Dubrovnik of the Middle Ages

“Why is Dubrovnik so much better known as a tourist destination than Split?”, I asked our Split tour guide and resident. “They (Dubrovnik authorities) know how to market themselves better. It’s all about marketing”, he responded. Although it seems there are other factors that have contributed to Dubrovnik’s “fame”.

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Our voyage on MV Aegean Odyssey so far (obviously we didn’t travel through the middle of the islands off the Dalmatian coast – that’s just my rather unsophisticated line drawing skills)

MV Aegean Odyssey delivered us to Dubrovnik harbour at 8am, Sunday 9th October 2016 on another wet, grey morning. Despite the heavy rain we were definitely going ahead with the scheduled tour of the old walled city.

I thought the following aerial photo (not mine) might put the old and the new Dubrovnik, plus our arrival point, into perspective. The old walled city is near the bottom right of the photo, while Dubrovnik’s harbour (where our cruise ship docked) is towards the top left. The rest of the city is, of course, the so-called new Dubrovnik, with Srd Hill in the background.

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The old and the new Dubrovnik, Croatia – photo by Chensiyuan, August 2016 (used under free licence)

Here is a link to the licence under which I am able to use the above photograph: photohttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1_dubrovnik_pano.jpg#filehistory

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It was still raining when we entered the old city through this gate.

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Pile Gate

Then it was down a few stone steps (or the ramp) to walk through the inner gate. Old Dubrovnik is a “pedestrian only” city.

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The Inner Pile Gate, with a glimpse of the big fountain

Just inside and to the right is the big fountain which used to provide the city’s drinking water.

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Big Onofrio’s Fountain, named after its builder Onofrio dell Cava. He also built a smaller version near Sponza Palace, predictably named Small Onofrio’s Fountain

Opposite the big fountain is the Church of St Saviour

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Church of St Saviour (immediate left) then the Franciscan Monastery / museum and church (next left)

We walked along the main street, named Stradun, which heads east-south-east to the City Bell Tower. Apparently this was originally not a street, but a natural creek or marsh. By reclaiming the land and building the paved street in 13th century, the north and south of the town were unified into one. It was easy for us to imagine the Stradun as a creek when we experienced a heavy downpour.

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Spontaneous Waterfall, as residents try to get home – looking north, we were standing in water on “Stradun creek” while the rain continued to pour down

Pushing on further east along the Stradun, we took a set of stairs to the left (similar to the stairs in above photo) and then a right turn towards St Sebastian Church.

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Approaching St Sebastian Church
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St Sebastian Church

Next door to this church is the Dominican Monastery.

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The courtyard of the Dominican Monastery

Maggie and I left the tour at this point and started to explore on our own.

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Eastern city wall to right, Art Gallery to left

Notice the new stone work in the art gallery wall. Repairs of this nature can be found throughout the old city. Many as a result of artillery shelling during the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991. The simplified story of why this happened goes something like this:

Croatia, a republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, declared independence in 1991. A four-year war ensued. During the war (or was it the main cause of it?) Montenegro and Serbia wanted to take Dubrovnik and environs away from Croatia. Their argument – Dubrovnik was not historically part of Croatia and had been mistakenly “given” to Croatia in 1939 when the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed.

I am not qualified, nor do I have the desire or audacity to make a judgment on this. However, viewing a map of the coastal area does show how unusual the division of territory is between these countries. But I also observed that Dubrovnik is happily Croatian, which perhaps it “always” was.*

Of course the 1991 war and the resulting damage to the UNESCO heritage listed old city, brought Dubrovnik into the spotlight internationally and no doubt has contributed to its importance as a tourist destination.

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We found our way outside the cities eastern wall and “discovered” the old port.

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Old Port Dubrovnik and St John’s Fort
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Eastern city gate, through which we arrived at the port – rear view of City Clock Tower – various street stalls
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Looking north from the port’s dock, with restaurant to the left, the Dominican Monastery’s Bell Tower and a glimpse of cables stretching up Srd Hill to a white tower for the cable car

Re-entering the city by another eastern gate we saw the Roman Catholic Cathedral.

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The Assumption Cathedral

Across the street and a little north from the Cathedral is the Rector’s Palace. “Rector” was the name given to the Roman Governor of a province.

And down the street to the left near the corner of the Stradun is St Blaise Church. St Blaise is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik.

Sponza Palace is straight ahead and currently holds the cities archives, which date back to the 12th century.

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Rector’s Palace (right – note the pigeons sheltering from rain on arches and other mouldings), Dome of St Blaise Church  (near centre). Sponza Palace (straight ahead). Srd Hill in background.

Having seen many of the cities public buildings we went up the south hill towards the sea, in search of the residential areas of the city. It may seem incongruous to go up the hill towards the sea, however the south side of the city is built on a rising headland which overlooks the sea. The city’s centre strip, running east to west and includes the Stradun, is relatively flat. But immediately north of the Stradun the city starts to rise on the side of Srd Hill.

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Stairway towards the southern wall
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The washing may take a while to dry today
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Looking north from near the southern wall, with view of the Franciscan Church Bell Tower
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A side alley in the city’s southern section

Then it was back to the Stradun to find a cafe.

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City Clock Tower and Sponza Palace

Ahhh, a chance to sit down, have a bite to eat with coffee and watch the passing parade.

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Maggie checking emails and FB with the all important free Wi-Fi

Did you know Wi-Fi was invented and patented in Australia by the CSIRO in 1990’s? http://www.csiro.au/en/Research/D61/Areas/Wireless-and-networks/Wireless-broadband/WiFi

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Heading back along the Stradun to the Pile Gate (our entry and exit point) with the Franciscan Church bell tower in view
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A Side Street Cafe

With the rain gone, a souvenir seller sets up shop.

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Souvenir Seller at the big fountain

When first entering the city earlier in the day, I was distracted by the rain and didn’t notice the city’s drawbridge.

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The Drawbridge at Pila Gate

Now outside the old city and feeling like we didn’t have a complete perspective of it, we climbed the stairs across the road to discover how much more we could see.

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Fort Minceta at the north-western corner of the city wall
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Looking south over the western wall
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Looking south-east over the western wall from top of stairs

At this point I realised we should have taken the cable car to the top of Srd Hill. Apparently you can see for 60 kms from there on a clear day, but we’d left it too late. It was time to board our bus and return to the ship.

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North west view from aft of MV Aegean Odyssey

The late afternoon in Dubrovnik’s harbour was beautiful, offering no hint of the morning rain. We rested, dried our clothes and soaked up the atmosphere while awaiting the return of another tour group.

Only four days into the cruise and we had already seen so much, with far more to come. Brindisi was our next port, on the “heel” of Italy, for a tour of the old city of Lecce. I love the pronunciation of this place, but there is so much more to like about it.

Please tell your family and friends about our Voyage to Antiquity and the next exceptional (or maybe not), perhaps even enjoyable, episode of alistairstravel. And feel free to leave a comment or follow this blog.

Dovidjenja. Nadam se da ću te uskoro vidjeti.

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*From the inception of what it means to be Croatian

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2 thoughts on “Dubrovnik of the Middle Ages

  1. Maggie and Al.- So much to see! These photos are such a priceless investment in nostalgia in the future!
    Congratulations on the quality and commentary. Cheers, K’n’B.

    Liked by 2 people

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