I saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time yesterday, on the bus north to Dubrovnik from the airport. We were on a winding road, carved out of the side of a mountain. For anyone who has never seen or been to Croatia, the entire country is a comma flipped backwards, with its long trailing tail pointing east along the Mediterranean (and in this case, Adriatic) Sea. This straggling strip of coastline puzzled me until we got here. Here, it is obvious that the mountains divide Croatia from its neighbor of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other side. The mountain loom up right beside the sea, and the small clusters of white and orange-roofed buildings that make up Dubrovnik and surrounding towns all perch on the hillside as the mountains reach toward the water. On the hillside, on a clear day, you can see a quarter of the way to the coast of Italy, which is just a hundred miles away.
It is incredibly like a dream. Dubrovnik feels like the medieval city and town you have imagined yourself in a million times in your favorite (okay, my favorite) YA fantasy novels or Game of Thrones episodes. It has so many elements –glossy, worn cobblestones, towering churches, soaring city walls, winding streets, narrow stairways that descend a hundred feet— that proclaims its identity as an old, old European city. It’s enough to just look at for a long time, because it looks as beautiful under the sun as it does at night, judiciously lit by some very clever tourism bureau, which no doubt also mandates orange-colored tile or roofwork for everyone in town. It is also full of stairs and slopes, which are going to either be the death of me or bless me with amazing lower body strength by the end of this trip.