The Elegance of Dubrovnik
It seems like a long time ago that we were experiencing the coldest Croatian June in memory. For the past week our days have been a game of avoiding the heat of the day. The heat of the sun...definitely falls sometime between 8 AM and 7 PM, which means our days of paddling from...to the Korcula Peninsula and out to the...islands of Sipan and Lopud and...have taken on a definitive Mediterranean flavor—long siestas in whatever piece of shade we can grab, which has ranged from rock overhangs to pieces of scrub grass, moving from the tiniest bit of shade to the next...I went to watch the moonrise a few nights ago, towards the end of the year's longest day, we were in the small fishing village of Luka on the island of Sipan, when, around 10:30, it finally came up, climbing straight up behind the village's 500 year old bell tower. Tonight is our last night at sea. Tomorrow morning, near dawn, we hope before the heat comes, we paddle the last 15 kilometers to the walled city of Dubrovnik.
DISPATCH 13,Dubrovnik 6/28/05
We rounded a bend in a coastal mountain and ahead, between paddle strokes, I could hear Alex singing a slightly bent version of the 'Hallelujah' chorus. I wasn't sure if it was because this was our final day of kayaking, or simply because he'd been the first to spy the impressive walled city of Dubrovnik, from sea level.
Tall stone walls rising from the rock lining the shore, the city has stood here, magnificently, for 1,000 years...though it was badly rocked in 1991-92 by fighting. Serb militia surrounded the city, blockaded the roads in and out and lobbed artillery in from land and sea. As we paddled we looked for the evidence of the patching job that had taken place post-war, to restore the elegant UNESCO-protected city and revive its major industry—tourism.
We recognized the marina on the southern edge of the city from wartime photographs, when dozens of boats had been set on fire here. This day, calm reigns (except for the myriad tourist taxis racing in and out of the small port). It is ironic that it took the bombing of this historical city to get European and U.S. negotiators in to help end the fighting between Croats and Serbs 14 years ago...
Our adventure ends here, just inside the gates of the walled city. Pulling kayaks onto our last pebble beach, melting under another 100-plus degree day, we spy a seaside coffee bar. After our first fresh water douche in many days, we crawl inside, hungry for shade, happy to have arrived here, the end of this particular journey...