It is the hottest day of the year and we decide to ascend the steep stone stairs so we can walk the walls that surround Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is just past one o’oclock at the hottest time of the day. It is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At the top, the narrow walkway is almost deserted. Only a few panting tourists cling to small slivers of shade in the corners of the winding way. The heat is merciless.
From the top of the wall, the view is as spectacular as the heat is ruthless. Sweat pours down my back, soaking me shirt. Claudia’s shorts have a “v” outlined in water just below her waist. We cannot rush this promenade. Every few feet, there is a photo begging to be taken. The domes, the orange tile roofs and the grey granite stone creates new intricate puzzle piece mosaics below as the Adriatic sparkles beyond the walls. Dubrovnik is magical. Walking through the gates is like walking through a time portal.
This morning did not start off well at all. I wake up feeling weak and nauseous. My stomach clenches in painful cramps. At breakfast I order an “omlet” (omelette in Croatian) but it sits there looking wilted in the heat. I cannot eat it. I cannot even speak English let alone Croatian. I wonder why I traveled over 20 hours to be in this horrendous heat. The nice waitress is concerned and brings a free bottle of water to me in the bathroom after I pay the check. This act of kindness is the first of many that we experience today in Dubrovnik.
We go to the Farmacia and speak with a woman behind the counter. I only know how to say “Ja nisam dobra” (I am not fine) as I point to my stomach. She does not speak much English, however, I understand enough to respond “sve” (all) when she asks me my symptoms. She gives me a box of pills and tells me to take no more than 2 per day. I immediately pop 2 in my mouth. Thirty minutes “sve u radu” (everything is good). We go the the port and buy our ferry tickets for our next 3 stops, Korčula, Hvar and Split at Jadrolinja at the old port.
Now, I sit on a rock one hundred stairs below St. Jakov’s Church. We accidentally miss the first set of stairs. Instead we walk past a sign that reads “private property, enter at your own risk.” We pass a grafiti covered abandoned building serving as a moped parking shelter. To the right and down the stairs, young men play soccer barefoot in an abandoned amphitheater, all in ruins except the pristine newly painted floor. At the bottom of the stairs a silver ladder connects the rocks to the water. The sun is sending a sparkling path of light across the crystal clear waters to my feet. A radio is playing American pop music. To our left, one of the young men suddenly flies off a rock and into the water.
Claudia and I slide into the Adriatic. It is so clear and so cool. It immediately resets my body temperature to normal. A local befriends Claudia and they disappear under the water to swim through an opening in the wall to a hidden cave. Claudia returns exhilirated “Come on mom.” I try, but I cannot work up the nerve.
We go back up the stairs to the road and find the right set of stairs that descend at the end of the parking lot just behind St. Jakov’s Church. We find a beach with chairs, umbrellas, a shower, toilets and a restaurant. We eat lignje na žaru on the terrace as we watch the sun set just to the right of the old town. My bottle of Jana water says “Slušam svoje srce u svemu što činim” (I listen to my heart in all I do.} Ahh, I am in heaven. This is why I traveled for over twenty hours. Is my first day in Dubrovnik already over? Is my glass of wine already empty? Šteta (pity).
Life is an adventure, not a destination. Listen to your heart and you will find your heaven.