09.07.2012 - 11.07.2012 35 °C
Eager to set off on our Croatian backpacking adventure, the journey was preceded by yet more airport troubles that I will sum up as exasperating and draining, spending nearly 24hrs in the airport. But let’s skip past that and on to the beauty of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is found in southern Croatia, along the Dalmatian coast. It is one of the most visited cities in Croatia, and for good reason.
Traveling by bus from the airport, we drove along the cliff-side highway with views of the sparkling Adriatic far below. The bus began weaving its way down the mountainside towards the ocean, before us looming the impressive stone walls, turrets and forts of the fortified old city of Dubrovnik. Passing through tunnels and arches carved out of the rock, the bus dropped us off just outside the gates and in the central hub of the city. With endless tourists milling about, snapping photos, eating in bistros, and following tour guides, we began the daunting task of finding our accommodation. Speaking Croatian, it was easy to ask locals for directions, though it is not hard to find an English speaking local to guide you if needed. Asking anyone in sight for directions to find a tiny little street amidst a maze of stone houses separated by steep stairs, we finally made it to our adorable little suite, high above the city walls, ready with kitchen and an ocean-view terrace, shaded with a tangle of grape vines. Dropping off our packs, with sweat already beading on our brows, we began the descent back to town. We should have counted the steps down, but let’s just say the ten minutes of stairs downwards was later an arduous hike back in the scorching heat.
Dubrovnik is ringed by 2 kilometers of walled fortification, within which lie sleepy little stone houses with shops and bistros on their ground floors. Terracotta roofs pop against the white stone buildings and marble streets, along which you can find cathedrals and incredible baroque architecture around every turn. With a harbour on one end just outside its walls, and the draw-bridge Pile Gate on the other, Dubrovnik is something remarkable to behold. The main street, known as Stradun, is the main pedestrian promenade with small crisscrossing streets leading away from it. Restaurants are found in tiny alleyways and fountains pour fresh cold water that you can wash your face in and fill your bottle with. Souvenir shops dot the streets between Palaces, a cathedral, monastery, and clock towers. Little passageways lead you just outside the imposing walls and cliff-side cafes cater to the beach-goers that sunbath and cliff jump into the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea. Dubrovnik is breathtaking.
We spent a day walking through stari grad (the old city), and climbed to the top of the city walls to walk the entire perimeter, spanning 2 kilometers around, with incredible vantage points to stunning views far below. These walls were built between the 13th and 16th century and are still fully intact today. The inner and first set of walls were built in the 13thcentury and are 1.5 meters thick and fortified with 15 square forts. In the 15th century, with threats of invasion, extra forts were built along with an outer wall that enclosed the entire city in the 2km of walls that span up to 25m in height. On the land side, the walls are thicker, with areas reaching 6m, and are thinner on the ocean side, though still up to 3m thick.
After a hard day in the intense heat, reaching temperatures above 35*C with humidity and not a breath of wind, we treated ourselves to pizza at a little alleyway restaurant in the shade of the stone walls. Another day, having witnessed the cliff jumping from our trip around the city walls, we scouted out a place to leap and threw ourselves into the pristine, warm waters below.
With beaches found near and around the city, excursions that will take you kayaking and snorkeling to nearby islands, and the city walls to climb and walk, there is always something to do and see in this old city. We arrived on the first day of their Libertas Film Festival, which attracted endless locals and tourists into the old town walls in the evenings. A stage was set up in the central square and a play was put on that we couldn’t see from the crowds that blocked the view. We had more fun just people watching as droves turned up in their finest attire and paraded the streets on a mission to see and be seen. Every person that came through the gates carried an ice-cream cone of fresh gelato; girls teetered from five inch heels along the marble cobble stone streets, and packs of young men trolled close behind. The city is lit up in the evenings and must be viewed again as the walls glow white in the dark of the warm evening.
There is a cable-car that runs just outside the city walls, all the way to the top of the steep mountainside above. From here, the entire old city can be seen, as well as the housing outside the walls and the outlying area of Lapad, where a lot of the housing and large hotels are found. The view stretches out into the Adriatic Ocean and showcases many of Croatia’s islands, just off the coast. We took the cable-car up before sunset, getting to view the city in the waning light of dusk, and then stayed until nightfall to take in the stunning view of the lit up city.
A History lesson for those that are interested (IF NOT, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH )
Slavs took over this city in the 7th century and fortification was in place by the 9thC with threats of invasion. At the time, the city was separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. On the mainland another settlement grew and by the 12th century these two settlements merged and became known as Dubrovnik. For a period of time Dubrovnik was under Venetian rule, but after breaking away and increasing its land with small islands off the coast, Dubrovnik became a main port and thriving merchant city, acting as an important trading post between the Mediterranean and Baltic. Due to its strong relations with countries using the port for trading, Dubrovnik was an area of peace and prosperity. A large earthquake destroyed the city in 1667, but it was then rebuilt in the Baroque style. As other trading posts popped up along the same route, Dubrovnik began to decline in prosperity. By 1815 it was conquered by Napoleon and came under Austro-Hungarian rule until 1918, when it became part of Yugoslavia and increasingly a tourist destination. The war from 1991-95 brutalized the city, with approximately 60% of the inner houses bombed, but the city has been fully restored to its amazing glory.
Thank-you all who are falling our journeys! We are moving on from Dubrovnik to do some island hopping up the coast. A new blog will be posted about the island of Korčula and Hvar within the next few days.
Hoping you are all well, the A-Team sends love.