I’m going to be honest, sometimes I think we are crazy for continuing our yearly adventures with a little one in tow. My anxiety goes up a lot sooner as we near our departure date, the flights are always a hope and a prayer…you know, more so than regular flights are…and with the added joy of an extra food-picky toddler the allure of trying out new cuisine comes with the added suspense of “will we be able to finish our meal without a melt down!”.
As I’ve said on previous posts…no mere mortal powers of a baby will keep us from exploring! So, in that spirit we continued on with booking our trip to Croatia and Montenegro. Everything else would be up to the travel and toddler gods.
I really dislike making huge, sweeping generalizations about a whole country based on a mere four days spent there…so I get it that this could be way off. But my short time in Dubrovnik had me shocked by how welcoming and, not even child friendly, but child LOVING the people seemed to be. Not a day went by when a random local walking down the street would stop to say hi to Zeke or touch his head upon passing by with a grin just for him. People would stop us to ask how old he was and tell us in turn about their grandchildren, nieces, and own children. Waitstaff in the restaurants we risked our sanity at (see above pickiness) went above and beyond to make Zeke comfortable and entice him to eat.
Literally – at a fantastic Korean lunch spot in the old town called “Dingdong”, no giggles please, our waiter would periodically sit down next to Zeke and ask him how he was doing with his lunch (a lunch consisting of french fries…parents of the year over here) and remind him that he had a special treat for him if he ate his fries. Later he would come back and show him the chocolate pudding he would be missing out on if he didn’t eat something first. Not saying our kiddo ate an entire meal, but it seemed to do the trick of getting some actual food into him before dessert.
At another dinner when Zeke fell asleep unexpectedly our server offered to get him a blanket and kept reminding us that we could move inside to finish our meal while Zeke could stretch out on the benches they had.
During one of our daily walks through the old town we stopped for Zeke’s legs to take a break and he decided to park it right on the stairs. An older woman was tending her laundry through her window at eye level with us and waved. A few minutes later she shows up at her front door with a bottle of orange juice “for the boy” and we made the kind of conversation possible between local and foreigner based on mutual love for the young ones in our lives rather than a common language. As we said goodbye and thank you she blew Zeke a kiss only to have Zeke fling himself into her arms to give her a big kiss on the cheek. Apparently Zeke has a ‘Nana’ in every country.
Despite all of the geological hazards this city presents to toddlers (and grownups alike!); stairs left and right, no guard rails, slippery cobblestones, my impressions of Dubrovnik and now Croatia as a whole, is of an incredibly child friendly country. It was amusing to me as an American parent with our (again, generalization here) tendency to over-parent and hover, that our first dinner out was accomplished by having Zeke just play in the alleyway behind us knowing full well any passersby would keep an eye out for him if we happened to look away for more than a second. I’ve found myself getting more and more relaxed when Zeke wants to take all of the stairs by himself, practicing his jump moves and, yes, falling quite a bit. From our schleps up and down the stairs, trekking the ancient city walls, walks to the nearby Banje beach, through happy days and almost-three-year-old tantrums and pouting spells (see below), Dubrovnik is absolutely a place for kiddos, especially in the spring time without the press of the summer crowds.
It’s been so refreshing and wonderful to see others delight in Zeke. It seems he has had an extended family along on this trip doing so much to help him feel at home. It probably helps that he’s the most beautiful, adorable, smart, talented toddler to have ever graced the earth, though I hear in some circles that might be up for debate…but that’s a tale for another day.