When I got into green, beautiful, Croatia, I either kissed the ground, or… my imagination has warped and exaggerated the story over time. We couldn’t wait to get to Dubrovnik, hoping to stay at a sobe in Old Town.
Here’s the prequel: Megan and I had been traveling for over 2 days from Corfu, an island in Greece through Albania and Montenegro before we finally reached Croatia. It was all a nice little accident; we originally thought we could take a ferry from Corfu straight to Croatia. We were silly. The journey- ferry, bus, mini-bus, hitchhike, taxi, bus- was exhausting but exhilarating because we felt like explorers, only, we didn’t know the language, currency, or where we were located on a map. At one point I wasn’t sure which country we were in. I was pretty into Carmen Sandiego when I was little, but obviously never won that computer game.
At this time, Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia were not part of the EU (Croatia now is). That means we should get our passports checked at border control. Ha, so that wasn’t quite how it went down, maybe because while racially profiling, they decided we were awesomely sweet and innocent, therefore welcoming us into the country with open arms regardless of our nationality.
This post is really hard to write because Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, was one of my favorite cities in Eastern Europe,but there was so much more in Croatia I want to experience! Like usual, I hadn’t done enough research. We knew there were some other options like Split, Zagreb, Ljubljana, the many islands, and the Plitvice Lakes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But with little time allowance, we chose Dubrovnik, along the beautiful Adriatic coast, and stayed for 4 days.
The “staying” is where it gets really exciting.
Where do you stay in Croatia: a guesthouse? Hostel? Hotel? Nope. Just women from the bus stop. They’re selling rooms in their homes to make a living, like the new airBnB. The rooms are called sobes, but the women offering up these rooms aren’t all as cute as you’d think. They can be quite aggressive, swarming the bus and ferry arrivals, each one hoping you pick them, and angry when you don’t. “you want room? Sobe? Good price! Near old town! Map map! Good price!” they all tell you in unison. Although, not unlike any other tout at a bus stop, it’s strange coming from these little old ladies.
We initially checked out a campsite- 20 E with no tent provided… no thanks. So we went back to the bus stop and chose our sobe after some horrible negotiating. We settled on 500 kuna, about 16 bucks, split between the two of us. That was her original offer. She was a tough old broad.We got lucky with an awesome private room at a good location overlooking old town. She drove up to the house from a back road, and showed us from the front how we could simply walk down approximately 500 stairs and be in the city. I only fell face first down them once (maxi dresses had just become popular, my legs were confused).
yep, fell down these.
view from our room
Another “easier” ways to stay with at a sobe is to go to any tourism office in town to have it arranged. The benefit for you is an easy booking with photos to guarantee what type of place you’re staying in. The downside is, you usually pay a little more in booking fees, plus the middleman will take even more off the top, meaning the sobe gets less money. Obviously, an alternative option is to not stay at a sobe at all. There are hostels, campsites, and hotels, but sobes are an interesting and fun part of Croatian culture. These women are hardened from years of war, and actually being around them is a little intimidating. You can see in their faces and bodies they have worked hard their whole lives and seen such intense things- how silly they must think us backpackers are! Although seeming unapproachable, they are welcoming… maybe only because that’s their business. Our lady made us tea and juice, and even offered us dinner that we refused, so that we could go out into town.
Are the Sobes safe?
It’s really unregulated. In Eastern Europe, even places we stayed in from Hostelworld were simply someone’s home. Could you get everything stolen and leave with bedbugs crawling all over your luggage? Maybe, but come one that’s probably not going to happen. You can book through the Croatian site that sobes should register with. but it will probably cost you more than just showing up.
Eat a Mea Culpa. Delicious, enormous pizzas for about 5 euros. I got the four cheese with corn, scrumptious! Then get some gelato.
Check out the Castle’s Ancient City Walls. You can pay to walk the castle walls, which I didn’t do, but I’m sure would offer even more amazing views of the Adriatic Sea. The “Walls of Dubrovnik” have protected Croatia since the 7th century, and were never breached during the Middle Ages, making them the best! They became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Even as late at 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence, This wall prevented Yugoslavia from completely demolishing the Old Town.
Free Walking Tour, which I didn’t do. But I LOVE a free walking tour so it’s a shame I missed this one, seeing as though the history in Croatia is not so far in the past.
Wander around Old Town. All cities with a castle are magical. I’m going to go ahead and make that bold statement. Dubrovnik is no exception. The city is magnificent; the stone streets, amazing views, and couples there on destination weddings. The shopping is a little pricey, but the food is on the cheap! The streets are full of entertainers… and stray cats.
Use Dubrovnik as a hub to an island. Popular destinations are Mljet (a national park) and Korcula.
Take a cable car ride to see views from above the city. The restaurant is pricey but worth the views!
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Rachel Jones is an American who left a career in nursing to live on the beaches on Goa, India two years ago where she is now a Thai masseuse, candle-maker, and travel writer. Her award winning website gives advice on the other 28 countries she's been to but has become the go-to site on India travel, focusing on off beat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine & was voted by Flipkey as one of the top 25 female bloggers to follow this year. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google plus.
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