Thursday, May 07, 2015

Italian Escapade - Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Dubrovnik in Croatia is a place I had very much looked forward to visiting. Heard a lot about it, and knew it was a UNESCO world heritage site. It is undoubtedly a very popular tourist destination as was evident that on arrival there were already two other large cruise ships in port, including Queen Elizabeth. Plus, another ship turned up at lunch time and anchored in the  bay off the old town. Sort of increased the population on the day by approximately 12,000!

Our Oceania daily news and information told us that 'Few countries in the world offer as much geographical and natural diversity on such a small land surface as Croatia.' Admittedly, we only went to Dubrovnik, which is hailed by many as one of the top destinations in the world and we regrettably missed  seeing the rest of Croatia. After visiting Kotor in Montenegro (see previous blog posting), our next destination was always going to be a hard act to follow. We expected similarities seeing Kotor is so close to Dubrovnik. In the event, Dubrovnik, while fascinating, in our opinion it did not quite match the outstanding beauty of Kotor. Even so, we enjoyed Dubrovnik and would love to return for an extended visit that would further include other parts of Croatia.

We were told that
Dubrovnik is a place of ancient streets, lined with stone palaces, Venetian-style buildings, bell towers, and in the centre an impressive pedestrian promenade. The entire perfectly preserved old town is unique for its marbled-paved squares as well as its cobbled streets, tall houses, churches, palaces and museums.  
Quite a recommendation!

We would add the fortification of the city with its impressive walls protecting the city from both land and sea.
Impressive fortifications!
 Siebrand going up the wall!

We would also add the numerous steps and steep streets that are not for the faint-hearted or those with limited mobility. It is a remarkable city with a great atmosphere. We just enjoyed being there, including the strenuous walks. So let me begin with a great photo of the old city which I have downloaded from the web with permission:
Dubrovnik by chensiyuan! Colourful and full of history!

Shuttle buses ferried us from the ship to the old city, some 5 kilometers away and a bit too far to walk, considering our time constrains. Only two buses were available for Marina passengers who wanted to do their own thing. This proved to be quite inadequate and caused a lot of unhappiness on the return.

We began exploring after the bus dropped us at the Pile Gate. Enjoyed the scenery and had a cool drink at a small cafe where we had the joy of contacting family in Australia through Skype. Love the technology so readily available all over he world!
Dubrovnik Castle
View from our restaurant where we enjoyed a drink!
Looking towards Pile Gate.

Next we headed into the old town. Quite different from previous towns, but still with hoards of tourists. It all added to the atmosphere!
An impressive pedestrian promenade!

Even so, we were quite happy to divert from the main hub and enjoy the comparative quietness in minor streets. Climbed goodness how many steps to get a real feel for the city. It was hard work and my knees were protesting!


But hard on the knees!

The views from the top were really great. The photograph below gives a good overview of what we tried to cover in the few hours we were in Dubrovnik. Looking from right the picture you will see the Dubrovnik Castle where we started our walk. Then the main old city with its mass of clay-roof houses, historic public buildings and churches. Far left is the fortified harbour from where we took a ferry to Lokrum island that is clearly visible above the harbour.

It is remarkable that the city recovered so well following the siege by the Serbs in 1991/92 with buildings showing little sign of the shelling during that time. As in other cities, churches of all denominations are central to the city's history. We didn't see them all, but enjoyed the ones we came across, including:
 St Saviour Church
 Church of the Holy Annunciation (Orthodox)
Interior of the Jesuit Church of St Ignatius. Quite outstanding!
 St Blaise Church with its watchful patron (I presume) enlarged below:

Seeing that by now people were filling up restaurants, we too found a place to eat - a little less public, in a delightful restful setting and enjoyed a pizza and a beer:
Quiet and restful and intimate!

Returning to our walk, we completed the length of the old city and found ourselves at the old harbour. A boat ride to Lokrum island off the coast seemed the thing to do, and for twenty euros for a return journey seemed good value. It only took fifteen minutes to get across.
 Along the way, a different side of Dubrovnik caught our eyes!

Once on Lokrum Island, we loved the change of tempo, the green environment and less people. Also found an old monastery - partly in ruins and a rather neglected formal garden that had some good looking cacti.
An old monastery for which we could not find a name.
But very beautiful as the next photographs will tell you:

We also enjoyed the Flora, though much of the formal gardens seemed rather neglected. Even so, the following specimen caught our attention:
The Cacti garden.
Lokrum Island Flora

Looking back to Dubrovnik.

As you can imagine, we very much enjoyed departing from the regular tourist thing, and loved this little island. Sailing back to the Old City in splendid weather, we had a marvellous view of the fortification of Dubrovnik and were rather glad these were not destroyed during the 1991/92 siege :
 Very impressive!
 The beautiful old harbour!

 Walking back through the old city, we continued to appreciate the ambience of this place.

 Including saying an Australian g'day to a fellow artist!
Franciscan Monastery
The Sponza Palace
Or being part of the music culture of Croatia.
Except. this guys was having a rest!
Finally, we finished our sightseeing and found our way back to where the shuttle was to pick us up. Already a lot of people were waiting, some who who had waited for a long time. It took another half an hour for the bus to come, much to the distress of many older folk. Once the bus was there, it was not a pretty picture to see a number of folk determined to jump the queue and get ahead of those who had waited so long. Best forgotten!

We returned and relaxed with a Campari and made our way to the Grand Dining Room at seven for our dinner. Jan had the lobster and chose the salmon. All very delicious - as usual, in the presence of a lovely sunset.

Time for our final destination on the so-called Italian Escapade cruise to......Venice! Some would call that the ultimate climax in any holiday. Well, let's wait and see as my first experience in 1981 was less than perfect. We live in hope and anticipation. Join us in the next blog!