Last weekend I was obliged to leave the Schengen zone. My French visa finally expired this Sunday, so if I wanted to stay in Germany (yes please) I needed to leave and return with a bright and shiny new visa (jk it’s just a new passport stamp). Anyway, despite knowing that this day was coming since literally last August, I only actually got around to booking a flight and hotel last Tuesday. And luckily for me, short distance flights in Europe are still cheap even at the last minute. So where did I go? Well if you follow me on Instagram or Tumblr you already know the answer, I spent the weekend in King’s Landing aka Dubrovnik.
The Red Keep, really a fort where you can explore or catch a play.
Croatia is an EU member state but not in the Schengen zone and it’s only a two hour flight from Berlin, meaning it’s basically the perfect destination for the purposes of this trip. I’ve also been wanting to visit for at least five years, I can distinctly remember discussing running away to Croatia with my friend in my Graphic Design class, and now I finally have.
So since my visa was expiring on Sunday, I flew out on Saturday and back on Monday, which gave me about two and a half days to explore Dubrovnik.
If you watch Game of Thrones, you are familiar with this city, it has played King’s Landing since the second season, and the local travel agents are beyond excited about it. There are at least five different companies offering Game of Thrones walking tours and every souvenir shop also sells show memorabilia. I also saw dozens of people sporting T-shirts with their favorite House’s crest and one group of cosplayers having lunch together (3 Daenerys and 1 Robert/Renly (?)). I’m not super into the Game of Thrones show, but I read most of the books and it was really cool to imagine it all happening around me.
DUN DUN DA DA DUN DUN DA DA DUN DUN
Since I am blessed with impeccable timing, I was once again in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to watch the Changing of the Guard that I didn’t know existed. This one makes three trips in a row where this has happened after Copenhagen (twice!!) and Oslo. And I was also in the right place to catch a folk dance and music performance.
This was really cool to see and there will be some clips in my Dubrovnik travel vlog up on Monday. And if anybody knows what they’re singing about, please do tell me in the comments!
One of the best things about being anywhere that isn’t Western or Northern Europe is that everything is cheaper, and as a tourist, the main place you see this is in the food. On my first night I had a sit down dinner in the Old Town. Not only did I get free bread with some great garlicky olive oil (common in the U.S. Yes, but in Germany, France, Greece even you’re usually paying for it) I also got a free drink. This is pretty common in Greece, where you’ll get raki after your meal in the islands, but in this case I got the drink before any of my food, and it was much tastier than raki. It tasted almost like flat Dr Pepper, in a good way, it’s called silvocitz nd it’s a fruit brandy made from plums. To go with my free alcohol, I also got grilled squid, which was very tasty, and the house white wine, which was also very nice.
And all of it only cost $16!!
Nice view too
Other than my first restaurant outing though, most of my food was provided by a bakery or by small food stands. Balkan pastries turn out to be pretty similar to the Greek pastries that aren’t Turkish. (Still with me? Good) so no baklava, but borek is in plentiful supply. Borek is a flaky pastry with a filling, in Greece it’s normally rectangular, but in Croatia they turn it into a little spiral thing. I had one filled with cheese and one filled with apples and both were great, but they also had savory ones with cheese and spinach and sweet ones with sour cherries. In addition to various other pastries, I also made sure to have ice cream every day since it was so hot after all and that is all the reason I need to eat ice cream.
Though this was such a short trip, it did feel very nice to be back in the Mediterranean again. In addition to the sun, the absolutely beautiful city and plants, and of course the Adriatic, one of the absolute best things about this region is the people. Like Greece, Croatia has a very welcoming culture that makes you want to stay much longer than you planned. One of the reasons I feel so hard for Greece was the communal willingness to come together, which you can read about here, it really makes you want to pitch in and be a part of the collective at least in my experience. And one of my favorite ways of seeing this spirit of helping out in action is in a certain group of retirees. In Greece and Croatia there are a lot of stray cats, you will see them sleeping by the water and prowling under tables at restaurants, and clustering around certain houses. That’s because at these houses there’s usually a little old woman who pets these strays and leaves water and food out for them. There’s also a certain set of grandpas who always have cat food with them, ready to feed anybody who comes over. This guy for instance had a backpack full of cat food and bags of bird food for the pigeons. This is honestly one of my favorite things in the Mediterranean and I never get tired of watching people interact so lovingly with these cats.
And don’t worry, I was able to squeeze in some swimming on the one day it didn’t rain. There are plenty of public swimming areas just outside the walls of the Old City, but if you’re looking for sandy beaches you’ll have to take a boat along the coast or to a nearby island.