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The inscription above the Lovrijenac tower says it all: “Non eben pro toto libertas venditur auro”…”Liberty should not be sold even at the price of gold”. Staring down inside the massive walls of the old city from the perch by one of the towers, no saying seems to ring more true. An impossibly proud city that has never been conquered, Dubrovnik has been dubbed by many as “The Jewel of the Adriatic”, and to simply quell any further discussion on the matter, it really is.
Breaking from my tradition of attempting to find a traditional homestay, or sobe, I actually for once attempted to get a room in the standard backpacker hostel, as I was finally back in a real town and was in the mood to socialize for a change. Upon disembarking the Jadrolinja ferry, myself and a thirty-something year old Aussie named Simon who was on a round-the-world ticket headed out together for the hostel, only to find it completely booked. We even asked if we could sleep on the roof, but no luck. For the next 30 minutes we were shuffled around to various doors tucked away on third story balconies where apparent friends of friends were attempting to find a free room for two wayward travelers. We finally landed in the tiny apartment of an old man named Cedo, who unknowingly was going to provide me with one of the most genuine homestays I have ever had.
In his defense, I don’t think Cedo had had many visitors recently. From what I ascertained, his kids were grown, his wife had passed, and he was just happy to have someone to talk to. For over an hour he escorted the two of us around his simple home, pointing out old photographs hanging on the walls and chuckling with each apparent joke he made. Speaking remedial Croatian at best, I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Sitting in this old mans living room with him sharing a late afternoon cup of coffee, laughing together about God knows what, and genuinely enjoying myself, to this day is one of the most sincere experiences I have ever had while on the road. Years later I still have his business card in my wallet, and I often wonder where Cedo is today.
After bidding a casual goodbye to Cedo, I set out on my own to explore the town. My very first stop was at the overwhelmingly powerful War Photography Museum that is dedicated to heart-wrenching photos taken during the Balkan conflict. It is impossible to spend time in this exhibit and walk outside not feeling blessed for all that you have been given. Very powerful and a definite must if you are ever in the city.
After the museum, the rest of the day was spent simply walking the famous walls of the city from one tower to another, all the while gazing out at the rocky shoreline and azure blue Adriatic. After a spectacular sunset from atop the vaulted walls, it was time to make my way down to the heart of the old city, and hit up the various cafes and bars along the Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main pedestrian thoroughfare.
After gorging myself on pizza and beer as trendy Croats raced by along the Stradun, I waddled myself toward the west gate of the cityand back towards Cedo’s place. Little did I know that just outside the west gate of the city lies Dubrovniks’ busiest nightclub, Latin Club Fuego, and I decided I’d peek in for a look around. That proved to be one of the more questionable decisions I made in all of Croatia. The next thing I knew, it was 4am and I was out of money, and very far from being considered sober. Running into fellow Americans for the first time since entering the Balkans (who were actually on assignment with the state department), many a drink was ordered, and the good times definitely rolled. I spent pretty much the whole next day in Cedo’s house, but it was well worth the impromptu nocturnal adventure provided in this walled city on the sea.