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Throwback Thursday: Dubrovnik

Tips for visiting Dubrovnik:

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1. Rather than hiring a taxi to the Old Town from downtown Dubrovnik, there are many bus stops along the main streets where you can board the local buses. Bus tickets can be bought when boarding the bus, however it works out to be cheaper if you buy your tickets from shops in advance.  The local buses which run this route are the numbers 1a, 1b and 8, and the usual fare is 1.30 euro.

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2. If you’re looking for a quiet restaurant within the Old Town to grab a bite to eat, you need to get off the beaten track. The restaurants that are in the open are always crowded and consequently, loud. There are many tiny staircases leading off the main streets in the Old Town, and all you have to do is keep an eye out for signs advertising the location of these independently owned businesses. I can assure you that they will be much cheaper than eating where everyone else is.

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3. If you are like me, and you have a habit of collecting magnets or other various memoirs of your travels, then buying them from the shops in Old Town Dubrovnik is not the way to go. These products are marked up, and will cost a minimum of 3 or 4 euros. There are people walking around near to the gate of the walled city with souvenirs for less than half of the price of the store bought trinkets.

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4. If you are visiting Dubrovnik as a stop on a cruise, then you are most likely without any of the local currency. Using the Euro in Dubrovnik may be a headache, unless you like to walk around with a small calculator. Spending the US Dollar is almost impossible, as stores seem to refuse taking the bills as payment. I utilized a foreign exchange agency to change my cash into the Croatian Kuna for a reasonable rate, and this made visiting the city a less confusing venture.

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5. Many people visit the Old Town to walk along the walls in the hopes of capturing some great photos. The cost of this activity is about $12 USD. If you are more concerned about getting some bird’s eye views rather than the actual stroll along the wall, there is a free alternative. Just outside of the entrance of the Old Town is another hill. Most tourists aren’t aware of a path which takes you up this hill where you can get awesome views at the same height as if you’re climbing the wall. I discovered this totally by accident, and I’d love for others to experience the same.

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Dubrovnik is a known as the Pearl of the Adriatic Sea, and it deserves the title. However, as with all major tourist destinations, high prices and large crowds are present as well. Hopefully, these tips will make your visit a bit cheaper, and allow you a few moments away from the crowds to enjoy the city with a bit of peace.

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Sky High in Slovenia

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my Round The World trip in November 2011, and I’ve come to appreciate the opportunity to see so much of this fantastic place we call earth. With ticket prices soaring higher each day, these memories and photographs increase in value.

One of the more interesting attractions in Koper, Slovenia is the Old Bell Tower in Tito Square. The square itself is rather enchanting, with various buildings including the Praetorian Palace. Pigeons are literally everywhere, and ever so often a horse may trot through the square, pulling a beautiful carriage. Oh, just the regular happenings in this spectacular small coastal town.

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Jenn and I decided that it would be a good experience to climb the tower, so we entered the small doorway that we noticed at the bottom of the building. There was an elderly man inside who apparently was the manager/cashier on duty, and he quoted us a price of 3 euros. After handing over the cash, we were given a ticket which we would keep as a souvenir of the activity.

We started up the stairs, which comprised of narrow wooden steps and a metal railing to hold onto. The descent wasn’t bad at first, however it became steeper and if possible, even more narrow as we approached the top. When you’re outside looking up, it doesn’t seem so high, but when you’re in the middle of climbing the bell tower, every step you take reminds you of exactly how far up you have to drag yourself.

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Thankfully, Jenn and I are in pretty good shape, so we didn’t huff and puff too much, but the trip still wasn’t a walk in the park. When we were almost at the top, we saw the bell and it was massive! However, it started to chime and even though the sound was melodious, our ears started to hurt. This trip definitely shouldn’t be taken by persons with sensitive ears.

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During the ascent, we sometimes had to squeeze to the side, in order for the people who were coming down the stairs to have room to pass. There was only one set of stairs in the tower, but everyone tried their best to accommodate each other, and I didn’t see any problems occur as a result. Persons who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights may not appreciate this, but I didn’t have an issue with it.

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Finally, we arrived at the top of the tower. The views were like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and that statement holds a lot of weight. We were high above the red roof tops of the buildings within Koper, and the Adriatic Sea sparkled in the distance. The horizon was dotted with the sails of many small ships, and our cruise ship dominated the seascape as it floated majestically in the harbour.

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The viewing platform at the top was a narrow walkway where visitors could walk around to get a 360 degree view. The other side of the tower showed green hillsides, dotted with tall trees and various types of vegetation. This side of the tower showed a completely different scene from the Adriatic Sea, and I was animatedly snapping away at my camera.

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Immediately beneath of the bell tower was Tito Square. The square appeared to be tiny from this height, and the people who strolled around below, looked like small toys. We were high above all the other buildings, and the view inspired me to think about how beautiful the world really is.

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Eventually, it was time to start the journey back down the seemingly hundreds of stairs. Once again, we seemed to have timed the bell perfectly, because it chimed as if to thank us for visiting. The Old Bell Tower in Koper was a great attraction, and I’m very happy that I made the effort to climb all the way to the top.

Round The World Trip Report

This trip was everything that I dreamed it would be. And more. When I think back, I remember all the emotions I went through from the very moment the idea came to me, to the moment I boarded my first flight and left everything that I knew behind. Taking the leap was frightening, exciting and truly an adventure. The planning was time-consuming, stressful at times and annoying when things just weren’t adding up. Now, all of it was worth it in the end.

Saving

For seven months, I basically killed my social life. Saving for a RTW trip in less than a year was no easy task, and I think I gave the cartoon character Scrooge a run for his money. I stayed home constantly, I barely ate out at restaurants and it sucked having to tell my friends ‘No’ to offers of a night on the town. Going out then was equal to spending the money which I would need for plane tickets, accommodation and a subway ride on my big trip. It was really hard. Hard like diamonds. However, it was necessary and I stuck to it. After all the hard work, I finally met my savings goal and a dream was turned into a reality.

Planning

This trip underwent over 6 months of back-breaking research. I say back-breaking, because of the hundreds of hours spent hunched over my Macbook Pro searching for information online, or just simply browsing through the countless numbers of travel blogs scattered all over the World Wide Web. Everything from finding out what exactly hostels were, to visa requirements and the cost of taxis in each country I would be visiting was typed into my beloved Google. Thankfully, everything worked out. Even some of my random search entries proved to be of help. Like I said in a previous post, I wasn’t planning on visiting Innsbruck, Austria but when all the trains from Italy to Switzerland were sold out, I knew from my research that Innsbruck could be a great stop on the way over and the idea worked out great! I had countless spreadsheet documents with all budget figures, from accommodation costs per day, to my splurge fund which included the entrance fee to the Angkor Temples and my trip to the Swiss Alps. Being organized and prepared helps!

Countries

The destinations which I visited were all pretty great. Each of them offered something different, something memorable. Sometimes, it’s what I did there that made the visit awesome, while in other countries, it was the interesting people who I met that made the trip special. In Cambodia, the people were the best part of the country. From my Angkor Complex tuk tuk driver who shared lunch with me, and stories about his family, to a random local on the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh who talked with me for over 3 hours made me fall in love with the country. I would be in a tuk tuk at a traffic light in Phnom Penh, and everyone would just be smiling and waving at me. I was made to understand that this was due to the fact that I was a young black woman, something that they apparently weren’t used to seeing, and a little girl actually called me Michelle Obama! I can’t count the number of smiles I received during my short stay.

The food in Italy was awesome. I loved everything from the pastas to the delicious gelato! The highlight of Slovenia was the view at the top of the Old Bell Tower, after huffing and puffing up the hundreds of stairs, and nothing compared to the beauty of the Swiss Alps. I loved my bike trip from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach in Los Angeles. Speaking of Venice, the floating city of Venice in Italy was absolutely spectacular, and I will never forget being lost in the many alleys in the cold Fall weather. Singapore and Malaysia were a brilliant contrast after the countries of Vietnam and Cambodia with their modern architecture and fashionable locals. You get the point!

Top 3 countries in no particular order: Cambodia, Switzerland, Italy.

Statistics

Countries covered: 10 (USA, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland)

Cities visited: 14

Cheapest destination: Vietnam

Most expensive destination: Switzerland

Cheapest accommodation: Saigon Backpackers in Vietnam: $7

Most expensive accommodation: La Quinta Inns & Suites in Los Angeles, USA: $104

Cheapest activity: Sightseer Bus tour in Innsbruck, Austria: $4

Most expensive activity: Day at Mount Titlis, Switzerland: $150

Types of transportation used: 6 (plane, bus, metro, taxi, boat, tuk tuk, motodop, bicycle)

Number of flights taken: 11

Number of buses taken: 20

Number of metro trips: 9

Number of taxis: 3

Number of boats: 1

Number of tuk tuks taken: 8

Number of motodop rides: 1

Number of bicycle rides: 1

Cheapest meal: $1.50

Most expensive meal: $21

Flights almost missed: 2

Cash spent on laundry: $3

Visa costs: $20 Cambodia, $50 Vietnam + $25 visa online fee = $95

Cost of Mediterranean cruise: $598

Total cost of flights: $1350 (Two award flights: Antigua to LA and Switzerland to Antigua)

Top Photo From Each Country

Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

City view in Singapore

Face of Bayon, Cambodia

Vendor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Tom Yam in Malaysia...Yum Yum!

View of Venice from the Cruise Ship

Koper, Slovenia from the Old Bell Tower

Dubrovnik Harbour, Croatia

Overlooking Innsbruck, Austria

The Stunning Swiss Alps

Summary

Planning this RTW trip took a lot of effort, sleepless nights and many sacrifices, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. This doesn’t have to be a once in a lifetime experience, but it will forever hold a special place in my heart. The world is a beautiful place, and we are all global citizens. Get out there and see this world for yourself! Happy Travels!