WELCOME TO OLD TOWN DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
 
VIA SFPNN VICARIOUS TRAVEL
 
In October 2010, Dubrovnik was a stop on a cruise that also included Greece and Turkey. I looked forward to visiting this far away land that I knew almost nothing about.
 
Dubrovnik is about as south as you can go and still be in Croatia. Dubrovnik is sheltered from the ugly winds of the Adriatic by mountains and islands, giving it a pleasant Mediterranean climate. It is a prominent tourist destination on the Adriatic. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
 
We picked a shore excursion that would take us to the Old Town of Dubrovnik, where heritage is alive and waiting for exploration.
 

 

Arriving in Croatia


Dubrovnik’s Old Town is unique and it’s heritage goes back to the ancient times, which is why it is protected by UNESCO as a part of world heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Franjo Tudman Suspension Bridge at the entrance to Gruz Harbor creates a beautiful setting as seen from the cruise ship.

 


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The main attraction of Dubrovnik is the Old Town area which is encompassed by perfectly preserved defensive city walls as seen in this photo from high above the city.

 

Hrvatska is the native name for Croatia

 
The prosperity of the city of Dubrovnik has always been based on maritime trade. In the Middle Ages, as the Republic of Ragusa, also known as a Maritime Republic (together with Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, Venice and other Italian cities), it became the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice. Dubrovnik was originally called Ragusa and was formed in the 7th century when coastal residents took refuge there under the onslaught of barbarian invasions. Walls were quickly built to protect the new settlement.

In 1667, Dubrovnik was devastated by a major earthquake which destroyed most of its Renaissance art and architecture. The city was reconstructed in the baroque style that visitors see today.

 

 

After the earthquake, Dubrovnik fell into decline. It was Napoleon who finally put an end to the republic in 1806 when he entered the city and announced its annexation. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna ceded Dubrovnik to Austria to whom it remained attached until 1918.

Dubrovnik was demilitarized in the 1970s with the intent of forever protecting it from war devastation. But in December 1991 the world watched as Serbian and Montenegrin gunners trained their artillery on this beautiful, historic city. The shelling of 1991 lasted intermittently until June 1992 and caused substantial damage to the roofs, the marble streets and the Renaissance sculpture. Fortunately UNESCO and other international organizations rushed to the rescue. Teams of skilled workers labored throughout most of the 1990s and now the treasures of Dubrovnik are beautifully restored.
 
Dubrovnik began to develop its tourist industry in the late 19th century. Luminaries such as Lord Byron, George Bernard Shaw and Agatha Christie were awed by the town and Dubrovnik became a major tourist center in post-war Yugoslavia.
 

We entered the city through
the Pile Gate

At the entrance gate to the Old Town from the west there is a stone bridge within two Gothic arches designed in 1471. That bridge ends at another bridge, a wooden drawbridge which once was pulled up every evening. Above the bridges, over the arch, the statue of city patron St. Blaise is set.

 

A view of the city walls

The city walls were completed in the 15th century. They encircle old Dubrovnik with a circumference of more than a mile and a half. The walls vary in width from 3 feet to 19 feet.

 
Just inside the gate, a large map reminds visitors of the devastation caused by the 1991 assault by the Yugoslav army. Over 650,000 shells hit the area with more than 1,000 landing inside the city walls where over 250 people died. The marks on the map show where shells hit inside this site with no military targets.

 
The first church that you see on the right after entering through Pile Gate is the Church of the Holy Saviour. Built to commemorate the victims of the 1520 earthquake, this church was one of the rare Dubrovnik buildings to have survived the earthquake of 1667.
 

The weather was perfect as we started our exploration of the Old Town. The main street is called The Stradun, which is paved with slabs of limestone polished through centuries of use. I did my homework before leaving the states to see where we could find free wi-fi in the ports on this cruise so that we could send emails and photos back home to our family and friends and there were a few spots on the Stradun where we actually found ourselves parked for a few minutes or more to do exactly that! I like to call my mother from various locations so that she can mark her map of calls received from her family from various places worldwide. Using Skype and the free wi-fi she received a call from Dubrovnik!

 

 

Near the main gate and in front of St. Saviour’s Church is Onofrio’s Large Fountain.

One of two fountains in the Old Town, it was constructed beginning in 1438 so that visitors could wash away the possibility of carrying plague into the city before they entered.

The fountain spouts water from the 16 masked faces around the fountain and provides clean, cold water via an aqueduct from the Dubrovnik River 7 miles away.

 

 

 

 

Church of St. Blaise
 
Saint Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik. His feast is celebrated yearly on February 3, when relics of the saint, his head, a bit of bone from his throat, his right hand and his left, are paraded in reliquaries.

St. Blaise Church was originally a 14th century Romanesque building, but was badly damaged in the 1667 earthquake and finally destroyed by a fire in 1706. The church was rebuilt in its present baroque style between 1706 and 1714. A statue of St. Blaise holding a model of Dubrovnik is high atop the facade.

Orlando’s stone column

In the central part of the square in front of the Church is a high stone column with a carved image of the famous knight Roland – the symbol of freedom and independence of the Dubrovnik Republic. (“Orlando” is the Italian form of the French name “Roland”), whose battles and deeds have been enshrined in the fables of history, poetry, and song. Roland is frequently described as the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, and was reputed to be the nephew of Charlemagne.

This was once the place where all important decisions of the state authorities were proclaimed, while today it serves as the place where the opening of the traditional Feast of St. Blaise takes place.

 
We stopped for lunch in an outside cafe and watched tourists and locals go about their business. There were locals who had set up tables selling their arts and crafts and specialties. As seen below I found this table photo worthy….
 

Grappa is a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin of between 37 and 60% alcohol by volume. Most grappa is made by distilling pomace and grape residue (mainly the skins, but also stems and seeds) left over from winemaking after pressing. It was originally made to prevent waste by using leftovers at the end of the wine season.

Cobble stoned lanes and alleyways lead away from The Stradun and it was here, that one would find hidden gems; small cafes, little wine bars and small shops selling arts and crafts. We found ourselves in a quite interesting area high above the streets where the locals lived in tiny apartments. We took so much time exploring here that we missed the opportunity to walk the walls around the city before they closed it for the day. Oh well, next visit!

 The Franciscan Monastery was founded in 1317 and rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake, but the cloister and other elements still survive from the original building. Among the earliest surviving features is the south door, designed in 1499 in a Venetian Gothic style and featuring a beautifully carved Pieta in the lunette. When built in 1498, it was the most elaborate in Dubrovnik.

At the top, God the Father presides over the Pieta below. Left is St. Jerome with a model of a church (a common Gothic presentation) and John the Baptist at the right.

The monastery is also home to one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe dating from 1317 and still in operation after 700 years. It is the 3rd oldest pharmacy in the world, and the only one in operation.

The Dominican Friary was founded in 1315 and built with the help of the local government. The monastery was constructed against the city wall to strengthen its northeastern flank. An impressive stairway with a stone balustrade leads to the south church door, A statue of St. Dominic welcomes you from above the arch of the door.

 There were so many old buildings to explore, but unfortunately we did not get to visit them all.

Dubrovnik’s Colorful Harbor

 The entrance to the harbor is protected on both sides by two forts. The western most tip of Old Town Dubrovnik, looks out across the Adriatic. In the Bay of Dubrovnik is the wooded island of Lokrum, where according to legend, Richard the Lionheart was cast ashore after being shipwrecked in 1192. The island includes a fortress, botanical garden, monastery and beach.

Also ….

— Marco Polo (1254-1324), an adventurer, merchant and one of the best known world travelers, whose book “The Travels of Marco Polo” is the first tourist book in the world,and comes from the Korcula island in Croatia.

— The necktie, worn by businessmen around the world, is a product of Croatia.

— The White House was built out of Croatian stone, obtained from the island of Brac

— The Dalmatian dog also known as the Dubrovnik hunter, originally came from Dalmatia, Croatia

— In Croatia, people can start voting at the age of 16, if they have a job, but have to wait until they turn 18, if they are unemployed.

 

“Those who seek paradise on earth should seek it in Dubrovnik”

– George Bernard Shaw

 © Patty