Home -> Europe -> Croatia -> Travelogue Croatia -> 06 September 2007
Thursday 06 September, walking through historic Dubrovnik
It has been cold tonight (only 14 degrees) when we wake up. With sweater and coat we prepare ourselves a nice breakfast and at 10 o'clock we go to Dubrovnik, only a few kilometers away. It is called one of the most beautiful cities in Europe in several travel guides, so of course we have to go there for a day.
Just in front of the city is a parking lot where you can walk a little up a hill and from there we have a fantastic view of the old city that stretches like a fairytale town in the blue sea. The sky is still fairly blue, but unfortunately that quickly changes into a gray mass of clouds. Yesterday we have noticed that the modern day city is much larger than the old city but today we are going to confine ourselves today to the Stari Grad, the walled old city.We enter the city quickly and it seems less crowded than yesterday afternoon, but we still have to wait more than half an hour until we find a parking space near the walls of the old center. Parking attendants are very attentive so cheaters who try to force themselves before others do not stand a chance and we prefer to wait patiently rather than drive around in circles and hope for a free spot. It is already September, why are all these people here, don't they have a job? But once the car is parked we are soon through the gate at the Vrata od Buze, the northern entrance to the city.
Narrow and steep alleys take us to the center of the city, which from above looked so red with all tiled roofs, but you do not see much when you walk through the old lanes. Most of the traces of the war from the 90s have disappeared, but at the gate we see a map with all bullet impacts. Dubrovnik has been besieged for months (and in the past much more often), but the last time it came out pretty undamaged, especially thanks to the thick city walls.Soon we wander around the steep streets and the cobbled squares. Everywhere churches, residences, museums and tourist destinations are intertwined; fortunately, motorized traffic is forbidden within the old city walls so you can take a leisurely stroll.
"Freedom is not for sale, not even for all the gold of the world" is the motto of the city. In the last war more than 30,000 Croat refugees stayed in the hotels in the old city. Now peace reigns and the few thousand inhabitants have tourists visiting instead of refugees. And in different places we see scenes that could have been played centuries ago, such as an old woman who taps water at a fountain and takes it home with her.
In the lower center of the old city it is much busier with tourists. Slowly we walk towards the 15th century Onofriofountain, one of the most famous monuments of the city, surrounded by 16 stone masks, and then to the main entrance to the old city, the Pile Gate where we can climb the ramparts (access 100 kuna). From the walls we have a nice view of the old city within the walls and the surroundings outside.
We make a complete walk, from the west gate to the south and are thus almost 3 hours on the road. Outside the walls are several forts of which the Bokarfort is the most impressive. For centuries, Dubrovnik has managed to preserve its independence, sometimes by paying tribute to a more powerful country such as the Byzantine or Ottoman empire, but for a very long time it is a smaller brother (or sister) of Venice which knew exactly to protect itself with a fleet of more than 300 ships.
All roofs that were destroyed in the last war have already been restored. Because Dubrovnik was already on the list of protected World Heritage sites before the war, it also got faster and more help from the international community than many other affected areas. The city of Toulouse seems to have donated tens of thousands of hollow red roof tiles to restore the roofs, but sometimes you still see a really old roof. But here too there is 'progress': everywhere are dishes for TV reception because what would we do without television...
The tour on the ramparts becomes narrower as we get closer to the sea on the south side, but from there we have a very nice overview on the city that stretches up to the north and the walls that tower above the city. No wonder Dubrovnik had a considerable degree of independence for a long time because it was almost impregnable. Until an earthquake devastated the city in 1667 and the economic situation became critical. Napoleon dissolved the Republic of Dubrovnik in 1808 and since then it has always been part of other countries. Until 1918, when Dubrovnik became part of the Kingdom of Servians, Croats and Slovenes was called the city of Ragusa.
Halfway through the walk we stop for a cup of coffee at one of the many terraces, but it is not really pleasant. It is at most 18 degrees, heavily cloudy and there is a strong breeze. After finishing the coffee we quickly walk on and soon we have a view from the eastern walls on the 15th century clock tower in which two bronze figures rotate and ring every hour.
There is a lot to tell about Dubrovnik, all the monuments that are there and its history, but travel guides are probably do a better job than we. As we walk north again, we notice how big the differences in altitude are in the city and sometimes the walls are so low that we find it scary when we see that parents simply let their children run free to hang over those low city walls.
Along the harbor on the east side we walk to the north side of the walls where we have to bridge ever larger differences in height. It is becoming busier and more crowded here as we descend the walls again and go to the Pile Gate. Outside the gate lots of newly arrived buses stop with tourists who come to see the city even though it is a bit later in the afternoon.
We leave the old city through the Pile gate and search for the internet café that we saw yesterday when we drove through the city. It is cold and except for nature and culture we have also come here for some nice and warm weather. But soon we see that it is warmer in the Netherlands than in Croatia and going back is of course not an option! Only in Macedonia and Greece the weather is still beautiful and that is just a little too far away. The prospects for next week are slightly better, but we didn't have the nice late summer weather that we had hoped for. Somehow this holiday our relationship with the weather gods is far from ideal... But one way or another, we will enjoy this holiday!
We eat some pizza slices that you can buy everywhere, walk back through the old town, wander over the marble squares and drive towards the campsite at the end of the afternoon. At Kupari we drive into another road and see the traces that recent forest fires have left, blackened trees that struggle to stay upright. In addition to past war violence, forest fires are a big problem that people face here.
We shoot some nice pictures along the heavily clouded coast and just as we return to the campsite it starts to rain. It is only 12 degrees at 7 o'clock, time to sit inside. At 11 o'clock the rain stops and the sky is completely clear and the temperature drops further. A little while and it will be freezing! Time to crawl under the clammy duvets in the tent.