Historic Dubrovnik

Writer: Atia Nasreen Category: ভ্রমণ (Travel) Edition: Dhaboman - Winter 2020


During my recent 18 months long (mostly solo) world tour I had the opportunity to go to Dubrovnik, a place not on many people’s “places to visit” list. It was an amazing place, so unique, so vastly different from the rest of the world. It gave me such a wonderful experience- an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life. This time I had travel companions, a couple from Darwin. When they heard that I was going to travel to Europe from August to December they said they could travel with me for a couple of weeks. I was incredibly happy. 

         Dubrovnik is a city on the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia, with a long and interesting history. It is known as ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.

          We arrived in Dubrovnik from Prague. From the Airport we took a taxi to our hotel. We gave our hotel address to the driver. After a few minutes, he brought us in front of a big Castle, told us that the taxi would not go any further and that we would have to walk inside. We were totally surprised and thought that it was a big mistake. This is a Castle. The taxi driver smiled and told us that our accommodation was inside, and we must walk there. We were a bit puzzled when we saw people going in and coming out of the castle with suitcases in their hands. We realized that the taxi driver was right. When we did our booking for the accommodation, we requested our travel agent to book us into the hotel in the city area. Little did we know what that meant! Anyway, we walked inside and realized it was a city unique. We had to go many steps down and up to go to our place. These were homes converted into accommodation for tourists. I liked them. They were self-contained with lounges and bedrooms. My friends, Madhu and Raj had accommodation a little further up. The steps were all incredibly challenging. They were basically huge rocks stacked neatly to make steps. It was a great test of our fitness, and we all passed. The Dubrovnik Old town is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world.

          Around us, we saw groups of people offering various tours. We took a couple of brochures and during our dinner, we had a look at them and chose our tours. After our dinner, we came down many steps to the famous Stradun street. 

          Stradun street is the main thoroughfare in Dubrovnik Old Town. It stretches from Pile gate in the West to the old harbour in the East with ancient monasteries, palaces, churches, and houses along the path. The street is completely pedestrianized for almost 50 years. There are numerous cafes, shops, and amenities on either side of the street. Everything I saw around me was built of stones. The street itself was lime-stone paved and looked so beautiful. The place was full of tourists, everyone having a good time and a feeling of happiness filled my heart.

            I always love to be in historic places, and I was enjoying every moment of being there. It is one of the most walkable cities in the world with so much to see. It is beautiful both day and night. I especially enjoyed my walk at night with the amazing sights and sounds of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is one of a kind! I have seen Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and all the wonders of the world. But after seeing Dubrovnik I was lost for words. It is a place in Europe where medieval walls, red-tiled roofs, and marble streets meet the azure-coloured sea which reminded me of my trip to Greece. Built on a mountain, the city comprises hundreds of rocky steps in all directions. Dubrovnik became an important Mediterranean Sea Power from the 13th century onwards.

          During the time of the Roman Empire, Dubrovnik became a well-known trading centre. By the 9th century, Dubrovnik was already a fortified town. The importance of Dubrovnik was realized by both Venice and Byzantium. Venice considered Dubrovnik to be a strong competitor, especially on the sea, while Byzantium managed to control maritime traffic from Dubrovnik port. The town was under Byzantine rule until the 12thcentury. By 1358, it was under the sovereignty of Venice. Dubrovnik was liberated from the domination of Venice and included within the Croatian-Hungarian state by the famous Treaty of Zadar. The sovereignty of the Croatia-Hungarian state was recognized by Dubrovnik until 1526. It was during this period that the free and independent Dubrovnik attained its peak in maritime affairs.

           The basis and the most important value for the development of Dubrovnik was freedom. It was guarded, fought for, written on the Dubrovnik Republic flag and documents, sang about, and engraved in the stone of Fortress Lovrijenac.

           I found the history of the place remarkably interesting.

           We took a guided city walking tour. It was an experience of a lifetime I never knew something like this existed in the world. No wonder Dubrovnik is such a popular tourist destination. The city has four gates: two of them lead to the harbour and the other two lead to the mainland. Our accommodations were high up in the mountain close to the gate on the city side. The whole city was built with limestone. After our breakfast, we came down the challenging rocky steps to Stradun street.

            Our tour started at one end of Stradun street. We were a group of around 20 people. Our tour guide was showing us the different parts of the city and explaining the history of Dubrovnik. I found the history very fascinating. The first thing that would impress any tourist was the city wall of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik Old Town was protected for centuries by its famous walls and is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world.

             Originally called Ragusa, the city was founded in the 7th Century, around the year 614, when a group of refugees from Epidaurus (present-day Cavat), while fleeing from the Avars who devastated and destroyed their town, established a settlement on the small islet called Laus (which in Greek means rock). From then on, the city was protected by defensive walls. The city wall is one of the longest in the world (1940metres). The walls are about 25 meters high and up to 3 meters thick at the seaside of the town, while on the mainland they are thick up to 6 meters. The old town was surrounded by a city wall built and rebuilt in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries as the threat of Turkish invaders grew. They enclosed the entire Old Town, protected by strategically placed forts and towers. In 1667, an immensely powerful Earthquake destroyed most of the city and it was rebuilt keeping it same, as much as possible, to its original form.

              Pile Gate is the main city entrance. It consists of two doors outside and inside the walls, as well as two stone bridges with arches. Right next to it is the church of the Holy Saviour. The gate leads to the main street Stradun. The second one is the Eastern part of the city close to the inner Ploce gate and the third one is located at the backside of St John Fortress. The city was rebuilt mostly in the Baroque style after the Earthquake and has remained intact until today. The Buza Gate is a Northern entrance to the Old Town.

              Our tour guide mentioned some of the main exhibits of the city, although I know I will not be able to do justice in writing about this beautiful place in a short article. Onofrio’s Fountain is one of the important places in the Old Town. It was made by Italian builder Onofrio della Cava in the 15th century. On the left of it was a Franciscan monastery from the 14th century.

              It was a great feeling walking along the Stradun street with souvenir shops, Cafes, restaurants all around. Every now and then there were steps going into houses and many more cafes and eateries. It was an amazing place. At the other end of Stradun street was Luza square, which had also been the heart of the city at one time. In the middle of the square is Orlando’s column, a statue dedicated to the knight Ronald. According to the legend, Ronald helped the people of Dubrovnik defeat invaders in the middle ages. Surrounding it were a few other important buildings like St Blaise church, Sponza Palace, and Rector’s Palace. The architecture of the buildings was so unique, made of stones and the designs spoke of a different era. Some of the buildings had a touch of the Renaissance period, some had Baroque style, and some had Gothic showing the influence of history in the structure and designs of the buildings.

            I was extremely impressed with the architecture of the Old Town which bore a history of nearly 1300 years. It had Baroque churches, monasteries, and palaces, Renaissance fountains and facades along with buildings in Gothic style. Intertwined with them were gleaming wide marble-paved squares, steep cobbled streets, and houses that remained unchanged for centuries.

            The whole city was built with limestone and the architecture was amazing. I went out at night as well. I am not really a night person and as I travel alone most of the time, I am incredibly careful about my safety. In some places, I have taken a guided tour where I was picked up from my hotel and was dropped off in the evening which was quite safe. However, Dubrovnik was quite different. Most of the people around were tourists and everyone was out to explore and enjoy. I simply loved the environment, roamed around, enjoyed, and kept taking photos. My heart was filled with happiness.

             The next morning, after breakfast, we headed out for our next guided tour. A privately hired car was waiting for us outside the gate. We were taken to several beautiful lookout points along the ocean. We stopped and took photos. It was a glorious, sunny morning and the ocean looked so beautiful. It reminded me of my trip to Greece. The Mediterranean ocean was so beautiful. I felt like I was amidst pristine nature. From one spot, we saw the famous Lokrum island. It looked so beautiful from above the mountain. 

               Our next stop was at the bank of the Ombla river. The drive was beautiful, and we enjoyed the surroundings. Ombla is the shortest river in Croatia and one of the shortest rivers in the world. Its course is approximately 30 meters long and it empties into the embayment of the Adriatic Sea. The river discharges at sea level and to eliminate the influence of the tide, a small dam was constructed 50 meters downstream of the river outlet. The river water overflows the dam wall at an elevation of 2.4 meters. The Ombla is used as a source of drinking water for Dubrovnik’s water supply network. It was remarkably interesting to see the dam built on such a short river yet so effective for a 68-megawatt power plant. The surrounding was beautiful with old buildings and monasteries built around the river. We spent some time there taking photos and enjoying the beautiful day.

               On our third day, we went for a cable car ride. The cable car station was just opposite the main gate on the city side. The station is situated on the mountain Srd. Srd is a low mountain with a height of 412 m. We went there after our breakfast. After crossing the road we climbed many steps to come to the cable car station.  It was a beautiful place. I always love the cable car ride and go for it wherever I go in the world. Dubrovnik was no exception.

               It was built in 1969 and is the only cable car in the Adriatic. In those days wi fi was not available and the cars were small and could carry only 15 people at a time. However, it surely had something important to offer, the bird’s eye view of the Dubrovnik Old Town with its 2km long city wall that surrounds the city.

              We got into our Cable car which took 30 people at a time. At the top of the mountain, we got down. The view from the top was spectacular. It was a wonderful feeling to see the Old Town of Dubrovnik with a bird’s eye view. The Lokrum Island was also in view. Everyone around us was enjoying the views. There was a beautiful café at the top and we enjoyed our cappuccino there. After some time, we came down in a cable car.

            For the rest of the day, I roamed around the Old Town, along Stradun Street, around all the historic buildings, occasionally stopping for coffee or snacks. I enjoyed every moment I spent there. I came back to my apartment for some rest before going out for dinner.

           On the Next morning, we left the place. We took a taxi to go to the coach station and took a coach to go to Split, our next destination. We left Dubrovnik with many happy and wonderful memories that we will treasure in our hearts for the rest of our life.