DUBROVNIK Date: 13th August 2013
Weather: Hot and sunny all day, not a cloud in the sky 29c
Position: Latitude 42 deg. 39.9 min N Longitude 18 deg. 4.8 min E
Some recent history, Yugoslavia was an uneasy federation of states and after the death of Tito, himself a Croatian, in 1980, the long-standing differences between the Serbs and the Croats soon led to a pointless and horrific war in the region. Croatia moved towards independence, but the minority Serb community wanted autonomy and expected to be protected by the Serbian led Yugoslav army. Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991 and the fighting soon broke out in the Serb- dominated parts of the country.
The city of Dubrovnik ( Ragusa in earlier days) is situated on the Dalmation coastline of the Adriatic Sea at the southern end of Croatia. Although the Old City is small, it is one of the most famous places in the world, and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Dubrovnik has had a long and often dramatic history, including the early 1990s when the city was badly damaged in the war following the break-up of Yugoslavia.
We sailed in through the small islands which are all the way along Croatia`s coast, into a deep water estuary where the cruise ships berth, and these berths are about 3 miles from the walled city itself. When you look over the ships side you have the quay-side, and then very steep hills/ mountains. Cut into one of these mountains is a coastal roadway with a very impressive road bridge, and on the other side it is more residential with the buildings leading down to the waters edge. Most of these houses look fairly new, and with their creamy/ white stonework and terracotta roof tiles which are set amongst well established trees, it really does look a picture. It`s an excellent place for messing about in boats, with all those islands and sheltered bays.
We`ve been to Dubrovnik a few times now, and again it`s a place you can never tire of. We caught the shuttle bus from the ship to the bus terminal just outside the Medieval gate which leads into the city. As we neared the bus terminal we passed some roadside houses, and the outside walls of these properties were still peppered with bullet holes from their recent war, just a reminder of what things were like. You enter the old town by crossing a wooden draw bridge over the moat below, and the massive ramparts which protected the city are facing you. The ramparts are complete, and if you feel so inclined you can walk all the way around, you can access this walk by sets of steep steps, which are at different places, one of which is just inside the city entrance. You are then on the “Placa” with it`s cream stone pavements, which have been polished to a high degree by centuries of use, and the number of visitors this city receives these days.
Just inside the wall you have two fantastic sights to see, one Onofrio`s Great Fountain and the 14th century Franciscan Monastery. Every few yards are little narrow side streets, on one side they are steep, which lead up to the outside wall and on the other further into the city. But no matter which side you chose there were small cafés and bars in all these side streets. At the far end of the Placa you have quite a few things to see, straight ahead is Orlando`s pillar and the clock tower, to your right a Baroque church ( St. Blaise) and on your left Sponza Palace. You can now go through a big arch, which is a good place to get some shade as temperatures were in the mid 30s. After passing through the arch it then opens up onto their harbour, with many types of pleasure craft all after your business. This spot is very picturesque with many boats in the marina and harbour, but also the nearby mountains. As we walked along the quayside the water is SO clear, it makes you feel you want to jump in, in between the boats which were tied up little shoals of small fish could be seen. The walkway around the harbour leads you to another of the Medieval defences of St. John`s Fortress, and when you have gone as far as you can, you have a view of some of the offshore islands. This is a good place to stop and take in the atmosphere as there are many fine pavement cafés, all with plenty of shade. Back through an arch at the opposite side of the harbour, and you are then faced with their Cathedral, which was replaced in 1667 after the first was destroyed by an earthquake.
Using the narrow streets and following the flow of tourist, we made our way back to the top end of the city, but before we reached the top, we found a shady café and soaked up the atmosphere, this was another such place where you could hear many different languages being spoken. Their local currency is the “Kuna”, we were told before going ashore that the Euro is widely accepted, but I would say it was the reverse, so if you are coming here be prepared. So now we came out of the city and got our bus back to the ship.
Dubrovnik and the surrounding area has a lot to offer, so if you get the chance to come it will not disappoint. The late afternoon was the time for our departure, we sat out on deck to watch us leave, and with the sun still shining and its rays striking in particular the road bridge, but also the hills and mountains it made for a glorious sail away. When we were a couple of miles out to sea the view back to the land was fantastic. Something we will always remember.
So with a good forecast of calm seas and good weather, Corfu is our next stop.