Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dubrovnik in the off-season

"Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik." George Bernard Shaw

    Adriatic Sea

The drive along the coastline from Čilipi International airport to Dubrovnik was every bit as enchanting. It was the magical hour with the sun calling it a day. I was watching the sunset from the bus window and decided to capture this welcoming introduction to the walled town, not quite sure how it would turn out. But I need not have worried, this picture speaks a thousand words. 

    Fort Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence)

A pleasant surprise awaited me at the hotel. My room had a view of the sea and the 11th century fortress of Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence), the Gibraltar of Dubrovnik. It is also known as the Red Keep to fans of the HBO television series, Game of Thrones (GoT). I thanked my lucky stars for giving me this stellar view throughout my stay.

    Rector's Palace

Dubrovnik is a small and compact city with polished, pedestrian-only narrow streets. Walking around the Old Town is a pleasing experience because of its heterogeneous architecture and historical sights like the Rector's Palace. As it was late November, the streets were draped with Christmas decorations. Festive lights glowed along the Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street, in the evening. The children were especially entertained by Santa's red sleigh while their parents sat at outdoor cafés, the perfect spot for people watching. What a delightful opportunity it was to see local folks celebrate the holidays!

    Old Town and Lokrum Island

One of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to walk along its well preserved, 1.2-mile long medieval fortification that wraps around the Old Town. I balked when I saw the steep flight of stairs I had to climb to get up to the platform. (Parts of the wall are 80 feet high.) But the fabulous view of red rooftops and the Adriatic Sea was well worth the effort. The walk takes at least two hours. I dallied along though, stopping to see some ruins from the more recent Croatian War of Independence that damaged more than 50% of the buildings in the historical center. It was interesting to see the private gardens with mature orange trees, the stepped alleys below, the lone fisherman at sea, and peer through peepholes on the walls. I took the flat path and skipped going up Minčeta Tower (the famous House of the Undying in GoT) but I circled its walls unaware that Daenerys had done the same when she was searching for her dragons in Episode 2 of GoT.

    The Cloister at the Franciscan Monastery 

It did rain one day so it was a good time to visit the Franciscan Monastery which is across from Onofrio's Big Fountain. It's free to stroll around the elegant 14th century cloister with 120 columns and see one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe but there's a small fee to enter the museum where an interesting collection of paintings, jewelry, manuscripts and ceramic medicine jars are on display. Taking photos is prohibited inside the museum. 

    Gradac Park

While searching for the road to Fort Lovrijenac, I stumbled upon Gradac Park in the hills outside the walls. It was late afternoon, a bit overcast, but there was a break in the clouds and I caught the sun slip behind the clouds while strolling under overhanging Mediterranean-pine trees. I found out later that this park was the setting for the Purple Wedding celebration in GoT.  Funny how I was discovering the backdrop to several scenes from GoT which I had never watched. But I picked up sage advice from the series. "Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor. And it can never be used to hurt you." 

A visit to Dubrovnik would not be complete without taking a cruise to Lokrum Island. It leaves from the Old Port which is a short walk from Sponza Palace. It's a good way to get a bird's eye view of the city walls and see up close the rugged shores of the island. Passengers can get off at Lokrum in the warmer months and explore the island where there is a Benedictine Monastery and a botanical garden. It's closed in winter. Our boat circled the island and passed by the eastern coastline where some of the luxury resorts are located before returning to the harbor.

There are many rewards to traveling in the off season. Two of these are the ability to explore at an unhurried pace and basking in the calm that settles in after the summer crowds have packed up and left. 

Stay
Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
Marina a Blažića 2, Dubrovnik
dubrovnik.hilton.com

Eat
Porat Restaurant at the Hilton

Getting Around
Bring comfortable shoes for walking around the Old Town. 

Airport transfers
To Pile Gate: Airport Shuttle Bus costs 40 kuna
To the airport: Premium Travel car service. They also offer excursions to Split, Medugorje and Montenegro. Contact them at premium.dubrovnik@gmail.com or by phone 385 99 200 11 94.

*****

Images by travelswithcharie



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