VRBO or Vacation Rental By Owner has been one of our inventory of places in which to rent our Budapest rooms, the full apartment, and now our apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador. Being listed for about a year, we once a month get
potential guests requesting information, but never anything serious. When we did get a request for the full apartment for a seven-night rental, we pre-approved it thinking it was a lark.
When the deposit turned into a reality on our dashboard, we still did not get overly excited knowing we our cancellation policy was lenient. It was not until there was evidence of the actual full payment with no chance of a refund for cancellation that we started to panic. With the entire apartment rented out for a full week, we had to leave home. Where to go, where to go?
Our tenant in our other Budapest apartment was out of the country visiting family in The Netherlands. We did think of renting his place back from him for the week, but then decided it would be a complex situation. Just a few weeks prior, we had been in Reykjavik, Iceland for an entire week. Thinking about our goal to visit the 10 smallest countries in Europe, we settled on Montenegro.
The glitch was finding airfare at a reasonable cost. Initially, our rationale was to appropriate the rental income as our travel budget, thus making these balance out. We were renting the full apartment to five people, so it was a princely sum. As the expression goes, the best-laid plans…do go awry. Frugal flights from Budapest to Montenegro all were on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. After the recent (at the time) events there, we wanted to avoid Istanbul at all costs, but not incur extra expense for airfare.
After much investigation, Ron came up with an idea. Fly into Dubrovnik, Croatia and out of Podgorica, Montenegro. Surprisingly, that worked as the flights going and returning were through Vienna. The fare was a tad more than what we would have appreciated, but it still worked for us.
Years ago, we were in Zadar, Croatia when former fellow USF student and friend Myrtis Mixon and her husband Randall were there. Myrtis was on a Fulbright at the time. We had not explored much of the country back then, but Zadar was pleasant enough. However, it was Myrtis and Randall that made a week there fulfilling. Later, hearing so much about Dubrovnik over the years; it was not chore to return.
There is always a reluctance to make judgements when traveling from airports into the city; generally, the scenery is not prime. So our first view stepping off the airport bus was a game changer. It was awe-inspiring seeing the raggedy brown mountains with green spots of vegetation on one side, some historic fort in front of us and knowing that in the near distance was the Adriatic Sea. Preview photos built our anticipation seeing crystal aquamarine tinted waters. From here, we floundered our way trying to find the room we rented. Regardless of what precautions, one tries to take when booking a place sans recommendations, there is always the positive or negative surprise possibility. Choosing a taxi, we made our way for what seemed like miles before reaching the lower level where our rented room hid up 85 stairs.
Huffing, puffing, and a mouthful of cursing, we reached the pinnacle. What we learned is that Dubrovnik is hilly and it is difficult to get around without having stairs to climb.
Our first full day, we opted for a paid walking tour. The office was conveniently located just outside the Old Town gate. Unlike many other cities with ‘free walking tours’, here they have a set fee. Chances of losing participants in the crowd were a risk, especially toward the end when it was time for ‘tips’ if there was not a set fee. This tour grouped about 15 of us, but the guide said she has had as many as 35 on some tours.
Although there were massive numbers of people entering the gate to the Old Town, our guide shared that this was a lucky day; there was only one cruise ship in port. Tomorrow, she lamented, there would be seven cruise liners spilling upwards of 10,000 passengers, who will only have hours to visit Old Town before boarding the ship again. She explained on heavy cruise days, there is up to a 30-minute wait just to get past the gate due to the numbers of people trying to pass through and stopping to take photos. With temperatures in the low 90s and equally uncomfortable humidity, we were melting into the cobblestones. One pleasant advantage was the fountains spread over the area providing fresh water to refill water bottles. Thinking about being among seven times the number of people there that day was enough to give me the vapors.
One can walk the wall that surrounds the old city, but it is 2km (1.24) long and up to 25m (82 feet) high. Once you get up there, you are required to walk in a counter
clockwise direction without shade under the blaring sun. With hundreds of others sharing the experience, it can be like a cattle herd. Our guide suggested for those who wanted to walk it to go early morning or later in the evening when the sun was less abusive. Our suggestion, which we thought better, was to avoid it completely. We also by-passed the cable car ride. Getting to the starting point was off in the distance and the sun was beat on us like tom-toms.
After the tour gave us a good overview, we returned to visit the churches, the historic areas, and spent the better part of the day here. Quite honestly, we get overstimulated with information to the point where we are “Yea, whatever!” I hate feeling that way, especially when we have friends in Budapest who do copious reading and researching before they go on any trip. I guess I am at the point in life where visual education is more important than knowing dates.
With only two full days here, we wanted to see more than Old Town. Our second day we mainly spent along the water where there is a promenade and trail around the mountain for a vista view. How many shades of blue for water are there? Each time I believe we have seen the spectrum having been to six of the seven continents, there is always another awe-inspiring spectacle making me gasp.
The next day we would travel to Budva, Montenegro. Thinking prudently, we did took a trip to the bus station the night before to get tickets, but it turned out to be only partially practical. There were no seats left on the direct bus to Budva. Our only option was to go to Kotor, Montenegro to continue by local bus from there. As our mishap in planning continued to unfold, only the 7am bus had seats. Such is the world of travel; you take what you can get and move forward.