King's Landing

Croatia has been on my travel bucket list since about 2014, so when I saw super cheap flights I jumped. Literally booking the tickets with my boss next to me, and only when booked did I put in a formal request for leave. Whoops.

And for those asking, the flights were 60 quid return via Easy Jet, flying out Thursday night from London Luton, and coming back early afternoon into London Southend. My preference is almost always for Easy Jet/Norwegian over Ryan Air- i.e any airline that includes the cost of hand baggage in the ticket while still maintaining a cheap fare.

London, unfortunately, had been having one of those weeks where TFL just does not work properly.

There is no site more terrifying than ‘Major delays’ turning into almost all trains ‘Cancelled’ when there isn’t enough time (or faith in traffic) to get to the airport by any alternative route. Eventually, after working through the chaos that was St Pancras station, I make it to Luton, 2hrs after I left work, for a journey that should have been under 1hr.

My flight, of course, was delayed. We ended up taking off 45 minutes after our scheduled departure. And of course, in continuing luck, we don’t magically make up the time in the air, land safely and everyone is off on their merry way. No no, that would be way too easy. We do manage to make up a lot of time in the air, however we’re landing at speed and its super turbulent. I’m using all my yoga practised breathing and meditation practises to stay calm, blasting Idan Riachel’s ‘Mi’Ma'Makim’ in my ears and trying steadfastly to ignore the woman next to me who’s having a panic attack. We’re at speed and I can sense that we’re near the ground and then boom, that blissful drop when the wheels hit the tarmac. But my relief quickly turns into confused annoyance when we bounce back up in the air like a goddamn bouncy ball. Due to my ‘calming’ music, I missed the pilots spiel but catch the end where he says something about it being normal practise to need to circle air space or some bullshit along those lines. Eventually, after a second vomit inducing landing, we’re on the ground.

After a ride in the airport shuttle bus, we’re at the gates of the old city- Pile Gate, to be exact. At this point, it’s 11.45pm. I’m exhausted. All I want is to take off whatever dregs of makeup are left on my face and hit the hay.

Now let me preface this by saying that I am a stubbornly independent woman who strongly believes in the phrase ‘anything a man can do I can do, and probably do better’.

Old Town Dubrovnik has to be one of those places where for the first time in my life I wished I wasn’t travelling alone. It had all the markers of a horror movie, from the tiny winding side streets, to the dim street lights to the fact that the streets were nearly completely empty. And to carry on my luck, Google Maps absolutely sucks in the streets of the old town, so my 7 minute walk to my hostel, turned into closer to 20. And when I got there, I was locked out. A key was supposed to have been left for me, but it was not. After a panicked call to the owner, she said she’d try and be there in the next 30-45 minutes. I, of course, spent that time in tears on the phone to my best friend in Melbourne, and then to my dad once it had clocked the ‘appropriate’ time to call him of 6am. God bless time change sometimes, honestly.

The hostel I was supposed to stay at will remain unnamed, because, as pissed off as I was, it really was a case of human error. However, as I didn’t feel safe and comfortable there (and also got 2hrs sleep because of some heavy snorers in my room) I moved into an apartment the next day. Yes, it’s probably the most expensive accommodation I’ve paid for, but you know what- it’s worth it. There’s always something tricky about travelling solo, which is for another day’s discussion, but I’m not the party kinda gal- I don’t revel in pub crawls. And I knew that I wanted to cram in full days while I’m here, so getting my own space was the best option for me.

After moving accommodation and having a much much needed nanna nap, I set off into old town with no plan at all. I just wanted to put one Lululemon clad leg in front of the other, shake off my lack of sleep impending headache and enjoy the sunshine. And you know what, it turned out to be a pretty damn spectacular day.

Dubrovnik is so totally different to any European city I’ve been to- granted it’s likely because I was staying in the old town, but there’s such a magical feel to it.

To be walking around these limestone streets, seeped in such history, where countless people would have walked. It’s pretty epic. I decided to do the city walls walk. This could be done in 1hr, I think it took me closer to 2.5hours as I kept stopping and taking in the majesty of the place. The walls, as I later learnt, were initially built in the 10th century and took approx. 6 centuries to complete, and they were changed a bunch of times. While on the walk, it’s easy to understand why the HBO Production team chose Croatia to be the basis of Kings Landing. The red roofs, nestled in amongst wild mountains, framed by the deep blue of the Adriatic. I almost forgot about cars and technology until I looked over the edge of the wall into the wider part of Dubrovnik where roads and cars exist. The day was completed with a delicious and super fresh meal at Moby Dick restaurant, with a slow walk around the Stadrun (to get some candy from Candy Captains).

Day Two started with a free walking tour. This 1.5hr walking tour is hands down one of the fastest walking tours I’ve probably ever done (I did one in Madrid that went for 4hrs). Marko, our guide, was lovely and informative. I learnt heaps about the history of Dubrovnik and how it is sometimes beneficial to be ‘insignificant’. Well in the case of Dubrovnik anyway as this meant they were virtually untouched; and if you trace through history, this is as rare as decent health care in amidst the various plagues.

Following the walking tour, I ended up going on a bit of a journey up to Fort Louvrijenac. Fair warning- it’s a bit of a schlep to get up there and then to the top, so be prepared. I love old school towers and forts like this. You can feel the history all around you. And the added bonus of this is that many a scene from Game of Thrones was filmed here.

My night ended off at D’vino, a wine bar that one of the girls at work had recommended. And I honestly cannot talk up my experience there anymore. It was a truly lovely evening. When travelling alone, it’s always a bit tricky as inevitably, a lot of conversations you have are transactional. While at D’vino, the owner, an Aussie guy named Sasha, came up and sat with me and we had a lovely chat. Some of his other staff, Anita and Daria also stopped for a chat. And this really and truly made my night. Not only are they stupidly knowledgeable about wine and cheese, but they’re also just lovely, genuine people.

Sunday and Monday (Days 3 & 4) ended up being full day trips to Bosnia & Hertzegovnia, and Monetenegro. This was totally unplanned- I’d thought I’d do one- didn’t think I’d get to both. These trips were both great and I managed to tick off ’30 countries under 30’ with Montenegro being number 31.

Overall, Croatia was a really great trip. It provided the time and space that I think I needed for introspection, the space I needed to explore and think. There is something special about visiting a place that’s so steeped in history, where you can feel the past pulsing through the city walls.

And I can’t wait to explore the rest of Croatia.

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