Day two of our trip to Dubrovnik had to be about the great walls. Encircling the city in an unbroken ring of metres-thick stone, the walls not only offer the best possible vantage of the city from multiple angles, but also enable a complete appreciation of the scale and extent of the city. While on the one hand the city feels very small and self-contained, when you are walking around these huge walls, feeling rather like an ant by comparison to their mighty size, you start to realise that the city is really quite large, and packed full of treasures and unique panoramas on an almost incomparable scale.
And as if by way of example of the wealth of the city’s offerings, our first ambling of the day, walking through the land-bound streets of the North of the city (in an attempt to discover the entrance to the walls…) demonstrated that every street in Dubrovnik, no matter how small nor narrow, is a thing of beauty. This steep region of the city, which used to be separate from the main island city of Dubrovnik before the Stradun, which is now a main street but used to be a river, was filled in, constantly wowed us with picturesque sights around every corner – washing strung between houses, little wooden chairs placed outside front doors ripe for neighbourly gossip, street lamps poking out from every house in an overlapping cluster of glass and metal, and of course a backdrop to die for of further escalating roofs and the steep hillside beyond.
The picturesque backstreets
We didn’t find an entrance to the walls in those backstreets however. At every turn we could see the walls, and see an increasing number of tourists walking upon them. Nonetheless the entrance alluded us (it turns out that access to the walls, which is charged at around £10 each, is tightly controlled) and we headed back down to the city centre in search of coffee, before finally heading to the Pile gate, where we already knew that the main entrance to the walls is located.
The walls of Dubrovnik are so impressive, extensive and magnificently steeped in history that they ought to form the basis of a song. Or perhaps they already do (or perhaps I should write one). I can well imagine how the lyrics would poetically describe how the undulating extent of these mighty ramparts plunge robustly into the sea on the one hand, and sensitively encircle the city’s old port on the other. Or how to the north they take you up to the back of the city, affording the most sensational view across Dubrovnik’s sea of rooftops, and how to the south, they offer sweeping panoramas of the Adriatic sea on the one side, and quaint little citrus-filled gardens on the other. Of course photos probably do just as well to describe the brilliance of Dubrovnik’s major attraction, and I shall leave you to look at my pics, while remembering fondly the drink we enjoyed upon one rampart terrace, with a commanding view over the city’s cathedral and the island of Lokrum beyond.
Compelling views from Dubrovnik’s Walls
Of course the walls were all rather tiring. What felt like a small city from within suddenly magnified once you were required to walk around the whole place in a single morning, and come the afternoon, a restful lunch under a port-side pine tree, followed by a series of leisurely coffees taken in the city’s various squares was just the ticket to refuel after our morning’s exertions. We also found a little secret passage across slimy sea-weed covered rocks extending from the harbour into the old city, ending up rather awkwardly in the kitchen of a restaurant (a breach in Dubrovnik’s walls!).
Lunch with a view and a passage way through the sea
We also discovered that the best time to enjoy the city is surely of an early evening, when the tourist masses and the groups from docking cruise liners have departed, leaving the locals and those tourists lucky enough to be staying in or around the city to enjoy the place in relative tranquillity. And there was no better way to do that than with a drink on the Stradun with jazz playing from nearby cafes and house martins swooping in the air. Nor with dinner under the city’s starry sky, eaten al fresco in front of the Romanesque façade of the Jesuit church to the accompaniment of a Spanish guitarist.
Clearly it was not just their freedom that the residents of this city wanted to preserve by building such magnificent walls around them, but also the secret held within their embrace: paradise on earth.
The best time of the day…
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