September 11th – 18th 2013
Leaving is always so very hard to do.
We had been made so welcome and had genuinely been treated like one of the family while staying in Italy and we struggled to say our farewells.
We put it off for as long as we could, loitering the streets of Andria, buying local olive oil and wine, visiting family and trying so hard to translate our heartfelt thanks.
Finally we had loaded Peggy, Mitra, Fabio, Ma and Papa and the furry babies were all packed into their car and we followed them to the highway where we stopped and had to go through the inevitable, the goodbyes!
The tears came hard and fast as we hugged and parted and handed over a few silly little gifts to express our thanks as much as humanly possible. We said sad farewells to Lukas stroking his tired little face and we patted Mitra’s tummy where Maya waited to be introduced to the world.
As we drove away we talked about how connections can be made so quickly and friendships sealed in such small moments and how lucky we were to experience such HUGE moments, such massively important memories with each new relationship we make.
With Mitra and Fabio we had experienced so much. Love, family, friendship, marriage, the love and warmth surrounding pregnancy, the desperation to preserve the life of their beloved Lukas; pure, unwavering love and devotion. All of this made it even harder to leave.
We went our separate ways and after driving along is a fuzzy cloud for a while we stopped realising we had no plan. We had only been in Italy a short time but felt we had experienced it at its best, with family; and decided to make our way to our next destination, Croatia.
I visited Croatia 12 years ago while backpacking Europe and fell in love with the country. The water calls to you, makes you feel calm and serene, the air makes you feel clean and healthy and the entire place feels a little bit magical! I couldn’t wait to share it with Alex.
We drove to Bari and stocked up with wine and cheese before going to catch the ferry. The office opened at 7 and we queued for 2 hours to buy our tickets to board at 10pm. In the queue were two retired Brits who moaned constantly about having to wait for their ticket. We stood patiently and read our books, the wind biting into our jackets but perfectly understanding about having to wait. The Brits kept trying to suck us into their bubble of negativity but we wouldn’t let them and ignored them as much as we could. It made me feel so sad and embarrassed for them. There they were, about to embark on a journey, an adventure to another country . They seemed healthy and wealthy and as though they had not a worry in the world but having to queue for a ticket.
Finally with tickets in hand we boarded the overnight ferry (which 12 years ago I took on the deck, wrapped in a sleeping bag on the floor in the freezing cold night) with our pillows, a bottle of great Italian wine and some sandwiches I had packed and we sailed with the dark to an exciting new land.
We were woken by a siren suited to a world war as we arrived in Dubrovnik at 6am. We watched the land sail past us as we slowed to a stop. As we disembarked in Peggy we saw two enormous cruise ships in the dock and I could have cried! They were HUGE! The size of two blocks of flats sat imposingly obscuring the view of the land and totally destroying the stunning view of the neighbouring islands.
We cringed and drove towards our campsite, me excitedly rattling on to Alex about how beautiful Dubrovniks old city was, about the red tiled roofs and the polished marble streets, the nooks and crannies to explore and the old city walls to stroll.
We checked in and got straight on a bus into the city and as we arrived at the city walls and took one step onto the street I almost did an about turn and got straight back on.
The people were like a swarm of locusts, devouring every inch of space. All milling around in matching coloured T-shirts holding cameras into the air and all in the same direction, clambering to see what the person next to them was taking a picture of. Guides stood holding umbrellas shouting over the din in uncountable languages and hoards of people wandered by with vacant faces listening intently to headphones that their guides were talking into. They didn’t even look where they were going, they just followed along grazing like sheep, soaking up information but never experiencing a thing.
We were in Hell!
We stood mouths agape for a moment, turned to look for an escape route but the bus had gone to collect more sheep.
Ticket sellers hurtled towards us, seeing fresh meat and dollar signs in their eyes and we grabbed each others hands and ran away as fast as we could.
We found a quiet spot and tried to catch our breath, it was horrifying. The old city of Dubrovnik was over run. The cruise ships had emptied their enormous bowels onto the city and the walls could barely contain the capacity. People pushed and shoved and shouted and hurried along past the astounding beauty of the place that they were consuming.
I told Alex we could leave, that he wouldn’t get to appreciate its beauty with all of those people but he knew how much it had meant to me to show him so we locked arms together, fell inline with the throngs and fought our way through the ancient arches into the city. Once inside we fled to the tiny alleys that create a maze in the residential part of the city and found the peace and tranquility I remembered.
12 years ago at the height of summer it had been busy, but it had been busy with people enjoying the pace of summer, strolling with great ice cream and gazing up at the beautiful intricacies of the ancient stone around them. They marvelled at the water lapping at the small dock and relaxed in the shade. Today was an entirely different story.
We sat on some steps in the shade and watched local life pass us by. An old lady weaving silk in intricate patterns, another scrubbing her doorstep. Men stood around gossiping or sat on tiny stools outside of their homes enjoying the cool fresh air away from the mayhem that ensued only meters away.
We spent an hour weaving in and out of the streets and then faced the masses again on our way back to the bus stop. I understand tourism, I am, inevitably, a perpetual tourist. But mass tourism on this scale is soul destroying.
We went back to camp and got online, we found a small cheap rental in the mountains away from the tourist hell. We had intended to spend a week exploring Dubrovnik, I had so wanted Alex to fall in love with it the way I had but my dreams were dashed.
We stocked up the fridge and made our way to the rental right on the border of MonteNegro. It was perfect for us.
In the middle of a tiny local village overlooking the Adriatic in the distance and surrounded by fruit trees! Grapes hung in enormous clusters above Peggy’s parking space, ripe figs burst into the palms of their 3 fingered leaves and Pomegranates rained red gems which were greedily guarded by happy busy bees. I was in paradise and could have stayed forever!
We spent the week working on the blog, picking fresh fruit and finding new ways to eat them, we tried so hard to take pictures of the tiniest humming birds which kept coming inside to try and feed on our flower shaped lights. We lounged in the sunshine, read books and enjoyed watching the odd storm roll in over the mountains. A local shepherd passed each day with his flock and every night we watch the sun slip behind the curve of the beautiful earth.
We had been saved, from Hell to Heaven in the blink of an eye!
Can you tell we enjoyed our time there?!