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. . . . . . . . . .  . . . . .

Tojinbo’s Sad Cliffs (東尋坊), Japan

Located in Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture of Japan, this scenic area is known for its stunning beautiful coastline. The rocky cliffs of Tojinbo, which stretches over 1 km, is a popular tourist attraction. It features magnificent pillar shaped rocks created by sea wave erosion. The rock pillars exhibit hexagonal and pentagonal joints which are similar to those at Giant Causeway in North Ireland or those in Norway, Korea  and Hong Kong National Geopark at High Island.

While we were there, we were awed by the surreal and eerie look of the cliffs with its gigantic columnar joint of basalt. There were so many tourists walking up and down the steep rugged cliffs, enjoying the spectacular scenery.  We captured this photo of  a couple walking down the cliffs; it didn’t seem any ghostly to us.

But the Tojinbo cliffs also have a dark side – as many as 25 Japanese came here each year to end their lives by jumping off the 20-30m high cliffs, throwing themselves onto the jagged rocks and crashing waves.

The bigger picture is that  more than 30,000 people in Japan kill themselves every year – Japan’s suicide rate is one of the highest in the world. Depression is the number one cause for suicide in Japan, followed by illness and debt. Frustrated at having pulled so many bodies out of the sea, a retired police officer Yukio Shige, started his one man crusade patrolling the cliffs for potential jumpers. He convinced hundreds of people from jumping and taking their lives.

So, Tojinbo are very sad cliffs but the view is breathtaking. The Japanese sea is much darker than the subtropical seas that I am used to see. It seems more mystical.

The waves at Tojinbo is dramatic. At low tides, pools of vivid green water are created immediately adjoining areas of vivid blue.  At high tides, forceful foamy waves break at the dark coastal rocks. Local legend has it that Tojinbo, a very violent Buddhist monk loathed by his fellows, was pushed out off the cliff to death. His angry spirit didn’t leave the sea and it had always been  incredibly stormy on the day of his death, 5 April, every year until finally his spirit was soothed by the prayers of a master monk.

 In our several hours out there walking up and down the cliffs, we were whipped around by wind and salty water from the waves; although we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  We  braved the wrath of suicide ghosts on these rugged cliffs jutting into the stormy seas.
 On our way back, we couldn’t help thinking of what Mother Theresa said – life is precious, don’t destroy it!