We left Zanzibar at 9:30 pm and an over night flight took us to Dubai where we landed at 4 am. The temperature was over 30 C when we landed. We waited for 5 hours for our flight to Dubrovnik. What a fascinating 5 hours! Having never travelled through Dubai before, it was interesting to listen to the flight announcements as we waited - Baghdad, Kuwait, Khartoum, Karachi…all the places we have heard on the news yet never considered as ‘destinations’. Through the somewhat ‘sandy’ haze, we were able to see the towering skyscrapers Dubai is known for. It was a very cool stop over and despite being short, left us all with cool memories for sure.
We followed the Adriatic coastline into Croatia and a bright sunny sky welcomed us into Dubrovnik. Immediately we were struck by the vivid turquoise colour of the sea below. We headed to our wonderful little flat before setting out to grab groceries. Although the store was a short little walk away, we all were struck by our surroundings. White buildings, clean streets and sidewalks, quiet (no horns to be heard) and enough sidewalk for all of us to walk 4 abreast.
Can you suffer reverse culture shock? If so, we definitely were experiencing it. After 5 1/2 months of travelling (and most of it in developing countries) we had become very used to a different way of life. We poked fun at ourselves many times throughout the week as we got used to life in the developed world - our shock that cars would stop for us at crosswalks, asking if water from public fountains was potable…it took some time to get used too, just as we had to get used to a different way of life when we first began the trip.
We spent much of our time in Dubrovnik exploring the old City Centre, city walls, and fort. We may have also challenged ourselves to identify Game of Thrones settings too. Dubrovnik, despite having been impacted by war in the 1990s, was pristine. Yes, there was evidence of the war - bullet holes in walls and documentation within some buildings about damage and rehabilitation process, but it was most evident that care and more importantly, money contributed to the upkeep of this place. Having just visited Stone Town in Zanzibar, we couldn’t help but make comparisons between the 2 old towns. Stone Town in Zanzibar was so different despite both city centres sharing a similar international trade history. While we could see the the splendour of Dubrovnik’s past overtly, we could only imagine what Zanzibar was like in its heyday. Government and money were key factors within these differences. While not fair of us to compare, it just made us take pause and wonder, that’s for sure.
One of our favourite experiences in Dubrovnik was the evening we decided to head into old town. It was a Catholic holiday, the Feast of the Visitation, that day. We had dinner and were walking up the main road to go home, enjoying the sunset, when we noticed a nun lighting candles and setting up an altar outside St. Blaise’s Church. Like many others, we stayed and watched. Soon we heard the songs of a choir echoing down the street as the priest, choir and congregation paraded and then stopped at the church for a small mass ceremony. There is nothing quite like the beautiful harmony of an Eastern European church choir I’ve learned. Although quite a serendipitous moment (as we didn’t know this would be happening), we all feel fortunate to have witnessed many special religious ceremonies around the world during our travels.
Croatia was also a place where we took the time to just ‘be’. While we could have island hopped on day cruises, we have learned that we are all just happy to hang out at a beach (plus Meghan and I don’t fare too well on open ocean boats). So we chose to spend a few days enjoying the amazing sun and sea in Dubrovnik and Split. It was the girls’ first experience at a stone beach and despite their initial shock at their not being sand (yes-we are raising beach snobs, although not intentionally, ha!), they realized how comfortable and fun a stone beach could be. They especially loved the inflatable floating playground at Sunset Beach in Dubrovnik. Who knew anything like this even existed!?
Throughout our trip we have weighed the best way to travel between locations. In Europe especially, we have found it more cost effective for a family of 4 to rent a car than to travel by bus or train. So, this is how we got to Split — which required a drive through Bosnia Herzegovina for about 20 minutes, but alas, no stamp in our passport.
Split afforded us the time and space to slow things down even more. We spent an afternoon in the old city centre and went to the beach. Perhaps it was because Avery and I were battling terrible colds and not feeling super energetic or maybe we were still battling a bit of jet lag from our overnight flight to Europe, but we spent more time just hanging out at our little flat than exploring as we thought we might. This was a place where running errands (some clothes needed to be replaced and toiletries needed to be bought) and planning the remainder of our trip became the focus. This included buying our plane ticket home. Ah, all good things must come to an end.
Croatia is stunning! We loved our brief time here and having just bought our ticket home, it made us realize how much we need to squeeze out of our remaining time.
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).