My parents and I started our trip to Croatia with two nights in Zagreb, after which came three nights in Split. Dubrovnik was our final stop and as before, we reached our destination in the dark. But the trip leading to Dubrovnik was full of colour and anticipation.
We decided to take the scenic route along the coast, which was breathtaking. I am forever lost in the majesty of cliffs that drop off into sea, the islands in the distance, the colours of the water and sky, the villages that appear and then, just as suddenly, are gone.
The drive was indeed stunning, but we also decided to stop and explore. Our first stop was Biokovo Nature Park, essentially a nature preserve comprising of the mountains along the coast. I’d read that the best way to see the park is to drive up the road (be ready for serpentines and some negotiation with other drivers), ride an e-bike, or take a guided walk. Now having been there, I’m not sure where a guided walk would have gone as we didn’t see any paths. Rather, we pulled off the road at a point wide enough for a couple of cars and my mum and I spent some minutes scrambling up rocks.
Back in the car, we followed the road to the Skywalk, which seemed to be the primary attraction. The Skywalk is exactly what it sounds like – a glass bridge where you can walk above the cliffs and stand at the edge of the world.
After lunch at the only restaurant, which was frequented by horses and a mule in addition to the patrons at tables outside, we drove to Baćina Lakes, which is easier said than done. It was only with the aid of several blogs, several maps, and sheer dumb luck that we found a) the lakes and b)somewhere to park. This is the type of adventure that comes from travelling outside of high season when the campgrounds and kayak rentals, from which it would be easy to get directions, are closed. I’d read about beaches and a cycling/walking trail circling the seven lakes, but as Baćina Lakes was off the coastal road, it wasn’t immediately obvious where we were or where we needed to be. In the end, after a brief attempt at visiting the tourist information centre in the nearby city of Ploče, the address of which led us to an abandoned bus depot, we put Peračko Blato Beach into the GPS because I found it listed on a blog and there we were! Another car, a camper, and a few people sunning themselves at a tiny beach heralded our arrival. More importantly, we had reached an are with very well-marked walking trails that clearly went around beautiful lakes.
There were signs detailing information about the flora and fauna and the air smelled like spring. We saw pomegranate and olive trees and a wide variety of plants and flowers, as well as a snake and a jaw containing rather a lot of teeth. Considering we were following a black dog with a wagging tail who had come to greet us at the car and proceeded to walk in front of us for the entirety of our time at Baćina Lakes, we gave the skull a wide berth.
Throughout the day, we’d seen whole families spreading blankets underneath trees on the sides of the road and picking olives. We pulled over to do the same, which is when we learned that olives are not like apples and you cannot simply eat what you pull off a tree. After that, we left the olive trees to the locals, who clearly knew what they were doing.
Our last stop of the day was at a rest area that specialized in wine tastings. We didn’t stay for long, nor did we taste any wine, but remained for long enough to sit silently and stare out at the view.
Night comes fast at this time of year and Dubrovnik was quiet when we arrived.
The following day was our only day to explore, and the weather was glorious. Warm bordering on hot with bright blue skies and a breeze that came out from the harbour. I had one intention for Dubrovnik and that was to walk on the city walls, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. When I paused to think about just how old these walls were, I had to wonder about anything we build today. Will anything last like the walls have lasted? Wherever possible, I like to visit the highest point in a city and look down. It makes me feel tiny, just like standing in a forest and looking up.
Dubrovnik is beautiful and we spent some time in the afternoon just strolling around. There are tiers of stairs all over the old town and each leads to another street or alley, stone buildings on top of stone staircases. As elsewhere in Croatia, Dubrovnik is also host to many well-behaved stray cats. We passed a small market and I bought some flavoured salt from the town of Ston, which we had passed on our drive.
Later in the afternoon, my dad and I took the cable car to the top of Srd Hill, from which you can look out to Dubrovnik, the surrounding mountains, and neighbouring Montenegro.
We spent some time on the walking paths, as well, and were lucky enough to watch a herd of sheep as they dutifully followed their shepherd.
Early the following morning, well before sunrise, we were off to the airport. My only expectations of Croatia came from what I’d heard from my siblings and friends who had visited – that it’s beautiful, that the people are wonderful and helpful, that it’s calm and relaxing and easy to explore. All I can add, I think, is that Croatia exemplifies strength – the strength to create, to survive, and to rebuild. It was a real pleasure to be there.