Dubrovnik and the Old Town

Wow, we were in Dubrovnik. We had heard and read so much about this ancient city and were really excited about the opportunity to explore and discover on foot.

After an early breakfast our coach took us across town to the walled old town of Dubrovnik. To enter the town one crosses a bridge over a small river ending in the drawbridge at one of the 2 town entrance gates. As happened in 2000 when we travelled to Zimbabwe and I was getting excited to see a Baobab Tree for the first time since learning about them in Standard 4 (Grade 6), I was excited to actually cross a drawbridge for the first time. It never ceases to amaze me what different senses and knowledge are brought to the fore when travelling and seeing the world.The entance across a drawbridge to the Dubrovnic MonasteryThe entance across a drawbridge to the Dubrovnic Monastery

As in Sarajevo, we had to have a local guide and she was one of a number who carried the ‘well documented umbrella’. Hers was red and as she was a tall woman, probably 5’ 10’’ (1.78m) at least, there was no way that we would miss her. There were a lot of tourist groups that morning and the variety of umbrellas was actually quite amazing. It seemed as if there was an agreement among the guides on their umbrella colour and/or size.

The Old Town is situated right on the small boat harbour which used to be the main entrance to the Town. Today the harbour where large ships are moored is on the opposite side of Dubrovnik. It did not appear to be an industrial harbour as we have in Durban, but mainly for tourist ships most of which are huge and bring in hundreds of tourists.Trevor looking out over the AdriaticTrevor looking out over the original habour

In chatting with some of the locals we learnt that, although tourism had grown exponentially since the fall of Socialism and Yugoslavia, they had not really benefitted. Almost daily the tourist ships dock in the morning, the people board coaches, are taken directly to the Old Town and 3 hours later are return to their ships and leave.

Another interesting fact we learnt from local residents was about the development of a new golf course. Both golf and tourism were new and growing activities in Dubrovnik and, to try to bring in more funding, the ‘City Fathers’ decided that a golf course would be an excellent asset. When the citizens learnt of this there were many dissenting voices and so it was agreed to hold a referendum. The result was most interesting to us. The majority vote was against the development but, because the percentage of voters as not the required number, the result was considered null and void and the course was in the process of being built when we were there in September 2014! Politics is the same the world over it would seem.

We really did enjoy the tour of the Old Town which has 2 monasteries, Franciscan and Benedictine. We visited the Franciscan Monastery, built in the 14th Century, first as it is situated right at the entrance to the Town. The monastery is now a museum and one of the most interesting displays is the pharmacy which the Franciscans developed when they arrived as one of their main activities was to take care of the sick.

45. Entrance to the MonasteryEntrance to the Franciscan Monastery

On one wall there was a frame with dozens of flags displayed in it and on asking we were told that they represented all the countries from which tourists to the monastery had come. We were not happy to see there was no South African flag and we, with 4 other South Africans on the tour, asked them to please include one. I hope that they did so something about it. If anyone who reads this happens to go to Dubrovnik and visit the monastery, please check if it has been added to the frame. I could tell you so much about the monastery alone but space does not allow it. Do visit this website to learn more.Flags of the countries of visitors to the monastery

No matter how often one sees these ancient towns said to date back to 300C based on Greek artefacts found, we still stand in awe of how well they have been maintained. After the monastery we walked down what was originally a channel which divided the current town into 2 but was filled in creating a wide street (Stradum) which stretches the full length of the Old Town between the 2 gates. Today there are shops and cafés all along the Stradun with the beautiful ancient apartments, churches and many other buildings.

Having spent an hour and a half in the Old Town, including spending time on the old harbour wall and deciding not to spend €100 each to walk on the walls around the town, we decided to go to the top of the mountain via the funicular. An excellent decision! Down in the valley of Dubrovnik it had become hot and rather humid but, once at the top of the mountain, we were actually above the cloud cover where it was much cooler and quite a strange feeling. The views over the city, the glorious blue Adriatic Sea and the mountains around the area, are stunning.74. Above the clouds at the top of the mountain

We spent a wonderful couple of hours up there, discovering some interesting facts about Dubrovnik and the war of the 1990s. It is often forgotten that Croatia also was involved in those wars, though to a lesser degree than Bosnia-Hezegovina and Serbia. Dubrovnik was besieged for seven months by the Yugoslav National Army and experienced a number of artillery attacks during which nearly 2000 people were killed. On the top of the mountain there a number of memorials to some of these persons.

After eating lunch up there we returned to town and took a bus back to our hotel. After resting for a few hours we took a long walk down to and along the beach, found a lovely little bistro where we enjoyed a pizza and coffee for dinner ending a very special and educational day.

 

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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