Burnt by the Pseudo Irish

Dubrovnik television has a channel that during frequent programming breaks is almost completely devoted to a live shot of the Stradun that runs the length of the lowest part of the Old City.

Pam has challenged me to streak down the main street late at night to show the Dubrovnik citizens a full moon however I have politely declined as with my knees in the state they are, there is no running for me.

When we awake late on Christmas Eve morning the Stradun channel is showing the locals out in force. The Stradun is crowded and more and more people are entering with the climbing sun.

Pam is eager to get amongst it so we have a light breakfast and make our way down the stone stairs from our apartment once more.

The Stradun is busy so rather than heading straight down into the major flow we turn left just before the last short flight of stairs and follow the little walking street Prijeko that runs parallel to the main Stradun. This street is also lined with restaurants which are all serving late breakfasts.

Sounds of choral voices grow louder near the end of the little side street and as we turn into the Stradun we see the crowd watching a large choir perform on the steps of Church of St Blaise (the patron saint of Dubrovnik).

I grasp for the iphone that normally resides in my right pocket and realise we have left it back in the apartment. We Rock Paper Scissors for who is going to be the unfortunate climbing back up the stairs.

The crowd is too dense to try and enter so after watching and listening for a little while Pam and I retrace our steps along Prijeko. Pam powers back up the stairs to fetch the iphone and we rejoin the Stradun close to the main entry through the Dubrovnik wall (Pile Gate).

The crowd is a little thinner here, the locals are very happy, small groups of people break out in spontaneous song on the street as they walk along.

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Joyousness is infective, we are all smiles as we make our way out of the Old City pushing against the tide of people entering.

Our morning mission, should we chose to accept it, is to obtain supplies for the upcoming holiday period. We suspect no shops will be open on Christmas Day and have no idea if they will reopen on Boxing Day.

Pam is looking for vegetarian foodstuffs and thinks we will be able to obtain them in the DM store that lies just outside the Old City walls.

We notice a change in the crowd flowing around us, suddenly everyone has gotten a lot older and most are speaking English. Flocks of people wearing hastily applied adhesive number tags and cheap headsets are loyally following their flag waving guides.

A cruise ship has docked and released a flood of geriatric tourists.

We have heard that up to three cruise ships per day dock and unleash their hordes into the Old City per day in the busy part of the tourist season making the Stradun so busy it is almost impossible to walk.

Pam has chosen the best time of year for crowd averse people such as myself to visit this beautiful town.

While Pam attempts to push her way to the ATM near the tourist office I wait for a break in the crowd to take a photo of musicians in traditional costume who had performed in the Stradun and are now waiting for the bus.

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When I rejoin Pam there is an older couple having trouble with the local currency in front of us. They are English however now live in Wales. We have very recently been accepted for a house sitting position in Wales in late January/early February and are eager to find out a little more about the area.

Our new friends advise us not to call the Welsh people English as they really don’t like it. They tell us the countryside is beautiful and on hearing we are going to the island Anglesey begin rhapsodizing about the local beauty there.

They are keen to sit down and have a drink in the Old City, the gentleman asks me regarding the price of beer and is delighted to hear that an English pound translates to about ten Kuna and he should be able to get the equivalent of a pint for around fifteen Kuna.

‘Makes the ten quid I just took out of the bank look quite good then’ he states.

‘Great inexpensive food, cheap drinks, friendly helpful people who mostly speak English, we love Croatia’ is the gist of our reply.

Turns out this lovely pair are widely travelled and have been to Australia and thoroughly enjoyed themselves there. We chat for a while longer then leave them to their own exploration of Dubrovnik.

Across the street from the ATM is the DM store Pam thinks will stock the vegetarian foods that she is craving. After seeing the huge queue jostling to be served by the single cashier there is no way that I am setting foot in the store so Pam leaves me to observe the outside hubbub for a half hour while she gets what she needs.

Within the Old City walls vendors are selling helium filled brightly printed and shaped foil skinned balloons to all the parents of little children who walk within sight of these flying reflective objects of youthful desire.

As I stand observing the crowds the family next to me has two little boys who each have a racing motorcycle shaped balloon tied to their wrist. Suddenly one of the balloons separates from the securing string and escapes high into the air as the string drops to the ground.

The little boy watches the balloons flight upwards into the still blue sky with fascination until he realises that HE no longer has a balloon.

Outraged howls emit accompanying the flow of tears suddenly welling from his eyes. He grabs for his brother’s balloon, now both of them are howling.

I cannot understand a single word however there is no need for spoken language here, body language tells all.

Comforting words will not do, neither bribes nor rebukes will suffice. Finally the father resigns to his fate and the family set off to buy another balloon to pacify their little toddler monster.

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A loosely tied knot, what a great technique for boosting balloon turnover.

Finally Pam rejoins me, she has found most of what she wanted and is now whinging about shoppers fatigue however our mission is far from over.

For the last couple of days we have been watching news reports detailing heavy rains, snowfalls and flooding in the UK and Western Europe.

Despite having just watched a helium motorcycle climb into a completely cloudless blue sky I know our great luck with the weather just cannot run forever.

We must build up rations for the surely approaching storms.

Joining the flow of cruise ship tourists into the Old Town makes me feel positively spry and youthful.

I guess it is all a matter of perspective.

We return to our apartment to unload the first round of shopping then set of for the Old City supermarket. We have been to this shop before and I have rapidly grown to loath the small narrow busy aisles.

The shelves containing fruit are almost bare by the time we arrive, luckily I had anticipated this and purchased heaps of fruit yesterday. We get the essentials we have come for and I burst out of the tiny store to properly load our bags in the square outside while Pam stocks up on bread at the bakery next door.

Whew, now I am suffering from shoppers fatigue.

‘That is is for the day’ I say as we stagger back into the apartment, ‘no more crowds, no more shops’.

Pam is in complete congruence with my statement and offers no resistance. ‘Just kick back, drink beer and blog on, these are your only tasks for the rest of the day’ she advises.

And so it comes to pass, we have a very relaxing afternoon in the comfort of our apartment. I shift the little breakfast table over to a powerpoint so we can charge our devices while I type away.

That evening we spend writing emails to family and friends. The friends list has grown inordinately. We search for contact details of people we have met on our travels which leads to reverie and contemplation of our fantastic adventure and the wonderful people we have encountered in our journeys past and new.

Such great fortune bestowed so freely is humbling.

Late Christmas Eve becomes early Christmas Day.

We have stayed up very late to Facetime with Lexi and our family and friends in Australia who video chat. Every time I communicate in such a fashion I end up humming ‘Meet George Jetson’.

Pam is very happy to reacquaint herself with her pillow.

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We wake late in the morning on Christmas Day, outside the day looks grey and cold however it has not yet started raining.

We wish each other Merry Christmas and have just had breakfast/lunch when there is a knock on the apartment door. Our lovely young landlord is standing outside with a plate of thick fresh cake slices.

‘Merry Christmas’ she greets us and passes us the plate across the threshold, ‘My mother made this cake and wants to share it with you’.

‘Merry Christmas to you and your family’ we reply, ‘please thank your mother for the delicious cake’.

The cake is truly delicious indeed, thick and moist.

The Croatian people are just superb. Friendly, kind and generous to strangers.

Late in the afternoon the grey skies solidify.

Happy are the prepared.

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Boxing Day morning greets us with the sound of rivulets of water running down the series of waterfalls that the stone staircase has now become.

Safe and sound we spend the day ensconced in the dry warmth of our little haven.

Rain is still falling the next morning as we wake. By midday Pam is climbing the walls with cabin fever.

Lunch and drinks in the Old City will calm her down, we seize on a pause in the rainfall and make a break for it.

There are three Irish bars in the Old City (with nary an Irish person in sight). We head for the nearest which is called the Gaffe and order our usual round, a glass of white wine for Pam and a 500ml beer for me.

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We have ordered a second round by the time the waiter brings us the bill showing 62 Kuna. Naturally we assume that this is for both rounds and are surprised when a second bill for the same amount arrives a few minutes later.

We have had this same round many times in Croatia and have paid anywhere between 25 and 40 Kuna depending on location however 62 Kuna per round brings the price into Australian drinks territory and we are a long way from Australia.

Pam sends me up to the bar to inquire about the price, the barman reiterates the price on the bills we have received.

I tell the barman that ‘this is the most we have paid for this round of drinks in Croatia’ to which he replies ‘I am sure that it is not’.

Answering a large potential drunken lout in a bar by calling them a liar is probably not the wisest language for a barman to use. Luckily for him I am neither drunk nor a lout and I just raise one eye brow, pay the 124 Kuna and retire bemused to our table to finish my drink.

I am not about to argue to the death with some poor hotel employee over what amounts to $12 Australian.

Pam feigns outrage ‘don’t f@#$ with us, we are social media savvy’ she jokes to me, which cracks me up.

‘Yeah we’ll expose you to the world’ I retort, with heavy threat in my tone.

Just one more tiny opinion joining the melee of millions.

Less than twenty meters from the door of the Gaffe is the second of the three Irish bars on our list. We decide to test our newly developed theory regarding special prices for tourists at the Irish bars in Dubrovnik.

As we enter the Karaka is rocking to the strains of what sounds like Dean Martin singing an Acca Dacca (AC/DC) anthem.

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‘I’m on the highway to Hell’ emits from the speakers. I add in, out loud, the refrain ‘don’t stop now…..no speed limits’ at the appropriate point which turns a few heads.

Maybe I am a bit more tipsy than I thought.

What sounds like Lisa Mitchell, singing the Kiss anthem ‘I was made for loving you’ follows. We get out the iphone torch and sway from side to side.

‘Ba ba ba, ba ba ba nah baby’

We order our standard round and are none too happy at the 50 Kuna bill that appears with them.

Deciding not to stretch our luck or remaining funds we decide to never enter another so called Irish Bar until we have arrived in Ireland to experience the real thing.

After leaving the Karaka disappointed we find the rain has begun once more and decide to retire back to our apartment after having purchased further ‘supplies’ for the afternoon and night.

We make our way to the supermarket, oddly the loudspeakers here are playing some real blues ‘I’m your hoochie … coochie mama’.

In my mind everything falls into place, real blues, pretend Irish.

At least we got a great title for this blog.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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