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Goodbye Sarajevo, Hello Dubrovnik

You know what's embarrassing?

The fact that it's been one year PLUS (HOW!) since our journey through the Balkans, and yet I'm only now hitting the halfway point of recaps. By now, a lot of trip details have slowly slipped away... but luckily there are still so many precious memories that are no less vivid than they were as we lived them. I'm excited to finally get back to sharing them with you. 

*Previously, on Caroline's Balkans Trip 2016* (said in my best fall TV narrator voice):

Along with three of my best friends, I spent three days admiring Belgrade the beautiful, and eating my way through Sarajevo. We were in awe of both cities, but Cassandra and I were also stupid-excited at the thought of getting to introduce Leah and Hanna to Dubrovnik - our next destination, and the city in which we spent two PHENOMENAL weeks the previous year.

Now, for this week's episode...
Much too early on a Sunday morning in September, we're throwing clothes and new silver tea-sets and Bosnian rugs into overstuffed suitcases because we came home too late from an escapade the previous night, and couldn't be bothered to pack then. 

Then, it was goodbye to Cassandra's little apartment in the outskirts Sarajevo with its yellow walls, water that shut off promptly at midnight every night (which meant we had to rely on water bottles to brush our teeth and.... let's just say we got SUPER close as a result of the toilet situation), and laughable WiFi which stopped working whenever we needed it the most... But as these things go, the apartment was also a bearer of some very tender memories - for us all, but for Cassandra through her three months of calling it home, especially.

So we bid it a bittersweet farewell, making sure to stop at the bakery next door for a bag full of burek and somun (a pita-like bread) for the road, and dragged our suitcases down the few rocky blocks to the bus station.

This route from the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southern Dalmatian coast of Croatia is the same one that Cassandra and I had the pleasure of experiencing just a year prior, so the picturesque, absolutely breathtaking views were still fresh in our minds.

We urged Hanna and Leah to take the seats on the right side of the bus (pro tip if you're going south on this route!) for an optimal viewing experience of the UNREAL scenery... but guess what.

Dummies were ASLEEP for 98% of the drive.

Before I get overly righteous, I should mention that Cassandra and I spent the time entranced not by the emerald mountains and turquoise lakes, but by an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and leaving breadcrumbs all over journals. And to be fair, Sleepy and Sleepier rose just in time to admire the last vistas of the trek.
^^^do you see what I mean?

SO. ABSURDLY. gorgeous.

But you get the point.

Still a little speechless from the pretty surroundings, more than a little haggard and severely not-as-caffeinated-as-we-should've-been thanks to the early wake-up call, we bumbled around the taxis awkwardly (are we getting ripped off? do we care? can we please just suck it up, and get on our way? I'm HANGRY) and made our way to our new Airbnb.
Very, very, very top priority: skedaddling over to our 2015 stomping grounds. Once again, we elected to stay in the Lapad neighborhood, which is about a 10 minute bus ride away from Old Town, but is beachier, a little quieter, and of course full of nostalgia for Cassandra and me. We sprinted up the steps of Hotel Adriatic - which is quite possibly the best and worst hotel I've ever stayed at. I say that lovingly, but oh man do we have stories (read about them here). 

"Look over here!! It's where we spent all of the evenings drinking wine and listening to our professors tell stories!" One of us would gleefully inform the others.

"And this is where we had to wait for all of the buses, and where we watched all the sunsets and and and and..." the other would chime in. I'm sure the Australian tourists currently occupying the tables were quite bemused.


We took a secret path down to the beach, and showed Leah and Hanna where I fell victim to the spikes of a sea urchin, to where we jumped on inflatable aquaparks, to where we held a Taylor Swift dance party with our professors' daughters, to the very spot where we all FaceTimed that summer.
On an emotional high, we stood on the rocky shore and watched quietly as the sun settled beneath the horizon, and then - positively ravenous - we set off down the promenade, up this treacherous set of stairs, and towards our favorite restaurant in all of Dubrovnik - Restaurant Eden.
We were greeted with an icy cold carafe of white wine, and some tuna pate to start.

Then, we feasted:
All of our old favorites were on the table.

Grilled octopus, charred just right.

Black risotto, served in a large shell, so creamy and delicious.

Juicy tomatoes.

A slice of creme caramel to share.
When the two gentlemanly waiters brought over the dessert, they whisked out four champagne flutes and poured us a "welcome back" drink as a surprise. Earlier, we hadn't been sure if they remembered us, but this sweet gesture confirmed that they hadn't quite forgotten the group of American students who paid the restaurant at least four or five visits on extremely hot and muggy evenings, and who mostly only knew how to say "hvala" (thank you).

"Come again!" They said, as we left.

I mean. Twist my arm.
After dinner, we took a bus over to Stari Grad to give Leah and Hanna their first glimpse of Old Town Dubrovnik. It's always so jarring being back in a familiar place - how everything's the same, but just different enough to trip you up a little. We sauntered lazily in the quiet, balmy night, pointing out this, that, or the other, and ending up here - with the delightful scene of a medieval town lit up at night. 
^We do, we do, we heart Croatia so very, very much.

Finally, we ended up at Dolce Vita, which has hands down, the best ice cream in town. Because, duh.
Whew, that was a long one!

But there's just always so much I have to say about Dubrovnik, my personal post-college safe haven.

Next time, I'll tell you about one of my favorite parts of the trip - wine and oyster-tasting in the middle of the sea!

Is Dubrovnik on your travel list? If not, hit me up and let me convince you some more!

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xx Caroline