Day 31: Dubrovnik, Croatia

by - September 02, 2011

“we laid eyes on Dubrovnik, which is complete beyond the habit of real cities, complete as a city on a coin”

As well as being one of the most attractive cities in the world, Dubrovnik (formerly known as the more graceful ‘Ragusa’) is also a major transport hub for the Adriatic Coast.  It was one of the few places that offered buses to Mostar in Bosnia as opposed to buses direct to Sarajevo and having been last year I knew it would be worth coming back to.  A the most expensive part of relatively expensive Croatia (by former Yugoslavian standards - it is still cheaper than Italy), the budget would only stretch to one night, but this seemed enough to cover the basics.

View from the bus over Dubrovnik
The bus from Budva left at 7.30am and took about four hours, an hour of which was spent at the border.  I think that the fact that passports are checked and stamped at the border, where elsewhere you are essentially waved through, is a remnant of the former frontlines.  We travelled up the famous 'Adriatic highway’ and the approach to Dubrovnik from high on the cliffs is one of the best views of the city, for those who don’t mind their photos being taken through the grubby bus windows.  Accommodation in the old part of Dubrovnik is extremely expensive, with Lonely Planet suggesting that the more exclusive hotels would cost upwards of 500 pounds a night.  Unwilling to part with three weeks’ worth of budget in a day, we settled for a guesthouse about half an hours’ walk from the old town, in the cliffs above the new town.  By the time that we had arrived, checked in and got down to the old town it was about 1pm.

View from Dubrovnik walls
If Kotor and Budva are classed as walled towns, then the sheer scale of Dubrovnik should classify it as a walled city.  The walls around it are over 2km long and are as high as 25m in some places.  Unfortunately the price was pretty high too at 8 pounds each, which we forked out after an equally expensive lunch.  Our trip around the walls was stopped before it had even started by an English couple who were getting married on one of the towers, using the narrow wall as an aisle.  We could see all the guests sitting and waiting and actually saw most of the ceremony.  It was a pretty amazing place to get married, but as it cut off the wall for tourists it resulted in a huge backlog of annoyed tourists and they had to rush everything a bit.  With the walls open again we made our way slowly but surely up to the main tower where the views over the town and Adriatic are stunning.  The heat is extremely intense though as there is nowhere to hide from the sun.

Rektor’s Palace, Dubrovnik

As with Kotor, the views are only half the story and we spent the rest of our afternoon getting lost in the maze of streets and squares, coming across the occasional square or fountain.  The city is packed with tourists, particularly tour groups and Australian backpackers, but luckily there is enough room to find at least a couple of secluded spots.  Dubrovnik was originally a Venetian port, but declared independence as a city state in the 14th century and remained a self governing republic until Napoleon arrived in 1806.  The city’s motto is 'Libertas’ and the centre of government, the Rektor’s Palace is one of the most dramatic buildings.  Last time we came we went into a photo exhibition that detailed the shelling of Dubrovnik by Yugoslav forces during the war, with the main assaults taking place around the days that I was born.  There are several buildings that remain destroyed, but luckily weighty investment has resulted in major renovation work and those who don’t know about the shelling probably don’t even notice the difference.  We looked in a few churches on the way out (now we are in Croatia we tend to be seeing Catholic rather than Orthadox churches) and then made our way back to the appartment.  We had an early night as tomorrow morning we would be travelling to our last country - Bosnia Hercegovina.

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