Dubrovnik has been on our destination list forever. I’d visited Dubrovnik as a child and remember well the imposing walls and red roofs of the old city. Dave had never been and it was primarily for this port that we chose to take the Windstar cruise – Italy and the Dalmatian Coast. As our ship would be in port for a limited time, we decided to maximize our day with a private tour. Research on Trip Advisor led us to Dubrovnik Shore Tours.
We tendered to port much earlier than expected but there was our guide Stjepan holding a welcome sign. He brought us out of the sun into a quiet spot to introduce us to the city and a bit of its history. Stjepan was born in Dubrovnik and his family still live within the walls.
After the introduction, we walked through the walls into the city. First the outer wall, before the original inner wall. This fortification system is what has kept Dubrovnik a wealthy, independent city when the rest of what is now Croatia was conquered by the barbarians. It was again a protection after the 1991 breakup of Yugoslavia when it was attacked by the Yugoslav People’s Army.
Coming through the gate, we found ourselves before the Assumption Cathedral (where Stjepan was baptized, and where his ‘Mama’ currently works) He took us into the cathedral, and, away from the big tour groups, he showed us the relics of the church on display and described the more valuable ones held in archives. The loin cloth from Jesus’ crucifixion is here, within the cathedral.
Stjepan timed our tour well. We walked the Stradun, the main street of the Old City, before it became thick with tourists. Then we headed outside the walls to the water where Stjepan pointed out film locations from Game of Thrones. As tour-bus after tour-bus rolled up to the city, Stjepan loaded us into his van and drove us away.
It was a gorgeous day for this panoramic drive and we were thrilled to be in a comfortable, air-conditioned, vehicle. As he drove, Stjepan talked about the history of Croatia, the dictator Tito, and the conflict of the 90s. Once again we were reminded of how little we knew about other countries’ histories. We had read about Tito but hadn’t understood how the citizens of his country saw him – a smart man, balancing Yugoslavia between the demands of the USSR and the western world.
Eventually we came to the gorgeous town of Cavtat. This town is a favorite vacation for the yachting crowd as was evidenced by the spectacular boats lining the harbor. We strolled along the promenade, enjoying the sea breezes, and watched kids playing water polo.
At the end of the harbor sits the chapel of Our Lady of the Snows. Tradition holds that when the town of Cavtat was attacked, the Virgin Mary sent a rare snow storm to repel the attackers and save the city. The church contains an important piece of art, the polyptych of Saint Michael by Vicko Dobricevic (d. 1510)
Stjepan gave us some time to explore the town and the 15th century church of St Nicolas while he went for the van. Just enough time for an ice cream.
As we’d had an informative tour of Dubrovnik and a refreshing interlude in Cavtat, Stjepan decided to up the game with a crazy cliff side ride to the top of the mountain. The road was narrow and steep, with signs warning of wild boar. All well and good, until big busses and trucks came in the other direction. I had to close my eyes when Stjepan pulled to the infinitesimal side of the road.
But there was a reason for the drive. At the top of the mountain we drew off the road (more space here fortunately!) and walked to the side where we had the most incredible view of Dubrovnik, its harbor and the sea beyond.
Back to Dubrovnik, we bid goodbye to Stjepan and explored the city on our own. At this point it was staggeringly hot, but we’re not ones to back down from our plans, so we walked the walls of the city and had a drink on a terrace beyond the walls. To this day, we marvel that we were allowed into the restaurant as hot and sweaty as we were.
Feeling better for the break, we strolled once more down the Stradun in search of Game of Thrones souvenirs (hint: buy them on Amazon. Same things at better prices…) before catching the tender back to the ship. The Wind Surf’s water sports platform was open so we enjoyed a quick jump into the very welcome blue waters of the Adriatic.
All in all a perfect day in Dubrovnik.
Where have you traveled that you’d like to return to? We’re always looking for new adventures!
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