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Published: October 5th 2009
The view down Stradun towards the Clock Tower from the City Walls.
Byron's Pearl of the Adriatic has a hefty reputation to live up to but does so instantly as soon as you step through Pile Gate and gaze down the Stadun at the Clock Tower at the far end. Perfect marble covered steets, uniform buildings on either side, side-streets and alleyways at every turn and endless bars and restaurants spilling out onto the pedestrianised town. If the perfect old European city had to be designed from scratch, it would probably look a lot like Dubrovnik. I had originally intended to start my last trip here but instead opted for Venice and there are a lot of similarities between the two old city states at either end of the Adriatic (just swap water for marble). Both impossibly attractive, great to wander around but inevitably hugely popular.
Arrived fairly late on Sunday night, so just had a wander around town, enough to notice that even in late September, it was seriously crowded with tourists. I guess that's the penance Dubrovnik must pay for being so sinfully attractive. Early next morning, I set off for a trek around the city walls, definately a must do. The walls are fully intact so you can do
The rooftops of Dubrovnik and Lokrum island in the background.
a complete circuit of the city, through the various fortesses, and get amazing views inside the old town (especially down Stradun), along the walls and over the Adriatic and the rest of the city. Dubrovnik was heavily damaged by shelling by Serb forces during the war of independence in 1991 but has been so expertly reconstructed that you'd barely notice any evidence of this, save for a few ruined buildings in one section.
To escape the heat in the afternoon, I went to see a very interesting exhibit at the War Photo Museum, focusing both on the Yugoslav wars and other global conflicts. Then I headed off to Dubrovnik's worst kept secret, the Buza bar. This is a temporary bar, located along the cliffs on the outside of the city walls in the west of the old town, so you can sit down, have a beer and watch the sun set over the Adriatic. To get there you wander along the edge of the city walls, following a sign that promises "Cold Drinks with most beautiful view
" until you come to a hole in the wall (Buza means hole). The drinks, like most things in Dubrovnik, are ridicolously expensive,
Stradun side streets
One of the side streets off the north of Stradun.
but you just can't beat that location. Having Dean Martin and Sinatra crooning over the speakers might just be a little over the top though!
Next day I was determined to conquer Mount Srd. This hilltop overlooks Dubrovnik, you can see it and the cross at its summit from almost everywhere in town and it had been taunting me since I arrived to trek it. It's only 400m or so in height but there's a serious gradient all the way to the top. Nevertheless despite the heat I set off from Pile Gate and started ascending what seemed like hundreds of steps through the town to get to the base of the mountain. Eventually I came upon a main road, with no obvious place to cross and just a cliff face beyond and no sign of the start of the path to the top. Had no choice but to head back down the steps which unfortunately lead all the way back to old town. Still determined, this time I followed the (rather useless) guidebook directions but after much more effort (and getting quite sweaty at this stage), ended up in exactly the same place. At this stage in the
Trekking around the city walls of Dubrovnik.
midday sun, I was ready to concede, defeated by the confusing street layout and stupid guidebook. Next time Mount Srd, next time. Later on I felt a little better when I learned that some people at the hostel decided to take a bus to the summit (there is no bus to the summit), so they spent the day circumnavigating the city. Think there was more nobility in my defeat.
In the afternoon, to escape the heat and crowds of the old town, I got on a ferry to the nearby island of Lokrum. This is a beautiful spot to wander around and within minutes of leaving the ferry you can completely escape the crowds to trek around the island. There's a old French fort at the summit which provides nice views of the old town and lots of secluded rock beaches with views of the coast and the sea. Perfect for escaping all the tour groups. Later on after another sunset drink at Buza and finally a decent meal (away from the centre), I reluctantly headed to the paint-by-numbers Irish bar to see the Liverpool-Leeds game, enjoyable enough even if a little more tricky than it should have been.
Dubrovnik from Lokrum Frontiers of Travel - Inspiration and Information for the Adventure Traveller
A view of Dubrovnik from the old French fort on Lokrum island.
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