Saturday, September 30, 2017

Balkans Days 2-8: Dubrovnik

Our street was so picturesque that we couldn't walk out the door without getting in someone's photograph!

Expecting to need a few days to adjust to the time change and recover from the flights, we planned a relaxing week in Dubrovnik. It turned out to be a great choice for us. Our Air BnB provided us with a fantastic launching point for many daily wanderings.

In Dubrovnik, tight alleyways twist and turn concealing tiny cafes and boutique shops jammed together in a pleasing fashion. For many it's a day-trip destination or a cruise ship landing spot so staying overnight provided the opportunity to leisurely stroll the otherwise packed streets with large tour groups incapable of stepping out of the way for a couple carrying or pushing a baby. We fell into a routine of going on three walks a day with breaks for Baby's two naps. The maze of sidestreets gave much choice and new discoveries were found at every turn.

A rare sight: the main street (Stradun) empty of tourists

Family selfie!
Durbrovnik is an old city encased in its original walls. The 2km are walkable and a great opportunity to get a lay of the land. Views from the highest tower showcase the city, the walls themselves, and the Adriatic sparkling in the background. We timed our walk of the walls for late afternoon so the crowds had lessened, the sun was lowering providing beautifully atmpospheric views, yet the rust-coloured rooftops still shone against the deep blue background.

We would highly recommend visiting the War Photography Museum prior to your walk of the walls. This stunning display of history really enhanced the experience by reminding us how recently the walls had been used in actual combat. It was a very different feeling to look through the arrow loops picturing yourself in medieval times vs 20 years ago. The weight of their recent war was heavy.


The city was also protected, of course, by the sea. Citizens have made the most of this by creating wall bars and swimming spots from rocky outrcroppings accessible by winding staircases and giant slabs of rocks. The water is unimaginably clear, and we enjoyed taking morning dips at various wall spots and afternoon swims at Banje Beach.

The view from the wall looking down at
a wall bar and the swimming spot below.

All this adds up to a tremendous amount of walking! There were 372 steps between our tucked-away flat and our most frequented wall beach that we needed to navigate both up AND down. There are over 80 steps just to get down to Banje Beach from the main street. It was; therefore, a great relief to take an impromptu trip to the top of the city on the gondola. We enjoyed the panorama immensly but would recommend shelling out for a few drinks or a meal at the restaurant (ideally at sunset) to really make the most of the experience.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Balkans Day 1: It's Only 8 Hours

It's only 8 hours. 8 hours...that's nothing. We've done two 13 hour flights already with Adventure Baby. It'll be fine.

Everything but the kitchen sink
We tried to reassure ourselves going into our overnight journey from Toronto, through Munich, to Dubrovnik, but we knew it would still be challenging. Since sleep-training Baby back in June, she has only wanted to sleep in her crib. We'd requested a bassinet bulkhead spot for our trip (prepaid for in advance), but when we got on board, that wasn't where we'd been seated. We admitted to ourselves that there had been a good chance she wouldn't sleep in it anyways. Craig reassured Erin by reminding her that by take-off, we'd already completed 25% of the entire journey. There are times when Math is a godsend.

It was nearly 3 hours past her bedtime when the plane finally took off. She was beside herself. Everyone around us was probably cursing their luck to be stuck near one of the only children on the huge plane. But as we always tell ourselves, everything is better once we're actually in the air and the vibrations do their thing.

No matter how well a baby travels/sleeps on a plane, there is something claustrophobic about not having anywhere to go or having your normal soothing techniques available to you should they become inconsolable. Luckily, albeit reluctantly, Baby finally fell asleep: first in the carrier, and later on our giant nursing pillow that is annoying to lug around but so worth it for moments like this. We managed to rest, but arrived 8 hours later feeling pretty groggy and in much need of some actual sleep.

At the Munich airport we were able to get Baby to fall asleep in the stroller so she could attempt to get her normal 12 hours of night-time z's. We decided to spell each other off for 45 minute chunks of time so we could each have a BREAK to go and eat lunch. They have a sweet little quiet section in the international terminal with lounge chairs which allowed for a much-needed stretch. Then 4 hours later we were on our way to Dubrovnik. All things considered, Adventure Baby did a fantastic job. We exited the terminal looking a little worse for wear to be greeted by our airport transfer. After expecting the regular mini-van group shuttle that seems to be an international staple, we were surprised to see a young, stylish guy holding up a card with our names on it. He led us to his sleek black sedan as immaculately groomed on the inside as his purposefully touseled hair, and proceeded to escort us along the stunning Croatian cliffsides with club beats and Beiber hits (for our Canadian benefit?) serenading all the way.

Our spirits lifted with each turn in the road. The landscape was absolutely stunning. Shrubby hillsides to the right swayed downwards towards the road where the land then dropped suddenly straight down to the blanket of azure that stretched as far as the eye could see. Lush islands spotted the sea with many sailboat silhouettes backlit by the sinking sun. We couldn't have picked a more beautiful time of day to arrive. When we rounded the last big bend and spotted Dubrovnik's old town, compacted between its high, ancient walls, rust-coloured shingles ablaze in the glory of the sunset, our eyes met in excitement.

Our cosy little Air BnB
with views of the fort walls and gondola
With raised eyebrows our driver unloaded our many, many bags and skeptically wished us luck lugging it all to our rental flat in the pedestrian-only old town.

Craig expertly navigated our way through the narrow cobblestone alleyways without glancing at a map, and at last we had arrived. It was perfectly 6 pm...Baby's bedtime at home. Exhausted from the journey, she went to sleep with little fuss. We smiled at each other and high-fived...we were back on the road!