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No one likes the dirty Serbs.

Written on: Thursday August 21st, 2008

A journal entry from: Europe 2008

I don't even know where to begin.

Had an AMAAAAZING time in Dubrovnik. Managed to score a bench right next to the railing on one side of the ferry I took to get over there (I chose to pay for just deck passage versus a cabin because I'm a cheap bastard), so I spent the entire overnight journey falling asleep with a warm breeze in my hair, listening to the sound of waves and opening my eyes every few hours to catch a glimpse of the moon casting its reflection on the dark waters. Effing MORE MAGICAL THAN GANDALF THE GREY.
 
Arrived in Dubrovnik early in the morning feeling exhuberant but smelly, so you can imagine I was pleased as pie when the hostel I'd booked let me check in before 11:00 so I could take a shower. Headed to the beach to work on my horribly faded tan, where I spent most of the time watching a bizarre Italian couple - the guy was white as a ghost, thin as a rail and resembled Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing, and the girl was brown and well over 300lbs and bursting out of her bikini - nuzzle each other on a single creaking sun lounger. At one point Raoul reapplied the chick's sunscreen, ever-so-lovingly gliding his grease-covered hands into and around the folds of fat on her back and stomach. Also, I think he peed on the ground next to me when I went for a quick swim. But his lady love started chatting me up when I was in the water, and she turned out to be a total sweetheart, so I was only half-disgusted every time their canoodling turned to outright gropage on the lounger.

Anyway, the hostel I stayed at was unbelieveable. It's owned and run by a family who only a decade ago had their house bombed to the ground and were refugees. The oldest son got a job working in construction, and for a good five years every penny he made was sent back to the famiy. Eventually, they'd saved enough to build a new house, and turned the bottom floor and part of their own penthouse into the Dubrovnik Backpacker's Club. The mother slaves over the place from 7:00 until 11:00 every day without rest, cooking up a giant breakfast buffet for everyone at the hostel (tea, coffee, cookies, bread, jams, homemade honey, boiled eggs, and even french toast) and making sure all the rooms (complete with en-suite bathrooms) are spotless. The husband and sons all work hard too, and in addition to organizing day trips out snorkelling or over to Bosnia (which I will get into more in a second), they're always around chatting with the hostellers and offering tips on where to go and what to do in the city. The atmosphere there is so warm and loving, and the people who stayed there were all really rad too. I've never stayed at a hostel where everyone became friends so quickly, and between all the partying, random accidents (sea urchin injuries, arms gashed open whilst falling off bridges, and severe foot infections for example) and people using my camera to take pictures of their genitals, there was never a dull moment.

One of the definite highlights was a day trip out to Mostar in Bosnia. Despite several of the participants experiencing severe hangovers, we all piled into the eldest son's van and blasted out of Dubrovnik with salsa music pounding out of the car's speakers. Our first stop was a roadside oyster stand, and then a brilliant swimming area complete with waterfalls and rope swing that looked more like a jungle in South America than something you'd find in Eastern Europe. Next we went to a sweet Bosnian restaurant where we saw entire lambs roasting on a spit in the back of a truck, one of whom we ate for lunch. Despite the Irish guy hoarding all the roasted potatoes like there was another famine coming, we all left full and happy and slightly buzzed from the local wine. Then we arrived in Mostar itself, a beautiful city with a huge bridge and old mosque and more gorgeous sights than you can shake a stick at - including a sweet bar inside a cave that was a good ten degrees cooler than anywhere else. But beautiful as the city was to look at, it was also quite sad to walk around and see the pock-marked buildings everywhere, and crumbled ruins where the poorer people are still living because the country can't yet afford to rebuild what was destroyed back in the early nineties. 
 
The old city back in Dubrovnik still bears eerie signs of the war back in the nineties as well, though it's not something you think about when you walk through the stony streets full of shops and cafes and people. But if you go for a walk along the ancient walls surrounding the city (as I and two others did, unsuccessfully sharing a single audio guide between us), you can see the evidence in the roofs - about 10% of the shingles are the old brown originals, but the massive patchwork of bright orange terra cotta ones are all new replacements for the roofs blown off by the Serbian army. It's weird to think about how recently all this went down - while everyone back home was enjoying the Lion King and trick-or-treating and Hootie and the Blowfish, kids my age over here were losing their homes and their family members and friends.
 
But the city is far too beautiful to dwell on the sad bits of its history. Nicknamed "the jewel of the Mediterranean," the Unesco World Heritage Site is absolutely stunning. I can't say enough about how awesome my time in Dubrovnik was - and it's not just because of the sweet hostel and awesome friends who made leaving it all on Wednesday one of the hardest things I've had to do on my trip - and I hope I can come back soon and see the rest of Croatia along with it.

 

From Mumsy on Aug 22nd, 2008

Sob...sob...real tears. I'm so proud of you Tegan. You look so beautiful...and you are so strong. I love you, miss you, can't wait to tell you in person. Luv Mumsy

From Tegan on Aug 23rd, 2008

ps: mom and grandma, i arrive at 1:20 in the afternoon - it'll be an air transat flight i believe, coming from glasgow.

From anti on Aug 26th, 2008

bbq sunday on the Drive, fly back to me Fly Away Horse and tell me of places I have only imagined in my dreams...you have my greatest love and admiration

From J.R.Taylor on Aug 31st, 2008

The Journeys over through a world so Old but yet so new.May the memories bless You and forever stay with You-Love Grampy -Welcome home