[Friday lunchtime, approximately fifteen minutes before he finally paused for breath...]
"Our city walls have nearly 1,000 steps! 999! Once you start you can't exit them until you reach the end. It's very physical. Very physical. Some people turn around and leave again after they see all the steps. I suggest you rest today and prepare yourself."
He clearly hadn't noticed I'd arrived in Dubrovnik wearing hiking boots when he'd picked me up from the bus station fifteen minutes ago. Off the bus from Kotor. Whose city walls contain 1,350 steps. All heading relentlessly up the steep mountainside that towers over Kotor.
I concluded I would probably be able to cope with Dubrovnik's walls, although the marauds of tourists I would be sharing them with would certainly present a challenge. Even so I scoped them out yesterday. Better to be prepared (thank you Baden-Powell).
They may well have close to a thousand steps, but they were heading up and down, with flat stretches in between. The walls here encircle the old town, and, whilst that entails some climbing, it's not a patch on Kotor (sorry Dubrovnik).
My map informed me that I would need 3 or more hours if I wanted to walk the entire length of the walls. I took that as a challenge, rather than guidance.
It's much quieter today. Busy still, but quieter. And this time I'm prepared for the army of ice cream wielding, flip flop wearing tourists. I know where I'm going this time, having walked up to the cable car station last night. We've already had a thunderstorm this morning, and more are forecast for later, so I want to go up there while I can.
I weave between the crowds, dodging oversized floppy hats and ducking out of the way of people posing for photos. I locate the side street whose steps I know will lead me directly to the station and turn off the main street to begin climbing.
Fifteen minutes later I'm boarding the cable car that will whisk me to the top of Mount Srd. In my efficiency it suddenly occurs to me that I haven't had lunch yet. And this may be the first day I don't have food in my daypack.
Unless you count half a packet of tic tacs and a couple of ketchup sachets. Which I don't. Not as a meal anyway. I'm no great cook myself, but I'm fairly confident that even history's greatest chefs would be defeated by that particular challenge.
Fortunately, it's a very quick ride to the top of what is not the world's most inspiring mountaintop.
Within minutes of stepping off the cable car, a charming American teenager, seemingly travelling with a school group, has a go at me. Apparently in my attempts to duck out of the way of the photo being taken by one of her schoolmates I've disrupted her posing for hers. The ugly sneer of someone with no hesitation in unleashing nastiness on an innocent passerby doesn't make such an attractive holiday snap, so in that sense I could perhaps understand her frustration. I wouldn't have wanted a classmate of mine to inadvertently shoot a photo of me with such venom splashed across my face either.
I may have cursed her under my breath as I walked away. If I had I wouldn't feel bad about it.
In spite of that slightly unpleasant encounter, I did actually enjoy the ride in the cable car and spending a little bit of time looking down on Dubrovnik. On the way back down a lovely little Japanese lady elbowed me out of her way (literally) so she could get a better view out of the window. This would be why I don't enjoy being surrounded by tourists.
I let my tourist rage dissipate over lunch by the Onofrio Fountains, and then dropped into the Franciscan Monastery and Museum. It wasn't the most fascinating museum I've ever visited, but I was suckered in by the fact it's home to Europe's third-oldest functioning pharmacy. Which sounded interesting. It was. Marginally.
After all my faffing around it was half past five by the time my remaining six tic tacs (and the ketchup) and I headed out to tackle the city walls.
There was effort involved in climbing up and down the steps, but it was a lot easier going than my experience in Kotor.
They were worth the time and effort, and I did enjoy the views out over the sea and below onto the town. It was quite interesting peering into people's gardens too. If you're nosy like me, it's definitely worth a visit.
In the end it took me 90 minutes - even with my tendency to stop every five paces to drink in the views or take a photo. I probably would have finished it sooner, but today is my last full day. As I drew nearer the end of the circuit it dawned on me that this would be the last thing I did on this trip. At which point I started dragging my feet a little. If I had slowed much more I might have started going backwards.
After taking the bus back out to Lapad, where I'm staying, I walked down to the beach and sat there to watch the sun set, take a few moments to myself to reflect on the last few weeks. And then the second thunderstorm arrived. The one time I pop out without my daypack and jacket...
Walking back up the hill, in the rain, to my room I decided I want to learn to surf. Not entirely sure where that came from, but maybe that will feature in a future adventure.