Balkan Road Trip 2018 - Part 6 - Dubrovnik, City Walls & Mount Srd
November 03, 2018
Part 1. Part 2, Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9 & Part 10.
After an amazing 5 nights in Kotor it was time to head to our next destination - Dubrovnik, Croatia. We planned to spend 3 nights in Dubrovnik. As with all our spots in this amazing trip we found it was too short. We found an alternative border crossing which had no tour buses and we were soon driving in Croatia. We stopped in Cavtat for lunch. We shared a Greek salad and an octopus salad at a restaurant called "Ivan." We found parking at a pay for parking lot.
The photo above was taken as we walked from our parking spot towards two restaurants. The octopus salad was very tasty.
As we got close to Dubrovnik I called our host, Ivana. We had booked 3 nights at an apartment in the Port Gruz neighborhood of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is not car friendly. We wanted a place where we could safely park our car, and then leave it to explore the Old City. Access from the Port Gruz to the Old City is via bus, or if one was feeling energetic one could walk it (a brisk 30 minutes.) Ivana explained where to meet her. She had been saving a parking space for us. After her other guests had checked out, we ended up moving our car to a reserved parking spot down the street. Access to the apartments was through a Ulica (or street) of stone stairs. Our one bedroom apartment had a bathroom with shower, a kitchen and the best part, a lovely terrace.
For a small additional fee we could arrange to have a cooked breakfast either inside the apartment or on the terrace.
In the photo below shows the street of stone steps.
After settling in, we decided to have a nap. After a nap we decided to explore just a little. It was Kevin's birthday so we ended up having dinner at the Amfora restaurant. It was in walking distance from our apartment - you just had to go down the street of stairs until you reached the bottom. I had the beef, and Kevin had the sea bass. I had a glass of the most amazing local wine.
We sat outside and enjoyed the evening. The beef was amazingly tasty and tender.
After a leisurely dinner, we went back to our apartment where we lit candles provided and sat on the terrace and shared a local Croatian beer (complimentary supplied by our host) and ate ice cream we picked up from the local market. Bliss.
We had organized with Ivana to have breakfast the next morning on the terrace. We had omelets, coffee and juice.
The easiest way to get to Old City Dubrovnik is to catch the bus. We had the option of catching bus numbers 1A, 1B or 3 at the bus stop in Port Gruz (an easy walk down stairs to the port below.) The buses take you into a bus station right outside the old City (Pile Gate.) It sure gets crowded on the buses. One day it was early and all the buses were full. We did walk - it is not impossible, although it could be unpleasant in the heat without water. We also ended up buying the 24 hour tickets. These allowed you to catch the buses back and forth (Old City and Port Gruz) numerous times in a 24 hour period. We opted not to buy the Dubrovnik City Tourist Cards - given what we wanted to see and do, and did not make sense to us. (Purchasing these cards may make sense for you. It all depends on what you want to do. Just do the math.)
There is no comparing Dubrovnik to Kotor. Kotor is small, quaint and kind of crumbly. Don't get me wrong, I loved Kotor. But Dubrovnik is amazing - its old city is large, its walls massive. Also Dubrovnik was heavily bombed during the wars. Most of it has been repaired- you can imagine the extent of the damage by counting the number of new looking roof tops.
For our first day we caught the bus to the old city, and then spent a leisurely day wondering around. The crowds and tour groups were out in full force. The Stradun (main central thoroughfare) was packed with tourists. This made us immediately dive into the small narrow side streets. Like Kotor, it was fun to wander around and get lost.
Cats were in evidence, but not in the numbers that was so noticeable in Kotor. They also appeared to be healthier and better fed. It was fun to amble the side streets, and when we found a cafe in a square we would stop and have something to drink, and engage in our favorite past time - people watching. We visited the Dubrovnik Cathedral and St Ignatius Church. Both had free entry. (We like free.)
This is the (above) Dubrovnik Cathedral from the outside, and (below) the interior...
For lunch we found a small family run restaurant in one of the narrow side streets. We shared a tuna salad and a plate of local cheese. Public transportation is really convenient, and it was kind of fun to catch the bus. The 24 hour bus ticket made the most sense to us. (There are no limits to the number of city bus rides within a 24 hour period.) Easy to buy at the ticket shop at Port Gruz. This meant we could catch the bus to and from the old City without too much trouble. That meant an afternoon nap and then a bus trip back to the old city for the evening.
We spent an evening having dinner,
listening to live music
and people watching.
The Old City is very attractively lit at night. There are so many people out and about - tourists and locals. The buses run late. It is really a wonderful vibe and we felt perfectly safe.
One thing that I haven't mentioned is the ice cream. Kevin would always find a place where he could buy a scoop of ice cream. (He would give me a taste, but ice cream is his thing.)
This photo is of one of the many ice cream shops we found all over. This one happens to be in Dubrovnik.
One must see activity is to walk the City Walls. There is an entrance fee of 300 Kuna each. Credit cards or cash (kuna only) are accepted. Euros are not accepted. If you buy the Dubrovnik Tourist Card the City Walls are included. We decided to go early. As early as we could stand it. The buses from Port Gruz were packed. So we decided to walk - it was lovely to do this walk into the Old City. It's a brisk 30 minutes, and I am glad it was in the morning. We had packed lots of water. We started our City Wall walk at the entrance near Pile Gate. There was already a line for tickets around 8:15am when we arrived. I am glad we went as early as we did.
The light was beautiful, and while there were people around it wasn't packed.
You can see new roofs (showing where roofs had been repaired and replaced after the Serbian and Montenegrin bombing of the city) and old roofs.
There are lots of steps. It took us about 1.5 hours to walk around the city.
We went at a very slow pace, mainly because we were stopping to take photos. Given how narrow the walls are in places, it is a good thing that the walk is one way. Everywhere we looked there was a photo. Such as this photo (below) of old and new roofs...
My fascination with washing lines continues...
The Wall Walk affords amazing views looking down on the Old City...
But also views outside...
Along the walls are the occasional restaurant offering overpriced water, juices and meals. I am glad we followed advice and did the walls as early as we did - there is no shade. I would imagine it would be extremely hot and unpleasant to do it any later.
Another absolutely must see is to catch the Cable Car up to Mount Srd to go to the war museum and watch the sunset. So after a nice nap we again caught the bus to Pile Gate, and after buying tickets, walked to the cable car station. Cable car tickets are 150 kuna per person, round trip. Cash only.
For 30 kuna per person we visited the War of Homeland Museum at the top. It told the harrowing story of the Serbian and Montenegrin attack on Dubrovnik. It told the story of the incredible bravery of civilians and how a under resourced Croatian force tried to defend the city. There was an illusion that Dubrovnik under UNESCO's protection would be spared the destruction in case of war. This proved to be erroneous.
The City was blockaded as the Serbian and Montenegrin forces used former Yugoslavian Navy to blockade the city. This diagram (below) shows the extent of the destruction of the Old City. The Serbian and Montenegrin attack on Dubrovnik Old City (a world heritage site) drew wide spread international condemnation.
Serbian and Montenegrin forces also attacked the Fort Mount Srd. There were only 31 defenders defending the Fort on Mount Srd (which is where the Museum is located.)
This photo (below) is of the Fort, which now houses the museum.
The Museum describes how the Croatians tried to protect themselves from Serbian and Montenegrin forces, the destruction, the Croatian offensive and the eventual reconstruction. The museum serves as another reminder of the tragic human cost of war.
Given the reconstruction of Dubrovnik, and that it now is a vibrant city visited by tourists from around the world, it is hard to think that only twenty odd years ago this was happening.
This museum is well worth a visit. After the museum we went outside to enjoy the sunset. There are still remnants from the war - trenches for artillery, and the defense of Fort Srd.
We spent a wonderful time exploring, and enjoying the light as we watched the sunset. It was simply magical.
After sunset it was time to join the long lines, get into the cable car and head back down to the Old City for a light dinner - cheese and wine, and people watching.
We had an amazing time in Dubrovnik.
We really didn't get to do all the things we thought we were going to do. We really didn't want to rush around like headless chickens, and try and cram everything in. We wanted to take our time and relax. That does mean of course that we have a perfect excuse to return (although I really need no excuse at all.)
Our next stop - Split.