
On Sunday, I continued my route north by bus. I stopped in Trogir briefly to see Ivan at Palace Central Apartments. He had agreed to keep my sail bag for me, so I could continue exploring the country with a lighter load. I would return and stay at the apartments for my final week in Croatia.
After a 20-minute re-packing effort, and a 5-minute ice cream, I was back on a bus headed to Sibenik, where I would explore two national parks, Krka and Kornati. However, the weather forecast doesn’t look great – a lot of rain – so I may have to adjust my plans.