Eating our way through Dubrovnik

Day 3 in Dubrovnik. After the adventures of the day before, this one pales in comparison.  A take it slow kind of day, which mostly revolves around Dubrovnik strolls, history lessons and food indulgences. First things first though – and that first thing is saying hello to this beauty that opens up before us on our pathway from the hotel to the old city. It seems like I will never tire of finding adjectives of to describe this dreamy, fairy-tale like city. No matter how much you gaze it, you cannot get tired of its out-of-this-world beauty. At least I cannot.

Morning view

So here is to another day in the fairy-tale. What’s on the agenda for the day? Food, food, food and once more food! Food in general is quite nice in Dubrovnik, fish is of course the crown jewel of the cuisine. What you need to get used to is the steep prices. This tiny jewel presents a rather tough competition even for Copenhagen and Zürich. Prepare to splurge a bit if you want to indulge on the many delicacies of Dubrovnik’s cuisine.

Onorfijeva fountain - the ultimate meeting spot for travellers and locals alike

Onorfijeva fountain – the ultimate meeting spot for travellers and locals alike

Our lazy day starts right at the foot of the famous Onorfijeva fountain – a beloved meeting spot. Our local guide and foodie Ana from Dubrovnik is waiting for us here to take us on a gastronomic tour in the city.

Strolling in Dubrovnik with our local guide Ana

Strolling in Dubrovnik with our local guide Ana

On the menu for the 3+ hour of food indulgence was a stroll in the city enriched with history lessons and culinary delights. Before reaching the culinary part though Ana told us about the 48 churches/religious sites (!) that are spread around Dubrovnik, the terra cotta roofs of the city, wells that once provided drinking water and now stay hidden under the cream coloured ground slabs, and the sad fate that befell the city back in 1991-1992 when the Serbian forces attacked the city, kept it under siege and destroyed much of it. Even though you don’t see traces of war in the city today, the wounds are still fresh in locals’ hearts…

Talking about the war time, brings an air of sadness on Ana as the memories from her childhood return to her. We stare at pictures of houses from 1992 totally destroyed, we hear stories of lives lost, of refugees being evacuated from the city, of hunger and struggle… why is there all this cruelty in the world?

As we get surrounded by a group of Spanish tourists, we leave the war memories behind for a little while, and Ana hurries us along to show us a special statue. As I look at the cream-coloured statue, my gaze falls to the middle section of it made of copper.

George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving in the middle of old town in Dubrovnik when creating Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving in the middle of old town in Dubrovnik when creating Game of Thrones

If you immediately thought of Game of Thrones, you are not alone. I think George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving, even though he claims he has never set foot in Dubrovnik. I mean look at this – the mother of dragons, a dragon at her feet, lion could be Lannister, the Iron Throne… And no, the statue was not just put up in 2011 when Game of Thrones aired, nor was Dubrovnik built in 2011 to play the set for Game of Thrones, despite of what some people visiting Dubrovnik believe. The city has been there for quite many centuries, and the statue maybe is not quite that old, but still old.

Our stroll and skipping lunch in anticipation and preparation of food indulgence experience has by now left us totally starving. Luckily food is the next item on the agenda. Ana prepared four stops for us on the menu.

We start easy with a Dalmatian tapas plate at Tavulin restaurant – Dalmatian prosciutto, selection of three cheeses from the island of Pag – young cow cheese, goat & cow cheese matured in olive husk, sheep cheese, black olive tapenade, chickpeas spread (hummus)+ Plavac mali wine (Miljas vineyard) from Pelješac peninsula.

The first stop of our food tour starts at Tavulin restaurant

The first stop of our food tour starts at Tavulin restaurant

The restaurant is just off the main square, it is a bit off the way from the main tourist highway so you need to know where you are going to find it. We absolutely loved our tapas plate and returned the day after for lunch to try more dishes from the menu. Really nice!

KopunStop #2 takes us to the famous stairs of shame – yep Game of Thrones again. On top of the stairs to the left you find Kopun restaurant. Kopun means rooster in Croatian. Here we are treated with a nice plate of kopun rooster paté, shrimp paté with black truffles, smoked deer ham from Slavonia region, kopun salad with bitter orange, tuna tartar with sesame seeds, fried and marinated paprika with carrot dip + red wine Merlot “Negromant”/white wine Malvasija “Tezoro” from Konavle region (Crvik vineyard).

By now I am already full, yet Ana has 2 more stops on the menu. Stop #3 takes us to Barba burger/seafood joint. It’s a hole in the wall kind of a place and really charming one. We are served with an octopus burger! Uhmm that was a first for us. Andreas totally ecstatic bites into his lovely black burger. Me – a bit less ecstatic, take a cautious bite. Tastes quite delicious actually. Burger approved, we move on to the last stop of the day.

Decomposed apfelstrudel

Decomposed apfelstrudel

It’s desert time at Lucin Kantun. I opted for the above deliciousness – a decomposed apfelstrudel. Quite a creative take on the traditional recipe. Tasted so good!
Dubrovačka rozata

Dubrovačka rozata

Andreas went with traditional dessert “Dubrovačka rozata” (créme caramel).

Needless to say, dinner was happily skipped after the delicious feast of tapas, burgers and desserts. Dubrovnik you pretty thing, even your cuisine is amazing. We tune out for the day, waiting in anticipation for day 4 that will take us on a full-day Game of Thrones immersion in King’s Landing. Cannot wait!!!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 9 – Indulging in Budapest

Day 9: September 4, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Budapest, Hungary
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Andreas is behind the camera today performing his usual magic!

Oh what a trip so far! It is day 9 and country number 4 that has opened its pretty doors to us. Good morning from Budapest, a city that is waiting to take our breath away.

Today is all about exploring and indulging in Budapest. The day will unfold in the streets of flat Pest housing buildings that with great effort still cling to the once grand and glorious intricacy of the Austro-Hungarian architecture standing side by side with structures barely holding, sad and dilapidated, yet with a certain charm that makes this city so irresistible. The action will then move to the hilly and picturesque Buda that like a shy beauty is waiting to make you fall in love with it. Finally the day will culminate in one of the most memorable gastronomic adventures.

Pest, Buda and gastronomy will have to wait though. The first mention of the day has to be shared between our charming courtyard and our capricious Rover.

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Our secret retreat in Budapest – one doesn’t need much to transform a white canvas into a beautiful painting.

The courtyards in Budapest have quite the fame. They have to be experienced, as words cannot do them enough justice. It was a beautiful encounter as we opened our apartment door to find this fairy tale oasis.

Now it is high time for another car adventure. The next outburst of the capricious metal horse was a loud noise that was following us like an unbearable shadow all the way from Zlin to Budapest. Hopefully the Hungarian garages are more knowledgeable and less expensive than their Czech counterparts. Through our friends’ friends we have found a local garage.

Visiting the Hungarian car doctor. The initial inspection goes well despite our lack of Hungarian language skills. It doesn’t take them long to confirm the diagnosis.

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Here is the culprit – the slightly worn wheel bearing!

Hands are shaken, papers are signed, keys are handed over. The car will be fixed within a few hours! A major point in the plus column for the Hungarian car people. We are free to enjoy the sun and the pleasant autumn warmth in the beautiful city.

IMG_8015Hősök tere or Heroes Square is where we head first. Located in the end of Andrássy út, the grand culmination of the Budapest’s answer to Champs-Élysées, we find a square that is grand and imposing.

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Watching the groups of tourists make their way to the center for an obligatory selfie with the heroes feeds some emotion to the silent statues frozen in time. Speaking of tourists, Chinese rule all visitor stats. The grand city of Budapest, just like the other “must-sees” of Europe, has been discovered by the eager groups of the billion-plus nation of the Orient. I suppose this wide square won’t feel so wide within a few years…

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Behind the cold square in the middle of a beautiful park hides a rather hot spot – the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Crowded – yes! it is a beloved public bath after all. Affordable – you betcha, far from the heart-pounding prices of the West and Scandinavia in particular. Rejuvenating – so they say, we didn’t have time to personally test the healing powers of Budapest’s baths this time. On our short visit our taste buds took a glorious victory over our body relaxation in a fierce battle of indulgence in Budapest. But as the Terminator said so well before us – I’ll be back!

Making our way down Andrássy út, we greet the many faces of Budapest. Sometimes grandeur and imposing, sometimes dilapidated and falling apart, sometimes grand and sometimes shabby. This city has surprised and kept us in awe since the moment we pulled in.

IMG_8014IMG_8013 _MG_4729After a few hours spent on the flat lands of Pest, we head back to the car workshop to pick up our ride. As promised, the Rover is ready, shining in the sun and driving as smooth as a Bond car with no trace of the annoying noise of the past. The hills of Buda is a wonderful challenge for the car. As we cross the Chain Bridge connecting the two banks of Danube together we cannot stop feeling our newfound love for this city increasing with each hill we climb. Reaching atop the Gellert Hill we park and hurry past the crowds to the viewing platform. What awaits our gaze is simply breathtaking!

Budapest

Budapest – it’s so hard to resist your charm!

It is hard to leave the mesmerising view behind and descend the picturesque hills of Buda. But the scheduled time for a culinary magic was approaching fast. Apart from all the grandness, Budapest is also home to a number of Michelin starred restaurants. Good food is one small vice of ours. So an evening of gourmet food is what we presented to ourselves. After some quick research, we stopped our choice on Restaurant Onyx! An unforgettable evening of a 4-hour, 12-course ritual that delighted us and left our taste buds exploding in sheer joy. This place is so worth its shining Michelin! Starting with a rolling tray of at least 20 different exotic bread choices served as if each piece of bread was a precious object, followed by 12 courses of dishes that were out of this world, and as if this was not magical enough, ending the 4-hour festivity with yet another rolling tray of chocolate delights… The experience was unforgettable.

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Some of the beautiful creations of the Onyx master chefs.

We end the evening on a romantic note, strolling the banks of Danube. This walk was as romantic as it was essential. After our tummies filled with Michelin love we needed the physical exercises to keep us from exploding.

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The elegant Chain Bridge linking this grand city together!

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The Hungarian Parliament is mesmerising in day and night.

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Good night for now. Tomorrow is our last day in pretty Budapest before the journey continues east towards country number 4 – Romania!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 6 – Exploring Zlin

Day 6: September 1, 2015
Time: 07:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic
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Early bird catches the worm – aka this gorgeous sunrise…

Well, hello there pretty! What a gorgeous view to wake up to. It is a brand new, beautiful day to create some wonderful memories in Zlin, our temporary camp until the car is fixed.

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It seems that Andreas made a new friend :)

Our sweet Airbnb host, Alena, has surprised us with a lovely breakfast and the company of her fashionista puppy, which seems to have taken a liking to Andreas. Today’s schedule stands completely free, so after a lazy morning spent savouring this delicious breakfast we are off to a quiet stroll in the city.

Our first stop of the day starts with paying homage to Thomas Bata of Bata Shoes, the mastermind behind Zlin’s modern-day development and its architectural look.

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Czech Republic’s answer to Danish ECCO. in Zlin Bata Shoes is more than a shoe store, the company’s legacy is deep engraved in the city.

Zlin lacks the grandeur of Prague, where regardless of which direction you turn your head, a mesmerising vista is right there to make your mind’s Polaroid go wild with processing it to postcards of memories. It is just a small town deep in the countryside, where sophistication has been replaced by functionalism, and the tourist crowds of Prague with the kindest Czech people.

Zlin apartments

After some obligatory shopping time checking out the local stores we found this inviting patch of green for an impromptu sun-soaking and feet-stretching time.

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AA in Zlin

Slowly soaking in the day we set course to the hills of Zlin into a deep, deep forest to hunt some game for our dinner. After what seemed like eternity of hiking up the hills, but in reality must have been only 30 min or so, we reached our hunting ground.

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Our hunting ground for the evening – Black Bear restaurant

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Mhh what a delicious 3-course meal that was! The picture above is just one of the highlights that was wildly delicious. Black Bear has been worth all the effort of getting there.

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Le Corbusier’s legacy in Zlin. More insider scoop on this functionalist architecture and a look at the city from above is coming up in our next post.

At the last rays of the sun we left the bear’s home, rolled down the same hills and descended onto the city’s heart for an evening stroll back home. Good night for now and fingers crossed that our car will be fixed tomorrow, so we can continue our trip.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan