Something’s Fishy in Dubrovnic

This is the second post in the series about our trip to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia or FRY. It contains everything you’ll ever want to know about Dubrovnik, Croatia with the possible exception of the things I don’t feel like writing about.

Dubrovnik- Not bad lookin' for a 1500 year old.

What we expected--------------What we got

Takin’ Care of Busness

After 3 days in Sarajevo we took a 7 hour bus ride to Dubrovnik. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking “7 hours on a bus in a former Communist country, are you nuts?” Well, we were sane enough to have been a little leery of this mode of transportation but it’s really all that was available. Everything we’d read on the web told us that crossing the border with a rental car was a bureaucratic pain in the ass and there’s no train to Dubrovnik.

Somewhere between Sarajevo and Dubrovnik

The trip, however, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The bus was pretty slick. It had air conditioning and comfortable seats. What it did not have was a washroom. As a man of certain age, I was, of course, a little concerned about this as we started out. I was much relieved (that’s called a double entendre in literary circles) when, after only 1 hour of driving, we stopped at a roadside restaurant with public washrooms (and yes, I had my pee money). As we got on the road again, I I figured I no longer had to regulate my fluid intake and enjoyed a couple of bottles of water we had brought along. They could’ve mentioned that the next pee break was in 5 1/2 goddamn hours! Thankfully, the Bosnian and Croatian scenery including quaint villages, mountain peaks, coastal vistas and bombed out buildings was interesting enough to make the time fly by.

In the Thick of It

View from our Apartment

We’d rented an apartment over the internet from back in Canada and we’re a little concerned what it would be like. The emailed response from the first place we tried to book: “Unfortunately I do not have a vacancy for the given datesI can offer you a great flat above the main street Placa (Stradun).I manage the reservations on the behalf of the owner. As a guarantee for your reservation you may send a personal cheque, of the equivalent of a 1 night stay, in pounds, US$, Can$, AU$ or Euro…” made us a tad uneasy but we sent the cheque off. Good think we did too…the place rocked! We had a living room, full kitchen, bath and bedroom overlooking Stradun, the main drag in the old town. If you’re planning a trip to Dubrovnik, you oughta stay at the Dora Apartments. www.dora-dubrovnik.com

Saltiliciousness

Fried Squid

Now, on to the food (don’t you dare mutter “finally”) Not surprisingly for a port town, restaurants in Old Town Dubrovnik all serve seafood. In fact, they all seem to have pretty much the same menu. I’m not adverse to say, octupus salad, but does every restaurant need to offer it as an appetizer? Everywhere just seemed to be grilled fish or pizza. Luckily one evening we stumbled upon a little tapas place right near our apartment. It was late and we just wanted a snack. Joan had some perfectly prepared fried squid (calamari for you pretentious bastards who also call snails escargot).

Being something of a salt aficionado, I opted for an order of anchovies and one of bacon. The only place you find anchovies at home is on pizza and they’re just little tiny strips of fish filet. These, however, were the biggest damn anchovies I’d ever seen…and they were just that…three humongous anchovies on a plate. The bacon was a little fancier…it was on slices of bread.

mmm...salt...

I love food that can make eye contact with you before you eat it.

The next day, possibly brought on by my rather healthy appetite for Croatian beer, I detected that my salt levels were in serious decline. To replenish, I ordered a pizza for lunch with, of course, anchovies. Once again, these bore no resemblance to the anchovies I see on pizzas back home. A whole school of these cute little buggers were looking back at me from their bed of cheese and tomato sauce. They were crunchy, salty and delicious. Unfortunately,  I think the odds of getting them on a pizza back in rural Nova Scotia are pretty slim. The rule of thumb where I live is “If they didn’t eat it in 16th century England, you can’t get it here”. Sigh…

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em (or even if you don’t)

"I'll have the octopus salad with a side order of emphysema, please"

Joan quit smoking a couple of years ago. She hasn’t had too hard a time of it at home as no one else in our house smokes and most of our friends don’t. The FRY, however, strained her will-power. Everybody smokes everywhere and they all do that European waving around of the hand with the smoke as they talk.There are ashtrays on every table in every restaurant. In Canada, they’ve outlawed smoking just about everywhere except Arctic mountain peaks.. The contrast between the view of smoking in the two cultures was made abundantly clear when we came across the Cigarette Menu mixed in with the entrees and drinks selection.

The Incredible Inedible Burek

You eat it, I'm not gonna eat it.

I loved the burek in Sarajevo. It had fluffy pastry and tasty meat. So, one evening in Dubrovnik we’re looking for a snack and saunter into a bakery. “Yo, it’s burek” I say to myself. Joan says “Are you talking to me? And since when do 48 yr old men say ‘Yo’?” Anyway, we each get a burek and take them back to our swanky apartment. What a mistake. The crust was the consistency of Play-Doh and the fillings were pasty messes. My life lesson #13458 is now:”If there’s still burek left over at the bakery at 10pm, it’s probably shite”.

Bottom Line

Dubrovnik lacks a little in variety but what they do offer is almost always perfectly cooked. Just remember, don’t expect anything to be freshly-baked once 10 p.m. rolls around.

“Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells… smelly. Anchovies.”Mr Krabs

“Oh, and I want no anchovies. And I mean, no anchovies. You put anchovies on this thing and you’re in big trouble, okay?!” – Michaelangelo

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