Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meat... with a side order of meat.

So my weekends usually consist of working. I get the evening shift on a saturday and the morning shift on a sunday, so I work back to back in a hope to get it all over and done with so I can get on with my week. So last sunday after work, Ben and Sarah decided to rent a car and go explore the coast, choosing me as their trusty local guide.

We jumped into our rented Opel "Corsa" and got onto the highway headed south towards the airport. If there's one thing that I know Ben and Sarah are good for, it's the fact that they are both totall open minded and up for whatever adventures may come our way. Seeing as I was driving, it was my duty to carefully maneuver our rental car through the narrow highways backroads and mountain passes so we could explore the southern coast a little further.

We drove down towards the Montenegro border, without a real destination in mind. In the past I had been to a small tiny restaurant up in the dubrovnik hillside that specialized in locally grown and harvested food. The menu at this place was simple, but the food was the freshest and most delicious you could find. The only problem I had was that I couldn't remember how to get up to it. There is a selection of local roads that lead into the mountains, each one leading to a different village. I just couldn't remember which village had this restaurant.

So with a bit of luck, we managed to find ourselves lost. Not completely, but certainly unsure of which road to take. We picked one and just followed the switchbacks up, up and up. The view from the top was stunning as we got a great shot of the Konavle Valley, with it's many farms and the airport below us.

We found a road, that seemed to go off into the middle of nowhere, but we did manage to find a sign that pointed further along that said "Konoba Konavle". "Konoba" means small restaurant in Croatian. Anyways we drove down this road, seemingly heading out further and further from the coast. At one point the sign indicated for us to follow a single lane road further into the rocky hillside. Winding through the countryside the road seemed to turn into an ancient that wound it's way further south. Later I would find out that this road is actually an ancient roman road that leads all the way to Istanbul.

Finally we arrived at a small restaurant looking building, perched alongside this ancient road. Modern, clean looking, it was almost out of place next to the rugged and rocky hills. Greeted by an old man who spoke very good English, we sat down and ordered two portions of "Cold platter" to share amongst the three of us. Turns out this was not the restaurant I had been to previously but was actually an even more reasonably priced one slightly further out of the way.

We ate an amazing platter of home made prosciutto, with home made bread, onions, pickles, preserves and four kinds of locally made cheeses. It was a little slice of heaven, but as we were eating, the man came back and asked if we wanted anything from the grill. Mistake number one. Of course we wanted grilled meat! Same deal, two portions for three people. How big could two portions really be?

After finishing our cold platter, we realized we were actually totally satisfied... we really didn't need to order anything more. Then it came. The biggest platter of meat, fried potatoes, grilled veg and a side serving of onions and ajvar (a homemade croatian pepper sauce) you had seen this side of Neum.

P.S. those fries are actually larger than you think.

At this point we realized our eyes were bigger than out appetite. It was time to go big or go home... and we weren't about to head home. Over the next hour and a half, we put in a solid effort at demolishing our animal based platter. Ten pieces of cevapi, two veal skewers, one massive piece of pork, two amazingly cooked rumpsteaks, two chicken breasts, grilled eggplants, peppers and zucchini, surrounded by a mountain of fried potatoes. Not to mention the massive fresh tomato salad and refilled basket of home made grilled bread.

We put in a solid effort, but alas we were all on the verge of exploding and looking like this guy. Ironically by the time all was said and done, we were full, watered and trying to deal with our meat coma. When the bill arrived we were surprised to see it was only $70. Three people, amazing local cuisine and copious amounts of it, it was really a steal of a deal. Nothing like locally grown produce and meats to quench an adventurous appetite.

We decided to check out the walking paths along the old roman road, which led to some abandoned bunkers from the 90's conflict. We watched the sun go down and decided to go do some more exploring in the rental car while we still had the chance.

As we made our way back down the switchback roads in the darkness of night, we decided to take a detour, further into the middle of nowhere and continued on for 9kms until we hit the little town of Predvorije. Now we had no idea what to expect, aside form the fact we knew we were VERY far off the beaten dubrovnik tourist path. As we drove into the town, we realized that there was something going on as the town was full of traffic. Turns out we walked right into a court soccer tournament that was going on between neighbouring villages. We hopped out and decided to grab a seat and check out the action. Needless to say, practically the whole courtyard stopped at stared at us. They must have thought "Two aussies and a canadian in Predvorije? Are they lost?". We grabbed a seat, grabbed a beverage and watched the teams from the villages of "Slano" and "Zupa" battle it out for a spot in the finals. It was quite the match as the action seems much quicker thanks to a smaller than average court. We chatted with some locals as I practiced my croatian as they tried their english on me. I talked to "Pero" a small boy who lived in Predvorije. It was great hanging with locals and seeing an event like a court soccer tournament. Everyone was out and about, and what I'm sure is normally a fairly quiet town had turned into an exciting place to see!

As we made our way back to Dubrovnik to return the car, high on the endorphins released by our high meat consumption and the fact we had really experienced a local perspective of the real dalmatian lifestyle. All in all, an amazing way to end my work weekend!

Props go out to Benji and Sarah for renting the car.

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