Dubrovnik after Dark

It was already dark when we walked down the street of cobble stones, with tall stone walls like canyon on both sides. We wandered alone down deserted streets and alleys of the Dubrovnik old town.

We discovered the best time for a stroll through Dubrovnik’s Old Town is after dark. We passed by deserted shop windows which looked very different at day time.

The Dubrovnik old town at night is as beautiful as it is during the day.

We glided down Dubrovnik’s main street, the Stradun and  strolled past churches and shops closed up tight for the night. The shop windows were very appealing.

As we reached the end of the Stradun, we  turned to the square on our right and discovered this elegant Rector’s Palace which was  the seat of power in the old city-state of Dubrovnik.

This beautiful building is a harmonious mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The original palace was modeled after the Roman imperial palace, with some influences from Venetian palaces. There were two gun powder explosions in the 15th century and an earthquake in the 17th century which destroyed part of the palace. The existing building was rebuilt at the end of the 17th century.

The central portico features beautiful archways and a second story mezzanine. The most beautiful part is the portico with the open ceiling and archways.

Further stroll brought us to the nearby beautiful Luza square where we  found the Church of St. Blaise, who is  Dubrovnik’s patron saint. St. Blaise was also the protector of the Independent Republic of Ragusa. The church is easily recognizable by the statue of the city’s patron, St. Blaise on its top! This 18th century Baroque church is one of the most recognizable Dubrovnik attractions.

Our empty stomachs reminded that we still did not have our dinner yet and we should be looking for a suitable restaurant.

This restaurant by the side of the alley looked inviting but at this time of the night, it was all full.

This restaurant really looked nice and it was blissful just to sit here and have alfresco dinning while gazing at the beautiful buildings nearby with the nights on.

After dinner, we walked our way back  to the hotel along the hilly driveway with roadside lights guiding our way.  .

When we reached our hotel. it was already late and we collapsed onto the comfortable seats by the pool while others opted for an evening swim.

We were happy that we were given another fine and blissful day and an enjoyable evening!

Dubrovnik – The Charming Old Harbor

Dubrovnik is one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Supported by maritime  trade, since the middle ages, it has been the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice.  With no high vantage point nearby, it is quite difficult to have a close up  overview of the complete old port which is surrounded by forts and buildings on all three sides and an island breakwater, the Kase, on the seaward side. As on any other day, when we were there, there was a constant flow of sightseers disembarking from Mediterranean cruise ships and public ferries leaving from the short journey across to the picturesque island of Lokrum.

The old port, steeped in history, was where a lot of commercial  and maritime activity were carried out until the 1500s.  It was constructed in the 14th century with the tall St John fort defending the port entrance. To protect the  city there has been a lot of modifications to the port over the centuries.

There are two breakwaters protecting the harbor from waves. An outer one known as Porporela and inner one across the entrance known as Kase ( both on the far left). Two finger piers protruding from the town area (far right); one directly in the alignment of the Placa Stradun. The old port encloses the body of water between the  fort of St John, the Kase, the Revelin and the fort of St Luke. It   was filled with small fishing vessels and yachts bobbing in the calm waters. Both the day view and night view are equally enchanting.

The fort of St John, constructed in the 14th century, has high walls which are several stories tall guarding the entrance to the harbor.  Its steep limestone walls contrast sharply with the azure Adriatic Sea. At the time of Venetian expansion, St. John’s fortress was linked to the old Revelin Fortress by a chain which could be raised to prevent vessel entry in case of a threat. The fort is now home to an impressive Maritime Museum, the city aquarium and an open air theatre.

Revelin Fortress is shown in mid picture (above) jutting out like the prow of a battleship.  It was built in the 16th century as the danger of attacks from the Ottoman Turk grew.

The view of the port on the town side near to the root of the piers is also breathtaking; again photos were taken during the day time and night for interest of comparison.

From the far end, we can see the promontory which used to serve as a breakwater, as well as the imposing structure of the town’s fortifications.

We took a stroll along its picturesque promontory as the sun set and finished the stroll on one of the benches by the Red Feral ( warning navigation light).

The Porporela breakwater is known as a favourite meeting place of young people who want to hide from the inquisitive eyes . The view was just romantic and reminded us of the popular local song: I’ll wait for you at the breakwater little darling, at the breakwater by the Red Feral…………..

Dubrovnik – From a Distance

I have always like the Dobrovnik fortress as it appears classically on post cards and travel books. This impression is reinforced by what George Bernard Shaw once  said about the place,” If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik,  because the beauty there will leave anyone breathless!”

From our hotel, we have a breathtaking view of the classical Dubrovnik fortress, jutting peacefully  into the blue Adriatic sea.

We walked down towards the Dubrovnik beach which at this time of the year was not yet cramped with bathers. As expected, there were many ships visiting Dubrovnik bringing in loads of tourists.

The biggest attraction of this town is its architecture, that is, the walls and towers. Many of the articles about Dubrovnik only talk about the castles and the towers. In fact, no illustration of Dubrovnik will be complete without giving an idea of its environs, viewing it from a distance (horizontally and vertically) before zeroing it onto the walls and castles.

The Srdj hill behind the castle rises steeply from the sea. Instead of taking the cable car, we drove uphill and stopped on the way to have a good look on the seaside which was breathtaking.

The sun was setting, it illuminated parts of Dubrovnik which is just outside the fortress.

Reaching  the top of the hill, we have a fantastic view of the town and the Lokrum island. In contrast to the foreshore town of orange tile roofs, further offshore is  the green wooded Lokrum island. In 1192 King Richard the Lionheart, on his return from the third Crusade,  visited the place and took shelter on the Lokrum island. Out of gratitude to Dubrovnik, King Richard erected the new romanesque cathedral on the island.

Looking further landward was a line of mountains with a beautiful backdrop of the sky.

When evening came, we decided to have dinner up on the hill. We were interested in seeing how the roasted lamb or Brega was being prepared.

It was a delightful dinner with Dalamatian singers playing and singing the local songs.

Going back to the hotel after the dinner, we were so anxious to walk the Dubrovnik fortress and the walls the next day. . . . . . . . .

The Challenge of Walking the Dubrovnik Walls

We did not know that the city walls of  Dubrovnik  are the second most attractive promenade in the world. The British journal ”The Sunday Times” has published a list of 50 most beautiful walking tours in the world.  Following Gencoe Hill in Scotland, the city walls of Dubrovnik was ranked second. The walk is scenic and breathtaking. Along the way, one would have views of the historical and architecture pleasing fortifications: Minceta, Bokar, and St. John, along with two freestanding fortifications, Lovrijenac and Revelin. While the walls encircle several sides of the city, what I found most breathtaking is the section overlooking the sea.

We entered the old city through the Pile gate. This is the north gate which features a stone bridge with two gothic arches. On entering, the outer draw bridge is met by an internal bridge that leads into the city.

The city walls were originally constructed in the 10th century, although fortified considerably in 1453. They are 3m thick along the sea wall, and 6m thick inland.

While we have been successful in talking my Father-In-Law (FIL) of age 80+ into walking both sections of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, we were also disappointed that FIL has declined to walk up the Spanish Castle in Hvar island on seeing the steep approach to the castle; even on suggesting that he could avoid half the steps by walking up a longer but gentle zig-zag path by the side or taking a taxi.

In Dubrovnik, we were wondering how to entice FIL to take the 2 km walk high up on the walls surrounding the Dubrovnik old town. The worrying part was of course the 750 steps along the way and the steep and narrow winding staircase to the Minceta Tower, the highest point in the walk.

We finally decided that the best way was to get the entry tickets for the walk  and simply tell FIL that we would have a delightful walk. In our minds, we knew that if the walk later proved to be too difficult for him, we would escort him back to the town square, without completing the walk

Among the many towers, the most impressive one is a huge, round tower Minčeta, work of Juraj Dalmatinac (15th century), which became a symbol of Dubrovnik. The tall Minceta Tower looked formidable. My heart sank when I saw the steep and narrow stairway crowded with tourists. For a moment,  I thought it might be a bit dangerous for FIL to negotiate the steep steps. To my surprise, he was determined to give it a try. . . . . . . . . so he climbed up steadily, step by step,  with determination to reach the very top of the tower! He finally conquered the climb, smiling happily as he took a photo under the Croatian flag at the highest point of the walk.

The short, but steep climb up was well worth it. The views of the city were the best here, and even the views of the outside city and surrounding hills were at their best here. We were standing on the tower wall dividing the main road on the left, the terracotta roofs on the right with the old port to the top of the picture.

Minčeta stands high above rest of Dubrovnik as a symbol of the unconquerable City Dubrovnik and tells the Dubrovnik story of  love for the most precious sweet liberty. The fort provides a magnificent view of Dubrovnik  and it is rightfully said that one has not been in Dubrovnik unless one witnessed the view from atop of Minčeta.

We descended from Minceta Tower and walked towards the seaward section of the Dubrovnik walls.

The main wall on the sea-facing side of Dubrovnik, stretches from Fort Bokar in the west to St. John Fortress in the south, and to the Revelin Frotress on the land-side. These walls are 1.5 to 5 meters (5–16 feet) thick, depending on their location and its strategic importance. The purpose of these walls were to help defend the city from sea-based attacks, particularly from the Republic of Venice, which was often considered a threat to Dubrovnik’s safety.

The seaside interesting walk led us passing turrets, high cliffs, houses with high walls.

The walk took us over 3 hours under the sun. We were so happy that FIL has once again conquered his fear of walking. Maybe, our tactics worked. In Hvar, on seeing the steep approach to the Spanish Castle FIL was intimidated. But here, he was given no choice but to walk with us, knowing that he would be assisted on the way. Is that not just a normal human reaction: we usually shy away from difficulties if we are painfully aware of the obstacles but  would go along if we are not completely aware of the difficulties and are not given any choice.

We happily completed the walkabout on the walls and found ourselves back to the old port area where we were eager to have food and a good rest. . . . . . . . . .  . . . . .

Goodbye to the Hvar Island

Tomorrow would be our last day on Hvar island, we would be leaving for Dubrovnik.  On Hvar island, we have enjoyed several very relaxing days. We were already feeling that we would miss this quaint island. The sun was setting, we once again strolled the main square heading towards a restaurant for dinner.

On reaching the restaurant, we were delighted with the ambiance. The atmosphere was sort of warm and cosy. Inside the restaurant, apart from some old stone arches, the restaurant has a retractable roof, which when retracted would allow fresh air coming in and viewing the sky. Quite a clever design.

There was an open oven which again looked great. The fire gave a very warm feeling. We were eager to order fishes which the chef delightfully grilled for us.

Early next morning, we were picked up by a van which was to take us about 77km from Hvar town on a steep and winding road to the eastern extremity of the island, Sucuraj.

Sućuraj is  a tranquil and picturesque small fishing town of about 400 residents. It was enchanting to see  fishing boats and  orange colored roofs. The tiny population of Sucuraj supports itself by fishing, farming and viticulture, now augmented by various tourist services. The town exudes an authentic local charm and is steeped in a rich history – it was settled by the Ilyrinas, Romans, Slavs, Venetians and French. Sucuraj is even mentioned in Homer’s famous epic “Iliad” – the poet refers to the town as “Kila”.

Like us, most people come to Sucuraj to take  the car ferry to Drvenik (on the mainland) and leave it quickly.  It’s  true that Sucuraj village lacks the amazing architecture of Hvar town but it’s certainly a peaceful and attractive place to visit. When we arrived, the car ferry was already there waiting for us.

It has been over 15 years that I have boarded a car ferry. Many years back, before the era of immersed tube tunnels, I have always travelled on double decked car ferries running between the HK island and the mainland. The sight of the ferry started to make me feel nostalgic.

As the ferry was leaving Sucuraj, the attractive lighthouse at the cape of Sucuraj became smaller and smaller until it completely disappeared from our very sight.

Hvar island is the most memorable and comfortable part of our journey in Croatia; it is also inspiring. Our several days on Hvar has taught us that life has to be taken slowly. The Hvar residents serve as  very good examples. They are the masters in practicing the art of idling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . like them, we would like forever to be on a permanent vacation.