places i have been

A Big Night OUt in Dubrovnik

posted 8/10/03

The swallows check in about 7:30 and by 8 there are probably billions of them out there having all the fun.

Nights became a lot more bearable once we figured out that the best place to sleep was what we had already discovered to be the best place to eat, drink and work...

Our Table - look closely for the red circle

Misc. Dubrovnik Picture # 1

Here is a good photo illustrating one of the more visable signs of the '91-'92 war. Old town's roofs took so many direct hits that something like 85% of the buildings had to be re-tiled. The ancient supplier of the original tiles had long gone out of business - our book said those tiles we created by wrapping the clay around a man's thigh which of course made them all different sizes.

The honey-colored tiles at the top are the old ones - the reddish ones below are what they have been replaced with.

Misc. Drubrovnik Photo #2

Dubrovnik, too has its "old man in the mountain."

Dubrovnik Nights

By the time we have climbed back up to the apartment and grabbed a shower, the terrace is once again comfortable. By 7:30 the swallows have started their nightly ballet - we are up so high we are nearly level with them. Sometimes there is music on the square - last night was two performances of something that involved a full orchestra, a large chorus, and a tenor who could _really project. Generally speaking, noise from the city below is reduced to a dull, distant roar way up here - but the extra story or two does in fact make a world of difference. The first two nights when we actually slept in the bedroom we had to keep the window shut until after 2 am because of all the noise wafting up from the street -- and losing the nose also meant losing whatever breeze might accidently find its way between the tall buildings.

After two nights of sweaty, sleepless misery we were determined to come up with a better plan -- and so we did. Fred dragged the two single mattresses up the stairs and we spent the final three nights sleeping blissfully under the stars, high above the city noise and heat with plenty of breeze to lull us to sleep.

The wind here is weird. Back home, you can have a windy day, you can have a breezy day, you can have a still day. Here it can be all three at once. It will be perfectly still for an hour or two, then all of the sudden you get about 5 minutes of strong gusts - maybe as strong as 35-40 mph, causing books and laundry and everything else to take flight - which will settle down into a pleasant breeze for a few minutes before everything goes still again. Wait an hour or 15 minutes or maybe even less and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Our big night out

While on one of our morning prowls we came across a lovely place -- Labarint? I think - that looked like a promising choice for a night of pure indulgence. It was built into the fortress walls and even employed the buttresses as dividers to give individual tables cloistered privacy. We picked a table out on a point, all by itself atop the castle wall and made our reservations for 8 pm.

We had the temerity to arrive about 10 minutes early. There didn't seem to be a maitre d' on duty so we showed ourselves to our table where we had the satisfaction of finding an embossed "reserved" sign and a piece of paper with Fred's name on it. The view was as wonderful as we had expected though it could have been improved with a cocktail or glass of wine. However, we sat in our seats for nearly 15 minutes before anyone bothered to acknowledge our presence, and that was only after Fred wandered over to a waiter's station and asked if it would be possible to purchase a bottle of wine. I got some entertainment watching potential patrons climb upstairs, walk all the way around the castle walls - only to find a bunch of table with embossed reserved signs on them before turning around and walking all the way back. I guess that's just the way it is done here in Croatia I said to Fred.

We were halfway through our first glass before the next round of begging finally produced a pair of menus... happily it was written in multiple languages including English. The tuxedo-clad waiters had clued us that this was not gonna be cheap eats, but the prices were nearly as breathtaking as the view. Nevertheless, we plunged ahead with soup orders, asking for more time to choose entrees. This produced a frown from our waiter. He seemed to be pretty good with English, but we would cause to doubt that proficiency before too long.

The entree choices were exotic,including ostrich eggs and stuff like that - each entree was paired with its own special side dish(es) -- and the detailed descriptions of the sidedishes themselves were interesting enough to influence entree choice. Long after Fred had finished licking both of our soup bowls clean, the waiter came to take the dishes away... we practically had to grab him to give him our entree orders. I had settled on the "Beefsteak Baked with Camembert," medium well, while Fred opted for the "Beefsteak alla Chef.," medium rare.

It was pretty dark by the time our orders arrived - gusts of evening wind had knocked out all of the candles by then and there was no other lighting - but not so dark that we couldn't tell that our plates for all practical purposes were exactly alike. Same cut of meat, same wedge of potaty like thing, same grilled veggies. One or two bites and we new they were both cooked the same - medium rare. No hint of camembert... Fred once again took the long walk to consult with the waiter. Had there been an error in the order, perhaps? The guy was horrified. Please don't be angry!!!!! Our chef never makes and error!!! I will take back!!! I assured him it tasted wonderful, it just needed more cooking time for me to eat it.

Something like an hour later, he returned with a completely new plate, new steak, new everything - exactly like the previous only the steak was cooked a bit more. Throughout the long wait for our check we had plenty of time to postulate: 1. Lots of nice choices on the menu, but here in Croatia we all eat the same thing. 2. The waiter is stoned. 3. This is a self-service restaurant pretending to be something else.

We finally got up and mugged our waiter one more time for our check. It was too dark to read but he was happy to take our credit card and tell us which line to sign. We were relieved to not have to deal with how much of a tip to add but no telling what that meal cost us. (Unique cultural experience? Priceless!)

On the way home I mentioned to Fred that I had a bit of a sore throat that I really hoped would not amount to anything. By the time we checked out of our quarters at 7:30 the next morning it had developed into a full-blown Croatian cold. In the middle of the hottest Eurosummer in 200 years.

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