Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Dubrovnik- September 2013

It didn’t take us long to get to the bus station, we then bought our tickets and we were off by 9.15 am. It was a 5 hour bus trip to Dubrovnik, on the way the road passes through Bosnia for about 7kms. Obviously the road was built when the area was united as Yugoslavia and wasn’t an issue, but now as we go through a separate country we have a customs/immigration stop.

View of Dubrovnik
The bus station we arrived at is 3kms from Dubrovnik old town. We soon discovered we could get a bus but needed to buy our tickets at a kiosk just near the required bus stop. As there were a number of us who had come from the bus station gong in the same direction it made it easier to find out the required procedure.

All good and we arrived just outside the city walls. It was quite frantic getting into the town with the pathway divided for entrance and exit. Once inside the wall finding the street our guest house was in was quite easy, we walked up to the entrance and almost from out of nowhere our landlady appeared. She showed us to our room and some information and then disappeared.

We walked around the town orientating ourselves to various places of interest as well as just generally exploring. It is much more touristy than Split, it has tour buses lined up outside the town and hordes of cruise ship groups swarming over the place like a plague of mice. It says a lot when the tacky souvenir shops display notices saying that their establishment is recommended by this or that cruise ship company. Avoid, avoid, I say.

The first night there we went to a delightful recital in Domino Church performed by the Dubrovnik Chamber Trio, which consists of well- established musicians.

The next day we took the funicular to the hill behind the town as it provides stunning views. To get to the start of the funicular requires a pretty hefty climb in the first place. We eventually made it; then had to wait awhile for it to turn up. It was definitely worth taking the trip up there and as we were early there weren’t many people at the top. The views are stunning, and looking on the town surrounded by its walls made it look like a model. Of course there was a café here so we had a coffee, then wandered around some more.There was a memorial cross on the mountain and as we walked around the top a number of goats were wandering around grazing on the rather sparse pickings.

In the centre of Dubrovnik we found rather nice café up one of the side streets, which appeared to be run by a mother and her daughters. It offered small lunches and coffee at reasonable prices and had good service.

We then visited the Franciscan Monastery, which has had an interesting history; and has been a dispensary for hundreds of years and is still dispensing medicine. It had been shelled during the Balkans War in the 90s. Actually you can still see the shell holes in the building as well as places around the town also information about damage done in various areas. Dubrovnik didn’t need to be shelled from a strategic point of view, but was shelled just to destroy it. The whole Balkans War at that time was extremely vicious with neighbor against neighbor, committing atrocities. No group was completely squeaky clean, but I think the Serbs were the dominant perpetrators. Many books have been written about this era all of which sound very depressing. Man’s inhumanity to man. Do we ever learn?

Franciscan Monastery

The weather here was perfect and the water a beautiful blue, so we decided to have a little boat tour, an hour ‘spin’ around the coast and islands. It was very relaxing sailing around the islands, some were inhabited and others not. Many European tourists come to this area for their summer ‘beach’ holiday, except the beaches are non-existent. Sunbathing is done on the rocks and there are ladders like in swimming pools for people to access the sea for a swim.

After we returned we ventured to the Dominican Monastery and decided to find the Synagogue, which was down a side street near our accommodation. It was upstairs in one of the narrow building; during the recent war in 1991 the synagogue was directly hit twice and was restored in1997. In 2003 the Jewish Museum, the first in Croatia was opened in the same building. There are three parts to the museum: (1) the history of the Dubrovnik Jewish Community, (2) displays of religious objects dating from 13th -17th century, (3) is dedicated to the memory of victims Shoah. Though quite small it was still an interesting and sobering.

Our last full day here we visited a couple more churches, St Ignatius, a Jesuit Church and full on Baroque and the Serbian Orthodox Church. We then went to organize transport to the airport. It was all very odd, in that we were asked when we wanted to leave, fair enough, but as we were booking a minibus with others we thought there would be set times and days they would be operating. Anyway she made a phone call, arranged our transport, we paid, told where to go and when to be picked up. This was a legitimate tour company.

The steep side streets

Anyway the next day we duly arrived at our pick up point, a young woman turned up waiting and checked with us re: booking the bus. Then an unmarked minivan turned up, she got in the front. We were on our way to the airport. Our extra passenger was dropped off on the way near her home. We were dropped off at the airport where non- commercial vehicles park. All good!

We would now be on our way to Athens.

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