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This time last year, I began to write up my notes from my May-June trip to the Dalmatian Coast with my mom — I posted what I had so far, but it was an incomplete account of the adventures we had, which included but weren’t limited to a giant squid, a rescue plan for a capsized boat, inappropriate flirting, supermodels, secret cliff-top bars, wild animals hunting at night, and bottomless pits of despair.* Today, I still have my notebook, the photos, and Lonely Planet as my guide, and my memories are mostly intact, if not more humorous and condensed (which is how these “blog” things are supposed to be, right?). This may come as a shock to you, but this actually started out as a travel blog. So enjoy.

Click-through for Opatija, Plitvice Lakes, Trogir, Split, Korcula, and Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Kotor, Montenegro. Plitvice and Korcula are funnier than the other ones.

Opatija, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Trogir, Croatia
Split, Croatia
Korcula, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Kotor, Montenegro

Opatija, Croatia

We arrived in Opatija on Friday, May 30. We had essentially spent the day in three countries, and when we arrived in the beautiful seaside city, we wanted to do as little as possible. Our hotel, Hotel Milenij, was situated on the coastline just north of the busy café scene, and a short walking tour of the city would later establish it as one of the nicest hotels there. I was envisioning sipping wine and sampling cheeses on a patio with the coastal breeze salting my hair and skin, so while my mom waited for our key, I went to the supermarket across the street and purchased a bottle of plavac (related to red Zin but earthier and more hollow) and a couple of Coke Zeros and waters. We finally went to our room, and there it was—a large king bed, inland view. After our perfect hotel room view in Bled, it would be hard to complain. But we talked about it, and we decided we should at least try to get a new room with two beds. Which might also face the ocean.

There were already three pairs of travelers back in the lobby when we got there, having come across the same bed setup, and two were being mean about the error. I pulled my mom into a huddle, and I persuaded her it would be best for us to wait it out. We told Jovanka we’d like a new room only if it was no trouble to her or the hotel, then we stood back and watched as travelers yelled at her, threatening to call the operator and report her. It was so ugly.

We were last to be reassigned to a room, and Jovanka was in tears. We apologized for ourselves and the other travelers, whose reactions were not proportionate to the situation. We took our new room assignment only when we finally cracked a smile out of her. Third floor (highest floor), north wing. We unlocked the door, and… ocean view out of windows on both the south and west walls, two beds, spacious suite, enormous bathroom with fresh rosemary sprigs in the sink. We later heard that the hotel paid for the guests assigned to that room to stay in a different hotel, and there was a supermodel fashion shoot on our pool deck the following morning. We got to see the lead model, Nina, up close, and yeah, I’d say she does the job well.

It being a Friday in a city with a reputation for nightlife, with regular cameos of Croatian celebrities and increasingly American ones, I expressed a strong interest (!) in going out. My mom wanted to come with me. I wasn’t opposed to it, but I made it clear that she didn’t need to for my safety, and I correctly predicted that she would feel overwhelmed and put off. She smiled while I drank a shooter called “Seaman’s sp*” and listened to me excitedly speculate about what kind of celebrities were being photographed by paparazzi a few tables away. It didn’t last.

My mom and I decided to do our own thing the following morning. She wanted to exercise and find a church, and I wanted to sleep in and eat lavishly. Milenij’s breakfast display was by far the best of the trip. Every day, I had chosen bread, cheese, and smoked meats or sausages for breakfast, but there, I could have smoked salmon and brie. And in addition to the usual options of water, juice, and coffee, I saw champagne on ice. “Vacation!” I thought. “And weekend!” I could not possibly justify it any better—I filled a flute with champagne and added a drop of orange juice, just enough to make it look like I wasn’t drinking a full glass of champagne, and brought my meal, and my New Yorker, out to the oceanfront terrace. It was one of the few times I went back for seconds of everything.

My mom and I spent much of the late morning playing cards at a café, watching clouds pass with occasional raindrops, and by 2 or 3pm, the sky was clear and we were hungry. We wandered into what looked like a popular café. The servers looked stressed, and ours seemed especially aggravated when we sat at a free table before he cleared it. (If we hadn’t, another group was going to.) He disappeared and returned, slammed a plate of five sardines on the table dressed in garlic and lemon, then disappeared again. He didn’t even bother to speak to us.

But our server could not have anticipated that the two American blondes in his section would finish all five fish by the time he came back to take our food order. Only the head and tail were left of each. “Good!” we said to him, nodding. He was thrilled, and his body language said he suddenly liked us very much. We ordered squid ink risotto, which also seemed to please him, and small “salads.” He brought us another plate of fish, which we also ate, and our risotto came out on a large plate, perfectly black, covered with freshly grated peg cheese. It was one of my favorite meals on the trip. When we returned to the hotel, I sat on the patio, reading the New Yorker and drinking wine, for the duration of the day. It was then that I finally felt relaxed, and completely satisfied.

Pitstop en route to Opatija.

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View from our hotel!

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Opatija at night.

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I took a short morning walk on Saturday, and set a self-timer.

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The storm front, coming up along the Adriatic from the south. I was very excited to hear word that a big storm was coming through France and Italy, and that such news would actually affect me.

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Poppy on my walk.

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A slide on my walk–try to read what’s written on it.

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The photo shoot. I saw the supermodel do a TV interview in my hotel lobby, and she’s apparently very famous there.

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Our sardine-like fish.

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Squid ink risotto. I did heavy Photoshop work on this to make the pasta look like anything other than a black blob! Next to it was our “pag cheese salad,” which I think inspired my mom to buy really fancy rasps for us both later in the summer.

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The patio, where I proceeded to spend the entire afternoon.

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Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park covers sixteen lakes, interconnected by waterfalls, and they are spectacular. To get there, our bus had to turn inland, and I was none too pleased to spend another half-day on the bus after an entire day of sipping wine and watching waves.

But the drive was interesting, if saddening. We passed through a number of villages with shelled homes that were never repaired, with ripe weeds and vines suddenly ensnaring the abandoned homes. The relative newness of the war was palpable, as Jovanka said the countryside is still littered with undiscovered land mines that pose a very serious threat to rural communities. We even saw a swastika spray-painted on a home.

Jovanka let us take in the scenery for some time before picking up her microphone again. Her voice was suddenly upbeat, as she announced that we would be stopping soon. She explained that this particular region was known for its slivovica, or slivovitz, and also honey, and we would have the opportunity to stop at roadside stands providing samples of, and selling, homemade bottles of Croatia’s version of moonshine. And honey. I can barely justify mimosas before 11am with a straight face, so shots of 90 proof plum brandy just seemed pernicious.

Jovanka, a mind-reader, then assured us that rural Croats treated slivovica as a morning cure-all, not unlike a cup of black coffee and two aspirin.

“Well, if that’s the case,” I told my mom.

“You can have my free samples,” she said. She doesn’t drink.

“Deal.”

I thought perhaps our tour was doing something special, that any second, our driver would turn down a dirt road–ideally, one without land mines–and we would be alone, with all the time in the world to sample as much sweet, fruity slivovica as our hearts desired and livers could process. How bad could it be?

The bus finally slowed, and before I could see roadside stands, tourbuses came into sight. One, two–ten, sixteen–we kept rolling through the village until we were almost to the next and finally parked near a stand with only two other tourbuses near it. As I exited the bus and made my way to the crowded tasting table, surrounded by older couples, I took solace in the company of others who were interested in learning something new about Croatian tradition that also involved liquor, and surely, the others were more sophisticated than I. The last time I’d been in situations where this many people were clamoring for free alcohol was college. At fraternity parties.

At first taste and smell, my throat physically clamped down on itself. Slivovica is masochistic even if you infuse it with cherries, and especially if you infuse it with juniper. It tastes of neither plums nor brandy. But so help me, I was going to share in an important cultural experience.

As such, I didn’t want to buy any for myself, and bringing a bottle back to anyone in my life I remotely care for as a “gift” was not unlike giving them an authentic Croatian can of diesel fuel and a tongue scraper–and maybe I’d attach a note that said, “For the times you want to clear your sinuses even when you don’t have a cold. Fondly, Kate.” This besides the mass it would add to my suitcase, which I planned to get back to the states intact.

Regardless of, well, everything about it, I took my mom up on her offer to go through the tasting line for me before we left and indicated that I preferred the slightly less offensive “original” flavor of self-inflicted pain. I eagerly waited by the honey samples (which my scraggly misspelled handwritten notes indicate came in pine, acacia, chestnut, and sage), pitying the slurring travelers around me carrying bottles of slivovica they’d naively purchased in their altered states of judgment.

My mom did not come back holding a free sample. No, in her sobriety and sound judgment, she chose to support the hardworking distillers who fed her daughter alcohol in the morning, and she logically concluded that if I wanted seconds, I must like it, and might want to drink it again at a more appropriate time of day in the future. “Why would you do that?” I asked, incredulous. “If you only knew! It’s poison.” She indicated that it was for me, and I apologized. We agreed to give it to my dad. A year later, the bottle is half full in my parents’ liquor cabinet, and I believe I’m the one who has occasionally opened it very, very early in the morning, looking for something of a cultural experience. It certainly brings me back.

Our group pressed on to lunch at a large cafeteria-style restaurant outside the national park. This deep in the middle of nowhere, dining options were few, but Jovanka seemed particularly excited about it. (I now realize it could have been the slivovica. She might have been responsible for our happiness, but it’s not like she was our designated driver.)

Its parking lot was the kind with long lines indicating spaces specifically for tour buses, with tour buses parked in them. For whatever reason, I recall walking into a strong aroma; of what, could have been any variety of things, but its tripe soup or fileki certainly contributed. Jovanka swore by it, my mom was very into it, and, not one to be outdone when I’m buzzed, I reluctantly went in on it too. We were the only people on the tour who’d opted out of their more continental options, and it was my first experience with tripe. Tripe is bovine stomach lining.

It wasn’t bad, I told my mom and Jovanka, but I could only think of the meat market back in Zagreb, where beige rumen linings were laid out in layers like fuzzy bathroom rugs in home-ware stores. Recognizing that I badly needed protein and virtually any flavor to replace the traces of slivovica in my mouth, I finished my bowl. But I did not care for the texture.

My nausea didn’t set in for about 15 minutes, and the best word I can think of to describe the feeling is “pronounced.” My mom was particularly sympathetic and took me to the cafeteria general store to buy a Coke Zero and some candy. She was having a fantastic day, and I think I was getting what I deserved. I’ve also had tripe three times since last year, and I’m no more excited about it now than I was then. But give me a boiled thymus gland or tongue any day.

Once we arrived at our hotel in the national park, we had an hour or two to relax before coming back together to do a short tour of the lower lakes. I was put off by a TV cartoon called “American Dad” that depicted a chubby character who hit his wife. I changed the channel to something resembling VH1 back when it played music, and it was actually then that I discovered M.I.A. and her song “Paper Planes.”

The lakes were impressive–the water was bright blue and almost transparent, and we traversed parts of the lakes on narrow wooden walkways, just inches above the flow. Most in our group weren’t particularly athletic, so once our formal tour ended, my mom and I decided to hike up several more lakes. The sky was slightly overcast, but we wanted to risk it. Soon, we were gliding from one pool of water to the next pool up cascading into it, almost running, hunched over our cameras to prevent the spitting rain from getting to them, and trying to gauge how far away the lightning was. We were fine. And the photographs came out brilliantly.

Shelled homes and businesses.

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New homes were built, but only foundations remain of where some houses once stood.

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Overlooking the lower lakes at Plitvice.

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Absolutely no retouching.

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Someone was happy to be there…

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One of the lakes a bit higher up. You can get a sense of how one lake cascades into the next, and also get a sense of the varying depths.

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Trogir, Croatia

Up to this point, Jovanka had not said much about Split. She said our hotel was really nice. That’s all I can recall. In my notes at the time, I wrote down that she said “split” translated to a local flower.

As our bus worked its way back to the coastline from the lakes, Jovanka proposed a detour. She gave our group the option of going to Trogir–an idyllic Medieval village surrounded by water on three sides, a favorite memory from her childhood, a destination so rare and a departure from the itinerary so mischievous we had to promise her we would not tell the tour operator she had done it with us, but, let’s be honest, she would be doing it for us–or going right to Split. Of which she said nothing.

Trogir it was.

Jovanka always delivered, and we soon found ourselves in a fortress-like maze of retail shops, cafes, and residences, occupying and interspersed between structures hundreds of years old. Stone pathways and walls were spotted with plants and strung with clotheslines, and old and new blended beautifully as one traveler pointed out a placard for a business established in 2008 next to a building dating to the 14th century. The highlight of the city is the Cathedral and Mausoleum of St. John, the city’s protector. (I think he’s done a fine job.) His bones are preserved–or so one hopes–in icons kept in a modest display room in a wing of the cathedral.

My mom and I had a pleasant lunch on the water of boiled chard and potato, fresh raw garlicky sardines, pizza dough bread, and a trio of pastas (spaghetti, tagliatelle a la mer, and the best gnocchi of our life in cream and basil sauce), then we split off to do some exploring of our own. I got lost in the maze and was almost disappointed to find my way back.

Cathedral of St. John. Birds.

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Courtyard.

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Beautiful.

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Our lunch spot.

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Lunch.

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Oh, just a soccer team practicing beyond that old castle tower…

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Split, Croatia

A year later, my notes on Trogir make me smile and cringe. At the time, apparently, I was in my really nice hotel in Split drinking champagne and eating unsalted almonds and enjoying the presence of strong Frenchmen who were staying at the same hotel for a bricolage convention (like carpentry but more exotic-sounding).

I never actually wrote about Split, though, which is telling.

I was, and remain, disappointed in Diocletian’s Palace. Here in the United States, I am almost always supportive of architectural repurposing and urban renewal. If a space doesn’t meet some sort of historical criterion, I like to see it meet contemporary needs. But what if it’s a palace that took ten years to complete in the fourth century AD, the most impressive remnant of the Roman Empire on the Adriatic coast? In the centuries since Diocletian’s death, the palace has become a city, and a somewhat frustrating one.

Parts of the palace are painstakingly preserved, and we had the pleasure of touring these underground chambers. But retail shops hawking souvenirs, dark restaurants with menus in English, and private residences with their trash in plain view now occupy much of what once was, and in some form or another, this has been the case for more than a millennium. Local boys dressed as Roman soldiers with cheap gold plastic “armor” stand guard and accept steep tips to pose in photos with tourists.

My mom and I–yet again–snuck off to explore the city on our own, and the best thing to come of this was the experience of trying on, and walking away with, one-of-a-kind designer tops from a tucked-away boutique.

Diocletian’s Palace just didn’t feel right, and not because I wanted everything I saw to be pretty. (Recall how much I enjoyed some of the graffiti in Zagreb.) I think I just felt that there was not enough pride in the past, or in the present.

That night, my mom and I ate at our hotel restaurants. She went to a cafe with some of the other women, and later on, I went to the high-end restaurant (planning to do my usual two apps and a dessert routine). Lunch in Trogir had been filling, but, not wanting to disappoint my second adorable server of the day, who was obviously impatient for me to order 17 courses, I requested a Caesar salad and yet more tagliatelle a la mer. The meal was really something– it opened with an amuse bouche of cream cheese rolls, accompanied by bread with salmon pate spread. The mains were spectacular, and I ate them all. My mom joined me for a thick hazlenut mousse dessert, sculpted into a pyramid. Traditional folk dancers and singers were lit against the hills beyond the seaside terrace.

A new promenade.

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Old, new, newer.

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What the palace once looked like (which makes me wonder where the promenade came from).

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The original ceiling work; it made me a little nervous.

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High ceilings, windows. It’s hard to believe this was done more than 1600 years ago.

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For free, you can take their photo when they’re not looking…

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Ruins within the palace.

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This is a popular photo to take in Split.

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More renovations to Diocletian’s Palace.

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Locals, airing their dirty laundry.

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A little guidance.

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Disrepair, though I’ll admit I love this shot… look at the window in the upper left.

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Sunset from our hotel.

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Folk dancers.

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Makarska, Croatia.

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Coastal villages.

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Korcula, Croatia

The coastal drive from Split, Croatia to Dubrovnik, Croatia is long –a full morning, for our bus– and it can’t be done without going through Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s hard to explain, but that has never stopped me from trying. Croatia’s coastline stretches 1,777 kilometers long and boasts almost 1,200 islands. And near the southern end of that coastline, Bosnia gets 20 kilometers to itself. (Croatia has fared a lot better since the dissolution of Yugoslavia than the other former states, and the coastline tourism economy has a lot to do with it.)

We made a stop at a roadside outlet store in tiny Bosnia and Herzegovina that was either an important attraction or a waste of time, depending on who you talked to. Our group stocked up on chocolate, Christmas ornaments, soccer shirts, all-seasoning, olive oil, liquor other than slivovica, and so on. I felt it was necessary because I think you have to experience a non-airport-or-gas-station in a country or state to count it as a place you’ve visited. Poor Austria — if I claimed to have been there based on my layover in Vienna before flying to Zagreb, it would be my least favorite country, and the gap between it and Canada on my list would be as wide as the ocean separating them. (Which is to say that when I was not old enough to remember Canada, I think I liked it.) Our stay in Bosnia was still something less than official, though, because our passports were not stamped. Not even for my mom, for whom a passport stamp is a very big deal.

(“You better believe it is,” she’ll say.)

The coastal highway rarely, if ever, offered a view of uninterrupted horizon on the Adriatic, making it all the more spectacular for light play and depth of field on my mom’s camera. Islands of varying length and altitude come into view beyond the Dalmatian coast’s fishing villages and resort homes. Near midday, our bus departed from its southwestern course and turned northwest to drive the perimeter of the Peljesac Peninsula, to get to Orebic.

Here, I want to mention that my mom often observed how gentle parents were with their children throughout our trip, and I’ll give it to her, she was right. I’ve seen more incidents of public violence between parent and child in the US than I’d like to see in my lifetime–the whining, the threat, the resistance, the final hit, or grab–and nothing close to this happened on our watch in public places. Once in Orebic, our bus dropped us off a few meters from our private boat, which would be driven to Korcula Island by a very cute tot under the guidance of his ever-watchful, ever-amused dad, who looked no older than I was. Not only did father and son appear to genuinely like each other, but they appeared to genuinely like having each other there.

The town of Korcula can be done in a couple of hours; convenient, because that’s the time we were allotted. The town is on a round knob that extends northeast from the island, about a half kilometer into the sea; at its center on a hill, St. Mark’s Cathedral, and tall stone buildings descend to the sea from it, separated by sometimes-steep, always-narrow alleys. My mom and I enjoyed lunch at Amfala, a pizzeria with outside seating in one such alley, and we were as excited by the coincidence as we were disappointed by the familiarity of sitting near travelers from Charlottesville, where I lived at the time.

Worth visiting (and impossible to miss) is the marche of vendors selling cheap souvenirs. I was dumbfounded as to how such attractive 20- and 30-something men could be selling seashell necklaces and The Simpsons teeshirts out of carts, but I let one fit me in a pair of Croatia flip-flops. A year later, I think my memory has taken their shirts off and doubled their numbers, but my travel notes suggest I wasn’t a complete seventh grade girl about haggling. “Word to the wise: look these men in the brown, glassy eyes of their chiseled, tan faces, and say, “NO. Too much.”

And Marco Polo’s alleged birthplace is in Korcula. You kind of have to close your eyes and shout for someone to help you find it, but there’s really not that much to see there.

We visited a winery and sampled Croatian wines–I recall them being pleasant but expensive–but I was restless to get to Dubrovnik.

The city finally came into view at 6:00pm, just as the sun was lowering over the ocean.

Bosnia.

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A VERY old fortification on the Peljesac isthmus, about 50 kilometers from Orebic. It’s between 5 and 6 kilometers long and was constructed in the 1300s.

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Docking at Korcula.

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Bell tower at the city center.

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Getting all artsy-fartsy on you.

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There’s a Marco Polo placard around there somewhere. If you close your eyes and shout, you should be able to figure out where it is.

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More of the residential area of Korcula. Luckies. They with their pretty boats and palm trees and shirtless men selling flip-flops.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

In a time when we are so overstimulated with all that we can access, Dubrovnik is overwhelming.

We stayed at the new Rixos Hotel Libertas, a waterfront “pleasure” property, a 15 minute walk from Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls. Eager though we were to explore, night was setting in and the area was still unfamiliar. My mom and I put on our cleanest and best and requested a table at Le Select, the hotel’s fine dining experience and host to molecular gastronomy. We shared a mussel salad and goat cheese souffle, and I was taken with the textures. My entree was John Dory (one of the loves of my life) with pureed clams and lobster sauce.

The following morning could not come fast enough. We entered the city gates into the Placa, the thoroughfare from which narrow streets lead to a multi-level labrynth of cobblestone alleys and courtyards. We first toured the Franciscan Monastery with Europe’s oldest pharmacy, dating to 1391, then the Rector’s Palace, built in 1441. Attention to detail was essential–my favorite photos from Dubrovnik are of small accents and accidents.

As soon as the tours ended and our next meeting time and location was decided, my mom and I took off to find the stairway entrance to the city wall. Medieval Dubrovnik is surrounded by water on three sides, and the fortress-like wall was constructed and improved upon during the city’s tenure on prominent trade routes–first under Venetian control, then as a rival to it. While the wall looks impressive from vantage points outside the city, only from the top of the wall looking down could we see that nothing separated the ancient structure from the waves crashing against the crags below. The walls did not just appear to rise out of the ocean; they actually did. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

At dusk, my mom and I returned to Dubrovnik’s inner walls on our own for what I simply told her would be an “adventure.” I have used Lonely Planet guidebooks since I was 16, traveling to France with my sister, and I now have editions for Ireland, China, even the USA and a separate one just for Texas. They’re all filled with underlines and notes, bent page corners, and what tickets and receipts never found their way to the backs of my scrapbooks. Lonely Planet’s guidebook for the Western Balkans was thorough for a book covering 7 countries in just over 400 pages. And something stood out in its entry for Dubrovnik:

The ineffably romantic Cafe Buza offers nothing but drinks served on outdoor tables. It’s just outside the city walls and you can find it by looking for the ‘Cold Drinks’ sign and going through a hole in the walls. Get there for the sunset.

Alternately looking around and referring to Lonely Planet’s map, I led my mom back and forth across the same alleyway on the outer edge of the ancient city. The whining of Dubrovnik’s feral cats (see photos) had us on edge, and increasingly, we couldn’t see where we were going. An older gentleman, definitely a local, emerged out of the shadows and, in broken English, pointed the way. It was spectacular. The tiny seating area teetered over dark water below, our footing barely lit by tea candles, and my mom and I sat quietly and just sort of took it all in.

Coincidentally, I just moved into a new apartment, and tonight, I hung my matching photographs of Dubrovnik over my bed, which I had blown up at two separate times over the past year. One is taken from the city wall overlooking the Placa and out to the cliffs to the east. The other is taken from the same cliffs looking west, past the walls and down into the city.

Mussel farming on the coastline.

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Elafiti Islands.

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Amazing lighting.

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The Luxor was very modern, very new.

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The only thing I liked more than the cocktail lounge looking out over the ocean and fortress was the pool, looking out over the ocean and fortress. I spent a lot of time in that pool.

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My John Dory.

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Orange-inspired desserts.

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Typical alleyway in Dubrovnik.

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Lucky pigeon.

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The pharmacy.

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Jovanka.

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We saw a lot of this glasswork. It’s lovely, but I forget the significance of it.

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Rector’s Palace. Attention to detail, case in point.

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Atop the city walls.

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Archaeological dig. You can really appreciate the reconstruction after Dubrovnik was shelled in 1991. The roof tiles are all the same style, but some are much older than others. The new tiles are bright, bright orange and red. It all works beautifully together. The world was watching–and was not pleased–when the Yugoslav armies went after Dubrovnik.

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Strays everywhere.

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Really, really adorable strays.

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A school day for some.

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Dubrovnik has a less tolerant attitude toward graffiti than Zagreb.

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Walls rising out of the sea.

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Heads up.

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Our last night with our group, we went to a farm and enjoyed folk music and a family style meal.

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Kotor, Montenegro

My mom and I stayed two extra days so we could see Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor on our own. It was well worth doing. We found ourselves on a boat with teenage tourguides, tourists from countries whose languages we didn’t speak, the best grilled fish of our lives, and at least a bottle of wine for every passenger, in a raging storm, for an hour, with a plan for what we would do if the boat capsized.

I’ve got to save some stories for another time, though.

More mussel farms en route to Kotor.

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Kotor’s beautiful city square. My mom thinks this is where an early scene in Casino Royale was shot. I could look it up and find out, but I’d rather not ruin the fun for either of us.

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Intensely picturesque.

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What I now affectionately think of as the S.S. Minnow.

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Not a good sign.

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I love this shot of this island, thunderstorm notwithstanding.

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Ceiling fresco in the church on the island.

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Our tour guides might not have cared if we all drowned, but they did cook us a nice lunch.

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Goodbye, Croatia.

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* The giant squid was giant compared to most squid we eat, and it was also dead. The boat almost capsized but it didn’t. The inappropriate flirting happened while buying flip-flops in front of my mom. There was only one supermodel, but she was such a supermodel that she only goes by one name, so she counts as two people. The location of the secret bar is in Lonely Planet’s Western Balkans, 1st edition, on page 214. The wild animals were stray cats, and they were still terrifying. And the bottomless pits of despair were hole-in-the-ground toilets in a women’s restroom in Italy.

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