Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Three Winds

Life in Dubrovnik is very much affected by the three winds that blow through the city: Bura, Jugo, and Maestral. Each of these winds has its own unique characteristics and its own influence on local life:

1.) Bura: This is an unpredictable wind that blows from the mainland towards the sea. It often blows in strong gushes and brings clear, cold air from continental Europe. Dubrovnik locals generally like the Bura as it cleans the air and improves visibility. It can, however, be dangerous for small craft on the sea with powerful wind gusts and a low mist that makes breathing difficult. A strong Bura often results in the closing of the Dubrovnik airport as the winds are too unpredictable to risk taking off and landing.

2.) Jugo: This is a moderate wind that blows from the sea towards the coast. It is generally accompanied by rain and a pressure that affects the health of anyone susceptible to it. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness, and fatigue. It is said that in the days of the Dubrovnik Republic the government would refrain from making important decisions during the Jugo as the wind often made people irrational. Since the wind blows off of Africa’s Sahara desert, it often brings with it a dry, reddish dust that settles on anything left out in the rain.

3.) Maestral: This is a calm summer wind that blows from the sea towards the coast. It generally brings beautiful and stable weather, with only a light breeze to provide respite from the afternoon heat. The Maestral is a pleasant wind and is great for sunbathing, swimming, boating, and other water sports.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day Trip to Medjugorje

Just 2 hours north of Dubrovnik lies one of Europe’s most important religious sites: the town of Medjugorje. Over 1 million people per year make the pilgrimage to see the hillside where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to 6 children in 1981. Catholics from all over the world return to the small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina every year, some for months at a time. Many visitors to Dubrovnik choose to visit Medjugorje in a day trip, some as a spiritual journey and some out of curiosity.

The best way to visit Medjugorje is by private tour. Private tours with an English-speaking driver are priced as follows:

1-3 people: 210 EUR
4-8 people: 230 EUR
9-18 people: 460 EUR

Tours may be booked by contacting Dubrovnik Apartment Source.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dubrovnik Supermarkets

Shopping for food in Dubrovnik can be a time consuming task as it often requires several stops. There are a few large supermarkets where you can buy most everything, but finding good, fresh produce can be a bit of a challenge. The following is a list of the supermarkets and produce shops where you can find all that Dubrovnik has to offer:

Konzum: This is the largest supermarket in Dubrovnik and has a slightly better selection of products than the other supermarkets in town, but it is not recommended for fresh produce (which is generally not very fresh). It is located just beside the main bus station and port in Gruz. There are also a couple of smaller Konzum stores inside and just outside of the Old Town.

Tommy: Another medium-sized supermarket with a good selection of products, but with very poor produce. But, what it lacks in produce it makes up for with a great bakery just out front: a good place to buy bureks, bread, and cakes sold whole or by the slice. It is located in the center of Dubrovnik’s business district in Gruz and can easily be reached by public bus from the Old Town.

Pemo: A smaller supermarket near Tommy, but with a better selection of produce and a larger butcher. It is located in a small shopping center with a couple of home and electronic stores upstairs. There is also a smaller Pemo in the village of Zaton.

Bio I Bio: A specialty shop selling mostly organic (“bio”) and healthy food options. It caters to those with dietary restrictions and those who prefer natural, unprocessed foods. It’s also a great place for finding international products from Asia and the Middle East. It is located on the top level of the Mercante shopping center in Gruz, on the same street as Pemo and Tommy.

Kerum: A medium-sized supermarket in a shopping center in Lapad. It has a good selection of products and a decent fresh fish section, but the produce isn’t great. Parking is really difficult to find here, but it’s convenient for those staying nearby in Lapad. There is also a smaller branch in Ploce near the Old Town.

Gruz Market: A large outdoor produce, fish, and flower market located on the Gruz Harbor. This is where you can usually find the best produce and freshest fish, but it is best to arrive early to get a good selection (especially for fish). TIP: When you enter the market, continue past the large tables in front and look for the older women in the back with a smaller selection. The produce is more likely to be locally grown and, though it may not look perfect, will probably taste better.

Batala Market: This place may have a name, but everyone just refers to it by the name of the street it is on: Batala. It’s a small market with a great selection of fruit and vegetables. Most of the produce is local and seasonal, but it is possible to find imports such as pineapples and mangos as well.

: I lump these two stores together because they are both international retailers with stores just across from each other in Zupa Dubrovacka. Both have a selection of international products and fresh produce, as well as random items for the home and clothing. Getro is much larger and has a more reliable stock of items, while Lidl tends to carry whatever happens to be on offer that month with seasonal products being their focus. Lidl often has great produce imported from Italy. Both stores can be seen from the main road traveling from Dubrovnik towards the airport.

: A Slovenian supermarket located in the village of Srebreno in Zupa Dubrovacka. It has an average selection of products with a few extra items imported from Europe that cannot be found elsewhere. The produce is generally not very good, but the fully-cooked, ready-to-eat, roasted chickens make a great fast meal.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Car Rentals in Dubrovnik

Many visitors to Dubrovnik choose to rent a car to make daytrips or to travel up the coast to Split and beyond. For a group of 3 or 4 people, renting a car is the most economical way to travel and it offers the flexibility to explore the country at your own pace. However, those who wish to rent a car while in Dubrovnik should be aware that the city is infamous for its parking problems and should either secure parking at their accommodation (if possible) or be prepared to pay for parking in the local garage (Dubrovnik Parking Information). Drivers should also be aware that roads are often narrow and local drivers can be aggressive and erratic. Defensive driving is a must.

One popular overnight or daytrip that can be made by rental car is to Montenegro. The historic towns of Kotor and Budva are located just over 2 hours away from Dubrovnik on the beautiful coastal road. When making this trip, it is important to be sure that your rental car comes with the proper documents and insurance to cross the border. Most local car companies automatically include this in the rental price, but many international companies such as Avis and Hertz charge extra for Montenegro insurance, which must be purchased at the time of rental. You may also have to pay a 10 Euro environmental tax at the Montenegro border if the rental car you are driving has not recently entered the country and obtained the necessary vignette.

Car rental rates in Croatia are generally high by international standards and vary greatly depending on the rental company and class of car. Rentals generally begin at about 40 Euro per day for a small economy car, including taxes and insurance. A reliable local car rental company in Dubrovnik is Euro Car Rental. They will drop-off the car to you anywhere in Dubrovnik and pick it up again at the end of your stay. Rates and booking information can be found on their website