Talk about picturesque, or storybook, and Dubrovnik has to come to mind.
Sorry to be blocking the view. We arrived in the early morning for a guided tour of the traffic-free, winding cobblestone streets and red tile roofs within the walls. We realized immediately what the cruise ship industry is doing to charming, small places like this.
Busses circled the walls and we had to hold hands so we wouldn’t get separated as we entered the gate. Fortunately there were only two or three ships that day. We had the same problem in Venice last year as cruise ships have only recently been permitted to dock nearby. The jury is still out as to how the balance of pristine beauty and swarms of onlookers will effect these places. Hopefully this “Pearl of the Adriatic” will fare well.
During the tour we walked by Dubrovnik’s Synagogue. It’s Europe’s second oldest Synagogue and Croatia’s only Jewish Museum. Later in the day we returned on our own (SmarTours is good in that they give you plenty of free time) to explore the museum and the active temple.
Here’s a view from the back past the bimah to the holy ark. There was a balcony just above where the women joined the services when the Synagogue was Orthodox. It’s not anymore, but there is still an active, 45 member congregation that has a Rabbi from Zagreb come in just a few times a year to conduct services. The museum has a 13th Century torah and many holocaust-era artifacts.
Since the old town and the wall are swarming with tourists we decided to take a boat to the nearby island of Lokrum. It’s a natural preserve just 15 minutes ride from the Dubrovnik harbor and an oasis of quiet, natural beauty and welcome surprises.
It’s a real contrast to the man-made charm of the old city and boasts a botanical garden…
…a dip in the “Dead Sea”, a pool fed by an underground tunnel from the Adriatic that non-claustrophobic swimmers (who can hold their breath for a minute) can navigate…
…to out of this world views (of the old city too)…
…to one of the most delicious lunches we had the entire trip. Lightly smoked tuna carpaccio with capers, local shrimp, white anchovies, and an amazing octopus salad with tomatoes and local herbs that converted Marsha into an octopus lover (really).
We returned to the old city of Dubrovnik in mid afternoon, after the hoards from the cruise ships had departed and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We explored the back alleys, medieval churches and palaces and then made our way up to the “City Wall” for the piece d resistance of the day.
The thick, age-old walls encircle the entire city (about the size of Bordentown) with hundreds of levels, steps and exposed vistas both to the inside and out. Besides defense, it has always been a place for romantic walks by city residents.
In fact, people still live there, evidenced by this basketball court (by a school?), and many apartments where we could see the residents enjoying their yards and hanging their laundry. A VERY expensive place to live, and a bit of a fish bowl…I don’t know???
But oh what views in every direction. Here are a few with no annoying comments….
(Have to break the silence to point out Bar Number 2, set on the ledges outside the wall, overlooking the Adriatic sunset. A unique place where locals, and knowing, brave visitors can have a beer or a glass of wine…and a VIEW!)
One last look (Lokrum island in the background) and we reluctantly walk out the gate to catch the number 6 bus back to our hotel and dinner at a local restaurant. What a gorgeous, highlight-filled day. Tomorrow we venture out of Croatia again, this time to the Republic of Montenegro. Get to bed. It’s an early wakeup.