The bus fills the entire narrow lane as it twists around curves along the Adriatic coast. It comes within inches of limestone cliffs on one side, and sheer drop-offs into the sea on the other. Once we swing around a mountain a few hours later, viola! The site of the walled city of Dubrovnik sits on the sea in the distance and blows us away.
An American man approaches us at the bus station. “Do you guys need some directions?” he asks. “I’m very familiar with the area, and know how overwhelming coming into a city like this can be.”
Had I known he spoke English I would’ve talked with him on the three-hour ride.
“We’re okay,” Marilynn responds. “Got a place up on the hill.”
“Well, when you see all the construction on main street in old town, that’s us,” he explains. “We’re building a movie set.” He starts walking away.
“What’s the name of the movie?” Marilynn asks.
Reluctantly, he says, “Robin Hood.”
He shakes his head and continues walking.
A short, and reasonable taxi ride brings us to the top of a hill. “Follow serpentine street,” driver points. “Street too small for car.”
Soon we step out onto our terrace that overlooks old town on the edge of the sea. It’s a sunny day, and we don’t want to leave the Guesthouse Slavka, but need to explore.
We walk atop the magnificent wall that surrounds old town. Now, this is a wall! After this city was bombed, a major restoration used original materials to rebuild. Reminders of the bombings remain in a few piles of rubble.
Time for an Ozujsko beer at Buza café that hangs on a sea cliff. We have the wall and the restaurant to ourselves.
Walking through “old towns” has become one of our favorite pastimes, and often leads to interesting interactions with locals. Like the other day, a woman says something to me, and I think that she’s trying to sell something.
“I don’t speak the language,” I say.
As we walk away, Marilynn says, “She asked you if you wanted to try her restaurant. You said, ‘I don’t speak the language?’ What’s the matter with you?”
We laugh about the woman’s puzzled look, and my ignorance, most of the evening.
Time for some squid ink risotto mixed with seafood, topped with prawn. We’ll take an order of bacon wrapped scallop over hummus with that.
So, the next day we’re walking around old town on a quest for oysters, and who do we run into? Yes, the restaurant woman who speaks perfect English. She remembers me, of course.
“You made me very confused.” She smiles. “Maybe today you speak the language and will eat at my restaurant?” We all laugh, and then explain that we are looking for the famous oysters from Ston, a nearby island.
“The sushi place and four out of five restaurants are closed this time of year,” she says. “Where are you from?”
“Oh, Americans,” she nods. “In the summer, there are too many Americans here. They all come on the cruise ships. You’re the first I’ve seen in months.”
Eventually, we stumble into a new restaurant right on the sea. The Valentine’s Day gods smile upon us with a cold plate (sushi) full of tuna, octopus, squid, and marinated shrimp, atop rocket (arugula) salad.
The owner presents us with two glasses of cherry brandy, on the house.
Happy Valentine’s Day! In any language. Ron Mitchell