We didn’t have much time there, just 14 hours but Dubrovnik was the stop I was most looking forward to. Why? Imagine streets lined in marble with Baroque buildings topped with red-tiled roofs. Tall church steeples stretching high above the city’s roofline. An arched historic portico sits along an ancient boat harbor. Rounded fortress walls that were once used as a battlement for protection now beautifully watch over the anchored multicolored boats and a busy sandy beach line the shore. Sound good?
Arriving into Dubrovnik was almost as interesting as the city
Sailing into port we passed a fantastically tall, modern suspension bridge just before the Port of Gruž. It puts the Golden Gate to shame in technology. Between the beauty of the Adriatic and the rolling hills of Dubrovnik there was no better way to arrive.
Tying up at the dock we quickly ran to catch the bus for our city tour.
Driving along a road built into the cliffs above the sea, the view was paradise. The crystal clear blue water of the Adriatic was shimmering in the morning light while palm trees were swaying in the breeze. Driving past the city we could see the medieval wall that surrounds the fortress and hundreds of red-roofed buildings.
Dropping us off just outside the entry gates I walked over to the rail that overlooked the sea. I could smell the salt air as the waves came pounding onto the beach. To the left the tall fortress walls ended with a turret once a protective defense looking out over the waters. On the other side was a large patio with tables overlooking the fortress, the Atlas Club Nautika a popular restaurant.
Called over to the group I left the view reluctantly to walk through the thick archways that led us to the old town. I noticed there was a line of people waiting to climb up the stairs to the rampart that runs along the top of the fortress walls. Then the narrow streets that lined up like a maze of Croatian history.
Our tour guide showed us the first sight as you enter the city. Onofrio Fountain, a red brick domed cistern that supplies the village with fresh water collected from the rains. Just to the left of the fountain is the Gothic Franciscan Monastery. The church was quite influential for its time and still today heavily decorated with icon’s and biblical symbolism. Interesting that this monastery was once a pharmacy for local residents, and is one of the oldest in this part of Europe. The cloister area is surrounded by petite columned archways bordering a vibrant flowered garden.
Next door to the Franciscan Monastery is the 14th century Church of Sveti Spaso. Partially underground the church was built to commemorate the lost victims of the 1520 earthquake. Also known as the Church of St. Savior it has a traditional Dalmatian rosette window over the entry.
At the end of the main street known as the Stradun or Placa runs through the middle of town is the ancient harbor. This is where Dubrovnik’s history comes into play. Built up from the maritime trade Dubrovnik was once a strong rival of Venice for shipping goods. Bringing in the most accomplished ship builders the harbor was once filled the with high quality vessels.
Along the harbor other than plenty of motor boats, sail boats and yachts is a large arched portico and a very busy restaurant. The area bustling with tourists and locals alike taking in the historic views at tables with large white umbrellas and cappuccino’s. A few boats had sunbathers enjoying the sunny day while others preferred the beach. For fun you can also catch a sightseeing cruise from the docks.
Rector’s Palace is a Gothic lover’s dream, you can find it between Town Hall and the Church of St. Blaise. Its a wonderland of columned arches and ornamental stairways with a touch of Baroque and Renaissance. The architecture really catches your eye, but as the Cultural History Museum there are a few prize art pieces you won’t want to miss. The Armory collection is very good along with a stunning photography exhibit from the Croatian War of Independence. Also the religious paintings from the Renaissance period were of interest. The dungeon is reminiscent of Dodge’s Palace in Venice.
Although we didn’t get to see everything in Dubrovnik I have to say the highlight was after the tour. We had a few hours of free time so we headed straight to the ramparts. Walking along something so old but yet so beautiful was the perfect way to end our day. The walkway that encircles the village is not wide but it does have a million dollar view. Looking over the pristine waters of the Adriatic you could see how the walls were a fierce force of protection against potential invaders. To look out over the sea at sunset has to be one of the most romantic places in all of Europe. Looking the other way are terra-cotta rooflines and churches. There are five bastions each filled with tourists taking more pictures before venturing out to the next section of wall. It’s an adventure through Croatian history.
One more note of the food kind. Just off the Stradun is the Dalmatian Konoba Restaurant. It’s easy to find, the service is friendly and the food good. Their signature dish is the Fish Soup but they are also well-known for skewers. Ordering the veal skewer and prawns they were delightfully seasoned with a hint of garlic. As a side the Porcini risotto was a blend of creamy, savory mushroom and cheeses. Add to that a fine glass of wine and you have a lovely lunch!
We would have loved to had another day or two in Dubrovnik. It seems we barley touched the surface of this delightful city that has so much to see. In fact a week or two here in the summer would be the perfect holiday. A few days in Split and a few days on the island of Hvar is a must when visiting Croatia.
Photo’s by Foter