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Dubrovnik - the maritime republic
Member Name: tigger1992
Advantages: Weather, sights, easy to walk around, prices are fantastic, lots of shops, beautiful views
Disadvantages: Lack of signposts and it can be quite busy due to the number of tourists and fairly narrow streets
Dubrovnik - the maritime republic
This August we went on our third Royal Caribbean cruise and one of the stops that we went to was: Dubrovnik, croatia! The cruise was called '7 Night Adriatic Sea Coastal Cruise' which was on the Voyager of the seas. We only had one day in Dubrovnik but we did see quite a lot of the Old Town and we saw a bit of the coast from the pirate ship...
- A very brief history of Dubrovnik
Ragusa, the original name for Dubrovnik, was founded in the 7th century. To prevent barbarian invasions the residents of the city began to build protective walls (land and sea walls) and the city is thought to have been well fortified by the 9th century. Ragusa expanded over the next four centuries and became wealthy due to the trade of goods such as oil, fish, fabric (cloth) and wine. Ragusa maintained its independence throughout the centuries although between 1205 to 1358 Ragusa was under the control of Venice. Moving forward in time to the Croatian war of independence (1991 to 1995) in which the croatian government declared independence from Yugoslavia. The city was bombarded with shells from the Yugoslav army, navy and airforce and one of the most effected areas was the Old Town.
- About Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is located on the Dalmatian coast (the Eastern Adriatic coast) and it is neighbored by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. The main feature of Dubrovnik is the vast stone walls that surround the city. The walls are nearly 2km in length and they were constructed to protect the city from invasion. Dubrovnik is a very tectonically active area, it is situated in Croatia's most dangerous earthquake zone. Dubrovnik can experience strong earthquakes - the most significant earthquake occurred in 1667 which destroyed a large area of the city, killed approximately 5,000 people and caused a financial crisis which took Dubrovnik more than 50 years to recover from. On a happier note, in 1979 the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites and Dubrovnik is the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice. The currency in Croatia is the Kuna which has been the currency of Croatia since 1994. The Kuna is of modest value as one kuna is about 12p!
- Arriving in Dubrovnik and the pirate ship...
We arrived at the Gruz cruise port, which is not near the centre of Dubrovnik, so we had booked a excursion (land/sea excursions with Royal Caribbean are just tours, for example, guided walking tours). We booked this tour and it involved a short walking tour of Dubrovnik's Old Town and also a cruise on a boat along the coast of Dubrovnik up to Dubrovnik's old harbor.
So we departed the Royal Caribbean ship, got on a coach for literally a three minute drive to the site were this ship was...and it was a pirate ship! We had seen a picture of this ship while looking through the excursions before the cruise but we didn't actually think we would be getting on what looked like a pirate ship! The pirate ship did look amazing and it had the sails and everything - the only thing that was missing was blackbeard! We then boarded the pirate ship along with quite a lot of other people so it was a little bit crowded but we had a good seat to view the coast/sea either side of the ship. The journey to Dubrovnik's old harbor took approximately an hour and the sights along the coast and the view of the sea on the way was just gorgeous. The coast is beautiful with many beaches and you can see the city walls from the coast as well. We passed quite a few large groups of tourists we were on the coastal walls and everyone on the ship was waving to them and they were doing the same which was quite nice. It was a hot day when we went (on the 5th of August I think it was) the UV index was 5, which is very high and the majority of the pirate ship was in full sun so it was a hot journey but it did help my minimal tan! We then arrived at Dubrovnik's old harbor which looks amazing and we met our guide and walked into Dubrovnik's old town.
- Walking tour and sights
We walked through one of the small gates at the old harbor side of the city to Dubrovnik's old town. The fairly small passageway we just came through from the harbor now opened up so that we were standing next to the huge clocktower which marks one end of the Stradun (or 'Placa' as it is also called). The Stradun is the main street in Dubrovnik and it is 300m in length. It is an amazing sight and I did not expect to be greeted with this fantastic view after just walking for a minute or so from the harbor. The clocktower marking one end of the Stradun was built in the 15th century, then re-built in 1929 and the tower is approximately 30 meters in height - so it is fairly noticeable and the tour guide (who was from Dubrovnik) said that as the streets in the old town do not have names, people just say for example 'I will meet you next to the clocktower'. The Rector's palace is to the right of the clocktower and it to looks amazing, it has been rebuilt many times due to damage from fire, explosions, and earthquakes. Due to the re-building the different styles of the period and the architects vision can be seen throughout the palace from gothic, renaissance and baroque styles. We did not go inside the palace, which is now the site of the history department of the museum of Dubrovnik, as we did not think we could go inside and the tour guide did not really mention the building.
The Stradun, the main street, is the shortest distance between the pile gate (the gate at which we exited the city) and the old port/harbor (the gate at which we entered the city). The Stradun was constructed in the 12th century and the only major changes to the Stradun includes the repair due to the earthquake in 1667 and the repairs after the shelling during the Croatian war of independence. The Stradun is paved with limestone which over the years has been 'polished' due to millions of people walking along the street - the Stradun has the nickname of the street of mirrors according to our tour guide due to the highly reflective/polished nature of the old limestone. The limestone to me looked like marble as it was very polished and while walking along the Stradun I did find that it was a bit slippery as my sandals did slide about a bit - not a lot though and on the many back streets we walked down this was not a problem at all. Other sites in the old town includes: the city walls which are a breathtaking site on their own (as are the amazing views of the adriatic that accompany them), the Church of St Blaise (St Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik) which was built in the 1700's, Great Onofrio well/fountain and the pile gate.
The last historical place we visited was the Franciscan Monastery which houses the third oldest pharmacy/apothecary in the world and is the only pharmacy of the three that is still in use. The building of the monastery began in 1337 but it has to be completely rebuilt after the earthquake in 1667. Myself and my dad went into the first part of the monastery as this is where the pharmacy is - I wanted to go in as I though it would be made to look like it would have been in the 17th/18th century but it just looked like a normal modern pharmacy. The only items in the pharmacy that looked 'old' was the display medicine jars at shelves behind the counter but everything else was modern looking which was quite disappointing. In the pharmacy you could buy high quality skin care brands such as Vichy and Avene, which were probably cheaper to buy there than they would be if you bought them in England. We did not go into the main part of the monastery as there was a fee, which was not a lot, but by this time we had been walking around Dubrovnik's old town for about four/five hours.
Just outside the monastery there is the Great Onofrio well/fountain, we did not know what this was at the time really as it is not signposted (that I could see) and there were just local people selling items on the steps of the well. Also around this area there are little stalls in which more souvenirs are sold - we bought a small glass vase as we wanted to use up all of the Kuna we brought as there is no point in exchanging it back to British pounds. We then exited the old town through the Pile gate (at the west and it is located at the opposite end of the Stradun to the clocktower).
- Getting around (walking), shopping/market and prices
After the walking tour had ended we had about four/five hours before we had to be back on the ship, so we walked down the Stradun and around the maze of backstreets shops. The Stradun is lined with shops as are the backstreets - there are also a lot of cafes and restaurants. We walked down the back streets first, all of which branch off the Stradun and we came across a open air market. The market was not signposted although there are some signs of the corners of streets they were not very useful in my opinion. The market consisted of stalls selling fresh food, spices, bags of lavender/sunflowers and little souvenirs. We bought some spices from the market and they were really inexpensive especially when you consider the Croatian Kuna/British Pound exchange rate.
Along the sides of the market were cafes and we stopped at one cafe as it was a bit hot (especially for my sister who does not cope with the heat very well) and we bought some drinks, which again were inexpensive. The cafe we stopped at was nice but it was really crowded with tourists and locals and you could buy drinks, snacks and large plates of seafood there.
We then walked down the many backstreets which are lined with tourist shops selling t-shirts, food/drink (I think there was a wine bar too) and small souvenirs. The majority, if not all, of the shops were tourist shops - with the exception of a few that we saw. The tourist shops are well stocked with so many souvenirs, especially t-shirts. We ended up buying a few t-shirts, some lavender (as you do), some spices from the market and some food from what looked like a Croatian version of MacDonalds...I found the prices of food/drink and souvenirs to be fantastic, the prices were a lot cheaper than I thought they would be. Also just before the pile gate (the gate at which we exited the old town) we bought a small glass vase which is decorated with swirls and various colours and it was only 75 Kuna - which is about £9!
Overall, in terms of shopping and prices, Dubrovnik is amazing! There are so many shops to chose from, you are definitely going to find something you want and the prices are so amazing - especially when you consider the equivalent price in British pounds.
- Overall positives
In my opinion the positive points are as follows: the buildings, the adriatic sea and the part of the croatian coast that we saw from the pirate ship was just amazing. The weather was gorgeous when we went (about a month and a half ago now). There are lots of shops, mostly tourist shops as tourism is a major source of income and there are a lot of souvenirs to chose from. The prices are also fantastic due to the exchange rate. Quite a lot of historical sites to look at and there are also nice beaches around dubrovnik. There are also quite a few festivals in Dubrovnik, which were well advertised when we went.
- Overall negatives
There were a lot of tourists when we went which made the fairly narrow streets quite crowded - for this reason I would say that it is not a great place for young children and I don't remember seeing any children at all when we went. Also some of the sights such as the Great Onofrio well were not signposted, so you could easily walk past them.
*Weather, sights and the pirate ship!
*The Stradun - although it is a little bit slippery to walk on
*Prices are fantastic - for drinks and clothing/souvenirs
*People/shop owners/staff were nice and friendly
*Beautiful views of the adriatic sea
*Hundreds of shops with great clothing items and souvenirs
*Easy to walk around - no inclines, not a lot of steps
*'Sights' are not signposted well and some the streets are signposted but they do not really take you where you wanted to go - in our case anyway
*Can be quite busy and crowded due to the fairly narrow streets and the large number of tourists
- Would I return to Dubrovnik and would I recommend Dubrovnik as a good place to visit?
Yes, I would definitely return to Dubrovnik to see the sights that we did not have time to see and also for more shopping! The weather was fantastic when we went, the pirate ship was fantastic, as were the shops. The prices are great, especially when you consider the exchange rate, as one Croatian Kuna is about 12p! I would recommend Dubrovnik but I don't think it would be a great place to take young children due to the crowds and there is not really anything there for young children.
Thank you for reading my review - this review is also posted on ciao under my username labellavita1992
Summary: A fantastic place to visit!