Dubrovnik - A Maritime Jewel

Funny story written by Ellis Ian Fields

Thursday, 1 December 2011

image for Dubrovnik - A Maritime Jewel
Some city walls. Not Dobrovnik's though.

As winter is now clearly upon us, we asked Peregrine Trip to put a sunny smile back on our faces with some memories of his travels this summer past.

His wanderings this year took him to, among others, Dubrovnik - the Pearl of the Adriatic…

Hot. The Dalmatian coast is experiencing a heat wave when we arrive at Dubrovnik airport.

I am reminded of my first arrival in the Mediterranean region many years ago - runway reflecting heat; strange, herbal smell; chirruping crickets… It's a quiet airport, a taxi is easily acquired and half an hour later we're at the Uvala Hotel, Lapad.

After a first day acclimatising (on the beach) on day two, we decide to take the bus into Dubrovnik.

The guides say the buses drop you by the city walls at the Pile Gate. It becomes clear why… everyone piles off the bus at the terminus by the entrance to the walls. Ha ha. How we laughed.

Did I say it was hot? One is reminded of Noel Coward's Mad Dogs and Englishmen ditty as we access the walls. There is a 70 kuna fee and the good burghers of Dubrovnik have installed signs directing the crowds to circumnavigate in one direction.

The views are spectacular, over the Adriatic and over the famous red-tiled roofs - many looking much newer than others after the repair work required following the shelling by Serbian and Montenegrin artillery during the wars of the 1990's.

But of course we haven't been walking more than a couple of minutes before we encounter a couple, rucksacks and all, perambulating in the opposite direction. I am already wet - soaked, in fact, with sweat - did I say it was hot? But not as wet as these young Antipodeans must have felt after they hit the Adriatic, thirty-odd metres below, having been removed from the walls by Mrs, who takes her civic responsibilities very seriously, even when on holiday. Who knows? Hot as it was, they may have enjoyed the dip. If they avoided the rocks.

Oh - I gathered they were Antipodeans by the upward inflection of the male half of the couple as he ejaculated: "No worries mate?" when Mrs pitched him into the sun-kissed waters.

After our encounter with the directionally-challenged colonials, our circumnavigation of the walls is only interrupted by a visit to the Maritime Museum. As the son of a seaport myself I have to visit and I am impressed by the display models and, indeed, the fact that so many of the city's 19th-century merchant vessels were built in the great shipyards of Britain.

But I am one who is rendered apoplectically insensible by those who insist on chatting on their mobile phones while visiting such cultural resources. As I examined the origins of the Ragusan Republic's medieval power, I was forced to witness one half of a conversation between some overweight, middle-aged bint and whoever she was blathering to, about what they were going to do when 'our Sylvia's' birthday occurred in a couple of weeks.

Unless the very lax security has improved, she is probably still there, impaled to a gorgeous model of a middle-ages barque by a handy iron fishing spear.

Mrs eschewed the museum (I am from Portsmouth, she isn't) and I found her enjoying a natural lemonade in a small bar outside.

The rest of the amble around the walls passed off without incident. I will merely warn that the steps up to the Minčeta Fort are not for those with a heart condition.

As we called time on our first visit to the centre of Dubrovnik, we waited politely for the number four bus. The queue for the bus back to the hotel is … nebulous. It's like a bunch of people waiting for a bus in Oxford Street - one is unaware of who is waiting for the same bus until it arrives. When it does, the crowd forms.

As the bus pulls itself around from its Pile Gate drop-off, the mob forms. Experienced London bus queuers as we are, we join the crowd and maintain a decent distance from the people in front of us. But a local youth decides that the polite space we have left is one into which he should insert himself and thus claim an earlier entry onto the bus than some who had been waiting longer.

Loyal readers will understand that I am not one to take such rudeness lying down, as it were. Nor was I on this occasion. I tapped the young man on his shoulder and clearly enunciated 'izvinite' - Croatian for 'excuse me' - and, as he turned, indicated, with a nod of the head, the ground in the region of his feet.

Annoyed already - and, no doubt, perturbed by the heat - Mrs took her own signal from my action. The speed of her knee on its upward trajectory into the young whippersnapper's delicate region was something to be admired… a blur. I was particularly impressed since this youth was of a height one might associate with one of those basketball players bred in the Balkans, and Mrs is several inches shorter than my five-foot-nine-inches (I would boast five-foot-ten inches, but I respect you, dear reader, too much). I suppose one must praise the effectiveness of the gym classes our dear ladies insist on joining.

Still, our juvenile Balkan queue-buster was, naturally, bent double when I managed to intercept the handbag swing aimed at his head that might have rendered him unconscious (the handbag contained a rather heavy bottle of the local herb-infused rakija purchased at the city's tourist-trap market): "Let's get on the bus, dear."

Dubrovnik is a delightful medieval-walled city. It has a charming, if unenlightening, museum in the Rector's Palace, which inexplicably and very disappointingly fails to tell the story of the Ragusan Republic, a gallery of modern art and some notable ecclesiastic sites.

But it is mobbed. Rammed. Stuffed to the gills with tourists - hundreds of them deposited by buses at the Pile Gate and at the docks by little boats plying back and forth from the huge cruise liners which visit daily.

Surviving these touristic hordes is another story…

The funny story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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