My husband Tony and I visited Dubrovnik in December 2004. It was my first visit, but not so for Tony. He was returning to his homeland, Croatia, after an absence of more than 40 years! Having just 7 days to spend visiting Split, Dubrovnik and Korčula, all in Dalmatia and with connections to Tony’s family and early childhood, time was of the essence.
Just how much excitement can you fit into 24 hours?
Our first 19 hours in Dubrovnik [read 24 Hours in Dubrovnik (Part 1)] were thrilling – overwhelming – beyond our wildest expectations. Now, just 5 hours remained before we were due to catch the Korčula bus. Still on our “to do” list was Dubrovnik’s wall walk.
It was 10 o’clock in the morning when Tony and I began our walk on the walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
Dubrovnik is famous for its Old Town and the thick white stone walls that enclose it. No other city in the world has retained its medieval walls and continues to maintain them. Dubrovnik was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. The walls, once Dubrovnik’s defence against invasion by land and sea, were constructed over hundreds of years. In the 13th century, the town was first enclosed by a wall. To boost the wall’s fortification, fifteen square forts were added in the 14th century and, in the 15th century, further work was undertaken to strengthen the walls. The main forts, constructed at four strategic positions on or adjacent to the wall, are: Fort Minčeta in the north, which protected the town from invasion by land; the detached Revelin Fort in the north-east and St John Fort in the south-east, which protected the port; Fort Bokar (on the wall) and the detached Fort Lovejenac, which protected the town from land and sea invasion in the west.
It was mid-December. The weather was cool, but not cold (a good thing for us, Queenslanders). The day had dawned overcast, with the threat of rain. There had been a shower or two earlier that morning. We prayed that it would not rain while we took the wall walk. And it didn’t! We were so thankful. As a result, we were able to take our time, take lots of wonderful photographs along the way, and embed unforgettable memories.
Tony and I commenced our wall walk at Entrance 2, on the south-eastern side of the Old Town, at St John Fort, the site of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium. As we approached a staircase that took us to the top of the walls, we saw these six cats, and I couldn’t resist taking this photograph. They were resting peacefully, quite oblivious of our presence.
In fact, there was no-one else around – no locals, no other tourists. Much to our surprise, and delight, we had the whole place to ourselves!
Given our entry point, we headed westward, in a clockwise direction around the Old Town.
Built to protect Dubrovnik from invasion, the walls were not able to protect the town from the devastating Great Earthquake of 1667. It is reported that more than 5000 inhabitants died as a result of buildings that collapsed and fires that raged for days after the earthquake. The walls remained intact, but the town was left in ruins. Although the town was gradually rebuilt over the years, some of those ruins remain, even today. They are visible in the foreground of this photograph.
The walls did not protect Dubrovnik from bombing that occurred during the civil war that raged in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. During 1991-92, more than 2000 shells struck and severely damaged buildings in the Old Town; the walls suffered damage too. Apparently, two out of every three of Dubrovnik’s iconic red-tiled rooves were damaged, and had to be replaced. The new and old rooves are evident in the buildings shown here.
We discovered that the walls, which form an irregular quadrilateral, do not follow straight lines; they have a number of bends and turns along the way. I took this photograph as Tony stood around a “corner” from where I was positioned, on the south-eastern side of the wall. It shows the new city and modern buildings spread across the hillside in the background. The photograph also reveals the thickness of the walls, at this point between 1.5 and 2.0 metres thick.
There are lookouts at many vantage points along the wall. This one, on the south-eastern side of the wall, overlooks the sea and nearby Lokrum Island. We took the next photograph through one of the lookout windows. It reveals the adjacent wall, the next bastion and lookout, and the rocky coastline below. If one looks closely, a statue of St Blaise is visible, attached to the wall just below the lookout.
We continued along the southern wall, which skirts the rocky coastline. We took the next photograph from this vantage point, overlooking the Old Town in the direction of Srd Hill and the new city on its foothills. Just visible above the roof of the building in the foreground, rising above the town, is the dome of the Dubrovnik Cathedral (Cathedral of Annunciation of St Mary). This building was constructed in 1713, in Roman-Baroque style, after the 1677 earthquake destroyed its Romanesque predecessor.
We arrived at the western “corner” of the wall. It was a dull day, the sky was grey, but the magnificent blue of the Adriatic Sea was evident in the waters of the bay separating Fort Bokar (on the wall) from Fort Lovrijenac (on the other side of the bay).
Up until this point, the walk was flat. From Fort Bokar, we had to walk “uphill” to reach the highest point on the wall, Fort Minčeta, at the north-western “corner” of the wall. I took the following photo of Tony as he looked northwards from Fort Bokar towards Fort Minčeta. You can see in this photograph the condition of the wall’s stonework, so well preserved.
On the western wall, high above the Pile Gate, we gained this bird’s eye view of the Placa, Dubrovnik’s main street. On the left is the Franciscan monastery and museum. The main town square and former market place, with its dominant Clock Tower, is located in the distance, at the end of the street.
The climax of the wall walk is reaching Fort Minčeta, located high above the town. From here, the view of Dubrovnik and its surroundings is spectacular. Despite the dull day, this photograph still reveals the beauty of the Old Town’s white limestone buildings with their iconic red-tiled rooves, in two or three shades of red. Lokrum Island is in the background. This photograph is similar to the one on the front cover of “The Lonely Planet”‘ guidebook to Croatia!
From Fort Minčeta we headed east in the direction of Fort Revelin, which is located beyond the walls, at the north-easterly “corner” of the quadrilateral. We found ourselves high above the northern entrance and the carpark (where we had been the night before). From here, I took the following photograph of Tony looking back towards Fort Minčeta, and the Minčeta Tower, and overlooking the carpark below.
Not far from this vantage point, on the northern wall, we looked down the steep, descending narrow Ulica Boškovićeva. It was in this street that we dined the night before, at restaurant Dubrovaki Kantum. We walked (or should I say “stepped”) down this street from the carpark to the restaurant far below. This photograph shows how narrow some of the streets are in the Old Town, just a couple of metres wide.
Given our entry point on the wall, our wall walk ended at the north-eastern end of the Old Harbour and the Old Port (pictured). In this photograph, looking southwards across the harbour, one can easily see the prominent St John Fort, which juts out into the sea.
We completed the wall walk in 1 hour 15 minutes. It was an easy walk and, given that there were few people about, leisurely. The weather was kind to us: it did not rain, and it was not cold. The views from the were spectacular: the wall walk is a “must-do” for every visitor to Dubrovnik.
Leaving the Old Town, we took a local bus trip through the new city, including a drive to the summit of Srd Hill. This was worthwhile, as it gave us a good idea of the extent and nature of the new city, its built-environment and natural surroundings.
Our 24 hours in Dubrovnik too quickly came to an end. We returned to our hotel (it was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon), collected our luggage and headed for the Gruž bus terminal. This adventure was at an end. Another one was about to begin…