For a long time, Dubrovnik has been in my radar as a destination. The images of this city sitting on the Adriatic Sea with its tiled roofs has always captured my imagination – as I hope it does yours, if you have not been to this gem of a place! This initially was going to be one post but there was so much I wanted to share, I decided to split into two, to not short change you, my readers!
Planning a trip to Italy with friends, I began wondering where else I could go after the Italy visit since I was already across the Atlantic. As I reviewed the map (first mentally, then online), I zoomed in on Croatia. Very close to Italy… I did not have a hard time making my mind up. Croatia it was and Dubrovnik within it….
Arriving in Dubrovnik
I landed in the small but very efficient airport and boarded the bus to town, saving tons of money and paying little to be dropped off right outside one of the main gates into the old city.
As I rode the bus along the coast, I kept my eyes wide open waiting for my first glimpse of Dubrovnik. And that moment was still as impressive as I thought it would be: this place looked like out of a fairy tale! Though I didn’t luck out in the weather department that week, it was impossible to not be charmed by Dubrovnik…
My Home for 4 Days – The Hilton
My hotel, the Hilton Grand Imperial was almost across the street from the bus stop. Lucky guy! (In fact, you can see in the top picture on the top right of the picture!)
The hotel was built in the late 19th century and suffered greatly in the attacks in 1991 (I saw a picture of its roof burning in a local museum where a photo exhibit shows the pain the city went through that year…). It is now a beautiful Hilton property with excellent service, great location, and an incredible buffet breakfast (along with a well prepared gym to burn off any calories you don’t burn by walking around! Oh and an indoor pool, sauna, and steam room – imperial indeed.). (Check out my TripAdvisor review for this hotel.)
Background to appreciate this beautiful place even more…
Dubrovnik competed with Venice, in its heyday (as it does today in my head!), for being one of the most important centers of trade in that part of Europe. In fact, the Republic of Ragusa, as it was known, was the only contender in the eastern Adriatic to Venice. It was a skilled center of trade working through complicated politics and centers of power to remain independent until a series of mishaps in the late 17th century started eroding its staying power to be independent. Little known to me and likely to my compatriots from any of our history courses, this place was definitely unique in history.
Eventually, after many different circumstances, Dubrovnik ended up in Yugoslavia. When the Yugoslav state began falling apart, Croatia declared its independence along with Slovenia. Unfortunately, it was not a clean break for Croatia. Dubrovnik suffered serious attacks in 1991-2 that destroyed parts of the city and most of the tiled roofs that added a lot of charm to the place. Most of the tiled roofs you see today, in fact, are reconstructions due to the war. It is very sad not only for the loss of human life and the destruction suffered upon this beautiful city but this city had been demilitarized in the 1970s on purpose to ensure it would never suffer war due to its beauty. But nationalist zealots don’t respect much… Dubrovnik paid the price – still visible as bullet holes in some buildings and by the new-looking roofs. Who is laughing now, though??
Old Town and the City Walls
For sure, the best part of Dubrovnik is what is in Old Town and what surrounds its: its famed and still intact city walls. There is so much to share on this that I devote another post to what Old Town offers. For now, until a few days from now, know that exploring every corner and alley of Old Town is a delight!
The following are views of different portions of the famous city walls as I walked them!
Food – Because You KNEW I Was Going to Go There
I mentioned in my review of the Hilton how good the buffet breakfast was – so that was one meal I did not go elsewhere for! I had a nice meal at a local place in Old Town one night, and then another meal right between the Hilton and the Pile Gate at a restaurant that was good but pricey. However, the star of the show for me was Restaurant Posat. Though in my TripAdvisor review I mention that it was pricey, it was a great deal. I had mussels for a starter and then a local grilled fish for the main course. The mussels and the fish were very fresh (and I know fresh fish having lived in Chile for a year!!). I sat by the waterfront, under the aegis of the St. Lawrence Fortress (or Fortress Lovrijenac). The restaurant, though outside of the Old Town and very close to the Pile Gate and the main bus stop, was and felt tucked away. Oh, and they had good wifi!
Dubrovnik is not just a phenomenal destination unto itself. It is a great jumping place to many different places. Island hopping in the Croatian coast, I hear, is incredible. Heading to awesome Split not too difficult. Day trip to Mostar, a jewel in Herzegovina? No problem. Saunter off to Kotor Bay, the double-bay in Montenegro, or visit Riviera-like Budva also in Montenegro? Very easy. Dubrovnik is just blessed with its location as a great place to base a lot of travel in the region.
How Do I Wrap My Head around Dubrovnik?
I have to say that I have seen many places and many places that I like. I have seen many charming European towns and villages. I have seen Venice. And Dubrovnik fares EXTREMELY well when I stack it against any of these. I dare say its charm is very unique, as is Venice’s. Except no foul smells, floods, or sinking buildings here… Stay tuned for part 2 where I hope you will continue to see why I so enjoyed this jewel of the Adriatic!