They call it the Pearl of the Adriatic for a reason and now, I finally know why. Dubrovnik is one of those ports that stays with you long after you leave it. Even now, I close my eyes and I can picture the deep blue colour of the sea and the orange roofs seen from the top of the city walls. I can feel the sun on my skin and imagine the same breeze that I felt standing on the top of the fort.
The beauty of the place was astounding. Even that word doesn’t sum it up properly. The city is incredibly photogenic; no matter where you turn, there’s a good photo just waiting to be taken. Each and every view looks as if it was pulled straight out of a picture book, and the colours look as if the saturation was turned all the way up on Photoshop.
In the one day (About 5 or 6 hours) we spent in port, we were able to hit a lot of the attractions that we had intended to see. There was a lot more to see, but we only wanted to cross off the major ones. It’s easy to find yourself in the city for a few days, especially if you want to immerse yourself in the Croatian culture and have a couple of lazy moments to yourself consisting of café stops and seaside lounging. So, we left the port feeling satisfied, but the possibility of more adventure and more travel was always there, just like with any place you visit.
Again, we weren’t booked on a tour for this port because everything was incredibly close to the ship. We did buy tickets offered by the cruise to ride a shuttle that took us straight to Pile Gate, which was essentially the door that led you to the inside of the walled city. You can take a taxi or the city bus, but in our eyes, the shuttle was a much more hands-off and worry-free approach to getting to where we wanted to go. Again following our motto of “the earlier, the better”, we decided to walk the city walls first thing in the morning. That way, the lines would be shorter and the temperature would be slightly cooler.
Pile Gate is the main gate for where you start, and where you can buy your tickets. Each ticket was the equivalent of about 17 Euros, but they don’t accept Euros at the gate. You can either pay cash in their local currency, which is the Kuna, or you can pay with Visa or MasterCard. We would’ve paid for a ticket even if it was a hundred Euros because walking the walls is a must in Dubrovnik. Rising 6 meters above the ground, it’s one of the city’s main attractions and such a fantastic (and healthy) way to see the old city from above, to see the Adriatic Sea, and to see the surrounding areas. To walk the whole thing is to have to walk about 1.5 miles. The wall isn’t flat the whole time; you do have to climb a few steps from time to time, but the view the whole way around is beyond worth the little bit of extra cardio.
At the top, the collection of buildings with the orange-red roofs are the best view and make you feel as if you’re in an older time period (You don’t see a lot of buildings being built in that style nowadays).
What I also loved to see was the nearby Fort Lovrijenac set against the backdrop of the Adriatic Sea. A towering white fort, lit by the sun, in the middle of a clear blue sea that sparkled with the light of the sun’s rays. Dancing light, as I like to call it. The sea was breath-taking. Everything looked like a postcard, a perfect painting. A photograph worth preserving forever.
Coming down from the wall, we started to explore the old town contained within the walls.
Stradun is Dubrovnik’s main street and with its white marble road extending 300 metres and souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants lining the street, it’s a great place to spend the afternoon. If you pay close enough attention, you can see big holes that have been covered up on the side of the street which is from the bombs that fell from the skies during the war that took place in the 1990s. Croatia was a war-stricken country during its War of Independence from 1991 to 1995, in which they wanted to declare independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Dubrovnik took a lot of the hit because the enemies wanted to bring down the citizen’s morale by destroying the country’s most beautiful city.
At the end of the Stradun, near Pile Gate and the entrance to the walled city, you’ll find yourself in the company of Onofrios’ Fountain, which is the large round structure that greets you as soon as you walk in. Legend has it that it is good luck to drink a glass of water from each of its 16 smaller openings. The tour guide on our ship also said that you’ll really need that good luck to find a bathroom after drinking all that water.
We also poked our heads into the Sponza Palace, which is a 16th-century place. It used to be the treasury back in the olden days and one fun fact is that it actually survived the 1667 earthquake without damage.
Because it wasn’t enough to walk the city walls, we decided to head to the top of Fort Lovrijenac, which we saw from the top of the walls. This way, we’d get an even better look at the Adriatic Sea, and a good view of the walled city as well.
It wasn’t too far of a walk from Pile Gate. Coming out, you turn left, and simply follow the sign to the base of the Fort. Then, you begin the ascent, which isn’t too daunting.
The view at the top really takes your breath away (and not just because of the climb). With the walls, the dome-shaped windows, the heavy black cannons scattered around, and the sea in the background, you feel as if you’re a princess in a castle. I could only imagine the soldiers and the army using it to protect their beloved city so many centuries ago.
I remember standing at a look-out point, with the old walled city on my left, and the open expanse of the sea on my right. With sweat dripping down my neck, the heat waves from the sun coming down on us, but the soft ocean breeze kissing our skin, I remember thinking, “This is why we travel.” The world is such an exciting place and we need to get out there and explore it because there is so much to discover.
We wanted one last good view of the city so we decided to take the cable car up to the top of Surge Mountain, which is a little over 400 meters above sea level. The walk there from the walled city felt long because of the sweltering heat, but again, the view is always worth the trek. Tickets for the cable car are the equivalent of about 22 Euros per person, but if you’re looking for brag-worthy photos, it’s a must. The ride to the top only takes 4 minutes so we blinked and we were standing at the top, with the Pearl of the Adriatic shining below us.
I like to think that each and every city puts on a silent, still performance for all the tourists that come its way. It neither has to move nor speak; it just has to be. And yet, its watchers constantly remain in awe at the show it puts on.
What I liked about being up at the top was the ability to see not only the walled city and the surrounding sea, but also the neighbourhoods and buildings to the left and right of the main attractions that go unnoticed. They weren’t too special but in my opinion, everything has beauty when you get a panoramic view of it.
We came down the mountain and before heading back to the ship, we decided to wander around the smaller streets within the walls. We picked up souvenirs out of habit, and we allowed the strong guiding force of the unknown to guide us and lead us down select streets. What I always enjoy seeing in these side streets is the myriad of small restaurants and cafes with the seating outside. The workers are always standing outside, menu readily in hand, and are beckoning for you to come in and stuff yourself with the delicacies that they offer. They’re often such friendly people and I always find myself laughing as we try to convince them (and ourselves) that we’re not hungry.
Dubrovnik is definitely a port that I recommend to everybody reading and one that I hope to go back to shortly. No matter what you do there and what you enjoy, you will fall in love with its sights, its history, its culture, and its weather.
Emily Dickinson once used the phrase, ‘inebriate of air.’ I thought it was such a beautiful phrase upon reading it.
Nothing could be more true of that very effect that Dubrovnik will have on you.