Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.
― Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table
Mango and I arrived in the gorgeous seaside town of Dubrovnik yesterday and I have been blown away by the beauty of this place. Looking out the window as the plane landed, I was struck by the picturesque craggy hillsides dotted with tiled-roofed stone houses looking out onto the clear blue Adriatic Sea. While Dubrovnik is one of the Mediterranean Sea's top tourist destinations, this place has definitely kept its character and history. If it wasn't for the groups of selfie stick-toting tourists wandering around town, I would have thought that I had stumbled across heaven on earth: No chain stores, no fast food joints, no egregious advertising. (Granted, on the way into town from the airport I saw a 'mall' with an H&M; you can't win them all, I guess.)
When we left Sweden, it was snowing and winter darkness was setting in, so you can imagine how happy I am with Croatia's warmer temperatures and plentiful sun. So far, I have found Croatia to be friendly, affordable (I swear I paid $1 for a large bottle of beer at the grocery store), and relaxed. Despite planning this trip at the last minute, on Airbnb I managed to find a ton of affordable and pet-friendly places right in the middle of town. For about $60 a night, my place is light-filled, spacious, and overlooks Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Even Mango was rendered speechless by the view.
And the best part so far about Dubrovnik? As an urban planner who loves old buildings and hates cars, I have to say that Dubrovnik is really knocking car-free urban areas out of the park. Cars are not allowed in the Old City (which begs the question of how trash is dealt with, hmm) or the intimately narrow stone pathways to homes. Granted, Dubrovnik was founded before the 7th century, but I find it amazing that the city layout remains nearly identical to when it was built hundreds of years ago. Despite the buildings being architecturally-significant and practically ancient, they are still used as they were originally designed (homes, shops, churches, etc.) instead of being turned into please-don't-touch tourist attractions. In my next life, I hope to come back as Old City's urban planner. *sigh*