Wall Walking

Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
Trip End Aug 06, 2013

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Friday, August 2, 2013

DUBROVNIK! We took a plane to Croatia, Erin and I hitting our 21st and 31st countries, respectfully. We took a bus to the old town, a treasure within a thick medieval stone wall. Talk about fairy tale! Built on a peninsula on the Adriatic Sea in the 15th century, Dubrovnik was originally two towns bisected by a canal. That canal is now a polished stone main pedestrian boulevard. What began as a successful international trading town now trades in tourism, with cruise ships emptying thousands of people into the narrow streets every day.

"Libertas", or Liberty, is the town motto, as it has fought to maintain its independence through conflict with Byzantium,Vienna, the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, Napoleon and, more recently, the break up of Yugoslavia, when this precious UNESCO Heritage Site was bombed.

Our amazing little place is in a quiet corner of the Old Town, next to the ruins of the earthquake that destroyed much of the city in 1667. Our hostess has done an excellent job renovating and decorating the small space. AND there is AIR CONDITIONING!

Aside from the main street, the streets here are too tiny for vehicles. Narrow stone walkways, stairs vertical and sidewalks horizontal, are lined with restaurants and shops. Street lamps are stamped with the names of the establishments.  Croatians are very Italian in their attitude, casual and hawking their products. Each restaurant has an enticer to get you to eat there.

Here you can buy: pizza, lavender sachets, coral jewelry and silver balls, which each shopkeeper will tell you is a unique Croatian design. In every clothing store you will find that striped nautical is the current fashion statement.

Around the town is a stone wall almost 1 1/3 miles in circumference. We walked over a genuine drawbridge in the wall to enter! The big source of entertainment is touring around the top of the wall. From there you can see across red tiled rooftops, churches, abandoned ruins, gardens, plazas. We walked the wall just before sunset, when the swallows come out to dance and church bells take turns ringing their version of the hour, and after the cruise ship crowds have left.

The houses with newer roofs are those that were bombed in 1991. Citizens replaced destroyed buildings using the same ancient methods used by the original inhabitants of Dubrovnik.

Before that 17th century earthquake, many of the buildings were of Venetian design. Now only a few of those style buildings remain intact. Some of the buildings are topped with a likeness of Saint Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik. In each statue, he's got the whole city in his hand.

Dubrovnik has a tender vulnerability that sits among the stones and the people. Green grows in the cracks of churches, sidewalks, rooftops. From abandoned buildings, trees curl upward, their flowers petaling the steps below.

Erin likens Dubrovnik to the well-used family room, or kitchen, since there's a strong feeling of community.  Do you know what doesn't feel like community? The cruise ship tourists following their leaders from site to site, their faces red and exhausted, their children crying. We're lucky to have a quiet respite from all the hubbub.

Our favorite restaurant is called Azur, a tucked away little bistro with tables on the sidewalk and a kitchen smaller than yours. The food, Asian/Croatian fusion, is delicious and unique even by San Francisco standards. The owner/chef spent a few years in Shanghai, just opened this place a month ago and is already very popular. Our waiter was hilarious and gave us free glasses of prosek.

Parts of Dubrovnik are used for the filming of Kings Landing in the show Game of Thrones! Can you picture the magic? Can you imagine how much more magical it was the night Boy George came to perform?! Neither can we; we were busy enjoying Azur and Buza, the bar along the cliffs outside the city wall.

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