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.
photo credit: flickr
What To Do in ‘Old Town’ of Dubrovnik
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!
photo credit: flickr
Museums. There’s one to celebrate the Croatia War of Independence and the only popular one is War Photo Limited. I unfortunately didn’t make time for these, so can’t offer any tips.
Lay out at Copacabana beach. Who doesn’t love a good book at the beach. Right now I’m reading “Seriously…I’m Kidding” by Ellen Degeneres. It’s fantastic!
feature image credit: flickr
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I love the idea of staying with the little old ladies in their homes. Was it just her there or did she have family you would interact with as well?
her mother was there too! it was really nice, some will even cook you dinner if you want
This is such a beautiful post – and now I’m itching to visit! Maybe I can squeeze it into my spring backpacking trip, fingers crossed!
it’s worth a stop for sure! It reminds me so much of Italy, its gorgeous
Loved to see this post – I was just in Croatia in August and your photos bring back great memories! Did you get a chance to visit Lokrum while you were in Dubrovnik? The wild peacocks there are great.
no, i’ve never heard of it! i’ll have to look it up. thanks!
It looks so beautiful. I haven’t actually been yet but am going to be working as a tour guide sailing around Croatia this summer. This is making me so excited!
wow that’s killer! how’d you get that job!?
It’s with busabout, they do week long sailing trips around the islands. Not quite sure how I managed to get it though!
I randomly stumbled upon this blog post and I find it so funny. My grandma lives in Dubrovnik and when I was younger we used to stand on the side of the road with a sign “APARTMENT FREE”. I think every house has rooms or a whole apartment for rent in Dubrovnik. Nowadays people no longer wait for tourists to get off the buses or off the street, it is all through booking or other online agencies which I think is a shame because it was a really interesting concept :D