I’m starting to believe that I never pass up an opportunity to say just how much I hate plane journeys. Given that Edinburgh-Dubrovnik was a new route introduced by FlyGlobespan and seeing that I was on the first trip there, I was half expecting that the pilot would get lost or some other horrible thing would happen. A 45-minute delay just had to prove me right. It was a full and long flight (3.5 hrs) for an intercontinental one on a budget airline, and I tried sleeping to no avail, only to perk up a bit when the plane went over the Swiss Alps.
Things changed however, when the Adriatic coastline – that looked like the curly-wurly patterns that people doodle when bored in class – came into view, littered with islands surrounded by turquoise waters. The airport was 22km down south of the city and on high ground. It was relatively painless getting on the shuttle, which all but had a grand total of 6 people in a 50-seater bus. (Going back would be a more painful story I suspect) The route to town hugged the coast on some sort of elevation, and I found myself enjoying it thoroughly.
Dubrovnik has been called many things and it’s highly unoriginal of me to repeat how much this small town has been lauded by critics, guidebooks and celebrities alike, and it seems to have shrugged its war-laden baggage 20 years on by turning to tourism. I had been given a room with a (spectacular) view that comes from the generous balcony that overlooks the old town within a family house, at the cost of 350 steps that come between the old town and me.
Old Town is ensconced by a thick, high wall of varying heights, and against my better stewardship of my spending money, I found myself scaling the city walls – 2 km worth of fortifications that date from the 12th century at least – and looking down on the red roofs that make this place so famous.
The old town is bisected into two parts by the Stradun, a long strip of shiny marble ground where everyone seems to take a stroll in the off-season months, and where everyone cramps into during the summer months. It is not difficult to see why its charm has never failed – and among the Hollywood celebrities – this has also driven prices up quite steeply.
It is only my second exhausting day; I don’t claim to fully understand Dubrovnik, and in its wider context, the political difficulties of the former Yugoslavia. Maybe all the trips to Dubrovnik I’ll ever be making in my lifetime will never amount to any modicum of understanding even. Yet I cannot in good faith, call upon the simplicity and trigger-happy bumbling that characterises the typical tourist precisely because the scars of war must still exist, simmering under the surface and waiting to boil over once again.