Monday, May 23

Dubrovnik, last August

It is hot, close, limp, the morning I arrive in Dubrovnik airport, confused by time differences after an overnight stop in Helsinki. A half-asleep car ride along the coastline to our airbnb apartment. Stumbling to the local Konzum in the hazy midday heat: bread and cheese and tomatoes: then sparko all afternoon. Our first night in the Old Town, a harbourside meal and walking down the Stradun, revellers and religious processions all around, for it's a Croatian national holiday. 

Sunday morning, walking back into the Old Town. The first drops fall as we approach the gate; by the time we're within the walls, the rain is torrential and we take shelter in a Franciscan monastery, embroiled in a group of jovial American tourists. The silent, glittery lightning that accompanied us on the way home last night has found its voice. Thunder, loud and crackly, and rain so hard it cascades down the stones of the steep side streets and pours off the edges of restaurant awnings. We scurry from monastery to gift shop: stand in a doorway watching a parade of ponchos trudge past, every part of them flattened down with water. 

A dry spell, and pizza, which defeats us. Inside a dark room off a side street is an incredible war photography exhibition documenting conflict in the Central African Republic and, more recently and more locally, the nineties Yugoslavian fall-out. The images remind me of the extraordinary power of photography, and its often uneasy beauty when the subject is so ugly.

A visit to the museum of modern art, housed in a beautiful old building by the sea with windows that stretch up two floors. A slow, lingering walk back to the apartment, where we eat peaches and chocolate. 

Monday morning, Croatian plum tea in bed, a hair wash. There was an enormous crack of thunder again last night, and rain so loud I thought it had burst through the windows. It is still raining so we catch the bus into town, visit a dire ethnography museum. In a cafe that looks more New York than Dubrovnik we sit on stools at the bar, drink really good, strong, black coffee, talk about Mad Men and fifties music. Dean Martin is playing. But it is busy and we leave for a Dominican monastery, laugh at the medieval depictions of baby faces. 

The last of the storm clouds rattles on down the coast and the sun is back, and the town's identity transformed. Lunch on the harbour by the fishing boats and then iced coffee on the stone veranda of the Rector's House. A peek inside the cathedral, and by now the sky is blue, emptied completely of clouds. 

We walk the walls of the Old Town, sea of orange roofs one way, sea of blue waves and foamy flecks the other. There are people jumping high off the rocks into the water. 

Later we buy a bag of crisps and watch the sun set on the harbour arm, then head to a vegetarian restaurant on a lantern lit street. The food is incredible. 

Tuesday now, and we buy food from a central Konzum and catch a boat to Lokrum Island, walk its perimeter talking about the Famous Five and smugglers, sit on pale blue towels with our picnic and our books. Flick ants away, doze, read. Later I wander in jelly shoes down to the rocks and the water where a few families swim. I sit looking out at the sea for a while: trace circles in the gentle waves with my big toe. 

Back to the mainland: sitting at the back of the boat watching its white tail arc off gracefully toward the horizon. Aperol spritz in a square, the sun glowing off the marbled buildings, turning them orange and yellow. Later, roaming an unexplored side of the city, cigarette tips glowing in the night.

The last morning: a paper bag full of pastries and a zigzag down many steps to the beach. The water is extraordinarily still and I swim lengths, float like a starfish, feel safe among the mottled green cliffs. Breakfast on the beach. To our left a family of five eat peaches before scrambling back into the water: to our right a boy skims stones with his grandmother. 

A final lunch at the vegetarian restaurant that was so good, then suddenly we are in a car again, heading towards the airport, sorting liquids into a clear bag, the first drops of rain starting to fall.

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cameras: iphone 4 / olympus trip 35

a few places mentioned:
Pizzeria Domenica
War Photo Ltd
Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik
Nishta vegetarian/vegan restaurant
Bellevue Beach

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