Azamara Quest Cruise Blog Day 5

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Azamara Quest Cruise Blog Day 5

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Azamara Quest docked at 7am at the port of Dubrovnik, and we enjoyed breakfast in the main dining room (yup - Eggs Benedict again - so predictable!). There were two other ships in port today, Voyager of the Seas and Adonia, so Dubrovnik town was going to be busy. Today we had booked another independent tour before we left the UK, and the guide turned up right on the gangway with the driver - very good service! We needed our passports today to show at the port of Dubrovnik, and once we were past the very efficient security guard at the port gate we were on our way. Our guide was Juge with driver Ivo, and the cars AC was very welcome as even at 10am it was hot. Ivo drove us to a great viewpoint where we stopped for photos of Dubrovnik. Anchored just outside Dubrovnik harbour was Seabourn Quest, they were tendering their guests into town, so that made 4 cruise ships in all at the same time. After our photo stop we drove through picturesque villages of Kupari, Srebreno, Mlini and Plat. Our destination was Cavtat, the southernmost town in Croatia.

Cavtat

Second only to Dubrovnik in importance as a tourist resort on the Dubrovnik Riviera, Cavtat is a picturesque seaside resort that grew up around the ruins of an ancient settlement by the Greeks from Epidaurus, and through the years has become a favourite destination for sailors and yacht enthusiasts. Juge told us that a number of celebrates come to Cavtat as its less busy than Dubrovnik (no, we didn’t spot any!) Ivo dropped us off and we had free time to explore this very pretty coastal town.

Along the small dock there were a number of multi-million dollar yachts and sailboats and numerous bars and cafes, all adding up to a create a sophisticated environment. The narrow coast path twisted over the rocks and past the pretty church and went on for quite a way, with fir trees lending welcome shade and dappling the sunlight along the path. After spending a good hour here we returned to Ivo and Juge and we were off to out next stop. We were heading fro the Kinalve region of Croatia, a vast valley nestling in between the mountains - a rich fertile land that used to be home to many farmers and vineyards, however it was decimated during the war and not many farmers have returned. In fact this area was hit very hard during the war and most of the houses have had to be re-built, as it’s so close to the border with Montenegro.

Croatia has about 30% unemployment now, higher during the winter month and really needs tourism to boost its employment levels. After a drive we arrived at a delightful restored watermill. The owner came out to greet us and there was a lovely lady wearing traditional Croatian dress that consisted of a white blouse with intricate hand crafted needlework on the lapels and a small red and white hat, with an accompanying blue skirt. She had a tray of locally produced dried figs and liquors and we were soon tucking in and trying them.

My favourite was the Walnut version, with the Grappa one being particularly strong and possibly removing the lining from my throat! To compensate I had another shot of the Walnut! The owner then told us how this mill had been in his family for generations and he had returned to restore it to full working order. Inside there were two sets of grinding stones, and when he lifted a clutch set in the floor, the fast flowing water beneath the mill entered a channel and turned the central cog, resulting in the grinding stones rotating at a very fast rate. Attached to the stones was a hopper that fed the corn kernels in-between the grinding stone and the base stone and as it rotated out emerged flour! It was a simple but very effective process and we were told how years ago the local farmers would bring their sacks of corn to be ground into flour - payment was 5% of the flour yield.

After this demonstration the owner had laid on some food for us - a platter of bread with local cheese, the local prosciutto, two carafes of wine, some local olives and water. This was laid out on a table under the shade of a large tree and was absolutely delicious. It was so nice to be welcomed into this mans business and to relax under the shade, drinking a chilled light red wine and enjoying all the local produce. This is what travelling is all about for me - meeting the locals, eating and drinking regional foods and getting to know the country through the people. I could have stayed there all afternoon, but it was time to head back. We arranged with the driver to be dropped of at the base of the cable car station in Dubrovnik rather than at the port (a good 10 minutes from the Old Town). The short trip up to the top of the mountain offered breathtaking views of the Old Town and surrounding countryside, and they have also opened up a Museum that focuses on the recent war. After much photo-taking we descended and then climbed the City Walls of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is amongst the most unique cities in the world, and is a place of ancient streets lined with stone palaces, Venetian-style building and bell towers. It was recognised in 1979 as one of UNESCO’s "world heritage treasures" due to the numerous restoration projects executed over the past several centuries. The whole perfectly preserved old town is unique for its marbled-paved squares, cobbles streets, tall houses, churches, palaces, fountains and museums, all cut from the same light coloured stone. Juge told us that it suffered a lot of damage during the war, with many of the roofs destroyed - this was apparent by the large number of buildings that sported new, bright orange roof tiles as opposed to the more faded, worn ones on the surviving roofs.

Dubrovnik’s city walls are up to six metres (20 feet) thick and up to 22 metres (72 feet) high in places. They helped protect the city and run from the cliffs in the north through to the Adriatic n the south. You can enter the walls via a number of gates, and these are the only way back down again. It took us about an hour to walk around most of the walls, some of the steps are steep and vertigo-inducing in parts, and there is only one refreshment bar up there for water and soft drinks - however it was well worth doing and offered amazing views of the city, the Pile Gate, the Bokar Fort and of course the famous red rooftops.

After the walk on the walls, we descended into the heart of the old city and meandered around the cobbled streets and steep alleyways, eventually coming to the main street called Stradun. This is also known as the Placa and is Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare, cutting a pedestrianised swathe right through the old city. This street was formed when a narrow channel that used to be used for ships was filled in and the Slavic settlement of Dubrovnik was joined to the Roman settlement on the island of Raus. The main street is anchored at one end by Onofrio’s Large Fountain (severely damaged in the war but now restored) and at the other by the clock tower. Juge advised that if you are visiting the city and there are a lot of cruise ships in, then wait till the afternoon as most of their city tours will take place in the morning, and so in the afternoon it should be less crowded.

Returning on the ships shuttle bus we had headed up on deck for the White Night party and buffet. The deck was decorated with balloons and the house band was playing, and there was a real party atmosphere onboard. The ships entertainers also staged a "Dancing with the Stripes" competition, a bit like Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing with the Stars and this was a lot of fun. They wanted the guests to wear something white - well if they had advised us in our pre cruise docs there would be a White Party we would have packed something! After the sunset we headed to Prime C for our dinner. This was delicious (try the Fillet Mignon) but at 9pm it was too late to really enjoy it and the service was a bit rushed to be honest. Great food though! Then as we were so stuffed we headed straight to the cabin!

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