Dubrovnik

I spent a week in Dubrovnik. The most magnificent of all Mediterranean citadels. The old town was giant fortress, a great market road running through it’s centre, with alleys and steps rising up from each side. Washing hung between the streets. Shuttered windows were home to balcony gardens. The city was a a vast, brown stoned slab, staggered and winding. Day-59-Dubrovnik There were walkways, cafe’s, rampart jumps from the walls into the sea below. Candle lit restaurants filled up at night and the stars always shone. Down on the market street the tourists spent there money on fine cuisine. Day-59-Dubrovnik-02Day-57-Hotel-03 High up in the hostel the backpackers ate together, bean curry and salad and pitta breads. And three of the guests were cyclists too. The lovely couple Dave & Abbey and the Australian Mike were all on routes across the continent. Finally, after nearly two months, I was able to talk to people who understood what I had been through since England. Asking questions. How far did they cycle a day? Where did they camp? What did they eat? How much were they spending? How did they feel? Day-58-Hostel Day-58-Hostel-04 Day-57-Hostel Day-58-Hostel-02Day-58-Hostel-Bikes With the recent stalker in the forest, dog chase, police bribes and snow storms, I  had a lot to get off my chest and share and I was not alone. They had had their highs, their lows. They’d struggled too. But their faces shone. They were tanned, healthy, but more than this they seemed so happy. They were me. They were my reflection and it moved me to see them like this. My time in the hostel moved me. I grew attached to it. To the city. To the people I was with. The four cyclists spent a day on the water, kayaking from the mainland to an offshore island. We looked back from the sea, bobbing up and down in our tiny plastic boats. Dubrovnik stood strong. It’s great stone walls protruding from the Mediterranean. Hundreds of years old. I knew how the ancient sailors must have felt when they’d first seen it from the water as we were now. We found the island empty, almost abandoned, except for a garden full of beautiful peacocks. Beyond the garden a deep lagoon with swing ropes and rock pools. We swam there before heading back to the mainland. Day-57-Dubrovnik We visited an old abandoned hotel, The Belvedere, which was built in Yugoslavian times, before it was ransacked by Serbian Forces. A group of us went in the day, climbing through the stairwells and crumbling rooms. There were refrigeration larders and great dining halls and rumours of a reclusive artist, Quasimodo-like, living up in the penthouse alone. Me and Dane, a keen astrologer, had convinced ourselves that we’d return for our last night in Dubrovnik with our sleeping bags and do some star photography. This was going to happen until the hostel owner caught on to the idea and told us she’d rather we stayed for free for a night than sleep in the hotel. She was muttering ghost stories about the place to herself! Hotel-Yugoslavia-01 Hotel-Yugoslavia-02 Hotel-Yugoslavia-04 Hotel-Yugoslavia-05Hotel-Yugoslavia-11 Hotel-Yugoslavia-10 Hotel-Yugoslavia-09 Hotel-Yugoslavia-08Hotel-Yugoslavia-07 Hotel-Yugoslavia-12 That’s when the fourth cyclist arrived who, for the purposes of this story, I will just call the Swede! Me and Dane went back to the abandoned hotel that night, just to show the Swede around. In the darkness, we discovered the entrance to a sort of underground car park. There was a flickering light in the far corner. We began to move towards it, but then a shuffling noise echoed out from the light, followed by a grunting sound, so we ran away like children! It was probably just a tramp.

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