Monday, 13 July 2015

Welcome to Dubrovnik: the Pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik was perhaps my favourite destination in Croatia. I know that many people hate how packed with tour groups it can get, and how touristy and expensive it is, but there is obviously a reason why so many people want to visit it. The first time I walked through the Pile Gate and saw the famous marble-paved Stradun in all its shine and glory, I was in awe. 

Everywhere you look there is beauty, and to think that the city was bombed by the Serbian army in the early 1990s makes me shudder. 
Dubrovnik Old Town
I was also lucky that in early June the old town wasn't too packed with people. At night after dinner and early in the morning the it was particularly quiet, because the big tour groups were gone. Being a popular stop for cruises in the Mediterranean, Dubrovnik can get horrendously full of big groups of older tourists with khaki shorts and sun hats being led through the town by a lady with an umbrella.

Another view of Stradun
Another thing that makes it hard to love Dubnovnik are the prices, which are just ridiculous.: I've seen small bottles of water for sale at 15 kunas (2€), and soft drinks for 30 kunas (4€). The old town is really small, so it's difficult to get away from the touristy parts. For a nice evening meal, you could head to Lokanda Peskarija, one of the restaurants of the harbour, recommended both by locals and by guidebooks. I paid 122 kunas (16€) for a very big plate of grilled squid served in a big black pot and a gigantic season salad. Other meals I had within the old town weren't as exciting: in a restaurant I was even served cod when I was promised a seabass fillet.
It became natural for me to try to save a few kunas here and there. As most hostels in Croatia don't offer breakfast,  I soon discovered that bakeries (pekarna in Croatian) sell excellent croissants and the also make coffee on the go. In the morning I would buy a croissant and a cup of coffee at Mlinar and sit on the Onofrio Fountain, looking at one of my favourite sights in town, the church of St. Saviour, which dates back to the 16th century.
Church of Saint Saviour
One of the best views of Dubrovnik is nevertheless that of the harbour, as seen from the eastern gate and bridge close to the Dominican Monastery. It is absolutely breathtaking, and not even that inflationed with tourists.
View of the harbour
Of course I couldn't miss the opportunity to have a walk along the famous city walls. At 100 kunas (13€) it isn't cheap, but it's really worth it. I went there in the late afternoon, so the sun wasn't too strong, and it was a wise decision. Dubrovnik is called "the Pearl of the Adriatic" and I can see why: the sea is of an incredible light blue colour, and the roofs of the  houses offer a great contrast to it and to the paved roads.

A view
Walking along the city walls
Panorama of the town from the city walls
Many of the big churches in Dubrovnik wouldn't look bad in Venice, and while many people love them, especially the Church of St. Blaise, I fell in love with  the little ones, all built in stone, with triple bells and elaborated rose windows. Sometimes a tuft of grass would spring out of the stones, and I even saw a tree growing out of a vase on a fa├žade. The tiny Church of Saint Nicholas (Crkva Sveti Nikole) is one of my favourites. In the evening the restaurant nearby puts the tables in front of its main door for lack of space.

A cute little church

One thing that I liked about Dubrovnik is that there is always something going on: for weddings and baptisms, for example, you will see the guests in elegant dresses parading through the Stradun, led by a man weaving a Croatian flag and another playing the accordion. At other times, you will run into an orchestra, complete with bachelorettes and trumpets, or into a man performing traditional music while sitting by the Onofrio fountain.
Man performing in traditional costumes

Another pleasure of being in Dubrovnik is the wander its small streets full of staircases, looking for beautiful corners with colourful laundry out to dry and a view of the orange roofs.

A view of Dubrovnik
There might be surprises here and there, such as a stall selling lace next to a Romanic church, or a lounge bar built on the rocky cliffs that look directly down to the sea.

Selling lace
Overall, there are many things to love in Dubrovnik, and others that you'll have to endure to enjoy this jewel. I think it's important to take it for what it is: an extremely popular tourist destination, with Game of Thrones tours that sell for exorbitant prices, but also with lesser visited museums (the cloister of the Franciscan monastery is particularly beautiful) and charming small streets.
Franciscan monastery
With a little patience it is possible to find quiet streets that are not overrun with tourists. Dubrovnik may not be everyone's cup of tea, with its expensive fish restaurants, its baroque churches and endless holiday apartments to rent, but I think that it is really a beautiful place to visit, with lots of history and surprises behind every corner.

A quiet street in Dubrovnik

Have you been to Dubrovnik? What did you think?

1 comment:

  1. Dubrovnik looks like a place I wouldn't mind paying more money to explore! Your pictures are stunning. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Happy travels :)


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