Sunday, August 13, 2017

Exploring Lokrum

Arriving in Dubrovnik with my short-term travel companions made the journey much more fun and relaxing (for me) than expected.

By the time I had trudged up a million stairs with my oversized suitcase to my Airbnb, I was ready to meet up with my family and do some exploring. My Aunt Nancy, cousins Emma and Wendy, and their friend were on a tour of Dubrovnik from Split, and I was thrilled to break up my solo-adventure with a little bit of company and family time. Its also comforting when traveling alone to know that someone is expecting to see you on a certain date.

Though I'd already walked Dubrovnik's city walls during my last trip in 2015, the views remain jaw-dropping. Surprisingly, it wasn't overly crowded, and wasn't nearly as scorchingly hot as I had heard it could be. We were only able to spend about two hours together though, and after my high of excitement in Bosnia mixed with a quick family visit, I was pretty sad when they left. It was Dubrovnik's summer festival, and as I took myself out for a delicious dinner right on the water and looked around, I didn't see anyone else on their own. Families, couples, and as evening turned to night, drunken groups of college-aged partiers, surrounded me. I started thinking that while it was a wonderful city to explore alone during the low season, my alone-ness wasn't quite as fun when surrounded by so many people with all of their friends.

Anyways, the next day my mood continued a little bit.

The crowds and heat were overwhelming on the main streets, and I had to get away from it. In my last post about Dubrovnik, I wrote about seeing Lokrum from the wall and learning about some of the folklore. Because of the season (and my time limit), I didn't make it to the island before, and on this day in particular it felt like the perfect getaway. It was. From crowded, sweaty streets to a tranquil, lush island, I couldn't have been happier. Any negative feelings I felt about being alone disappeared as I walked down paths with peacocks as my companions, explored the monastery and botanical gardens, and hiked up to the fortress.

I felt unbelievable healthy during this entire trip. Most days including some sort of hike or long walk, and I felt much more tuned into my body than usual. To contrast, at school, lunch is at 11:30. On days when 4th grade has the last lunch line up time and when I have recess duty, some days I don't sit down until 11:45 and then am sprinting out the door at 11:55 to get myself ready for recess. Because of that I've been very well trained to gobble down my lunch as fast as I can without any regard to whether or not I'm actually hungry. During my trip, I ate whenever (and whatever) I wanted. Some nights all I wanted for dinner was ice cream, other times (like this evening) I had dinner twice. After getting back to Dubrovnik, I stopped for a very delicious carrot salad (sounds weird but it was tasty), went back to nap for an hour or so and get ready for my night out, and then went out for another dinner of spaghetti with clams (which was so good that I had the same exact meal another night). By the end of the trip, though like I said, I ate literally whatever I wanted, I had lost about 5 pounds- my kind of vacation!

On this particular day, my hike was to Lokrum's Fort Royal, which provided a great view of Dubrovnik's Old Town.

I love how in Europe, these ruined old fortresses aren't roped off and forbidden; you can climb around and explore to your heart's content as long as you're smart! To give a little bit of background, Lokrum is first mentioned in writing in 1023, when the Benedictine Monastery was founded. King Richard the Lionhearted was shown hospitality on Lokrum when nearly shipwrecked during the crusades, leading to him donating money to build a cathedral in Dubrovnik. So clearly, it's been around for a while. While the fortress appears incredibly old, it was build almost 800 years after the monastery! Crazy!

The Benedictine Monastery is one of the main reasons I wanted to see Lokrum, as I found the old stories about it creepy and amazing. Well, at the Visitor's Center, I was surprised and thrilled to find... THE IRON THRONE!!!! Again, I'm going to say go back to that other post for more about Game of Thrones filming in Dubrovnik, but it's pretty amazing. Every time they show Kings Landing now on the show, I think "I know that spot!!!" Along the walls are Lokrum's old stories and pieces of its history, along with a map of the GoT filming locations and videos from behind the scenes. It was very unexpected, but very welcome. After the monastery, I stopped for a piña colada at a shady outdoor bar.

From the bar I could see a rocky beach, which looked like the perfect place to get some sun and maybe swim in the Adriatic.

When I say rocky beach, I don't mean covered in little pebbles rather than sand, and calling it a beach is really a stretch. The "beach" is really an area of spiky, craggy boulders and cliffs at the edge of the island where people come to lay out and swim. I found myself as flat of a spot as I could, out of the way enough that I could (hopefully) leave my bag safely if I decided to jump in. As I settled in, a group of preteens kept racing in and out of the water, passing me as they went. They were taking turns climbing up to the highest point they could find and leaping into the water, seemly without a trace of fear. As I watched, a group closer to my age joined them, along with what appeared to be the preteens' parents. They were all having a blast, but to me it looked so scary! I watched for probably a half hour before asking on of the dads how the jump was. "Scary," he replied, but still went back for a second and third jump.

Nobody seemed to be drowning or hitting rocks on the way down, and I had yet to see anyone fall off the cliff, so I worked up my courage and decided to make the jump myself. I talked to the group closer to my age, and they all agreed- though very scary, jumping was well worth it. In a maybe-overly-trusting move, I gave one of them my phone and asked him to take a picture. Rather than running away with it, he took some great pictures for me, and he and his friends let me come out with them that night! A day of adventure and a night out with new friends cured me of any traveling-alone blues for sure. I ended up making the jump twice- and am definitely, completely terrified of heights, but maybe a little bit of an adrenaline junkie.

1 comment:

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