My writing includes my personal travel experiences, destination, history, and cultural information.
I suppose it might be cliche to say the Mediterranean pulls at my heartstrings. But, my friends, it does. I even found myself living in the region for two years. In addition, I've been on several Mediterranean cruises, and through it all, one destination particularly sticks out in my mind. And that is Dubrovnik, Croatia!
I can't wait to tell you about my experiences there. But, first, let's take a look at the city from a historical point of view; the history will help you understand the love I espouse later on. Let's see what has taken place to make the Dubrovnik of today such an incredible place.
A Bit About the Name Dubrovnik
Similar to other European cities on the sea, Dubrovnik made its name through maritime trade. It is thought to have been founded in the 7th century and originally settled by an Illyrian tribe. And again, not unlike other cities with their roots in ancient history, Dubrovnik was not the original name.
Excavations have uncovered several possible names of the original settlement: Rausia, Lavusa, Labusa, Raugia, and Rachusa. Based on what is known of ancient languages, the possible roots of those names translate roughly to rocky, jagged, and even narrow passages. This is just one of the theories related to the original name, there are also many others.
The name Dubrovnik shows up for the first time around 1189. With Slavic origins, it is thought that this new name is taken from the words "oak wood" or "oak forests."
Brief History of Dubrovnik
The history of this Croatian republic is long and complicated. Similar to other nearby cities or regions, there is a history of invasions, new regimes, destruction, and then finally peace and development.
The original Illyrian inhabits remained autonomous until the 12th century. At that time, the area came under the control of the Byzantine Empire. During this period, the area was thriving, their location giving them a strategic advantage in maritime trade. Run by aristocrats, there were notable improvements in government, the availability of medical care, resources for the needy, and the abolition of the slave trade.
By 1806, the French occupied the territory for a few years, and then in 1815 Dubrovnik was placed under the control of the Hapsburg Monarchy of Germany.
From 1918 to 1991, the territory came under the control of the then-country, Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia fought for and won their independence from the Yugoslav nation.
The Devastation of 1991
Old Town Dubrovnik, including the old port, is surrounded by fortification walls. From the 9th century through at least the 13th century, these fortifications walls were built and enlarged. In 1979, the walls surrounding the old town were placed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. (More on the walls later in this article.)
During the fight for independence, 56% of the buildings in Dubrovnik were damaged to some degree. The walls took 656 hits of artillery shelling. Because of its standing as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the walls were supposed to have been off-limits, even in wartime. General Pavle Strugar of the Yugoslav People's Army, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for coordinating the attack and was prosecuted as a war criminal.
Dubrovnik—A Star in Movies and TV
Dubrovnik is referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," so it's no wonder it's become a favorite for film producers. Here are some of the places the city pops up in media and entertainment.
- The Secret Invasion was filmed on location in Dubrovnik in 1964.
- Game of Thrones used the city to depict the fictional areas of King's Landing and Qarth.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi used Dubrovnik for the casino city of Canto Bight in 2016.
- Robin Hood (2017) used various locations throughout Dubrovnik.
- Quarantine Circular, a video game, is set off the coast of Dubrovnik. The city is mentioned several times in the game.
- The song "Ring Them Bells" tells us that Shirley Devore goes to Dubrovnik to find a husband.
- An Australian rock band formed in 1987 named themselves "The Dubrovnik's." The name was chosen because two of the band members were born in Dubrovnik.
Things to Do and See
The climate of Dubrovnik is beautiful; it's not quite tropical, yet not quite Mediterranean. It's really lovely all year round. So, whatever time of year you visit, chances are you will have beautiful weather. Just like it never rains in Southern California, it rarely snows in Dubrovnik! Here are a few things I would recommend you take the time to do.
- Dubrovnik Cable Car: The original cable car was destroyed in the onslaught of destruction in 1991. It has been rebuilt and offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and the sea!
- Dubrovnik Summer Festival: The festival runs every year from the 10th of July to the 25th of August. Since 1949, it has been known throughout Europe and offers a wide array of performances ranging from plays and concerts.
- Boat Tours: From the old port within the city walls, you will find loads of boat tours ranging from one-hour tours to half and all-day tours. Visitors also have the opportunity to rent sailing boats or yachts and take off on their own.
- Relax at the Beach: Dubrovnik has sandy and pebble beaches. Lapad Beach is one of the most popular with a pedestrian-only street leading to it. All the beaches have restaurants or at a minimum, concessions available. Most offer water sports activities such as water polo, parasailing, beach volleyball, and mini football.
- Museums: Within Dubrovnik, you will find approximately 12 museums. Whether your interests lie in history, the arts, the maritime industry, religion, or natural sciences, the museums of Dubrovnik have you covered.
- Churches: It's Europe, folks! There are monasteries, Catholic and Orthodox churches, and cathedrals. Each has its inherent beauty, style of architecture, and historical significance rooted in Dubrovnik.
My Two Favorites
If there were two things I would rate among the absolute best that Dubrovnik has to offer, they would be the following.
The Statute of Marin Držić
Marin Držić was a playwright hailing from Dubrovnik. He was famous for his comedic tragedies and is often referred to as "Dubrovnik's Shakespeare." The statue is located outside the current theater although that is not its original location. When the statue of Držić was moved to its current location, seemingly out of nowhere, a legend came about. The people of Dubrovnik are perplexed at the origin of this legend which says "if you rub the nose of Držić, not only will you have good luck, but you will return to Dubrovnik." The locals get a kick out of tourists running to rub the nose of the statue.
Walking the Fortification Walls
The old walls surround the old city. They are about 6365 feet of uninterrupted wall that, at some points, reach up to 83 feet. And they are five to six feet thick! Once again, in 1979, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Parts of the wall can be traced back to the 9th century. By the end of the 15th century, the entire city was encircled and fortified against attacks.
Within the walls are forts, towers, and bastions. There are four original gates to enter the old city: the Pile Gate, Ploce Gate (the main entrance into the old city), the Peskarija Gate, and the Ponta Gate. Buža Gate was installed in 1908 when the territory was under Austrian control. Each one of the gates has a drawbridge.
Why Walk the Walls? And Tips for Doing so!
Walking the walls is kind of a must-do in Dubrovnik. The walls are what have made the city a standout in the Mediterranean. Taking over 500 years to build, the walls are massive, giving you amazing views not only of the city but the beautiful Adriatic Sea.
There are open hours when you can walk the walls and this varies by day of the week and season. An entrance fee is also charged. A normal stroll around the city atop the walls should take about an hour and a half to two hours. Restaurants and public bathrooms are available throughout your walk.
Bear in mind that at times, you are 83 feet off the ground; there are no trees for shade, so I suggest a hat as well as cool, comfortable clothes, and good walking shoes (the pavement is a bit uneven in some spots). And you should note that aside from the restaurants, there are no benches to sit on and take a break.
Pro Travel Tip
As you walk the walls, look down at the rooftops. The roofs are made of slate tiles. You will notice many are lighter in color. These light-colored tiles are replacement tiles due to the damage done during the conflict of 1991. It's amazing to see just how much damage was done to the structures.
There are about 1575 people who live within the walls of the old city. The repaired roofs you see are the homes of civilians who suffered immensely during the conflict. If you look closely, you can still see the bullet holes as well.
Here's More on My Love for Dubrovnik
Every time I have been to Dubrovnik has been as a port stop on a cruise. I have had the pleasure of visiting in the spring, summer, and fall. The weather was lovely with beautiful blue sunny skies every time.
Entering the city gates the first time, I remember thinking how clean it was. The walkways are marble and it appeared as if you could eat off the stones themselves! The seawater is so clear you can see the bottom when boating. It's just spectacular!
I have taken boat tours, rubbed the nose of Marin Držić, visited Lapada beach, and strolled the city. Of course, I shopped and had delicious coffee, too. For some strange reason, I remember the first time I tasted Lipton's peach tea was walking the walls of Dubrovnik.
The first time I visited, we did the Evelyn Woods speed walk and made it around the walls in 45 minutes! Why? To see how fast we could walk the 2.2 kilometers, of course! As I have said in previous articles, I'm not a museum kind of gal, so honestly, other than from research I've done on what they offer, I can't tell you much about the them.
A Funny Thing Happened on a Visit!
We were on the shuttle bus waiting to be taken back to the ship embarkation point. We were waiting, waiting, waiting . . . what in the world was the hold-up? The bus was full, we were past the departure time and the driver was outside of the bus talking in a very animated fashion! It seems that the bus was wedged in and couldn't depart. A Smart Car had parked sideways right against the bus.
The bus driver and the men he was speaking with, each went to a corner of the Smart Car and hoisted it up and moved the entire car to the sidewalk! Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it! It was hilarious! The driver got on the bus but before we left he said "we leave now, all taken care of!" as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened! It's moments like that which make travel fun, spontaneous, and memorable.
In Conclusion, Why Travel?
Everyone has a different reason for traveling. Some vacation travel for fun; beaches and other activities, etc., while others travel for cultural enrichment. I'm sure there is a myriad of reasons why people choose to hit the road or the skies.
Travel gives us memories. Some good, some maybe not so good. I'm told a person should invest in those memories, in themselves. Memories stay with us for a lifetime. Material goods deteriorate and become useless. After all, there are no luggage racks on a hearse.
I have been traveling since I was six years old. Over the last 15 years, my travel activity has increased exponentially. In fact, for the last two years, I have lived abroad as an American ex-pat. Living in Europe gave me an opportunity for more frequent travel and shorter, less expensive flights.
The Next Chapter
As I prepare to return to the United States, again making it my new home base, I have done much contemplation and self-examination. What have I learned or gained from my travel experiences? I've had the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world and making lifelong friends. I've heard their stories and listened to their opinions. In the digital world we live in, we can visit places virtually any time we want.
This, in turn, has helped me to broaden my opinions and look at many things from a different perspective. I have experienced different cultures, different cuisine, religions, and different ways of life. I truly believe that I have become a better, different version of "me." I am so grateful for the ability to travel!
Without Meaning to be Political
Without meaning to be political, I've even begun to look at the United States differently. I left the states in 2019. This was right at a time when politics were front and center. It seemed to have brought out the ugly in so many people; no acceptance of differing opinions, so much violence, and anger.
What I have come to realize is that the United States, in comparison to other countries, is still in the toddler stage of life, as it is only 246 years old. As I do research for articles or as I have traveled and explored, the countries I have visited are ancient in many cases, with some established in the early years of AD.
These ancient countries have seen histories of violence, invasions, famines, cultural changes, and ultimately, growth and prosperity. They have all come to terms with their history in different ways. For example, Dubrovnik has its city walls that were built for fortification and to protect the citizens from attacks. Still, they've been targeted, yet through it all, they stand tall and imposing, a symbol of the city
The "crisis" we see today in the United States is not unlike the history of every other country. One could look at this current "crisis" as growing pains. I'm sure in 1991 when Dubrovnik, was fighting for their freedom, the people were angry and their ugly came out. And the same goes for Greece, Italy, France, etc.
This is What Travel has Given Me
Travel has given me the ability to separate myself from the everyday trials and tribulations and look at life as a journey. A journey that should be experienced and embraced.
Until next time, friends, remember, "To Travel is to Live!"
© 2022 Dee Nicolou Serkin