You might have heard about Dubrovnik because you are a Game of Thrones fan. You might be old enough to remember the horrific Siege of Dubrovnik. You might have seen glimpses in travel articles. Nothing compares to the real thing which requires the following: stamina for all the stairs you’ll have to climb, a trusty GPS/data connection and a bottomless sense of wonder. Dubrovnik, in short, is a little miracle.
I admit this took me a while to write. My apologies, I have been travelling non stop which is not a bad thing. I went to Dubrovnik with work (but we don’t talk about that, so there) at the end of May which – trust me – is not the height of the season. You want to think about avoiding the touristy season, the city is a lot better with fewer people. Here are my brief notes on what I got up to there – and some stories to keep you entertained.
Walked the walls
I don’t know if there is something nicer or more spectacular to do in Dubrovnik. Pay the fee, have your water bottle with you (and sunblock) and climb up there.
If you remember the war (I do) notice how many building have new tiles. It was one of the saddest things I encountered, but also bitter sweet to see the amazing work that went into the restoration. I asked a Croat about the changes, about the amazing work, about the whole starting again thing. “It was either that or just die”, he said.
Learn from my fail: ALWAYS carry water and sunblock with you. My nose was so red by the end of the day that if people called me “Rudolf” they would have been fully justified.
Did a Game of Thrones tour
Here’s Tomislav (or Tom or Tommen) our guide for the Game of Thrones tour. I’ve never seen a more patient guide.
He has to be, since apparently people go slightly insane. For example, kissing the ground where Joffrey died. Right.
The best story was about the Lovrijenac fort or St. Lawrence Fortress. You see, in the 11th century Dubrovnik was a powerful City Republic (kinda like Venice). Well, Venice wanted to build a fort opposite Dubrovnik because… reasons. So, Dubrovnik goes and builds a church on the rock. If anyone messed with a church in those days they would have to answer to the Pope. Awkward. The crafty Dubrovnik people pretended that the were extending the church initially, all the while building an external wall that reaches thickness of 12 METERS! In the meantime the wall that faces Dubrovnik is only 60cm thick, ensuring that the fort can never be used against the city, even if captured. Seriously, I LOVE these stories.
Rode the cable car
It’s one of those things that you have to do. One of the ways to really appreciate the city is to see it from the Srd Hill (don’t ask me how that’s pronounced). So take the cable car (very modern, very clean and climb up there). I mean, look at that beauty.
Went to the haunted island
The locals say that if you spend the night on Lokrum island you won’t wake up. There are a number of versions why that is but here’s my fave: Napoleon conquers Dubrovnik and sends the heads of three aristocratic families to evict the monks from the Franciscan Monastery on Lokrum. Monks do some dark hocus pocus and leave. Within a year the heads of the three families have gone the way of the dodo and there’s a curse on the island.
Went to Konavle
At the lovely village of Konavle outside Dubrovnik, spent a great day with the people from Kameni Dvori. Trip to the field, traditional cooking, going to the forest for some wood and picking some vegetables. I was quite touched. The country around Dubrovnik reminded me of Northern Greece where I spent most of my childhood summers.
First swim of the summer
I am Greek. It was hot. I reckoned that if I didn’t go to the beach somebody would take away my Greek passport. Major mistake. Seas more to the North are NOT the Mediterannean. I lasted about 3 minutes.
Banje beach has very deep and very clean waters though, really impressive. Do visit early and pay the steep fare to get a VIP bed and just people watch. Or go late and get entry for free – which is way we did quite by accident.
Grabbed a beer at Buza
Through a tiny little passage you will find yourself outside the walls where Buza perches on the rock.
So we were there, I grabbed a beer from the friendly two guys behind the bar, rolled some cigarettes for some of the lovely people around me and just listened. If there was one place that made me nostalgic for the Greek summer, Cafe Buza was it.
All in all Dubrovnik is an amazing place and I really want to go again.
Special (but somewhat cryptic) shoutout to K., L. and C. for all the great times.
Disclosure: Went to Dubrovnik in May 2015. No deals or heads up with any of the places mentioned.