We spent two wonderful weeks on holiday in Cavtat which is near Dubrovnik. My husband and I went with a group of friends on a holiday organised by our local U3A ( University of the Third Age) so we were all of a similar age and mostly pensioners but all fairly fit.
We stayed in The Hotel Epidaurus which is a large complex situated in the beautiful small town of Cavtat which is on the shores of Tia Bay. Cavtat is a pretty medieval town with quite a history.The hotel is a situated about a kilometre away from the town – reached by a walk along the attractive promenade lined with restaurants and kiosks selling boat trips. It is quite a walk for the unfit and there was no bus available between the hotel and the town.
Hotel Epidaurus caters for all inclusive guests and is ideal for those who want to stay in the complex all day and every night.. The French entertainment staff hosted a number of activities throughout the day and put on very loud shows in the evening. They were all young, energetic and extremely enthusiastic! I myself attended several keep fit classes and particularly enjoyed the aqua aerobics.
Whilst the hotel website promotes it as ideal for guests who like peace and quiet we did not really agree! It was very hot and there was no air conditioning so bedroom doors had to remain open at night and outside noise seemed to continue into the early hours!
We chose not to upgrade to all inclusive (an extra £10 a day) as we prefer to eat out at lunchtime and spend quite a lot of our time away from the complex exploring. Our first trip was to explore Cavtat which is such a pretty little place. There are numerous restaurants , bars and cafes plus two wonderful ice cream parlours and a number of souvenir shops.
Cavtat is a small medieval town built on the slopes of the Peninsular of Rat and is considered to be one of the prettiest towns on the Adriatic Coast. We visited a number of times and found something different to see each time as well as just relaxing in a bar and admiring the flamboyant yachts anchored in the harbour!
Probably our favourite was the small art gallery and museum located up a steeply stepped side street which is the childhood home of Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922). He was the most important Croatian painter of his time. It features some of the murals he painted as a teenager before he trained in Paris. It is interesting to see the changes in his style as he grew older and became more accomplished until his death in 1922.
We were shown round by a very enthusiastic young curator who brought it all to life.
On another day we visited the mausoleum where the body of Bukovac now lies along with those of the prominent Racic shipping family . The views from the cemetery are beautiful as it is situated at the top of an exceedingly steep hill. It is still used to this day.
Early on in the holiday we went by water taxi to visit the wonderful city of Dubrovnik. The journey by sea was an excursion in itself. Water taxis run quite frequently throughout the day and cost between £6 and £8 return. There is a lot of friendly competition between rival firms but they are all very similar. The trip to Dubrovnik took about an hour and we were able to board from a point quite close to the hotel. Buses are also available but the bus station is in the town and therefore further away.
I loved the boat ride and found it fairly smooth going except when we were in open sea when it rocked and rolled!
Dubrovnik is a walled city and it is possible to walk all the way round using one of 3 entrances. The total length of the wall is 1940 metres and there are numerous steps. It takes about 2 hours to walk all the way round the complex combination of towers, bastions, forts and fortresses which protected the Republic for more than 5 centuries.
Unfortunately it was very hot when we went and my husband got vertigo so we didn’t get very far! It is well worth a visit but I recommend going as early in the morning as possible. The view of the roof tops is amazing.
Dubrovnik has a number of museums and we bought a ticket which gives you entry to most of them. My favourite was the Ethnographic Museum which showed life through the ages. I loved the costumes and textiles. The museum is tucked away down a narrow lane and is spread out over 3 floors in an old grain storage house. We also visited the Rector’s Palace and Cultural History Museum where there was a disturbing display of photographs taken during and after the 1991-1992 civil war.
The city itself is fascinating with so many narrow streets, old buildings and statues. It is nicknamed “The Pearl of the Adriatic”. It was teeming with tourists of all nationalities and is a regular stop off for the large cruise ships. in 1979 it was listed as a World Heritage site. Dubrovnik is still suffering from the damage done by shelling in 1991 conflict. and after the break up of Yugoslavia it was besieged by Serbian and Montenegran soldiers.
At every corner we were greeted by cafe/restaurant waiters inviting us to eat but they were mostly friendly and accepted our refusal with “tomorrow maybe”! We certainly felt safe as we strolled around and never felt threatened while we were on Croatian soil.
Whilst waiting for our boat to return to Cavtat we saw a wedding party disembark, complete with the groom in a kilt.
Our group took 3 organised day trips and the first was to Montenegro which is to the south west of Croatia and bordered by Bosnia Herzegovina to the north west.It declared independence from Yugoslavia in May 2006. We travelled by mini bus starting early in the morning and had to go through passport control before reaching our first stop in Kotor. This is another walled city in the shadow of the St John Hills. Unfortunately we didn’t stop long enough to explore but did see some national dancing which was fun to watch.
Our next stop was Budva which was very ugly at first glance with unfinished concrete buildings,. However our English speaking guide led us through a network of lanes to a lovely restaurant which was on the harbour and on the approach to the Old Town. Restaurant Jadron served up a marvelous fish platter which we will remember for years! After our delicious lunch we wandered round the old town which is charming, with very narrow streets and small squares. We enjoyed a coffee in one of the many cafes.
Our final visit of the day was to Sveti Stefan which is a luxury resort on an islet reached by a causeway.. We were not allowed to approach it and could only admire from a distance! It was an Adriatic playground for the rich and famous in the 1960- 1980s but is now a 5 star franchise hotel.
Our second organised day trip was by boat. We visited the islands of Lopud, Spacek and Kolocep. They were all interesting and attractive but the short time allowed ashore made it impossible to appreciate the full beauty of each individual island. We had lunch on board and enjoyed the boat ride and the varied views of the coastline.
Our final trip was to Mostar which is famous for its bridge. Mostar is in Bosnia Herzegovina and once again we had to pass through passport control. Apparently in the summer it can take up to 3 hours to get through so you are advised not to visit at that time. The scenery en route was incredible with breathtaking views of the Adriatic coast.
Mostar is inland and very soon after leaving the bus one of our group had her wallet stolen and her money taken. Amazingly her wallet and passport were returned to her but she was some 100 euros short! The police were called but could not take action unless she was prepared to go to the Police station. Theft is quite common in Mostar and there are quite a few beggars around so beware! I am afraid this event rather spoiled the day and I spent the rest of the time clutching my handbag very tightly!
However the guide led us to a restaurant which he assured us was trustworthy and we shared an enormous platter of meat between 4 of us. There was sufficient food to feed at least 8 of us and the remains were fed to the stray cat which had taken up residence there! That was another excellent meal and very inexpensive. We had a good view of the old bridge and while we were eating we heard the splash as someone dived into the river below. There is an annual diving competition when professionals make the jump. The bridge’s clearance is over 20 metres and the water is exceptionally cold. It seems that non professionals do make the jump, probably in exchange for a few euros!
The streets leading up to the bridge (which was rebuilt after destruction in the 1990s war) are pebbled and very slippery. We clung on to the bridge uprights as we crossed which was OK until you met someone coming from the opposite direction doing exactly the same! The old town was full of small souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours and was very colourful. Most things are very cheap in Bosnia.
Unfortunately I found it hard to relax as I didn’t feel safe. It was good to see the bridge and experience the atmosphere but I don’t think I would want to go again.
One Sunday we visited the nearby village of Cilipi on the local bus to see the Folklore Museum and dance display which is performed by the villagers. It is put on every week in the holiday season and was charming. There were stalls selling traditional embroidery and local produce and an hour’s display of the national dances.. I was impressed by the small museum which had displays of costumes,farming and wine making equipment It was good to see the youngsters of the village were involved too.
We visited the island of Lokrum by water taxi and spent a very hot day climbing up to visit the old fort at the top of a steep hill. The view was worth it as we looked down at the cruise ships anchored in the bay! After lunch in a restaurant in a monastery we wandered round the Botanical Gardens and admired the cacti and succulents,
finishing off our visit with a dip in the sea watched by the peacocks which inhabit the island.
The rest of our holiday was spent sunbathing,swimming and walking into Cavtat. A lot of time was spent admiring the enormous yacht which was reputedly owned by a Russian oligarch! We spoke to a crew member who said it was more than his life was worth to tell us who was on board! It certainly dwarfed every other yacht that moored up beside it!
Our evenings were all spent in the hotel, mostly sitting outside to eat our dinner which was served buffet style. The food was good but because of the enormous lunches we ate when out we found a salad was usually enough! We were glad we had decided not to take the “all inclusive” option! The highlight of practically every evening was the sunset. It was wonderful to watch the sun setting over Dubrovnik and there was always a line of photographers trying to capture the final moment as the sun dropped behind the mountains.
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday with a few reservations. The hotel was noisy and hot so I would prefer a smaller, quieter hotel with air conditioning which was actually switched on! However there are a lot of places still to see so I look forward to returning in the not too distant future.