It took us nearly five hours to drive the last 150 miles of winding mountain roads between Višegrad, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Croatian coast. I rarely drove faster than 45 mph simply because the speed limit and conditions didn’t allow it, and I likely would have made even myself carsick. V and A were excellent passengers. V only complained once, and he was probably right; it really can be alarming to be a passenger and have no control as you roll through narrow tunnels black as night, uphill past slow trucks that drift into your lane, and around blind corners, every once in a while a bit too fast even with a driver as pokey as myself. We crossed the Croatian border without incident and the vast jewel of the Adriatic lay before us.
We had a brief period of dismay when we arrived at the beach house because we had no internet and had been driving from iPhone maps launched from wifi hours before. The address seemed to be wrong, and we couldn’t figure out where this house was. I couldn’t even view the AirBnB app to send our host, Paulo, a message, and I realized – not for the first time – how disorganized I had been by my own standards on this trip.
After roaming long enough on data to get Paulo’s mobile number, we walked down between two houses and made our way along the beach, marveling at the views. V prevailed upon some locals to let us use their phone, and thus we shortly got ahold of Paulo. We then climbed our way back up to the street and reparked on the street in front of the correct house; our host’s offer to parallel park for me in a tight spot was replaced with a laugh and a thumbs-up after he saw me do it smoothly on the first attempt. But our initial joy to see the place was temporarily replaced by angst that it appeared to also be hosting other guests.
I am particular when booking AirBnBs to always rent out an entire property. V and I tend to enjoy privacy when we travel and don’t necessarily have the energy to socialize with strangers. For three nights and nearly a thousand dollars, I expected to walk off my stone patio and jump into the sea without really having to talk to anyone. Of course, I don’t always travel this way and we both are – in fact – very social people.
Once we realized our annoyance stemmed not actually from having other people around, but from the host somewhat disingenuously designing his listing for prospective guests to rent “the entire property” when in fact, the house was subdivided into three or four separate listings that shared all the common outdoor areas, plus he and some of his relatives lived upstairs, we were able to better identify the issue. We felt somewhat frustrated and disappointed, but only briefly, as V, A and I had a short family meeting and decided all of the guests probably had the same reaction when arriving, and that as the guests with the biggest portion of the space, we would enjoy our trip a lot more if we went out of our way to share the space, be friendly, and not worry about anything.
Would there be other guests walking by our patio table? OK. Would there be towels hanging here and there, and would we have to share all the stairs and beach access? Yes. And so what? Those people, just like us, had come to enjoy the town and their limited money and time off and probably just wanted their privacy too. Almost immediately we chatted with the host and other guests and everyone was so friendly, we all felt comfortable. We were still going to have the peaceful and beautiful trip we expected, just not maybe as exclusively alone as we’d thought! We had arrived safely and we were all determined to enjoy it to the max.
In trying to find somewhere to eat dinner nearby after dropping our bags and having a look around, we drove in the neighborhood for longer than we’d wanted to, surprised there didn’t seem to be much open or even available. We hadn’t really done any research, because we figured there would be places to eat stacked from one end of the street paralleling the ocean to the other. Mistake! We were too tired to figure out grocery shopping and cooking after more than eight hours in the car, though, so we pressed on. Then as we were feeling near-hopeless a wrong turn fortuitously led us to a beautiful (and not cheap) restaurant called Vimbula. The last thing we wanted to do was spend any more time in the car, so we were sold! And it was a terrific experience, one I would certainly do again.
The next morning, V and I arose early and smartly went grocery shopping so we could spend all day luxuriating at the ocean off our patio without having to leave for food. The following day we would go to Dubrovnik’s old town, and the day after that we would depart by mid-morning for Mostar and Sarajevo, so this was our day to really soak in some beach house vibes.
We laid in the sun, blissed out with our good fortune. Occasionally a local or one of the other guests would happen by for a chat, but most people seemed to be enjoying their own solitude. At a certain point Paulo came down, jumped into the ocean, swam briefly, and then went back inside. At some stage later he appeared showered and dressed with two incredibly beautiful girls with him. They said goodbye as they headed out, presumably to do whatever fabulous young Croats do. I couldn’t help but think what a fun lifestyle it would be to live in Dubrovnik in summer, especially dragging in the kind of income the beach house was generating.
But it was more than that. I had a feeling of connectedness to the ocean and the environment around me while I was there. It was evident the locals felt that connectedness as part of their own essence; in the way the tides governed the daily rhythm of their activities, in the way the fishing boats bobbing at the docks were as common as cars, in the way the salty smell in the air and the trees and the crumbling facades all blended until you could hardly tell what was natural and what was manmade.
While A and I alternately chatted and listened to our headphones, V cooked up a storm. We were so lucky to enjoy a home-cooked lunch and dinner at our patio table, prepared with love by our favorite chef, along with local beer and wine. (Don’t worry, V finds cooking relaxing and got in plenty of beach time too!)
I think in all my years of renting AirBnBs across multiple continents, I have only forgotten to write reviews twice, and unfortunately one of those times was for this stay. I just didn’t manage to do it before the window expired. However, although I was not impressed with what I perceived to be the host’s less-than-forthcoming way of making the rental seem like more of a private experience than it actually was, I would actually recommend the house if you are looking for the kind of experience we had and know what it is. The accommodation itself as far as kitchen and bedrooms were nothing to write home about either (one former guest actually took it too far by complaining there was no TV… helloooo!?), but having 1.5 bathrooms was great and the location and natural beauty of the area simply cannot be beat.
If you are interested in renting this AirBnB but cannot find the listing, you can send me an email to email@example.com and I will gladly send you a link.