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Exploring the “Pearl of the Adriatic”: Dubrovnik, Croatia

An eight-hour bus ride from Zadar to Dubrovnik confirms that Croatian bus drivers are both highly skilled at navigating extremely narrow mountain roads and extremely aggressive with a penchant for speeding.  I’m thankful to arrive at Dubrovnik’s bus station in one piece.  It was a thrilling ride, to say the least.

 

A jam-packed public bus takes me to Pile Gate, one of the entrances to the old town of Dubrovnik.  Walking into the old city is like walking into a fairy tale, complete with drawbridge — I am astounded.  I’ve seen so many places, but never anything like this.

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

After visiting Chiang Mai and Zadar, this is my third visit to a walled-city in less than two weeks, but this is by far the most spectacular.  The main promenade has been taken over by the filming of the movie “Robin Hood: Origins” produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and due to be released next year.  With props and fake scenery everywhere, to mimic Nottingham Castle I’m told, it’s hard to know where the real Dubrovnik ends and the movie sets start.  I’d come to Dubrovnik to observe their Carnival celebration but unfortunately, this year, because of the Hollywood takeover, the celebrations are a shadow of the usual.  Leonardo, you owe me one.

 

Robin Hood set in Dubrovnik

Robin Hood set in Dubrovnik

 

Dubrovnik’s history, like Zadar’s, goes deep.  A center of power since the 1300’s due to it’s strategic location on the coast, the city was devastated by an earthquake in 1667, rebuilt, and then devastated again during the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991 during the Croatian War of Independence.

 

Stairs of Dubrovnik

There are lots and lots of stairs of Dubrovnik.

 

It rains for days.  In between storms I climb the many stairs and walk the back streets of the old city, witnessing ruinous, decaying beauty around every turn.  To walk these alleyways is to be a member of a continuous human parade that spans a millennium.  Surely, ghosts walk beside me.  The stormy weather has me in a melancholic mood that could’ve only been enhanced with a continuous soundtrack of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

 

Main promenade

Main promenade

 

I don’t mind the weather because I’ve rented a cheap, tiny stone room in a 16th-century building and there I nest up happily.  A mysterious, rhythmic, gurgling-water sound emanates from the walls of my room, which reminds me of the old days, being an embryo, and makes me particularly sleepy.  In between naps, I consider how I could recreate this relaxing noise in my home, should I ever have one again.

 

Walls of Dubrovnik

The City Walls of Dubrovnik

 

February is definitely off-season in Croatia as a whole.  As Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, I’m told Dubrovnik is a madhouse in the summer.  If you like having a place to yourself and don’t mind stormy weather, February is the time to come to Dubrovnik.  I walk backstreets without passing a soul for minutes at a time.  However, like in Zadar, many businesses, museums, and restaurants are closed until March or April which is a bit challenging.  The popular Dubrovnik Cable Car was not operating, but due to start service again in March.  Few tours were available.

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Even in the down-season, I will warn you that the old city of Dubrovnik is not cheap.  Prices were at least double what they were in Zagreb.  In the old town, you’re hard-pressed to find a prepared meal for under $15 US and that’s for a simple entree alone.  Even fast food items such as a falafel sandwich or small pizza will set you back $12 US.  So, yes, I ate a lot more sandwiches of local Croatian cheese, Ajvar (a red-pepper spread popular in the whole Baltic area) and lettuce.

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

I’ve done my best to capture some of the city’s beauty in the pictures below but I must admit that this is one place where pictures really can not do it justice.  If there is one place in Croatia you don’t want to miss, this is it.  George Bernard Shaw said “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.”  I’m guessing he visited in the warmer months.  But even in winter, the “Pearl of the Adriatic” lives up to its name.

 

Photos of the Old City of Dubrovnik:

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