Dubrovnik, Croatia was a surprise. It wasn’t initially on our list of “must sees” of Europe, but after talking to several expat friends, it quickly moved to the top of the list. People raved about Croatia. Everyone we talked to recommended it. I didn’t know a lot about it, except for my vague memories of hearing about how war torn it was in the early 90s. Croatia’s long history is complicated, like so many eastern European countries, but in 1990, it declared independence from Yugoslavia. Thus began the Croatian war of independence, with the Croats fighting the Serbs. The conflict was over by 1995 and Dubrovnik, while heavily shelled, remained in relatively decent shape. (Side note…the book Girl at War by Sara Novic is a great read about this conflict. I read it before going to Croatia and as usual, reading about a place made our visit much more meaningful. Books. You can’t beat ’em.)
Dubrovnik itself sits along the Dalmatian Coast, separated from the rest of Croatia by a strip of land belonging to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Marc read that apparently, the Dubrovnik Republic sold the land to the Ottoman Empire in 1699 as protection from the threat of an invasion by the Venetians, and to this day it’s Bosnia’s only access to the sea. Therefore, Croats must cross through this country to move north and south in their own country. And Dubrovnik sits rather lonely, separated from the rest of Croatia. Interesting! The things you learn when you visit a new part of the world.
It may be by itself down south, but it’s location is pretty perfect. It sits between the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Dinaric Alps to the east. White limestone streets and buildings have the bluest ocean I’ve ever seen as their backdrop, and Dubrovnik definitely earns its name as the Pearl of the Adriatic.
During our visit, we walked the beautiful city walls. I had read that this was the best way to see Dubrovnik, and it did not disappoint. The first walls date from the 9th century. Locals call the walls “the finest in the world,” and while we don’t have much to compare them to, they are pretty magnificent. The views over the top of the town all the way down to the Adriatic are totally worth the walk, even on a hot day.
Walkers are required to walk in a counter clockwise direction to help with traffic on busy days, and the walk is about 2km, including lots of steps. There is a cost to enter, but it fluctuates. A good tip is to enter from the Ploče side, since that gets the steepest climbs out of the way right away. Plus, the Pile Gate entrance is definitely the busiest, so this helps to avoid crows. There is very little shelter or shade, but on the Adriatic side there are a few little cafes in case you need an ice cream stop to encourage little walkers to keep going. Bringing water with us was also a good tip, since there aren’t a ton of places to buy it up on the walls and once you’ve paid to enter the walls, you can’t leave and re-enter. If you’re into Game of Thrones, there are some filming locations that are really cool to see, and you can even take a Game of Thrones tour.
We loved our time in Dubrovnik, and like so many places, we didn’t feel like we had enough time. Something tells me we’ll be back, Croatia.