Following Celtic Ways

Ramblings and reviews by John Willmott as he travels the Celtic Ways and Waterways visiting hidden ancient Celtic temples, sacred wells, and provoking legends .... plus music and theatre along the way

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Croatia: Day 7 - Dubrovnik

by John Willmott of Celtic Ways

In addition to being memorized by one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Dubrovnik, we learned two things..

First, walking the incredible city wall, originally built 850 AD, is an essential task to provide bearings and decisions about what to do during your time visiting the city. It only takes about an hour to walk even at a leisurely pace. Views are incredible and there are various interesting and inexpensive traders along the route.

Second thing I learned, leave walking the wall until early evening because it is cooler, quieter and the views are much more colourful and stunning. However, do not leave it too late otherwise the guards will chase you off just before sunset.

Dubrovnik is geared for tourists, but do shop around. The city is abundant in delightful fresh food restaurants and gift shops. Some are expensive while others are unbelievably low cost without reducing quality. For food we found the best deals and best food are within the under-developed north west of town. Wander around what looks like the residential area and you will find them.

Dubrovnik is also full of beautiful churches with stunning art collections.

The "must do" in Dubrovnik is the Maritime Museum. Covering two floors, walking around the museum provides an incredible feel for Dubrovnik's entire history. You'll learn of its development as a world leader in ship building, its affluent period of being its own Republic and world leader in navigation sciences and merchant trading. Its leading time was as a centre for maritime sciences that combined astronomy, cosmology and mathematics into navigation sciences.

Overall, we found the Dubrovnik people very welcoming, helpful and with great humour, but because this was a recent war zone there are some dark sides to defend yourself from.

An obvious one is for young women never to be alone.

Do not hang around the city too late. There are a lot of residents living very close together and they do get angry at tourist noise, even plain chat. I had bottles thrown at me at 1:00 am while just talking to someone.

Be careful if you choose the night clubs. There seems to be an undergroundish gangster clan that hangs around these. They only come out at night. During the day all seems to be very safe.

Accommodation is a choice between hotels and apartments. The hotels are great, but apartments are risky. Apartment renters aggressively approach foreign cars to get business. When they get guests they can be a nuisance and restict privacy. Then when guests leave try to charge much more than the low cost deal they originally offered.

Historically, Dubrovnik's top hotel from the 19th century was The Imperial. The Hilton took over the war torn building, have done a marvellous job renovating and re-opening it. Its a great place to stay, not too expensive, terrific service and, most surprising, the best food I have had on this adventure. Normally, I find hotel chain chefs and restaurants over priced and disappointing but the Hilton, Debrovnik is a perfect base when you visit here.

Dubronik is an intriguing combination of being a tight-knit community city combined with being totally geared to tourism and nothing else. It maritime history is certainly celebrated by the large number of boats visiting and incredible number of short hop sea bus services and long hop island ferry services. If you enjoy seafood this is also the place with abundant and inexpensive fresh seafood cuisine. If you enjoy pizzas and risottos this is also the place, far better than Venice.

This is a place for holidays but, if you are like us, its a great center for travelling to other places and return the same day too. As well as the many sea travelling options there is an excellent public transport system and local air services too. All of this, and history of being a Repulic yet Dubrovnik has a wonderful small town feel.

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