It’s difficult to believe that it’s the 15th November and the Knumptywagen is all but put away for the winter months. Despite our ambitions to use it more during the autumn, since our return from Montenegro in July, we’ve only enjoyed a short visit to Wales (see “Poor Little Fishguard”) and a very wet day-trip to Rudyard Lake in the English Peak District as a means of keeping cobwebs at bay and tyres fully rounded.
And because we’ve not been Knumptying, the creative juices which normally prompt a desire to recount our adventures in a blog just don’t flow when you’re sitting at home, divorced from the sights, sounds and smells of the open road.
However, the existence of a diligently-kept little grey notebook has provided a winter stimulus for this retrospective narrative, where a selection of snippets will serve to rejuvenate near-redundant keyboard fingers and capture a few additional insights into Knumptydom at the same time.
More geographical than chronological, what follows will hopefully fill a few holes in our Montenegrin adventure and – a little closer to home – may even add some insights into a trip through Wales.
So. Dubrovnik . . .
Justifiably touristy, Dubrovnik’s walled old town provides a striking and memorable walk through narrow streets, rammed with restaurants, bars and boutique-style shops. It’s not until you pay your 150 Croatian kunas and clamber up onto the high, wide and defensive ramparts above the chaotic and close-crammed terracotta rooftops that you gain any form of perspective of this historic Balkan stronghold.
The relatively recent reality of the Yugoslavian conflict in the early nineties, in which the UNESCO World Heritage city became an embattled strategic centrepiece, is starkly represented by a large wall-mounted graphic plan which identifies the individual location and type of damage caused by the explosive conflict between the resident Croatians and the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army – noting where each bomb or missile landed; the damage caused and the subsequent rebuilding which restored the city to its current status.
This jewel in the Adriatic Mediterranean is now inundated with warriors of a different type: tourists, many of whom disembark en-masse from the bowels of humungous cruise-liners and storm the narrow streets, pillaging the gift-shops and overwhelming the field-kitchens – now masquerading as restaurants and cafes – and whose only defence against this swarming tide of nationalities seemed to be to charge extortionate prices for their fare.
As we ourselves became part of the multi-national throng marvelling at the complexity of rooftop views from our walled circuit, an American family strolled by, gaping (as we all were) in amazement at the pan-tiled panorama. As they passed, one of the children could be heard, with astute political incorrectness, enquiring of his parents “Hey, is this part of Trump’s wall?”
Despite the wonders and marvels of this mediaeval city, our Knumptyvan experience of Dubrovnik left a little to be desired, but it is a bustling city, so we counted ourselves lucky when we found a semi-dubious overnight parking spot under an inner-city flyover. Falling just short of this was a small, ramshackle industrial estate where we eventually decided to claim what felt like a slightly safer car-parking space – it being Sunday and the offices were clearly not occupied. However, we’d overlooked the enthusiasm of working Croatians when we were woken from fitful slumbers at 5:00am by the sound of slamming car-doors. And as someone tried to shoehorn their car into the adjacent space reduced in width by our bulky overhang, we decided we’d had our fill of Dubrovnik and, with blinds still drawn, we did a very swift pyjamed flit out of the car-park and onto the open road again, northbound in soft early-morning light.