Obviously a main pull of visiting Dubrovnik is to visit the walls of the Old Town. Flying in to the airport you can catch sneak peaks of the imposing walls from afar. Once on the ground it’s about a 20 m drive from the airport to the actual city and all along the windy coast you catch glimpses of the walls growing larger.
The harbor is host to a number of boats, mostly small sight seeing and fishing boats – luckily for us the cruise ships scheduled to coincide with our visit were docked in the newer Port Gruz and didn’t dominate – or, rather, block – the views.
I’m automatically hooked as we drive in, the crazy narrow two way roads sharing space with cyclists, pedestrians, trucks and massive busses. The houses that are built into the cliffs with parking spaces on the roof. The endless stair cases…oh the stairs we encounter in Dubrovnik!
We saved the walls for a day when the cruise ship had left (Adam and his trusty research come to the rescue!) and set out to be among the first up there to avoid the usual press of hundreds of tourists at once. An advantage of our little apartment overlooking the walls is we got a good sense for when the crowds arrived – promptly at 9:30 AM it seemed – and how they didn’t really relent until dusk, when the walls were closing. So our goal was to be there at 9 AM right when they opened and enjoy 30 minutes of alone time before we encountered…the others…
There are two main entrances to the walls Pile Gate and Ploce Gate. Luckily for us Pile Gate was a mere 100 or so steps down from our apartment and happens to be the more popular gate.
We made the decision to let Zeke walk the walls rather than use the hiking back pack – what can I say, it was early in the trip, our legs were fresh, and our clothes were fresher – risk taking, parent edition. And after an early wake up we were at the gate buying our tickets just in time for Zeke to decide he was ok with the stairs, but god help him if he were going to go onto the walls. The child loveliness of this city came out again as the ticket attendant reassured Zeke that these stairs didn’t go to the wall, but were only stairs for stairs sake. Zeke was convinced, and our first moment of regret of not having him strapped into a carrier happened. At 9:01.
Up we go. And up and up and up. Til finally we are on the walls that have protected the city of Dubrovnik since the 1100’s without fail. They are in remarkably good shape considering their age, and the sheer amount of foot traffic they endure on a daily basis in the high season. The stairs have that sheen to them that comes only with the passage of time and many many feet. Zeke found it hilarious to put his hands all over the greasiest looking spots and delighting in saying “I’m all yucky!”. Indeed, child. Indeed.
There are several points where the wall gets quite low and you can peer over the side down the sheer walls straight into the Adriatic sea. It was a marvel that walls could even be built upon the rocky cliff side, and it became more understandable why the city had never been conquered.
Unless you’re a bird, you’d have a hard time invading from the sea. The Walls get higher as you work your way inland away from the Bay – more stairs, is what I’m saying here. And the pinnacle point is being able to go all the way to the top of the Fortress and get a sweeping panorama of all of Dubrovnik full of those red tiled roofs.
Have I mentioned the roofs yet? They are red and they are marvelous.
We spent about 2.5 hours on the walls, stopping only once for a wildly overpriced espresso, but let’s face it, you’re definitely paying for the view.
With 5 days to spend here we took advantage of another vantage point over the city, this time via cable car up to the summit of Mt. Srd. The fortress at the top of this hill is only slightly newer, having been completed during the Napoleon reign, precisely on his birthday. Never let it be said that the man didn’t know how to celebrate his own birthday. Zeke was thrilled with the idea of riding the “orange bus” so it was well worth the cost up and down rather than my original plan of hiking to the top and riding down. What started as a perfectly sunny day down at sea level quickly became cloudy as we gained altitude.
Luckily the clouds added to the mystery and beauty of the city below one minute being totally clear out and then totally shrouded. It was a perfect place for a bite to eat, or in Zeke’s case, to be introduced to Neapolitan ice cream. I think the irony was lost on him.
Whether by foot, cable car, or by the sheer strength of your parents’ arms (no carrier, remember?), if you’re in Dubrovnik do yourself a favor and spend a few hours walking on and staring at The Wall. You’ll be glad you did.