Apart from our Game of Thrones tour blog, we might have been a bit harsh on Dubrovnik.
Everyone and their dog raving about Buza Bar prompted us to present a different take on the bar. Similarly, glowing reports about the city itself often seem to skip over the whole business of there being an overdose of cruise passengers – something that overwhelmed us when we arrived outside the Old Town for the first time.
The truth is that there is much that we liked about Dubrovnik. It is a beautiful and immensely interesting city and once we broke free from the massed ranks, we were able to experience and savour some of its true riches and hear about some historic and fantastical Dubrovnik tales.
Classic Dubrovnik Old Town
NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO
Barely discernible above the entrance to Lovrijenic Fort, the motto NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO says much about the people of Dubrovnik and their history. ‘You can’t buy freedom with all the gold in the world’.
Dubrovnik Old Town – On the Outside
Large Onofrios Fountain
One of the first things you see when you enter Dubrovnik by Pile gate is the impressive Onofrios Fountain, originally built in 1438. Apart from looking spiffy with its 16 dribbling maskerons, the Onofrios Fountain is your friend. Fill your water bottles here rather than pay exorbitant prices in the tourist shops.
Even when the streets of Dubrovnik are quiet, the skies aren’t. Poor old Saint Blaise atop his church finds himself swamped by swifts. St Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik, earning his title after appearing in a vision to warn a priest of an impending attack by the Venetians; an act which saved the city as the Venetians were in fact planning a sneaky attack. He’s found all over the place, often looking out to sea – probably keeping an eye out for those pesky Venetians.
The Old Harbour
The harbour has looked much like it does now since the 15th century although the harbour itself is much, much older. The three arches, once the arsenal, date back to the 12th century. Now it’s a restaurant. Some cruise passengers arrive by sea here. We heard a quite bizarre comment by a cruise passenger stepping off the transfer shuttle.
“When I got on this boat I didn’t realise we were coming here,” remarked a man who was clearly quite perturbed.
I desperately wanted to ask him where exactly he thought the little boat was taking him if not to Dubrovnik.
Admittedly, it’s a bit in the background in this shot. As the shadows creep up the walls in the Old Town, Dubrovnik chills out quite a bit and is a much nicer place to spend time in. The Cathedral owes its existence to Richard the Lionheart who survived a shipwreck near Lokrum and was so happy to be breathing air rather than sleeping with the fishes that he vowed to donate the cash to build a cathedral in the city closest to where he reached dry land again. Jackpot Dubrovnik.
Apart from the Orthodox Jewish paraphernalia outside the oldest active Sephardic synagogue in the world would be anonymous, lying up a narrow side street. Don’t know what Sephardic is? Me neither. Apparently it means the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East. Built in 1408, it is also the second oldest synagogue in Europe.
That the Gothic styled Rector’s Palace still stands is a minor miracle as it has twice been blown up by two gunpowder explosions and partly destroyed by the great earthquake of 1667. Apart from being a cool place for local teens to hang out, inside is the only bust of a plebeian (ordinary bloke) in Dubrovnik, Miho Pracat, a rich ship owner from Lopud who made his fortune after being inspired by a persistent lizard trying to climb a wall (if only it were that easy). Why the bust? He left a lot of his fortune to the city. Money talks. But it don’t sing and dance. And it don’t walk.
There are plenty more interesting historic curios in Dubrovnik – the statue where it’s good luck to rub its ‘bits’ or another statue which, apart from being used to measure cloth, was where you’d be publicly flogged, or worse, if you committed adultery or other crimes of the time.
Explore and ye shall discover many more treasures.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+