The plan was to take trains from Siena to Trieste where we had reservations for the 5:30 bus to Dubrovnik. This was the most economic way to get there if not the fastest (14.5 hours) - neither of us looked forward to it but thought we might see some interesting scenery anyway. With Frances' help, we thought we were all set and good to go.
I was totally absorbed in The Order of the Phoenix - all cuddled up by the fireplace at Hogwartz - about an hour short of Trieste when an unscheduled train stop marked the point when things started falling apart, ultimately leading to what I sincerely hope will turn out to be the lowpoint of our vacation. It was explained to us (finally) that due to a fire near the tracks we would have to disembark from the train and climb aboard a bus that would take us to Trieste. Actually, it was several buses and of course everyone from the train was struggling to be the first ones out. We had no choice but to struggle right with them as we only had a 1.5 hour layover before our bus to Croatia was scheduled to leave. The heat was oppressive and all the bodies pushing and shoving one another to get on the bus was truly frightening. We tossed our luggage in the baggage compartment and then were afraid it would leave without us. I was weeping, Fred was grim, people were shouting and then - miraculously, a kindly couple setting in the 3rd row gave up their seats and pushed us into them. I understood too late what they were doing - did not comprehend what they were trying to say in all the confusion and never had the chance to thank them.
As it turned out, we might as well have taken a later bus. We got caught in a massive rush hour traffic jam and pulled into the Trieste Station over an hour after our bus had left. Another would not be leaving until 8 the next morning and it would not go all the way to Dubrovnic, We would not check into our room as scheduled and would have to find different lodging for that evening as it was already after 7 pm. We were tired and sweaty and neither of us felt up to making the kind of choices that needed to be made, so we took the path of least resistance and jumped back on a train headed south - our rail pass was still valid for the day and with luck we would find a comfy place on the train to crash. Our plan was to get off the train in Ancona, where we were pretty sure we would be able to catch a fast ferry to Dubrovnic.
Basking in the victory of having scored a couple of first class seats in spite of having no reservations, we sort of forgot to notice that we would be arriving in Ancona at 2 am - a time when no ferries would be leaving and possibly no hotel rooms would be available. However, we were also pretty sure that there were ferries departing out of Bari, which the train would arrive in at the more civilized hour of 7 am - another path of least resistance. We stayed on to Bari. I left the Harry Potter behind on the train - we had both finished it and now it was just dead weight. Hope someone who could appreciate it found it....
Sipped a capppuccino while waiting for the ferry office to open, only to find out that the next boat to Dubrovnik - the "Marko Polo" - would not pull out of Bari until midnight. So there we were, hot and stinky from too long without shower facilities and with not enough sleep from spending the night on the train wondering -- how to take up a whole day in Bari.
And then it went and turned out to be one of the more fun days of our trip. Traveling by the seat of your pants can be like that.