Part 4 - Dubrovnik, Croatia - Day 1
Part 4 - Dubrovnik, Day 1
We had the whole morning to ourselves, as we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Dubrovnik before 1.00 pm. However, our arrival was sligthly delayed, as we had to wait for the Costa Deliziosa to make room for us.
During the preprations for this trip we had found a local tour operator (www.dubrovnikshoretours.net). Via CruiseCritic we had connected with Stuart and Judith from England and Tim and Chris from Australia, with whom we had booked a half-day tour. We all met in the lobby of the ship and set off together.
At the pier we were greeted by Josko, our tour guide. He was easy to find thanks to a sign with our name on it. He took us to a comfortable van which offered plenty of room for all of us.
As he introduced himself and started talking about the area, we drove to Mount Srd, from where he had a gorgeous view of Dubrovink’s old town.
There is also a cable car going from Dubrovnik to the lookout on the 412 m (1,350 ft.) high local mountain, and you can see the remains of a fortification dating back to the days of the Napoleonic Wars.
The view of Dubrovink, the Adriatic Sea and the island of Lokrum in front was fantastic. As we enjoyed it, Josko continued to tell us more about the history and the geography of the area.
Then we went on to Cavtat, a small town about 25 mintues away from Dubrovnik. The small town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. It’s not only that it has its own customs dock, but surely its picturesque beauty, too, which makes it a popular destination even for the jet set and their yachts. As we approached the coast, we already saw the “Eclipse”, the huge yacht belonging to billionaire Roman Abramovich. Apparently, he comes here quite frequently.
To begin with, our guide took us to the little church of „Our Lady of the Snow“, a Renaissance masterpiece from the 15th century.
On our way back along the promenade, Josko kept giving us all kinds of interesting facts about the long history of the town, which already existed as Epidaurus in Greek antiquity and Epidaurum during the Roman era. Afterwards, we had some time to ourselves to explore the place, have an ice cream or simply take a few photos.
Small side streets, inviting cafés, a bay with crystal clear water and lush gardens – there were plenty of motifs.
With many impressions and just as many photos on our memory cards, we returned to Dubrovnik. Josko left the car in a parking garage, from where we walked through little alleys to the square in front of the main gate to the old town.
From there we could admire the mighty city walls and the Lovrijenac Fortress.
And then we entered the old town of Dubrovnik through the „Pile Gate“, the main gate of the old town.
As is so often the case with these old cities, going through the gate was like entering a different world or being taken back in time. Even though the old town was filled with visitors and the small restaurants and shops could be happy about good business, it came as a positive surprise that there was no feeling at all of the often described overcrowding.
Josko took us through the alleys, kept turning left and right and showed us little curiosities which he complemented with respective anecdotes.
There were other attractions, though, which we found all by ourselves…
At the end of the streets we reached Gundulic Square, named after the poet Ivan Gundulic, who was born in Dubrovnik in 1589 and held some important positions at the time.
Shortly behind the square, we reached the cathedral of Dubrovnik. Legend has it that its origin dates back to Richard the Lionheart’s return from the third cruisade in 1192. On the journey through the Adriatic Sea he is said to have suffered shipwreck and only just reached the island of Lokrum off Dubrovnik. In return for the salvation, they say, he financed the construction of the cathedral.
Next to the cathedral, the Rector’s Palace marks the eastern border of the old town and separates it from the old harbor behind.
This is where we left the city walls and passed the three distinctive arches of the Arsenal. These days, a beautiful restaurant is located right where the city’s galleys were constructed in the time of the Republic of Dubrovnik (Republic of Ragusa, 14th century to early 19th century).
Behind the Arsenal we went through another gate back into the walled old town and turned right.
Here we passed a staircase whose elaborate balustrade was walled in the lower part. Josko explained that, at the time, this was to cover the ladies’ bare ankles as they walked up the stairs. Fans of “Game of Thrones” will recognise the staircase, as the old town of Dubrovnik served as the main filming location of King’s Landing.
At the end of the alley we passed the Ploce Gate and left the city walls again. Josko showed us a small square in front of the Revelin Fortress, from where we had an excellent view of the old harbor, which lay below us in the soft evening light.
After this beautiful moment, our guide had one last stop that he wanted to show us. So we went through the gate again into the old town and at the bell tower into the Sponza Palace, once the cultural center of the Republic of Dubrovnik. Today it serves as a museum and the city’s archive.
On the ground floor of the palace there is a space devoted to the memory of the siege of Dubrovnik (1991 - 1992) and the fallen defenders of the city. Photos on the walls tell the stories of the fallen and show parts of the city burning or destroyed which today we are fortunate enough to roam in peace.
At the palace, Josko gave us time to ourselves again and told us where he’d pick us up at an agreed time. Those who wanted also had the opportunity to stay in Dubrovnik and return to the ship on their own.
Originallly, we had considered spending the evening in Dubrovnik, but ultimately the prospect of a dinner at Blu got the better of us. So we followed Placa, the main alley and direct link between the gate in the east and the Pile Gate in the west, and enjoyed the evening mood which was slowly setting in.
Very close to the square in front of the Pile Gate, Josko picked us up at the prominent and beautifully lit Hilton Imperial Hotel at the agreed time.
He took us back to the ship and told us how best to return to the old town on our own. This was very helpful, as we had already agreed with Stuart and Judith to come back first thing the following morning.
Back at the ship, we said good bye to Josko and thanked him for his excellent tour.
Another gorgeous day with many new impressions.
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