As you sail into the main bay in Dubrovnik you get a perfect view of the old walled city and the various castles and fortresses that are reminders of the troubled past of this region. You also notice the incredible modern construction (high tech bridges, glass resorts, etc.) that’s been integrated with the land in an unusual kind of harmony. Instead of leveling the land and installing a square block building, they build around the contours of the rocky shore so the land is part of the construction. It’s an incredible combination of the old, the new, and the earth, and is very appealing. You also notice this place is filled with action – boats and water taxis are everywhere, tavernas (bars) line the rocks in interesting nooks and crannies, beaches are packed with umbrellas and people swimming in the turquoise water. It feels like you’ve arrived in a utopia.
This was our feeling as we took the dinghy ashore for the first time yesterday to explore Dubrovnik. Our dreams of finding a utopia were quickly shattered the moment we stepped foot on shore. If you have been to Prague you may already have experienced a city that’s overrun with tourists so that it no longer retains much of its own natural character – everything seems like part of a master-planned touristic experience designed by people in suits in tall buildings trying to maximize profits. It feels like Disneyland, and that is the feeling we got in Dubrovnik. Tour busses line the streets, street vendors pitch guided tours on every corner, or glass bottom boat trips, or kayaking trips, or a million other types. If you want to get on the castle wall, buy an entry ticket. If you want a souvenir shop, just turn to your left, or your right, or just go straight ahead because there’s on there too. Everything is in English, we don’t even know what the Croatian alphabet looks like yet. I suppose this type of travel appeals to many (perhaps a majority), but to the more adventurous travelers, it’s a shame to see this happen to a city because it leaves you feeling empty, like you’ve learned nothing about what the country is really about, what life is like for the locals, what their culture is about, etc. (other than attracting tourists). We learned more about Australia yesterday than we did Croatia (it appears Australians can’t get enough of this place).
We’ve now left Dubrovnik and are heading north towards Hvar or Split about a day’s sail up the coast (we’ll read the books and decide on the way). The conditions are gorgeous with 12 knots of wind pushing us from behind. This is giving us a chance to test our skills with the spinnaker for the first time since our trial runs with John Burnie back in Turkey. This is easy sailing that we’re having no problems getting used to.