I have to tell you about Joseph.
When we arrived at our hotel in Mlini we realised that we might want to use the shuttle to Dubrovnik (a ten minute bus journey – road works permitting) and next morning we approached Joseph (Jozo on his card – very jazzy), who it seemed could organise trips to anywhere as well as minibus rides. He happily booked us for a ride into the city and collection later. Then we asked him about trips to Mostar as I was very keen to see the famous bridge* (another casualty of the war, since rebuilt). Oh yes, he could arrange that. How about 7.30 on Monday morning? Pay tomorrow, no problem (77 odd quid so very trusting of him).
We arrived to meet him in the morning for our ride into Dubrovnik and he was delighted to learn that I had been to the city 40 years earlier as a student (all the drivers were delighted to learn this). Then we spent our day in the city and staggered out at the end of it to find him waiting with his mini bus by the Ploce Gate. As he drove us back he asked what had we planned for Sunday? Because there was folklore to be seen in Cilipi if we were interested. Well we hadn’t planned anything so we agreed to go to Cilipi and then asked to be dropped in Cavtat on the way back and then we could be collected later in the evening after eating, no problem. We were beginning to realise that transport timings weren’t ever going to fit neatly with dinner! And after our meal at the hotel on the second night (least said about that the better) we were really going to have to concentrate on the whole dinner/timing thing. But the pianist in the Piano Bar turned out to be Joseph so we cheered a bit and chatted a bit and refused a drink as we’d had a whole bottle of wine but he insisted on buying us a coffee and seemed to be saying our shuttle into Dubrovnik next day would be no charge no problem any time! Just phone me when you want to come back – I will come.
And he did. And then having asked if we enjoyed to trip to Mostar, took us to see two bombed out hotels just along the coast from Mlini. The thing being that the Bosnia-Herzogovenians had bombed Dubrovnik and the Croatians had then bombed Mostar. Joseph was a soldier himself (“Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch- ” he said, making a gesture that evoked a child playing at machine guns) and most probably he was involved in the bombing of Mostar. The sad, blackened and blasted hotels down by the sea have been left as a monument of sorts to the terrible events of the war.
We had read, before leaving England, that we shouldn’t mention the war. Well we didn’t need to. Everyone who was of an age to have been involved was ready to talk about it at the drop of a hat. And the place is so small that you knew anyone over twenty must have been directly involved even if it was only hiding under tables and in cellars while having shells and mortars and stuff fired down on them from the looming mountain above (or from behind the island or from the air). There would have been nowhere to go. Every driver told us at least once as we travelled along the steep hairpin roads along the mountainsides “Up there is Bosnia-Herzogovena – just over that mountain. It is just there”.
Joseph (aged about 50? Maybe?) had retired on his service pension but runs the minibus service just to earn a bit of extra and because he likes to keep busy. He told us that under the communist government, everyone had their own homes if they worked for the government, and a guaranteed wage. And when the war was over, many soldiers were able to retire comfortably on their service pensions. Ivan, another (younger) driver would tell us later that many older people considered that life under the communist government of Yugoslavia was much better than anything that had happened since.
Anyway, we managed to persuade Joseph to accept a coffee on our last day and booked our shuttle to the airport and once again he refused to accept payment. I’m not sure if it was just that we were the only people using the shuttle so early in the season or if he just liked us for ourselves but we certainly liked him and found his company very congenial. We rather got the impression that he ran the agency which provided minibuses for day trips as well as the shuttle.
So, our first day in Dubrovnik – after the cable car and a wander up and down the Stradun. We ate and drank, we went to the Rector’s Palace and the Cathedral. Photos not allowed in any of them so I just have a couple of sneaky, blurred snaps taken quietly with the iPhone! Then we walked the walls. I could happily have done this several times. And we admired both harbours though I must say Pile Harbour looks like a dangerously rocky place to take a boat. And then we sat outside a cafe by the main Harbour and suddenly a group of young people began to sing (I’m quite ignorant about singing – cantatas? madrigals? Something like that with lots of harmony and lovely melodies). It seems that the Dubrovnik Symphony members like to come to that bar and sing just for the pleasure of it. Certainly to our pleasure anyway. Later we had a fabulous meal in Lucin Kantrun Restaurant – highly recommended.
And now I’ve babbled a bit I shall post a lot of pictures.
The ingenuity of it! A pulley system for your unreachable washing line! Not a good drying solution if you have no head for heights though.
If this bar isn’t called “The Hole in the Wall” it ought to be. The other photo would have been called “Man Eating an Orange” only he finished it just before I took the photo.
I don’t know if it was just that the weather here had been as disappointing as at home but wherever we looked inward from the walls, there was washing hanging out.
We’ve been away again – on Brother-in-Law’s boat for the weekend and very soon, we will be off on our own. Since the time when I didn’t know if I was coming or going, it has now been made clear. I am going and going. And then going again. Despatches from this outpost will be very patchy for a while!
*Not just to see young men jumping off it honest!
(One of those ones that arrives after you’re back)
Here is Dubrovnik (my daughter asked if I had one iconic photo to show her instead of 500 assorted other views. She underestimated by – I’ll just check – 7500 and a bit). Anyway, here is the first iconic photo of the old city taken from the cable car station. (Distance lending something to the cruise ship, though not enchantment exactly)
And here is a closer view with less cable car stuff in the way (and no cruise ship)
It’s tiny. At a guess, 500 metres from wall to wall in most directions. The main street, known as the Stradun (it’s really called the Placa), is about 300 metres long and less than 20 metres wide and links the important buildings along the harbour and by the Ploce Gate to the Pile Gate that leads out to the rest of Dubrovnik which is hardly enormous itself. You can see the Stradun in the photo, a line of upper storey windows just visible running from left to right on the far side of the wall. And there it is from the ground, one end of the city to the other.
No motorised traffic is allowed inside the walls although we saw a couple of delivery vans and there were tiny trucks pulling little trailers that trundled around from time to time. Within the walls there is enough in the way of museums, eating places and sheer ingenuity in the way of packing a city into a space big enough to fit a smallish village to keep you busy for weeks. We never got to see the modern city, there was more than enough inside the walls to keep us interested for days. For instance, 2 monastries, one cathedral, surely almost a dozen churches and perhaps a mosque as well, about six museums, hundreds of restaurants, cafes and konobas and of course quite a few shops selling tat. Oh and the wall itself, a two kilometre walk with steps and sentry boxes and battlements and unexpectedly personal views down and inward, of people’s washing and back gardens and windows, as well as stunning views out to sea and up and down the coast and up, up, up at the mountain from where these photos were taken. And from where a good deal of the shelling of the city was done during the war.
Some of the streets either side of the Stradun.
Looking out of the main harbour* and St John’s fortress.
And the tiny Pile Harbour at the Northern end.
Well that’s probably enough for now. I haven’t even told you about Mlini (deserted) and Jozo (lovely) and and and….
More later : )
*I’m really not sure if the main harbour is called Porat or Gradske Luka, or even Ploce Harbour. It all depends which map/booklet you look at.
Partly because I’m not, though in a short while we’ll be going away for a while (I can’t exactly say when : ) Also partly because the power and the internet are alternating with the cutting out – one is because of the dishwasher and I still don’t know why the other. Anyway, because we’re going away, I’m too busy to replace the dishwasher and Barney is too busy to take it to pieces and put it back together again, so it’s hand washing and not much internet just at the moment.
The other day (that would be ooh, five days ago?) it was snowing and also it was getting light in the evening. So it was really weird to look out of the window at 6.30 pm and see snow – by the time it’s that light at that time of day, we should not be seeing snow. Meanwhile, I’ve been poring over the BBC weather for Dubrovnik as that’s where we will be going in a little while. It’s A LOT warmer there but they are having regular rain and thunderstorms. (Nice hot ones I hope).
And then, it has fallen to me to organise the transport, the cat and the cash. (It usually does). So I was slightly frightened when I got a phone call a little while ago to say that all the flights from Gatwick to Dubrovnik had been cancelled and (I do think she might have given me a minute to get my breath back) would we like to travel on any of the other flights she was about to list for me. I have to say, it was scary enough booking and paying for all this stuff online without suddenly being asked to change it on the phone!!! Nonetheless, I did not lose my head and I agreed to another flight with a different airline without booking us to fly in the middle of the night or to an inappropriate destination. Then, just as I was patting myself on the back for not panicking, I suddenly wondered how there was any proof that the whole transaction had been genuine. So I phoned Croatia Airlines who assured me that my new flight was real and genuine and I hadn’t been scammed at! So then I patted myself on the back again and indeed nearly fell over, I was so impressed with myself.
Next, it was necessary to get us to the airport – well to have a plan for so doing. I made such a plan and asked Mrs Middle if she would drive us there. Oops. she couldn’t. Then we phoned Mr Youngest (plan B) who said he could do that and then texted a bit later to say that actually he couldn’t Fortunately, Barney was at the pub when he got this message and immediately got several offers to drive us to the airport. Friends are wonderful. Now it occurs to me that we need someone to drive us back again – that would be plans D,E and F.
It really is quite a long time since we’ve been abroad! Clearly we’ve forgotten how to do it.
Mrs Next Door came round yesterday with a key to their back door and to ask us if we’d turn off their rayburn when it stops freezing as they’re going to be away for several weeks. This is a bit of a blow for us as we were going to ask them to feed the cat and mind the house for one of those weeks. Bother. It’s ok though, Jenny-up-the-road will feed our little old lady and keep an eye on the house and check that it doesn’t get too cold and all that.
Meanwhile, the water pipe* is on it’s way past our house. We are surrounded by the layers of the pipe and all their diggers and dumpers and large, noisy vehicles. Also, a row of red and white, height gauge poles are making the road look as if it’s fete day. There are signs in every direction telling us that we are closed and at least once, Barney has had to argue his way in. Also, they’ve arranged to park vehicles and store equipment in the field next door. And, inevitably, they are using our drive to tuck into when they can’t easily pass each other on the road outside. In fact a Murphy’s van is backing into the drive as I type. Oops, the man has actually come to warn us that any hour now, we won’t be able to get out of our drive as the trench machine will be outside it. This situation will last all day. Probably. Probably not tomorrow. Maybe not. Would I like to park my car up the road anyway, just in case? There are eight semis in this row and not all of the people who live there are at home today so some of them will presumably come home to find that they can’t actually get into their drives.
Eventually, I overcame the fascination of watching us being gradually hemmed in by trenching machines and went out. When I came back, it was no longer possible to get into our drive but as Next Door are now away, I borrowed their drive and carried my shopping over the flat bit of fence where, usually, they carry bags of leeks for us. Since I was very polite to the young Murphy who came to ask me if I’d like to
leave home move my car until they’d finished digging, I thought it was a bit steep that only our drive, of the whole row of eight, was completely blocked.
I was about to say something like Spring is here!!!! but the weather website tells me we can expect cloudy, a cold feel and snow edging in. So I won’t say it even though the sun has been out for three days! It certainly doesn’t look as though Next Door’s rayburn needs turning off yet awhile.
I do apologise for the obvious lack of continuity and sense in this post. I don’t think it’s entirely due to my brain cell switching off, it’s just been a bit disconnected round here – roads, dishwasher, power, internet, weather and croatia airline have conspired against me. I’m going to give up on trying to plan things and just get VERY EXCITED! Ok?
Got to go now – here’s a quick photo of the River Pang
and a muddy drainage ditch
both almost embarrassed by so much unaccustomed water.
*I did mention this pipe a while ago but I have to say, I didn’t realise it would take quite so long and fill up quite so much road so often – even though this had been made as clear as mud on the relevant website.