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  • Day37

    Dalmatia coast.... Split and Dubrovnik

    October 20, 2018 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    One observation during our drive through Lika-Senj County and other areas around Plitvice Lakes was the number of empty and deserted houses. We drove past little villages or clusters of 10 or so houses where the windows and doors had been removed and no one home. Not sure of the reason but maybe related to the war during the early 90’s.
    The highway to Split was excellent although it was a toll road. The speed limit was 130kmh but even driving at 140kmh relegated me to the slow lane with cars zooming past me. The highways have some extremely long tunnels one we travelled through, “Mala Kapela Tunnel” being almost 6km long. They are an amazing feat of engineering as MDW said. Although the tolls add up, the time saving is worth it.
    Our hotel in Split is 300 metres from the Old Town and provides parking. The hotel had sent us an email with a link the the parking area which we allowed Google Maps to take us to. It was supposedly on 20 meters from the hotel. We parked in the space the farthest from other vehicles and probable an 3xtra 20 meters from the hotel. We started to walk towards the destination as directed by Google Maps dragging our luggage behind us. 20 metres, I don’t think so, more like 200 metres. When we were at our destination it took MDW’s sharp eyes to find the entrance. Someone grabbed one our bags and motioned us inside. We checked in and I asked if we had parked correctly and what was the payment procedure for the paid parking showing the hotel manager our parking receipt. “Wrong car park” he said, “just park behind the wall, 10 metres away”. I was going to tell him the link was wrong but we went back to the car and moved it to the correct car park. As we got out I passed MDW the phone and parking receipt that would need to be verified by the hotel. When we got to the hotel I asked MDW for the parking receipt. “What receipt “ she said. In her hand was a scrunched up piece of paper. Between us we flattened it out and although the ink was a bit smudged it looked useable.
    We spent almost all our time sitting in cafes near the water. The beauty of doing that was if you passed wind no one would know because of the smell of sulphur which varies in pungency during the day. Not that MDW would do such a thing. There were a lot of market stalls which were all operated by Croatians. We even came across the famous? fish markets which overpowered the sulphur smell. We also found a lovely restaurant where MDW had half of a huge pork schnitzel and I had a tuna steak, medium rare, which was delicious.
    The old town is right on the promenade and very interesting. Most of it is free to visitors with the underground or cellars of the Diocletian's Palace an exception. There were some clever builders over a century ago with stone roofs still surviving.
    Split is a great place to sit and enjoy the views.
    We needed to book one night at a town between Split and Dubrovnik, preferably on the coast. We ended up at Brela about 90 minutes south of Split. We got there way too early for our room so drove on to Makarska for a drink. Parking was scarce but we found a space on the footpath, along with other cars. We had a drink in the square where we saw more buildings with bullet holes. Off to our hotel, we checked in and the room was lovely but the air conditioning did not work. MDW told me it’s not working but I swear I could feel a trickle of cool air coming through the vents. After a couple of hours in the sauna and me finally admitting MDW was right (why do I ever question or doubt her) I contacted reception who sent a maintenance man down who fiddled for a while then disappeared without saying a word. On the phone to reception again where it was suggested I turn it off then on again. Did that, no good, on the phone to reception. Reception lady comes to the room, presses some buttons, turns aircon off then on. Still no go so we are offered another room. Although the hotel has lifts, we are in the annex which only has stairs, lots of. From our original room it was 2 flights up, 200 metres along a corridor, up 1 flight then down 3 flights. Luckily they sent a young man to carry our luggage as we were starting to struggle carrying ourselves. By now it was 7pm and we had seen nothing but 4 walls. Fortunately our accommodation included half board which is dinner and breakfast. Dinner was a Buffett with plenty of options to satisfy us both. Not only good food but a trio singing a Croatian and contemporary music which made for a wonderful atmosphere to accompany the wonderful meal. The dinning area was full with German tourists as there were at least two bus loads staying at the hotel.
    MDW asked when did we have to have the car back and I said I think the day after we get to Dubrovnik but I’ll check. Of course I was wrong, had to get it back tomorrow morning which meant early breakfast to allow for the two and a half hour trip plus potential google map direction errors. We were quickly on the highway where at times the speed limit was 130kmh and other times 50kmh. We seemed to be following the edge of the Adriatic Sea which provided some incredible views along with the Dinaric alps providing a menacing but impressive backdrop. We were instructed to keep left when we came to the start of a new toll way which wasn’t operational. Panic! Let’s turn right. Dead end. Let’s recalculate the route. Perform a u turn. We were soon heading in the right direction, this was our only potential “getting lost” moment in Croatia. On the way to Dubrovnik we had a couple of passport control areas when driving through Bosnia and Herzegovnia. When we were re-entering Croatia we had to show our passports twice in 10 metres as the two booths were adjacent to each other.
    We arrived in Dubrovnik with plenty of time to get the rental car back. We took our luggage to our hotel where I left MDW to look at the water view whilst she bravely trusted me to get the car to the rental car place and get back. I think this is the first time we have been more than 1 kilometre apart during this holiday. The car returned with out any issues, the rental car rep drove me back the 4 kilometres to our hotel. MDW was surprised to see me so soon. Our room was not ready so we had a drink then caught bus 6 to Pile Gate, the entrance to Old Town Dubrovnik. To get an idea what it’s like, watch Game of Thrones. We have never seen it but apparently some of it was filmed in Dubrovnik. The old town is interesting with lots of streets, a lot better planned than Venice. People still live in the town with washing hanging to dry out of their windows. Lots of Game of Thrones memorabilia for sale along with local Croatian products. Expensive to sit down for a drink, a small bottle of coke 50 kuna or $11 Australian. Needless to say we didn’t sit down for a drink.
    We had dinner at one of the many restaurants near the hotel. When we returned to our hotel I couldn’t find the door access card. No problem, I’ll get one from reception. I tell the guy I have misplaced the swipe card. He says what room. I say 812. I meet MDW on the eight floor and we walk towards room 812. I touch the swipe card thingy and hear the door click, meaning it is open but at the same time see a Do not disturb sign on the door handle. Oops, wrong room. Hopefully we didn’t disturb the people in room 812. I go back to reception and ask them to check what room I’m in. This time they check and give me room 804 access. I wonder if anyone could ask for any card to access any room?
    The next day we did the cable car ride to the top of the hill where there is an amazing view of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. It was a hard slog up the hill to get on the cable car, more than the 7 minutes we were told by the ticket seller.
    Again we have been fortunate with the weather. Croatia is a good place to visit, plenty of touristy stuff all down the coast plus Plitvice Lakes. It is amazing how the “old towns” survived and are still being lived in. Driving on the other side of the road wasn’t too bad. My navigator, MDW, did an excellent job as we had to rely on the take next right or left instruction because the street names are too long to read. Even the Google Maps voice jumbled the longer names. On the narrower roads overtaking is risky but done on a regular basis with cars happy to overtake over solid lines with a corner approaching. Only twice did we need to hit the brakes to allow an oncoming car to make it.
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