Today we visited the magnificent Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. My previous visits were in 1976, when it was still Yugoslavia, and in the interim it has experienced significant turbulence and civil war. While severely damaged during the shelling, with up to 70% of the buildings damaged, UNESCO reports that all damage has been restored. How much will I remember from my previous visits?
The cruise and ferry port is a considerable distance from the Wall and Old Town, so we caught the ship’s shuttle from the bottom of the gangway, which whisked us directly to the entrance of the Old Town. While a tad pricey at $20 each round trip, the convenience was definitely worth the few extra dollars.
Dubrovnik has four gates through the Wall into the Old Town, with the above photograph showing the Pile Gate, which includes Fort Bokar. Built in 1537, this consists of an inner and outer gate, with the outer gate a semi-circular Renaissance Arch. The stone bridge over the trench originally had a wooden drawbridge that was closed each evening, but now the bridge is continuously open for the numerous tourists.
The series of stone defensive fortifications around the Old Town of Dubrovnik are known as one of the best fortification systems in the world and in fact they were never breached by a hostile army during the middle ages. Extending for a length of almost 1.5 miles, at the highest point the wall is over 80 feet in height, and it ranges from about 15 to 20 feet in width. The entire construction period took almost 500 years from the 12th to 17th Centuries, but the majority of the Wall was built during the 14th and 15th Centuries. The fortifications were completed by the addition of about 120 cannons, which created a superb defensive position.
In addition to the Wall, additional fortress were constructed at key points:
- North Wall – Minceta Tower, which is a prominent, strong and circular tower protecting from an attack from the hills behind the town
- East Wall & Harbour – Revelin Fortress
- Western City Entrance – Fort Bokar, which is a strong fort
- Western Land & Sea Approaches – St John Fortress, located on the SE side of the city.
On entering the Old Town via the Pile Gate, we purchased the admission tickets for walking the wall, which cost about CAN $20 each, payable only in local currency. This only provides the ability to walk the wall, as no guide or audio tour is provided with the ticket. My recollection, from being but a dashing 19 year old, was of the Wall being much flatter than you will see in the following photographs. They either added a few hundred more stairs, or age is finally catching up, unfortunately the later is more plausible.
This is the warm up for the trek along the Wall. Just inside the Pile Gate, the Wall is at one of the highest points, so these rather steep and narrow stairs were a good 50 to 60 feet in height. Needless to say, Judi and Viv both needed a wee seat at the top to return the heart rate to more normal levels before venturing around the Wall and the remaining stairs. I estimate about 750 stairs, but we have subsequently been advised the total is over 1,000 stairs.
Judi and Viv taking a short time out after climbing the entrance stairs up to the Wall.
Judi just realised that my memory of a rather flat walk around the Wall, may not be very accurate. Actually she just saw the portion behind us that is a fair bit higher in elevation that where we were at the entrance.
Remote fortress in the background with the Croatian Flag flying atop the Walls.
The Wall is one-way traffic, heading counter clockwise, so we initially headed slightly downhill and towards the Adriatic Sea. This small bay was visible on clearing the fortifications of Fort Bokar at the Pile Gate. We caught the last of a group of Kayakers heading out for a paddle around the Wall and into the harbour on the other side.
Finally reaching the seaward portion of the wall, this location was a round tower. The next section of the wall is a steady climb up to the next observation platform.
Looking back towards the New Town and small bay next to the Wall. From the round tower it was a steady climb up the the current viewing platform. Much easier than the entrance stairs, as the steps were shallow and well spaced apart.
From the same observation platform looking down the outside of the wall at the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Another shot from the same observation tower showing the entire NW side of the Wall and the New Town located outside the Wall.
Judi has survived the first climb of the day and is still enjoying the experience.
Another shot looking down the outside of the wall with the beautiful blue and crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.
The next section was a narrow downhill from the previous observation platform. Gardens are visible on the inboard side of the Wall with a single palm tree.
The next observation platform provided a quick glace of the Croatia coastline to the north of Dubrovnik.
Andy with the Adriatic as a backdrop.
View from the next viewing platform looking south down the Croatia coastline. The Wall also has a couple of openings with cafes built on the cliff.
After another short walk down we reached a large patio with cold refreshments. Judi and Viv took a seat, while Bruce and I went for more exploring.
Looking back from the patio, the rampart in the background is still closed for renovations, having been almost totally rebuilt, but in a manner that matches the original.
One of the observation towers at the patio and the view to the south along the Croatia coastline.
As we cleared Revelin Fortress this was our first glimpse of the Dubrovnik Harbour, which is located outside the Wall.
Judi and friends Bruce and Viv on the Wall overlooking the harbour.
Dubrovnik Harbour with Revelin Fortress to the right.
View across the rooftops of the Old Town from atop the Wall, with the Adriatic just visible in the background.
After another good climb up from the harbour, this was a relatively flat section of the Wall on the inshore side.
About 3/4 around the Wall and Judi is still smiling, I may yet be forgiven for the faulty memory – Nope!
The walkway was a gradual incline, but ahead is the final set of stairs up towards the highest point of the Wall, the circular Minceta Tower. Climbing up inside the tower was optional, so Judi and Viv relaxed while Bruce and I climbed the additional 25 to 30 feet for an elevated view of Dubrovnik.
View of the Old Town from atop the Minceta Tower. The next section back to the entrance is rather steep, which is the part that caught Judi’s attention shortly after getting onto the Wall.
The stairs down from Minceta Tower towards the exit.
Dubrovnik Old Town
Currently known as the Pearl of the Adriatic on Croatia’s Dalmation Coast, it has been an important sea port since the 13th century. The first settlements were established in the 7th century and the town remained under the Byzantine Empire until after the 4th Crusade, when the city came under the sovereignty of Venice between 1205 and 1358. In 1358 the Treaty of Zadar established the settlement as part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, and it operated as virtually a free state, reaching it’s peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. A devastating, huge earthquake in 1667 levelled most of the public buildings and the well being of the Republic, but did not damage the City Wall.
Our first stop was at the Little Brother Monastery to visit the Ancient Pharmacy, which is the 3rd oldest in Europe, dating from 1317. It is still in operation today and have some of the original jars on display. Departing the Pharmacy we walked along the Old Town’s main street.
View along the Main Street of the Old Town from atop the Wall. The crowd is outside the entrance to the old pharmacy.
This is where we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant on one of the narrow side streets. They had a very pleasant young lady out front with the menus, who was most apologetic as she didn’t think her English was good. However, we understood without a problem and it ticked all the boxes.
What else do you have for lunch, but a pint of local beer. Well maybe not real beer, but it was definitely cold and wet.
We found a beer garden in the market square, but unfortunately we had already stopped for lunch.
Another view of a narrow street with small restaurants on both sides.
On completion of our walk through the streets of the Old Town we headed back out the Pile Gate, and straight onto one of the shuttle buses heading back to the ship. On the quay, Bruce and I headed back to the ship to work on photographs, while Judi and Viv engaged in the ever present shopping opportunities.