This morning was painful with a 6:45 wake up call. Our group was at the door ready to rock and roll, as instructed, by 8:15. The objective was to beat the heat as well as to get ahead of as many of the other tourists as possible. A local guide met our merry band of eight at the main (one of three) gate to the old city and gave us a brief tour. She, as well as her parents, were actually born inside the wall and her children go to the same school that she and her parents attended. Her brother lives in the family home right on the main drag. It’s a tough place to live, although about 2,000 people manage, since no cars are allowed inside the wall. She explained that in the heavy tourist season (July and August), most residents park their cars (outside the wall) and do not use them unless absolutely necessary since it can take a long time to find a new space once a simple errand has been run. Scooters are popular for the basics. Another inconvenience is the requirement to have kitchens of all residences on the top floor (for fire containment). This law dates back quite awhile. So once you schlep all the groceries from the parking spot outside the wall, you have to take them up to the kitchen.
The guide gave us a nice overview of Dubrovnik’s proud history. What we enjoy today dates back to the 13th century when it was a major seaport. It was a city known to be way ahead of its time with all houses having toilets and the city providing free, clean drinking water. A couple of the fountains remain today. It boasts the third oldest pharmacy and one of the first quarantines in Europe. Depending on individual circumstances, all new arrivals could stay up to forty days in the stone quartine buildings away from the general population. The buildings are still here and very impressive, prime real estate actually…right on the water. Earthquakes from as far back as the mid-1600s have taken quite a toll over the years, but the city always rebuilt although with less splendor the last time in order to keep costs down and to speed along getting life back to normal. All the buildings are made of a very sturdy limestone with tile roofs and the stone streets and alleyways look polished with all the wear.
The guide explained how rapidly things have changed from the time Croatia was part of communist Yugoslavia until today. Her parents and grandparents tell stories of the small farms that used to be right outside the city walls. Now Dubrovnik is a town of 45,000 that has obviously grown far beyond the walls of the old city.
Once the official part of the tour ended we were encouraged to walk the wall. In our case it took no encouragement at all. The walk is a mile and a quarter and involves lots and lots of stairs both up and down. The views are spectacular. It was fun to see the back yards, terraces, patios, etc. of the homes and apartments inside the wall and the views of the coastline. We were glad to have gotten an early start because we really did beat most of the other tourists to the wall. We brought plenty of water and ducked into the shade when we wanted a reprieve from the 90+ degree heat and full sun.
The group enjoyed a 3-course alfresco lunch at a restaurant just outside the wall right on the water. It was a shaded, delightful setting. Dan had a beer which might help explain the little snooze he took later. After he woke up we gathered our resolve and took a very cold dip in the sea.
There are loads of black sparrows, larger than ours, that zip around. They are like little dive bombers darting all over the place. Oleander are in full bloom along with a delicate purple flower and some succulents. Birds aside, we have bumped into a couple of laundromats, which is unusual in the mix of heavily touristed places. One just outside the gate of Old Town is decorated in post-it-notes.
Dinner tonight was in a private home in a village on the other end of town. it was a real treat. The couple runs a small self sufficient farm, so we truly had a farm to table experience. First was a demonstration of a 250 year old olive press. A small, cute as can be 30 year old horse powered two grinding wheels and crushed olives into a powder … pits, skin, and all. This was then pressed into oil with an ancient press. Very interesting and fun to watch. You could tell the farmer was very proud of his horse and press and happy to show them off. Today his oil is processed in a new, speedy, efficient press owned by someone in the village. After the demonstration we saw their garden and then enjoyed a delicious, traditional dinner of roasted potatoes, meat, and salad. They produced the wine we drank as well as the olives, vegetables, and prosciutto. The Croatian version of flan was for dessert. We all came back satisfied and happy with our long, enjoyable day.
3 thoughts on “Still in Dubrovnik”
Very interesting, I love the pharmacy stat
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Wow! Tons of history! It always amazes me Schele how well you remember everything and write such a great blog! So happy your trip is going well. Rest up for your next day of sightseeing and blogging!😀love you both.
I agree, Deb!
You learned so much. My tour was not as thorough. Our guide talked a lot about the effects of the war though. Love the story about the horse. It’s so strange that I was there two weeks ago and it was in the 70s.