I don’t remember since when I had Dubrovnik, Croatia on my list of places to visit. I do remember seeing a photograph of the shimmering deep blue Adriatic Sea with the stone wall and terracotta rooftops of the Old City of Dubrovnik some years ago. That photograph put Croatia on the top of my list. I started mentioning it to my family, constantly saying “for our next vacation, we should go to Croatia”. But no one was as sold on the idea as me. Well, finally the day came when my husband and I decided it was the time to fulfill my dream!
I am a little superstitious. I don’t research destinations I want to go to until there is a plan in motion. Finally, it was time to start my research. The first step was to add Dubrovnik to my Weather App and what a disappointment that was. It showed rain for every single day of our stay there! I combed internet for all sorts of weather sites in the hope that somewhere I will see a ray of sunshine! No such luck. We knew April was the shoulder month to the tourist season but we decided to go there anyway, tempted by the cheaper hotel rates, airline tickets, and fewer number of tourists. I had read about how crowded it gets there during high season. Dubrovnik gets close to one million tourists during the season, which is from May to October. Game of Thrones and Star Wars put Dubrovnik in lot of peoples’ list to visit.
It seemed the luck was against us. On an outing in London, I twisted and sprained my ankle just 4 days before our scheduled departure. My first thought, Dubrovnik. The doctor told us it was a mild sprain and yes we can travel. She recommended to take it easy for the next few days. We were relieved.
And so finally, with my notes about Dubrovnik in hand we landed at a very quiet airport on a windy yet mild and sunny day. Our original plan was to take a shuttle from the airport that would drop us outside the Pile Gate of the Old City from where our hotel was a mere two minute walk. The shuttle bus departure times coincide with flight arrival times, making it very convenient. But due to my injury, we decided to use a car to reach our hotel. The driver of the car pointed out things on our way. The airport is about 20-30 minutes from the Old City depending on the traffic. Then I had my first look of Dubrovnik Old City down below with Adriatic Sea as a backdrop! It was even more beautiful than that picture that ignited my imagination years ago! My husband made sure I did not injure other body parts in my excitement. My pictures will have to show you how lovely this city is.
The Old City of Dubrovnik is a very small area enveloped within the famous City Walls. There are two main gates of entry to this walled city. The Adriatic Sea and old harbor bound it on two sides. On the south side, it is bounded by high cliffs. The walls of the city meander all around, up and down for a little more than 1.9 kilometers. There are six fortresses throughout the Old City. Walking on the walls is one of the top attractions, so that was the first thing to do on our agenda. ￼
You need tickets to walk along the walks, so please remember that, even though Croatia is part of European Union, it uses Kuna as the currency. Make sure you have cash on hand if you do visit as a lot of places only accept cash. As we handed our tickets to the ticket collector, he mentioned that there are about 850 steps to climb along the walls. I got scared looking at the straight and tall staircase to get on to the wall. We slowly made our way up. But with my injured foot and blowing wind I couldn’t handle it. So after only 10-15 minutes of walking/climbing we came down with great disappointment. I tried to tell myself that it was okay. But in my heart I knew it wasn’t. I wanted to do it. My husband promised me that we will go back after couple of days. After all we were going to be here for almost 6 days. And we did! The views from every step, every fortress, every nook and cranny were breathtaking. We saw things which we would not have seen if we had not climbed to the top.
I am so happy that we went outside of high season. Dubrovnik wasn’t crowded at all. There were just enough tourists around so Old Town wasn’t a ghost town but there were no lines anywhere. Finding a table at restaurants wasn’t an issue and we had the lovely opportunity to meet some wonderful fellow tourists. We spent some very relaxing evenings chatting and comparing notes with them. Locals that we came across were friendly, helpful, and proud of their city.
As soon as you enter the Pile Gate to enter this old town you notice few things. You see cats – very well fed and relaxed cats. They coexist with humans in total peace. I saw feeding bowls at lot of places. They weaved in and out through feet, doorways, alleys, steps, and even high up on the walls. Their job is to keep the town rat free. There are quite a few pigeons around as well. With so many animals, the town was surprising clean. We were told that the Old Town gets thoroughly cleaned every night. I have seen quite a few cities of the world but nothing as clean. As you enter you see Orange Trees laden with fruits. As soon as you enter the gate, you see a little alcove with a painting of Madonna behind a glass with fresh flowers in the vase in front. ￼The locals who enter always touch that alcove and pray. I felt as if there was such a harmony between the nature and humans. Statues of the Patron Saint Blaise watch over this city from top of the gates and doorways.
What really took away my breath was the colors of Dubrovnik. Terracotta roof tops, stone walls limestone paving, Adriatic blue, all contrasting and complementing each other.
Sometimes the town almost looks pink in certain light. Beyond the scenery, there are plenty of things to explore. The Rector’s Palace, ￼
six Fortresses, Dubrovnik Cathedral, Dubrovnik Aquarium and Maritime Museum in St John Fortress,
many churches, small and narrow alleyways and the harbor. I love architecture, so exploring that in this town was a real treat. The original town was built in the Renaissance and Gothic style. Sadly, it was destroyed in an earthquake. What you see today is built in the Baroque style.
If you are fan of Game of Throne, May be you will remember this.
One of the best ways to see the Old Town is from the top of Mount Srd. We did a Panoramic Tour with a private car and guide/driver in the surrounding areas including Lapad Bay. The views and small villages that we saw were absolutely beautiful.
The one downside to Dubrovnik is the lack of vegetarian food. When we told people that we are vegetarians they didn’t understand that we do not eat seafood. We ended up eating a lot of pizzas and pastas. There is one Indian restaurant called Incredible India. It is run by couple of Indian guys. The food was good but, if you do decide to go, please book in advance. It is a tiny little place and popular among Indian tourists. There is also a restaurant called Nishta, which serves vegan and vegetarian food. The restauranteurs were friendly. We had good food and great time with the fellow tourists from different parts of the world. While the rain poured outside, we all just cozied up became friends inside. Our color, race, religion and nationality didn’t matter.
We also went to a bar called Buza Bar. I had seen pictures of this place and I had to go there, injured limb or not. On a clear evening, we made our way there. Mind you, there is a Buza Gate and many directed us there. Buza Bar is in totally different direction. For Buza Bar you enter through almost a little hole in the city wall.
There is no sign outside. There is just an arrow saying drinks. You climb down on a metal staircase on the cliff’s edge. The whole bar rests on the cliff’s edge with the Adriatic and Lokrum Island below you and the walls of the Old Town above you.
We could see a partial sunset over the Adriatic from here. We had a great evening chatting with fellow tourists there watching the sunset.
Another restaurant, that we went to was a beautiful Italian restaurant called Posat. With a view of the walls we had a memorable meal.
During our trip, we also visited Kotor in Montenegro and the town of Cavtat. More about that in my next blog!