Have Love Will Travel
Don't Let This Moment End

Monday 24th May 2010

I woke up to the charming chimes of a bell tolling in the distance. It was the most idyllic of wake up calls but unfortunately it only rang five times. It was bloody 5am! I managed to get back to sleep only to be woken an hour later by the twittering shrill of excitable swallows. A delightful dawn chorus it was not. The third and final straw that got me up and out of bed was the sound of a bin lorry churning and chomping away at the refuse tip that had suddenly appeared overnight right outside our window.

To sit at our breakfast table overlooking the cathedral and the city's refuse collection point was out of the question so we headed out to start the day.

We got as far as the corner of Stradun where we decided to sit at a cafe with a great view on Dubrovnik's main boulevard. Cafe Gradska Kavana was a great spot to people watch over a coffee and croissant.

I went for the extra luxurious versions of a cappuccino and a marmalade filled croissant.

They were both so delicious I was almost purring with delight.

 St. Blaise, Dubrovnik

Directly in front of us was the Church of St. Blaise and to our right emerging out of the facade of the Sponza Palaca stood an image of St. Blaise or Sveti Vlaho as he's known around here.

He looked like an oriental wizard with a pointed hat and straggly beard. In his left hand he held a model of the city.

St. Blaise never travelled to Dubrovnik. He was an Armenian Bishop who performed some minor miracles, mostly from a cave, during the 3rd century. His association with the city goes back to 971AD when he appeared in a vision to the Canon of the Dubrovnik's Cathedral warning him of an imminent attack from the Venetians.

He saved the city and became the patron saint of this city.

Once we finished our breakfast and as the sugar rush kicked in we decided to work off some of the calories by walking the whole 2km length of city walls.

The ticket office was to the left of Pile gate, the entrance to the city. It was tucked away behind the round Onofrio's Fountain. At 70Kn each it was quite an expensive walk but a visit to Dubrovnik would be incomplete without a walk along its five hundred year old walls.

We found the steps on the opposite side of the gate and climbed up to reach the top of the wall. A sign sent us left to walk the walls anti-clockwise.

The view from here down Stradun and across the city already made it worthwhile.

We walked up a slight incline to the Bokar Tower the cylindrical south western corner of the city walls.

The tower itself hardly rose above the walls, instead it joined the ramparts seamlessly. It was positioned in this corner to protect a small bay which at one time would have been the city's port.

Whilst the views over the city continued to impress the views beyond the city walls were equally as special. Set high on a craggy prominent overlooking the bay stood Lovrijenac fortress .

These days the fort is known for being a theatre venue where plays such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet are performed.

After completing quite a steep section we turned to look at how far we had come to be rewarded with a glorious panorama of the bay.

For the most part the walls wide enough for two way traffic and the height of the side walls were tall enough to feel confident of not falling off the wall.

Although there was one part of the south wall that wasn't for the faint hearted.

It had narrowed to a few feet wide and the side walls were just above the knees. Julie froze. "Oh, shit. I can't do it" she said. "I think I need to get down on my hands and knees and crawl"

I of course laughed which wasn't very sympathetic of me. "It's not funny. I'm seriously shitting myself here!"

It was a very long way down to the rocks and the sea below.

With my steadying hand on her back it took all her courage to move forward, one step at a time until she reached the safety of a much wider section.

Now walking along with (a little more) confidence we regained the pleasure of the views over the city.

It was clear to see a few older aged rooftops amongst the newer roof tiles.

It's probably the most apparent sign of the damage the city suffered during the war. The city walls themselves were recorded as having received 111 direct hits but the restoration work was done so well that you couldn't see the joins.

The views over the city were an ever changing source of interest.

We shuffled along for a while, lifting our heads to a fresh viewpoint, a different angle across the beautiful city.

Much of this area was residential but of no less fascination.

Peering in through windows into peoples homes has always been a rewarding pastime!

It wasn't long before we came to a cafe right on the wall itself. Cafe Bar Salvatore was a very welcomed pit stop. We rested our weary feet and enjoyed the most refreshing glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. We were hardly a third of the way around so we soon moved on.

Dotted every now and again in the walls were small domed shelters. I suppose they were lookout posts.

Beneath one lookout was the familiar figure of St. Blaise gazing out over the Adriatic protecting the city from attack.

The history of Dubrovnik and the Republic of Ragusa was one mostly of alliances rather than conflict.

Their diplomacy ensured their independent city-state within the protection of larger empires such as the Byzantium empire, the Venetians, the Hungarian-Croat kingdom, the Ottoman empire.

Paying for protection didn't mean it wasn't vulnerable to an attack.

As we got nearer the port the walls became armed with canons aiming out to sea defending the reason for the city's wealth, its maritime power.

We had now reached the most Easterly tip of the wall.

At first we thought it was a dead-end and for some stupid reason thought we'd have to walk back the way we came!  We didn't.
We had just missed a small sign that showed us the way down a few steps onto a lower wall that went around the harbour.  Much of the city escaped our view at this level. At times we were below the rooftops.

Our attention focused on the harbour.

There didn't appear to be any sign of an active fishing community in the port.

It was filled mostly with pleasure boats and luxury yachts.

Although we did see some one in his back yard tending to his nets. Perhaps he fished off the back of one of the cabin cruisers.
On the other side of the harbour we soon began climbing up a few steps and the city unveiled itself to us again. Every step lifted us above the rooftops and back onto the fortified walls.

We looked down to see an incredible flight of steps leading up to a doorway into the Dominican Church and Monastery.

It was a beautiful cascade of white masonry rippling back down to the street.

Surprisingly beautiful.

We soon came to a series of steps that raised us up rapidly to the higher level of the northern section of city walls.

We stopped to catch our breath at the Asimov Tower standing parallel with most landmark saturated area of the city.

We looked over Sponza Palace towards the clock-tower and the domes of the Assumption Cathedral and the Church of St. Blaise.

Ahead of us lay a daunting series of steps taking us even higher.

An incentive for us to carry on were the views from this side, they were the most spectacular yet. The further we climbed the more breathtaking it became. We could see the entire old city in all its red roofed glory.

Our legs were just beginning to ache when we came across another cafe on the walls. It had the identical menu as Cafe Salvatore earlier so I guess it was owned by the same people. This one was tucked inside a tower. I think it was either St.Vid or St.Lucia Tower.

Stepping in from the bright sunshine outside was very disorientating.

We stood motionless in the dark until our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting.

Once our pupils had dilated and our sight restored we sat down to another refreshing glass of orange juice.

Invigorated by our rest we moved on reaching the highest part of the wall, the commanding Minceta Tower.
By the time we reached its entrance Julie was exhausted. She decided not to walk up to the top. Whilst the best view of all was from here, there wasn't a desperate need for the final ascent up the Minceta Tower.

Julie had the same view from 30ft below me.

I wanted to climb the tower not so much for the view but just to get to the highest point on the wall.

There's just something about getting to the top that spurs me on.

After rejoining Julie we stood together for a while, in an embrace, simply gazing at the wonder of Dubrovnik.
Then the bells of the Franciscan Monastery chimed twelve and the moment was made magical. At this point we could have stayed here forever.

Eventually we snapped out of our dream state and started on the final leg of the circuit.

We returned back down to Pile Gate where it all began an hour and 45 minutes earlier.

As we left the walls we were reminded that our ticket lasted us all day.

Apparently we could return to the wall anytime before 6pm, either here or at two other points near the harbour.

Back on ground floor we stepped outside the city walls for the first time since we arrived.

Pile Gate was actually two archways, a lower arch followed by some steps up to the main gate.

We walked out over the drawbridge and to the end of the stone bridge connecting the old city to the rest of Dubrovnik.

It was very crowded here. It's the main breach in the city walls through which the tourist flood in.

After a few minutes trying to get a decent enough photo of Pile Gate we returned inside the city walls to hunt out somewhere for lunch.
Just off the Stradun, to the left up the narrow Antuninska street we saw a sign for Buffet Skola. It was promoting its home-made bread and "Domestic Cheese". That didn't sound at all appetising but it had a good reputation in the guide books.

Unperturbed we ordered a domestic cheese sandwich for me and a cheese and Dalmatian ham for Julie. "That's not actually made from a Dalmatian dog is it?" she asked, joking of course!

When the food arrived we were so happy especially with the quality of the bread.

It was like a large foccacia but unlike any we had eaten before, so light and airy yet comforting, substantial and most importantly absolutely delicious. I'd go as far as saying it was the most satisfying bread I'd ever eaten.

Once we had finished our lunch we were at a lost as to what to do next.

We just gravitated down to the old port. When we stood at the quayside Julie suggested we could perhaps do a short boat trip. It was possible to do many trips from here.

We could have gone to nearby Cavtat or around the Elaphite Islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan.

We chose instead to do the shortest cheapest trip which was to bob around in the water along the city walls and then loop around the island of Lokrum.

It still set us back 150Kn for the two of us which I thought was quite expensive for the distance covered.

The boat had one of those glass bottoms which looked solid enough but I could tell that Julie was wondering if the boat could still stay afloat if one of those panels cracked. One already looked slightly suspect.

Thankfully the water was relatively calm but it was still a motion that could make the land lubber in us feel quite sick if we let it, and this was whilst we were still in the harbour !

Once out of port and in open water our little tub was rocking quite a bit as it rode the waves. I wasn't feeling especially great when my stomach suddenly lunged from my throat down to my arse and back again as we rolled with it. We were seriously in danger of reacquainting ourselves with our lunch.

The boat skirted the rocks on which the city walls were built. From down here they looked even more formidable.

As a prospective invader you wouldn't risk clambering onto those rocks to launch your attack.

We sailed alongside the entire length of the south wall and soon reached the small bay overlooked by the Lovrijenac fortress.

Our captain took us further into the bay then cut off our engine to float in peace. What was meant to a tranquil moment was tarnished a little as we drifted closer and closer the cliff.

We shared the boat with another two couples. We had exchanged a few greetings and a couple of smiles but no one had spoken to each other much, that was until we were about to flounder on the rocks below Lovrijenac fortress. "Oh my God" said the American couple, "Oooh, Oooh" went the Japanese couple. "Oh shit we're gonna hit the fucking rocks" went the couple from Wales. In that moment we bonded, hands across the nations and all that.

Of course we didn't crash into the cliffs.

Our Captain Visilej knew what he was doing as he started the engines in plenty of time to pull away.

We looped around just as their itinerary had promised and a little further out to sea we sped our way back across the south city walls towards the island of Lokrum.

Legend has it that this rocky islet is where Richard the Lionheart came ashore after being shipwrecked on his way back from the crusades in 1192. There would have already been a Benedictine monastery on the island at the time.

King Richard promised to build a church on the island but the story goes that he funded instead a church within the city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). They say it's on the site of today's Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary which was built five hundred years after Le Cœur de Lion.

There still is a monastery on Lokrum but it dates back to 15th century Franciscan monks. There's also a Botanical Garden, a small fort, a small lake and a nudist beach. For such a small island it packed a lot inside its pine wooded hills.

Unfortunately our schedule did not have the option for us to get off at the island's small jetty.

As we chugged slowly along the coast to the tip of the island we spent most of our time near Lokrum looking through the boat's glass bottom.

At this slower rate of knots we could see the ocean floor a few metres below us.

We saw nothing of interest, no shipwreck, no treasure chest, not even some fish, just some seaweed.

Sailing back towards the mainland we picked up speed again making it impossible to see anything but the churning of the water.

Following the coast back towards Dubrovnik we past a few hotels such as Hotel Argentina and the Excelsior.

Anchored in the middle between Lokrum and Dubrovnik was a cruise ship. It wasn't the usual hugemongous liner though, it was quite compact and very stylish.

Called Le Boreal, (we googled its name when we got back to our room), was an Italian built 120 room luxury yacht which had scheduled for later in the year a cruise to Antartica. Now that's probably the only cruise I wouldn't mind going on.

It looked a stunning boat.

After forty five minutes of bobbing in the sea we still hadn't acquired our sea legs and were quite glad to get back onto dry land. I don't know how we think we would survive a cruise!

We arrived back at the Old Harbour which looked even prettier than when we left.

I wondered if someone did a shuttle boat from the airport?

Now that would be such a perfect way to arrive in Dubrovnik.

After our maritime adventure we wandered aimlessly the streets of the old town on the lookout for a restaurant for tonight. We past plenty. Proto looked good but was quite expensive. Gil's looked far too pretentious.

One called the Taj Mahal looked promising but it turned out to be a Bosnian restaurant not an Indian!

Although having said that the food being served at the outdoor tables looked very unique.

For example half a loaf with a dozen sausages shoved inside it looked amazing.

Also their Owen-roasted peppers sounded like they were made in our honour!

They also had plenty of veggie choices so we decided to definitely eat there one night this week if not tonight.

All this menu reading was making us hungry. We sat down at tables outside a restaurant called Meas Culpa down a street called Za Rokum. Or at least we thought it was Meas Culpa, We weren't 100% sure if we had sat at it's tables or another restaurant.

It shared this welcoming street with two other restaurants and the only distinguishable difference were the colour of the tablecloths.

After some confusion and delay we eventually ordered a glass of wine each and Tomato Bruscheta to share.

The simplest of dishes can often be a good benchmark of how good or more to the point how bad a restaurant can be.

If they can't get the easy dishes right then don't even go to the main course!

Thankfully this bruscheta was a celebration of flavours. Perfectly ripe sweet tomatoes, pungent basil, peppery olive oil, just the right amount of garlic and comforting warm sourdough bread, seasoned well.

We looked at their evening menu and agreed that eating here tonight may be a distinct possibility.

After hunting down a waiter to pay our bill we left this secluded corner of Dubrovnik's back streets and headed to Cafe Buža, the hole in the wall bar.

It didn't take us long to re-christen it Cafe Boozy as we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of liquid refreshments.

The sun was shinning, the sky was blue, the sea was calm and the view was unquestionably beautiful.

There were some young Aussie lads sitting next to us who appeared to have an unhealthy appreciation of the view.

It all became clear when we realised that the focus of their attention was not the beautiful Adriatic Sea but a mermaid in her bikini lying on a large rock right on the cliff's edge.

... and then a pirate ship sailed past!?!

It didn't have any sails yet it was moving at some speed. Were we seeing things? Was this some ghost ship? Or was it a tourist boat trip on its way to Gruz, Dubrovnik's main port area.

We then spent the remainder of the afternoon watching lemmings jump off a cliff which was surprisingly entertaining.

They all had their own style of plummeting towards the water. None could be considered as diving, most just fell in. The most entertaining were ones that belly flopped disastrously.

After spending two hours relaxing at Cafe Buža we decided to head back inside the city walls.

We weren't intending on a siesta but as we happened across our front door we decided we were ready for some shut eye.

It seemed a waste of a beautiful sunny day to be hiding inside but it was probably a good idea so that we could be fresh and ready for the evening.

I however spent the first five minutes in our room gazing out of our window taking a closer look at the blues skies noticing the large cross at the top of Mount Srd high above the city.

Petar our taxi driver had mentioned it yesterday.

It was a memorial to the victims of the war. Up there also was an imperial fort badly damage during the bombardment but now being renovated into a Museum of the Homeland Wars.

They are also re-establishing a cable car connection damaged in 1991 as the war began. Julie breathed a sigh of relief when she learned we just missed its gran opening that takes place next week!

She wouldn't thank me for making her go inside a little capsule dangling on a wire up to the 412m summit. I would never even consider asking such a thing of her. I know that she would be petrified to the point of dying.

We did manage an hour sleep before heading back out again in time to catch the sunset.

Our evening began at a cocktail bar called Cafe Hemmingway sipping shockingly priced poor quality cocktails but at least the view from here was good. We sat in their extremely comfortable chairs opposite the Rector's Palace .

Whilst we couldn't see the sunset from here its reflected warm hue brought the incredible detailed columns and arches into spectacular life.

At a 112 kn for two drinks the view still wasn't enough to take the bitter taste from our mouths.

Perhaps we're being a little over critical as Julie's Gin Fizz wasn't too bad and my Papa Hemmingway well, (I hope without sounding like a huge knob) perhaps because we have been to La Floridita in Havana and drank the real deal they did have a lot to live up to.

Having said that it really was a piss poor attempt. I thought I'd be onto a winner if I went for their signature cocktail but it was an extremely pale imitation of the real thing.

I couldn't even bring myself to finish it.

With the sun rapidly descending we made our way quickly through the hole in the wall to Cafe Buža where we settled down to watch the sun set beautifully behind the rocks and the city walls.

It was such a romantic moment so peaceful and relaxing. We sat sipping a glass of wine watching the colour of the sky change with every passing minute.

Lokrum was being washed with a glorious light that made it appear like a dreamy vision of legends.

We spent over an hour hardly speaking just holding hands, smiling at each other and gazing out to the sea.

We didn't want this moment to end, which was not the first time we've felt like that today.

Hunger got the better of us though.

We returned to a restaurant we happened across earlier as we walked back to our apartment from Cafe Buža.

It was at the end of an alleyway that began at our apartment and reached the city wall. Konoba Ekvinocijo was a cosy homely restaurant and it smelt divine with the most wonderful aroma of garlic and herbs. The smell for fish was perhaps not so good for my veggie nostrils.

We dined alfresco ordering a vegetable platter to share as our first course. The peppers, onions, aubergines were all very tasty but in between the delicious chargrilled vegetables were the bizarre selection of boiled vegetables like potatoes, carrots and sprouts!

It was an easy culinary mistake to forgive as their main courses were very good. Julie's grilled chicken with boiled potatoes and my Spaghetti Bella Donna (tomato sauce!) were simple, honest and full of flavour.

The shy and endearing waitress recommended a Croatian white wine called Posip Cara from Korcula to accompany our meal which we thoroughly enjoyed to the point of photographing the label just in case we could find it in the supermarket and bring a few bottles home with us.

Usually we hardly reach the dessert because we've filled our faces along the way but tonight I had room for pudding!

I ordered sugar & lemon pancakes that were the perfect ending not only the meal but to a lovely day.

It had just turned 10pm and it was time for bed.

At least we didn't have far to go.

Tuesday >

ęCopyright Colin Owen 2010


©Copyright 2000-2012 Colin Owen