Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 3: Dubrovnik, Croatia

For purposes of tenses and chronological markers, I will apologize for not having kept up with what day it might be for those who may be reading these or for keeping up with what day I’ve written and posted them. Since I’ve been writing them in Word and then posting whenever I get a chance they’re a bit skewed on past/present tenses and order. My apologies.

There were three things I was interested in seeing on our visit to Dubrovnik, and we managed to hit all of them and add a glass-bottomed boat trip around the city and nearby Lokrum Island at the end. The first effort was walking the city walls. At the end, we estimated having climbed nearly 200 stairs. I’ll have to look that up somewhere for the actual number, but there were a lot, they were steep and they were narrow. But the views were spectacular. Schools and homes are built right up to the walls so at some points we were sauntering by in front of someone leaning out their back window or a class in session. The water was a clear, green-blue that wandered into the purer blue of the sea. The walls themselves were clearly built with practicality in mind. There were very few unnecessary details in the stonework save for an occasional arch or saint built into the wall for protection. It is easy to understand why Dubrovnik has been named a UNESCO heritage site – it is in remarkable condition.

The second stop was a long-shot: the War Photo Unlimited museum. While researching Dubrovnik this museum caught my attention for its content and uniqueness; unfortunately, all the information indicated it was closed on Monday – the day we were in port. I had emailed ahead and asked if there might be a chance they would be open on the Monday we were arriving and received an ambiguous answer but one that suggested a possibility. The museum was located about mid-point on a narrow, uphill street between a Tommy Hilfiger store and a cafĂ©. The door was open! The museum is a collection of photos taken of various wars around the globe. It is a tribute to photojournalism, but also an eye-opening look at the complex and dynamic nature of conflict – and the people in it, for it and of it. One collection highlighted the 40+ year civil war in Colombia with haunting and hopeful pictures of soldiers and families – in any one snapshot, the photojournalist had emphasized the underlying social, economic or political realities of the situation. The other collection was a photojournalist’s look at the impact of the war in Iraq on U.S. Marines. One wedding portrait showed a young bride and her husband who had been completely disfigured by a roadside bomb. While his face was tragic in its own right, the bride’s face was also disconcerting and already appeared overwhelmed by the severity and reality of their new life. The final collection, and a permanent one, was a look at the war in Croatia. Reviews of the museum showed most Croats thought the museum was pro-Serb and most Serbs thought the museum was pro-Croat. The museum coordinators figured that was a close enough way to measure the impartiality they strive to maintain. I highly recommend this to anyone who has the chance to visit Dubrovnik. It is not a “happy place”, but it will leave an impression that carries beyond vacation.

Our final destination of interest (at least for me, but Nick put me in charge so that’s what happens), was the Franciscan Monastery and location of the oldest pharmacy in Europe. This was slightly underwhelming, but the garden was beautiful. A single stone path led to a large statue and was bordered on both sides by what appeared to be an unstructured garden of flowers and greenery. There was a small museum (one room) for the monastery and pharmacy. It had a display of ancient pharmaceutical equipment and relics of the church. The details of the outside courtyard were more interesting. The ceiling had multiple frescoes, a beautiful sun clock, columns supporting simple arches and the garden.

After completing the scheduled tour, we decided to add one more item to our agenda for attempting to choose one of hundreds of cafes for lunch. We selected the glass-bottom-boat tour to take us around the city and around Lokrum Island. The tour itself gave us a chance to cool off from our city wanderings and get an outside look at the walls we had recently walked. The huge, jagged rocks that provided the foundation were a beautiful contrast to the calm water surrounding them. At first the man whistling next to me was just white noise – at best an added line to the nature soundtrack. Then, he started “what a wonderful world” and that was ok too because it seemed appropriate. Good choice. But the performance continued for the rest of the trip (15-20 minutes) and having whistler’s father sitting next to you can disrupt even the most serene of tours. I was glad we went and glad to get off.

In the end we didn’t stay for lunch. Neither of us was feeling particularly well and Nick’s knee was a bit puffy from walking/stair-climbing routine.

On a side note, we went to dinner even though Nick didn’t have the appropriate trousers. There wasn’t too much of a stink about it, but we both still felt a bit out of place. We did learn from one of our servers that Delta actually stands for “Don’t-Expect-Luggage-To-Arrive”. That seemed appropriate – and unfortunate that we hadn’t heard it sooner. Though the sentiment was balanced when we learned that we should have luggage tomorrow – not sure when, but at some point during the day it should magically appear in our room. Looking forward to that.

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