It only took me 39 years but now, I can finally say, I have been to Dubrovnik. I say it took me 39 years because back when I was 23, I was hitchhiking through Europe. When I landed in Greece, I was low on funds and stayed in Athens for 5 months working two jobs. One was with children trying to teach them a little English and the other was cleaning for a professional couple.
At the end of my time in Greece, a friend drove from Germany to give me a ride back so I could continue my travels. So generous of him to say the least! We drove back through what was, in 1977, Yugoslavia. I was so hoping that we would be able to visit Dubrovnik on the trip back but unfortunately, my friend was on a schedule. I can remember looking down at the walled city as we drove past.
Yesterday, I looked at the nearby mountains and thought that must have been the road we traveled on somewhere in the distant mountains.
David and I flew in from Zagreb on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 on Croatian Airlines. The ticket, one-way cost $55 and was an hour flight. Had we taken the bus, the only other mode to travel to Dubrovnik, it would have take us 8 hours. Flying we got our first glimpse of the beautiful, ancient walled city.
We also passed over where we are staying in the nearby town of Gruz. I clicked a photo as we passed over, not realizing this would be where the apartment we rented was. The port of Gruz is where the cruise ships dock when they are in port.
Isn’t the scenery just amazing? The mountain range you can see is the Dinaric Alps. I must say that Croatia is a beautiful country!
We made our transfer into Dubrovnik and continued onto Gruz where we met our landlord at the main bus terminal. He graciously drove us to the apartment….or we would have had to walk up 200 stairs which would not have been a very easy feat with our backpacks and carry on luggage!!
It is quite a hike up but the view is well worth all of the effort!
After dropping off our luggage, we ventured down the stairs in search of food. We hadn’t had much to eat since morning. It was about 5:00 PM when we finally agreed on a restaurant. It was on the other side of the inlet, which gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy the spectacular day.
The restaurant was a Konoba-Pizzeria Blidinje but offered a wide variety on its menu. Plus, there was dining on an upper deck overlooking the harbor. By the time we ordered, I was beyond hungry! We started out with a glass of red wine (for me) and Heineken (for David) with an appetizer of cheese, olives and bread. Dinner was a seafood platter for two with a complimentary “tuna pate” dish before the meal was served. It tasted like tunafish to us and was served with toast. It was good and a nice touch, I thought.
I must say, I rarely take photos of our food but this was so nicely presented, I took one.
They said the “tuna pate” was complimentary but when we got our bill, there was a “cover charge” of $3.00 added to it. I guess it is common practice over here for the “cover charge” and think it might be based on a percentage of your bill. Personally, I think it is kind of tacky….I mean, we spent $75.00 on our meal and we were charged the “cover charge” for the bread, table cloths, probably the view as well!!! Oh well!!
Once back at our apartment, we sat on the terrace and enjoyed this view.
I would say that we went to bed fairly early….around 9:30 as it had been a busy and long day. At 10:30, I was woken to the sound of fireworks going off. It was quite the display. I have no idea what the occasion was and it hasn’t happened since….odd that it happened on a Tuesday night!
Bright and early Wednesday morning, the church bells were ringing at 6:00 AM. We haven’t heard them early in the morning since…thank goodness! Wednesday was a gloriously sunny and clear day….the perfect day to see Dubrovnik. After attempting to make coffee the “Turkish” way…….
we headed down the stairs and waited for the bus to take us to Pile Gate, one of the main entrances to the old city.
Outside of the gate, it was very busy….there were large tour buses parked in the parking area. People were milling all about. I later heard from a waiter that it wasn’t a very busy day. My gosh, I would really hate to see a busy one! I think there were 2 or 3 cruise ships in port.
This is Pile Gate, one of the three entrances to the inside of the walled city. The statue above the gate is of St Blaise who is the protector of Dubrovnik. Throughout the city are statues of St Blaise and he is always holding a model of the city in his left hand. According to legend, over a 1,000 years ago, St Blaise came to a local priest in a dream and warned him of the upcoming attack on the city by the Venetians. The priest went to the officials of the city and they prepared for war. The Venetians did attack and since then, St Blaise has been the symbol for Dubrovnik.
Once through the gate, you will see Onofrio’s Big Fountain. In the Middle Ages, Dubrovnik had a sophisticated aqueduct system which was one of the reasons it was resistant to any outsider attacks. The water for this fountain comes from seven miles away. In earlier days, this was the main water source for the city.
Did you notice the dog statue on top of the fountain? Originally, there was a dog statue on the fountain. It was damaged in the 1667 earthquake but remained in place. In the early 1900s, it fell off and was severely damaged. A replica of the dog statue was recently replaced by the Society of the Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities.
Across from the fountain is the small chapel, Church of St Savior, which was built by the townspeople as a thanks to God for being spared from the 1520 earthquake. In 1667, there was a massive earthquake that hit and destroyed much of the city. This church was one of the buildings that wasn’t damaged! During the Yugoslav War, it missed being damaged when a shell exploded in front of it. Can you see the marks from the shrapnel that hit the outside wall?
The Stradun is the main street that runs through Dubrovnik. It is where the central activity of this lively city takes place….shopping, cafe, people watching….it all happens here! When we walked through the gates, this was my first view….I thought, “Oh Disney World!!”
This is looking back towards Pile Gate from Luza Square at the end of the street.
In the beginning of the 7th century, when Dubrovnik was first being established, the Stradun was a canal that separated the city. The Romans, fleeing the invading Slavs settled on the island of Ragusa, which would be the land that was closest to the ocean. On the shoreline, is where the Slavs settled. In the 11th century, the canal was filled in and the island of Ragusa became one with the Slav settlement and merged the Roman-Slav cultures.
In the center of Luza Square is Orland’s Column. You can just see it in the left part of this photo. It was erected in 1417 to show allegiance for the Hungarians instead of the Venetians, who were extremely oppressive. The town crier would announce news from this column. How important the message determined what step he would stand on for the announcement. It was also, a place to punish people.
The building straight ahead is the Sponza Palace. This building is the finest surviving example of Dubrovnik’s Golden Age from the 15th and 16th century. This is an example of what the buildings looked like along Stradun Street before the earthquake in 1667. The bottom half of the building is in Renaissance style (the arches and columns) and the top half is in Venetian Gothic (the windows).
On our second day in Dubrovnik, it was rainy and dreary. Inside the Sponza Palace is a very moving memorial to the Dubrovnik Defenders who laid down their lives for the freedom of their city and country in the war of 1991. I was reading a brief synopsis in my guide book about the attack on Dubrovnik. It was totally unexpected since most of the fighting was in the north. On October 1, 1991, three months after Croatia declared independence from Serbia, this area was attacked.
The first place to be attacked was Mt Sdr which overlooks the city. A communication tower and cross were destroyed to pave the way for the Yugoslav troops to enter. On Mt Sdr, there is an old fortress from Napoleon’s time. It is here that the Dubrovnik Defenders, a rag-tag group of very brave men with hunting rifles and the like, dug in to defend their land. Here 25 or 30 men fended off the organized Yugoslav army from taking over the strategic point of the old fort.
The citizens of Dubrovnik refused to surrender their town. The fort was held by the untrained and unorganized men of the community, while Yugoslav troops fought from the surrounding hills. In the cover of darkness, the townspeople would hike the mountain carrying supplies to the soldiers. Yugoslav forces bombed Dubrovnik destroying much of the old city. I think I read that people lived for 5 months without running water and electricity. After 8 months, they were liberated by the Croatian army. In the end, 100 civilians lost their lives, 200 Dubrovnik Defenders lost their lives defending their hometown and more than 2/3 of the buildings inside of the city had been damaged.
The Serbs wanted to hit Croatia where it would hurt the most, their gem of the Adriatic. They hoped to have the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro become involved with the war against Croatia. This plan backfired because when the world saw images of this historical city destroyed, opinions ruled against the Yugoslavs’ favor. Today, people say, “When the Serbs attacked Dubrovnik, that is when they lost the war.”
I found the memorial to be very moving. The man collecting tickets said that he was in the war. He is bitter because he said that he lost 5 years of his life. I tried to point out that it wasn’t in vain. He fought for his city that is once again, rebuilt, the gem of the Adriatic and is thriving. With that, he shrugged his shoulders. How can I ever begin to understand his emotions and forgive me for trying to be “Pollyanna.” I should have just nodded sympathetically and said nothing.
At the gates of the city, there is a map that shows the attacks on the city. The black triangles are roof damages by direct hits. The red squares are burnt down buildings. The white triangles are roofs damaged by shrapnel and the black dots are direct hits to the pavement.
I must say, although we did very few of the museums offered inside the city walls, this was in my opinion by far, the best exhibit they had to offer.
This is the courtyard of the Sponza Palace that often host art exhibits.
The art exhibit today was by Ivana Jovanovic Trostmann who is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Art in Sarajevo. She is an art teacher. I love the soulful way she captured Jesus’ eyes.
Back outside of the Luza Square, next to the Sponza Palace is the clock tower…and what an interesting tower it is.
The original tower was from the 1400s but in 1920, it was rebuilt because it was leaning. The clock has only one hand that tells the time. By the digital clock below, you can see it is 6:30 at night. The hand with the “ball” at the end, shows that it is 6:30….I guess you can be casual about time and not get right to the minute if you are using this clock to go by! The guide book said that the digital clock tells time in 5 minute increments. The gold orb, below the clock, tells the moon phase. When we were there, the moon was in the first quarter phase. The square window, between the moon phase and digital clock, can be opened. This clock needs to be wound every two days. The open window lets enough light in for the clock-winder to be able to see.
An interesting side-note, for several generations, the Krasovac family was responsible for the winding of the clock. During the war of 1991-92, their home was destroyed and the key was lost. The clock didn’t run for days. Amazingly, the keys were discovered lying in the street. The besieged citizens gathered in the square to watch the clock being wound. Can you imagine the sense of hope that swept over them, when they heard the familiar sound of the chimes once again?
Across from the palace in the square is St Blaise’s Church. It was built after the 1667 earthquake.
Atop of the church is this statue of St Blaise.
Continuing down the street you pass the city hall and this statue of Marin Drzic, a poet (1508-1567). I saw some tourist rubbing his knee and nose so I thought this brought good luck. Actually, this concept was started by tourist and not the locals. According to the guide book, when the statue was erected, the local children were drawn to his prominent nose and climbed on the his lap to rub it. This caused the shiny knees and nose, which tourist assumed brought good luck by rubbing them!
This is the Rector’s Palace. The rector ruled Dubrovnik in the Middle Ages and was elected by nobility. They only ruled for one month to prevent anyone from getting too powerful. Most often, they would be elderly so they couldn’t shake things up too much. They lived on the second floor of the palace. We didn’t go inside.
Nearby the Rector’s Palace is the Cathedral. Interestingly, the original church was built in the 12th century by England’s King Richard the Lionheart. He was returning from a third crusade when his ship wrecked on the nearby island of Lokrum. He prayed to God and promised that if he survived, he would build a church on the very spot that he wrecked.
King Richard was asked by the the people of Dubrovnik to build the Cathedral in the city. He agreed and built what was considered, the finest Romanesque church on the Adriatic. Sadly, it was destroyed by the 1667 earthquake. This church is of Roman Baroque style from the 18th century.
From the Cathedral area, we wandered outside of the wall and came upon the Old Port. Here we took a 50 minute boat ride around Lokrum Island. We were in hopes of taking a longer excursion around three of the nearby Elaphite Islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan, but the weather was cold and rainy the rest of our time in Dubrovnik that we didn’t go on the longer boat excursion. I am so glad that we took this quick boat ride so we were able to see the island of Lokrum and the city at a different view.
Tour Around Lokrum Island
Our tour was just a boat ride around the island. We didn’t stop to explore the island. According to my guide book, it is a great place to hike, picnic and swim. It is called the “Island of Love” as there are many secluded spots for couples in love. For us, it was just a lovely day to be out on the water, away from the crowds of tourist and seeing Dubrovnik from a different angle.
Back on land, we decided to walk the City Wall.
Walk around the City Wall
One of the most highly recommended activities in Dubrovnik is to walk the City Wall. We did it later in the afternoon to avoid the heat and the crowds from the tour boats. We started at Pile Gate but you can start at one of the other two entrances as well. The crowds were not too bad at the time of day we went. Here are some of the amazing views were enjoyed.
It was crazy busy with tourist in Dubrovnik but I must share that people actually do live in this town. It was apparent when we wandered “off the beaten track”. I wanted to share some of these photos with you….
Towards the end of the afternoon, we rode the cable car to the top. It was windy and much, much cooler up there with the sun getting low in the sky! The views were amazing.
We were hoping to have a glass of wine while watching the sunset. It didn’t happen because it was just too cold and windy. We rode the cable car back to Dubrovnik and opted for a glass of wine in Luza Square. Interestingly, when our waiter learned we were from the states, he asked who we were going to vote for…..I said, neither one…he agreed with me that we have an extremely poor choice for this election.
As we sipped our wine, the lights of the town came on. It was beautiful…..and romantic!
We had a total of 3 full days in Gruz/Dubrovnik. One of those was a “wash out” due to torrential rain. I feel that we had enough time with just the two days that we were actually able to explore. Remember the beautiful, clear, sunny photo I posted of Gruz port? This is what it looked like on the rainy day….
It was a lovely time in Dubrovnik but how I wish I had been able to visit it back in 1978! I imagine that my experience, if I had been able to visit back so long ago, would have been much like my memories of Prague. In 1977, I visited Prague when it was controlled by the communist government. It was a beautiful city but had yet to be “discovered”. Dubrovnik reminded me of Prague, the narrow, quaint walkways made of stone and long stairways to get to another level of the city. Fast forward to 2013 when I revisited Prague…. The quiet, narrow streets are no longer. Today, the beautiful city of Prague has been discovered. The old city is full of souvenir shops, tour offers and crowded with tourist. I am not complaining, as I am one of those tourist but I just wish that I had been able to experience Dubrovnik when it was pristine!
Our parting gift from this lovely area was the gorgeous sunset, enjoyed from our apartment balcony with a glass of wine.