Episode 248: A Country of Contrasts – Dubrovnik


Some vignettes from the rest of my trip to Dubrovnik, including a visit to a strange tiny church in the town of Nin, and the mesmerizing sounds of the Sea Organ in Zadar. I was basically disappointed in northern Croatia, but you never know until you try. I returned to Dubrovnik on my last night and, after a wonderful final typical Croatian meal, I had a long hellish night. It was a rough ending.

In closing, Booking.com’s customer service sucks. That is all.

I have a Patreon page! Please check it out. If you make a small pledge you’ll get to see photos and clips from my journals and hear a bit more about some of the stories. This is a fun way that I can share visuals with you.

Check it out HERE.  Or at patreon.com/dianathebard

If you want to hear more on any particular subject, or if you want to ask a question or simply connect, you can find me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dianathebard   — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app


Hello, hello, welcome back. Thank you for joining me. I am on the island of Paros looking out at sunset evening. I can’t quite see the sunset from where I’m sitting right here. But I do have a beautiful view of these double doors with all this greenery and olive trees and cypress trees, and so much green texture of all kinds. And all around my little cottage are all these beautiful little sitting areas. So if I wanted to include all the birdsong and everything, during this podcast, I could sit outside at this little cute stone table that’s right in front of me. Or there’s another table around the corner for breakfast. It’s just charming and idyllic, and I’m trying to paint a picture for you. 

I also have some visiting animal friends. I had a cat named Benji, who kind of almost has one eye because he has a squinty eye that is very sore and sad because his eyelashes are turning in on his eyeball, and so it scratches them all the time. How horrible and painful that must be. So poor little sweet thing, he’s a blinking little black and white cat. And he came in and he slept on my couch while I worked this morning, the whole time. It was so cute. And then the ducks come and eat breakfast with me, because I’ve taken to throwing them some of my crusts when I’m eating my toast and they’re very happy about that. And they look at me expectantly, and the drakes wag their tail, and it’s very cute. So that is a little picture of where I am sitting right now. 

I wanted to tell you the last bits of my visit to Croatia because, as I said in my last episode, it’s a place of contrasts. And boy, those last few days were a wild contrast. I took that ill fated car, and I traveled up the coast north to a little town called Nin because I heard that it was a charming little seafaring village with little cottages along the ocean. That’s not what I found at all. And I tried going to a beach there to swim. But it was kind of sad. Because the sand there was mostly mud and it was full of cigarette butts and such. So I took a little dip because the water was fine. But the beach itself was really not great. And so that made me sad. 

But on my walk to the beach, I spied this strange little church that was set off by itself. It was completely stark white and very small. It was basically just an x of avenues. You could reach the walls by taking eight steps in any one direction. So it was very, very tiny. And I walked inside, and it was just painted white inside, but no other ornamentation at all, but it had a huge center dome. And as I walked inside, I just thought, well, maybe this is another one of those domed places. So I started to hum, and lo and behold the acoustics were magnificent. They are the antithesis of what the acoustics should be for recording a podcast episode because they were incredibly live and very reverberant. But I started to sing there, and I thought my goodness, the entire town must be able to hear me singing, because the whole church acts as an amplifier. So an old priest could stand in the center and whisper his sermon, and everybody in the church would hear it. It was amazing. So I’m going to include a little bit of my singing right here for you now. 

Singing: More than you know, more than you know, man of my views so lately I find you’re on my mind more than you know.

And I’m in the town of Nin. I keep wanting to say it’s like “the Knights who say…” but it’s not that. The knights who say Nin! I’m about to go to the beach finally for the first time in Croatia. So out in the sunshine I go, but I was just thinking of you guys 

Crazy! And then I went on to a slightly larger town that was just south of there called Zadar. I’d heard about a couple of interesting points that I wanted to see there. But again, the town was too modern for me. And I guess I’m saying that as this horrible first world person, not thinking that of course, you know, all of these towns were leveled during the horrible war 30 years ago. So a lot of the construction and buildings are less than 30 years old, perforce. But the first thing that I noticed when I drove up along the quay of Zadar was this gigantic cruise ship that was parked right there by the boardwalk where everybody was walking. It was blocking the sun from a huge section of the garden areas and all of the side streets that were right there by the water, so it was completely usurping all of the nice parts of the seaside in Zadar. And it just made me furious, because first of all, aren’t cruise ships the place where COVID intensified? And should they not be allowed in this time? I don’t think they’re safe. 

Certainly, it had blocked the sunlight during the whole day, from this wild thing called the Sun Salutation, that was a collection of solar panels within the stone walkway by the sea that collected the rays of the sun all day long, only at night to be able to play this beautiful light show that was supposed to happen from dusk until dawn. When I returned to dusk, it wasn’t playing at all because it hadn’t gotten the sun because this stupid, gigantic floating apartment building had blocked all sun from it for the entire day. 

Fortunately, right beside that lovely lightshow solar panel was this incredible construction that an artist had made that was called the Sea Organ. And it was a series of holes in the sidewalk right next to the sea, and the wall descended into the sea. And the holes must have continued out underneath where the waves could hit them because as the waves hit the holes, they made this wild soundscape that was like whale song. For those of you have seen Finding Nemo, you know the whale song that they try to talk but it really sounds like that. So I also want to play you a clip of that and here it is. 

SEA ORGAN SOUND CLIP (Listen to the podcast audio)  Spoken over that audio: What you’re listening to is the sea Oregon at Zadar, Croatia. It was built into the side of the boardwalk walkway by an artist and it makes the sounds when the waves lap up against the bulwarks. Think I’m gonna go for a swim. 

Qnd then I was walking along the seaside, looking for some lovely seaside bar where I could just have, you know, the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz and enjoy the sun going down over this strange little town of Zadar. But it turned out there was no such thing. I don’t know why they didn’t capitalize on the sunset views over the harbor. But there was no bar that you could sit at that overlooked the harbor. That was very strange. 

So I was walking back towards my car and there was this strange little kiosk all by itself on the beach. I looked a little closer, and there were all these swords and daggers and medieval shield markers and bracelets made out of brass and bronze and such. I looked at the fellow in the booth, and he looked basically like a Viking. He had a long beard that was braided into two braids with little clasps hanging off the end of them. And he had blonde hair that was billowing back from his face. And he looked to be maybe in his 40s, very muscular. I walked over and with a little smile and said, “You’re a Viking.” And he said,” No, I’m a Croatian.” And I was like, “Oh, oops, sorry, sorry.” But I started to talk to him about all this really cool stuff. And he said, “Yeah, I make it myself.” And I said, “Not these swords.” And he goes, “No, those came from over the mantel pieces of old houses that were torn down.” And I was like, “Wow, okay, cool.” So he had some interesting historical pieces mixed in with his handmade pieces. And we just were chatting. And it turned from a discussion about Vikings and Croatians, and, of course, the recent war, because everybody spoke about that, into this crazy conspiracy-theory kind of talk, where he started talking about how the government was injecting us with things so that they could track us and, you know, I was like, oh, gosh, no, not one of these. No. And he was talking about how there were giants still roaming the earth, and how one had just been recently killed in Afghanistan, but a helicopter had swooped in and picked it up so that nobody would know. I was like, What are you talking about? It was a little strange. 

So all in all, my last couple of places that I visited in northern Croatia were very odd. So on my last day, I headed back to Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, it was in a torrential rainstorm, which was already not a good sign. But luckily it stopped by the time I parked outside of Dubrovnik. And I had determined to go into this one museum that I had sort of avoided during the rest of the time, because it was called War Photos Unlimited. It was all about the effects of wars, and it was claiming to have, you know, some graphic imagery and stuff like that. So I had thought, oh, do I want to see that before I’m eating? But I really wanted to look at it because from a photojournalist point of view, I thought it would be really interesting. And it was. It was a very heartbreaking but beautiful display of some incredible images done by all kinds of photo journalists on the war in Beirut, and then also the war in Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. My goodness, it was something that everybody should see. 

And then I was trying to go to the Rector’s Palace, which was another museum that I had missed, but as I walked over there, I saw the whole street was full of a filming crew and the whole place was blocked off. And I was like, Oh, here we go. HBO is back. But it wasn’t HBO, it was Netflix. They were shooting some kind of period piece with nuns and bishops and whatnot, and, you know, friars with tonsures and stuff. So that was kind of funny. 

Lastly, I went to this place to have a typical Croatian dinner before I left Croatia because our guide from the Game of Thrones tour had recommended this place and said,” My grandmother would even be happy to eat there because it is traditional Croatian food.” So I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go and try it. So I sat down and there were two things on the menu that said that they were made from 16th century recipes. So I ordered this one that was a capon dish, which I ate. I don’t normally eat fowl, I suppose. And when I told my son, I was eating capon he was like, “Who are you? Falstaff?” I was like, Yeah, I guess so. But as I got my dish – which was quite delicious, and very flavorful, and aromatic, full of spices – I was sitting listening to a table that had just sat down with, I guess, a Croatian guide who had brought them to that restaurant as part of some tour of the city. And he was explaining these dishes and he said, “Capon. Capon is like castrated goose.” And this one woman sputtered and she was horrified and said, “I’m not gonna eat that! No way!” It was turning into a very funny evening. 

But my meal was delicious. And it was about 7:30, so I said, Well, I guess I’ll go off to the boarding house where I’m supposed to be staying. I had signed up to stay at this little modest boarding house because it was near the airport. I had a very early flight that I had to make the next morning, so I thought, yeah, okay, it’s  fine if it’s a room with a shared bathroom, I don’t care, I’m going to be there for all of 10 hours, sleeping most of the time. So I went looking for it, and GPS led me way up onto this mountain road, that turned out to be dark, and deserted, with not another person in sight, almost no streetlights. And it kept insisting that I should park in this one place and walk down the lane. And so I thought, okay. I parked in this weird little parking lot, where there was another car, but really nobody in sight anywhere. And I walked down the lane, which was also lit by only one sort of orangey light. And I was trying to find this house. And every house was dark, all the windows were dark. And I found some sign that pointed up to this house. And I went over to it, but there was no light by the front door. There was no light in any one of the windows. 

I put on my phone light, and I saw a phone number on the front door. So I called the phone number. Nobody answered. I rang the doorbell, nobody answered. I started ringing the doorbell very insistently. Nobody came to the door. And I called the phone number again, and it said this phone number is not answering. And I started to get really freaked out. I’m in the middle of nowhere, this dark house, it’s the right address, there’s a sign by the road that’s pointing towards this house. And there’s not a soul in sight. So I resolved to forget it. I was freaked out, I was in the middle of nowhere. And this was the first time in my solo traveling that I felt scared. So I quickly shuffled away from the house and back to my car. And by that time, I was breathing a little heavily and really starting to have sort of a panic attack. 

And I called booking.com (grrrr!) and said, “Listen, this place is not viable. It’s not an actual place that somebody could stay because it’s dark, and there’s nobody there. Nobody’s answering the phone. It’s not okay. And you need to find me someplace else.” And they started insisting that they would call the owners and they put me on hold. And then I got cut off. And it was another 20 minutes. And I was started to drive up and down the street, trying to look for something else close to the airport, and there wasn’t anything. 

I was freaking out and I went into the gas station to fill up my car. And just as I pulled in, this guy came to a halt and almost ran over this small yellow cat. And I was like, oh my god freaked out again for a whole ‘nother reason. And I looked over, and I was like, oh my oh my god, this poor little cat was trying to solicit the man who got out of the car to give them some food. And I was so upset, and I finished filling up my car and I went into the gas station to pay and I bought a hot dog and I thought I’d come out and at least give this poor little cat some food. He was skittish and scared of me but he was so hungry. I broke up this hot dog and he ate the whole thing. And then he came over and he was so sweet. And he was purring and rubbing on my legs and I petted him for a while. And then I said, “I have to go. I have to figure out my sleeping situation.” But I was near tears again, leaving this poor little cat all by himself at this gas station. 

So I was just having the most horrible night. And I ended up sleeping in the car in a parking area by the side of the highway overlooking the city of Dubrovnik. I brushed my teeth with my water bottle. And I tried sleeping on the back seat and it was horrible. And then I put the front seat down as far as it would go and I slept there. And then this big truck came in to collect the garbage at about 5:30, in the trash cans that were right around this place. It was just awful. 

So my farewell to Croatia was very rough. And I kind of think of that little yellow cat and I had a really hard time walking away from him. But I’m grateful for him because he was a friend when I needed him. And I hope that in my last five weeks here, I don’t ever feel frightened like that, again. It wasn’t fun. 

So, onward, back to Greece. When I arrived in Greece, it felt like I was coming home. It’s funny because it’s every bit as foreign and rough as Croatia, but somehow more welcoming. So be careful out there. And thank you for listening. I’ll see you next time.

Published by dianathebard

Podcasting about growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 60s and 70s, falling in love, raising kids, getting divorced and being a free and creative world traveler!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: