Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik – blue skies, red roofs

According to Google maps it was only 170 metres from where the taxi dropped me off to the apartment that was to be home for the next four days in the walled city of Dubrovnik.  What soon became apparent was that Google did not take into consideration the tiny narrow laneways lined with cafes and restaurants; the steep, congested stone steps; the 35 degree searing midday sun; or my luggage.  I arrived at my destination a sweaty, sticky mess with hair sticking to my face and my top clinging to my back. I was relieved to arrive and collapse into my blissfully cool air-conditioned destination.  The look on my face must’ve spoken volumes when the man at reception told me that I wasn’t actually staying at this particular location but a short walk away in a separate apartment, as he hurriedly assured me that he would take me and my luggage to the apartment.

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Laneways of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s Old Town is genuinely gorgeous, a pedestrian only UNESCO World Heritage site, encased by city walls, and a step back in time.  It’s been an important trading post since the 13th century, and despite wars and earthquakes, the red-roofed city survives, and continues to beguile more and more visitors every day. My apartment was right in the thick of the Old Town, in an old stone palace, off a tiny narrow pedestrian alleyway.  The apartment and all of Dubrovnik instantly had me wrapped around its finger.

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Red roofs over Dubrovnik

I was surprised to learn that there are only 42,000 permanent residents in Dubrovnik, as by dinner time I was sure I had seen at least 42,000 people traipsing through the Stradun, the main pedestrian street in the Old City.  I had recently read about European destinations imploring tourists to stay home and Dubrovnik was at the top of the list.  This seemed obvious to me within seconds, however what did the locals think?  It’s a conundrum – most of the locals that I spoke to were quick to say that tourists were critical to their business and the local economy, however they were genuinely concerned about the sheer numbers of visitors, the huge increase of cruise ships, and how that impacts the overall experience that visitors are having.  At times the number of people made me feel claustrophobic.  I was well aware of the irony, as here I am, yet another tourist, but ruing the vast number of us in the city.

It didn’t put me off enjoying my time in and around this beautiful city.  There is so much to do!

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The Stradun, Dubrovnik

The City Walls

Given the city is famous for its walls, it seemed like the first thing to do was to walk around them. Circumnavigating the Old Town and stretching for nearly 2kms, it’s a great introduction to the sights and views of the city.  It might have seemed like a ridiculous idea at 4.00 pm in the sweltering afternoon heat to walk up the stairs and walk the walls that surround the city, but it turned out to be a great idea.  For starters the heat had put off most of the other tourists, but there was also a delicious cool sea breeze to make it bearable.  However I confess the discovery that there are bars on the city walls really was the icing on the cake!

Sitting on the walls under the shade, a beer in hand, a cool breeze on my face and a stunning view over Dubrovnik and the blue Adriatic sea – simply magic.

Cost: 150 kuna

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Glimpses of Dubrovnik

 

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On the walls, having a drink

 

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On the city walls

Mljet

An easy day trip from Dubrovnik, is the pristine island of Mljet.  If you’ve got the opportunity, hire a car, and take the car ferry to this spectacular place and to the Mljet National Park. It’s stunning, you won’t regret this.  The Park includes walking and cycling trails, saltwater lakes for swimming, and its own little island – St Mary (Sveta Marija).

The scenery is beautiful, and the colours of the water, the clear cloudless sky and the thick green forest blanketing the island kept me happy for the day.

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On the island of Mljet

 

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Stunning Mljet

 

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On the ferry to Mljet

Peljesac Peninsula

I admit the main pull of the Peljesac Peninsula for me was the wine tasting, however I was also taken by the cute little town of Ston, famous for its salt ponds, oysters and the well preserved town walls.  The walls are 5km long, which make them the longest in Europe.

There are plenty of wineries in the peninsula, and they are well worth a visit. Wine from Peljesac is considered to be the country’s best wine.  I was interested to learn that the wine comes from grapes that I had never heard of before.  Dingac, either white or red wine, or the highly regarded red wine grapes Postup or Plavac Mali, which is closely related to Zinfandel.  Obviously for educational purposes I sampled a good selection of these new grape varieties and can confirm that the wine was delicious.

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City walls above Ston

 

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The village of Ston

 

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In the village of Ston

 

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Winery in the Peljesac Peninsula

 

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Wine tasting in the Peljesac Peninsula

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Lokrum

It’s only a short ten minute ferry ride from the Old Town port to Lokrum, a green jewel of an island that includes a monastery, botanic gardens, beaches, a fort and gorgeous views of Dubrovnik.  I loved the ferry ride, as the gentle wind was deliciously cooling, and the views back to the walled city were fantastic.  Lokrum itself is a small island, but still large enough to find quiet spaces and enjoy some peace, away from the tourist rabble of Dubrovnik.   The perfect afternoon getaway.
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Lokrum island

 

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Views from Lokrum

 

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Views of Dubrovnik from the water

Cable car

For really spectacular views of the city go up!  You can either hike to the top of the Srd Hill overlooking Dubrovnik, 415 metres above sea level, or if it’s 35 degrees and you are already a puddle of sweat, take the cable car.  Obviously I took the cable car.  But it was a small price to pay for such amazing views over Dubrovnik, the Adriatic Sea, and little islands dotted in the sea.
Cost: 140 kuna return trip
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From the cable car looking down to Dubrovnik, Old Town

Eating

I knew nothing about Croatian food before I went to Dubrovnik, however I became a fan quite quickly.  Obviously being a coastal city, seafood features heavily: octopus salad, sea bass; bream; pilchards; mackerel – grilled, with olive oil and lemon, and served with locally grown green vegetables and olive oil.

My two favourite restaurants were Proto, an upmarket restaurant specialising in fish and Barba, a casual restaurant not much bigger than a cupboard.  Both were delicious.

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Local oysters from Ston

 

 

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Fish at Proto restaurant

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Octopus salad at Barba restaurant

It seems to me that Dubrovnik’s problem with being over-run with tourists isn’t going away anytime soon.  There’s lots to see and do, the food and wine is delicious, it’s easy to visit nearby islands, and the city and the scenery is spectacularly beautiful.  So go, regardless of the tourists.  It’s worth it.

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Kayaking anyone?

Comments
One Response to “Dubrovnik – blue skies, red roofs”
  1. Jackie Trotter says:

    Croatia looks amazingly picturesque. Love the first pic of the steep little stairs on the way to your rooms lined with pots of apidestra, but I can understand that you would want to be travelling light. Had a fun day at the races yesterday, didn’t make much money but had a fun time. Not sure what everyone else is doing today but I want to go to the art gallery to see the Corsini collection. Two elderly Italian sisters have brought out a collection of paintings,china,furniture and clothing which is apparently priceless to nz to thank us for the help in the war. Apparently it has always been in a private collection. Saw an article on the news and it looks very interesting. Sam pip, sue and Alan are here as well. We are all going to the awards dinner at the Langham tonight and hopefully Kickback will be announced as jumper of the year. Will let you know. Wet and wintery here, unusual for Auckland. Came up early Friday and had lunch at Mission bay, went for a drive afterwards and tom was so impressed he said he could live up here! Loved your article.
    Love from Jackie

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