Dubrovnik is an old walled city that today is the busiest ghost town in the world. Less than a thousand people live here (down from almost 44,000 in 2001), but if you spit in any direction while walking its smooth, white marbled streets, you’ll hit a dozen tourists. Don’t do this.
We celebrated Griffin’s birthday on the rocky island of Lokrum, located across a wide crystalline avenue of water from Dubrovnik that is traveled by cruise ships, yachts and water taxis.
Here, daring tourists jump into the Adriatic from high cliffs and the crazy ones dive or flip. Griff acted more sixteen than newly six, leaping from the highest point possible, as comfortable in the water as a dolphin.
The day after this epic beach birthday, I got sick. Although I’m pretty sure it was not the plague, if it had been the Middle Ages, I would have been escorted to Dubrovnik’s long, red roofed quarantine station, or lazaret, to see if I got better or died.
Instead, we stayed in the attic room of a beautiful, skinny three story apartment called “The Poet’s House” with Grandma Dubrow, Aunt Sandra and Cousin Rowie, who had come to visit from L.A. Like a lovesick puppy, Ado followed Rowie around saying over and over, “I wuv you, Wo-wie!”
Luckily, Grandma is not at all afraid of plague. While I recuperated, she entertained the kids with endless I-Pad playtime and “black chocolate” ice cream cones. She now ranks somewhere between Greek Goddess and Croatian Queen.
Grandma also hooked me up, visiting the city’s oldest pharmacy (established in 1391!) to score some drugs–a leap of faith, since both dosage and ingredients were in Croatian. But after gulping down some weird fizzy tablets and sage tea, things got better…Yay!… until I made the unfortunate decision to take a two-kilometer walk around Dubrovnik’s defensive walls in midday heat. Whoever said we get wiser as we get older was dead wrong.
For the next two days, the air conditioning broken in our room, I lay in bed, short winded and short tempered, the smell of frying fish wafting in the open windows from the restaurant down below. But even nauseous and half dead, it is easy to see that this city is special.
Perfectly rebuilt since more than half its buildings were shelled by Serbs in the 1991, Dubrovnik is a piece of art that Michelangelo might have carved out of the largest, most beautiful piece of stone. Kissed on three sides by Windex clear ocean, the hard part is believing what you see is real.