In the early morning we board a bus from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik. My passport is running low on blank pages, and the driver goes through Croatia proper back to Bosnia’s only outlet to the sea, back into Croatia’s annex to Dubrovnik, costing me 2 unnecessary spots on an otherwise unstamped passport page. I am planning a Russia trip in March, and as of now only have one blank passport page to house my visa, so I pray I do not get that page stamped in the remaining three countries on this trip (Montenegro, Albania, Austria).
The bus traverses through the same Balkan mountains we have grown accustomed to, and whenever we step out of the bus the air smells either of smoke from a wood stove, or from cigarettes. When we finally make the leap over the mountains onto the coast, we are almost blinded by the first sun we have seen since landing in Albania. I am almost instantly ill. My skull aches from light sensitivity, but I cannot help myself as it is so bright and by extension so warm. Oranges grow from trees in the yards and otherwise empty lots in Dubrovnik, despite it being January. I try to pick one, but all the ripe ones are just out of reach.
The walk from the station to our guesthouse is less than twenty minutes, and we get to follow the harbor’s aquamarine waters and restrained yachts before we arrive at where we are staying. In the yard, there is trash and the window is broken. As we enter the guesthouse, we realize there is no reception and no heat, except for the space heater that has been placed in the only inhabited room. Here a Chinese teenager is tut-tutting the poor facilities as he wanders between piles of clothes and used food wrappers. I asked how long he had been here and he said a couple of days. Dubrovnik: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
We step out to do our tourist-y things, and end up walking to the Old Town roughly a mile away. The streets are dead except for the occasional couple, pulled in by the romance of the old Roman fortress which encapsulates the Old Town. There are a handful of restaurants and a church, but as the sun sets it feels like a ghost town. Quick glances at the menus outside the restaurants flash prices four- to eight-times the costs of Sarajevo the night before, and we are ultimately coaxed into eating at a quaint Mediterranean restaurant down an alley after being offered a free peach brandy and dessert with our meal.
The one thing we absolutely must eat, according to a preliminary scouring of the internet is squid ink risotto. I have eaten squid ink pasta on several occasions, but never risotto. We order a three-risotto sampler (which costs around forty bucks) and take our brandies and waters. I am unable to enjoy both the brandy and the teeth-staining risotto due to my headache, and we pay and do some quick sightseeing before I grab a juice at a small bodega, and we continue back on the road to the guest house where I make my bed, chug half a liter of apple-peach-orange juice, and fall asleep.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.