Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Pearl of Adriatic- Croatia

The city of Dubrovnik
Some of the best bounties of travel are to travel to a dream destination which you had not imagined would turn to reality. The Christmas and New Year time brought in the gift from Santa in the form of travel to the exotic destinations of which I had only heard and read about. I will share some of these travel stories in a series of blog posts.
The Harbour

Just two days before the Christmas of 2019, we took off from Amsterdam to Zagreb the capital of Croatia. Croatian Airlines turned out to be extremely good as the time was very convenient and even on short flights they treated us with the delicacies of Olives and Cheese of the Adriatic region. The views from the window of sun-kissed beaches, rivulets and often snow-capped mountains were like a recreation from the fairy tales. Zagreb to Dubrovnik was another short flight with equally photogenic views all around. We took a bus from the airport to the town almost 30 km away.
A Distant view with shimmering lights of Dubrovnik

The steep climb on hills and the climb down the hills brought the miles of blue Adriatic Sea into a spellbinding view. The distant glitter of neon lights dazzled the city of Dubrovnik.
Orange trees en route
. En route, the orange and lemon groves laden with fruit turned the place into a paradise. Lord Byron had termed Croatia as a Pearl of the Adriatic'. A few centuries later the famous  Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw said' Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik'.
Our Airbnb accommodation overlooked the sea and down the flight of 50 steps was the Banje beach. I could not have asked for more. The great walls around the Old City shimmered in the Christmas light and we could sense the air of revelry in the air.
Illuminated Clock Tower
The next few days were spent in exploring the city, soaking in the spirit of Christmas, taking long walks fro the Ploce to Pile gate( the two extremities of the Old Town also called as Grad Dubrovnik), The locals and the tourists were attired in the best outfits and it appeared that there was a 24-hour fashion parade in the town. The restaurants and pubs buzzed with activity and seldom could one spot an empty table.
Views from the Fort Walls

The Old City is ensconced in a remarkable City Wall. Established in the 13th century, the walls were continuously perfected over several hundred years. Their thickness varies from 13 to 20 feet and is almost 80 feet high in some places. They survived the great earthquake in 1667. The whole fortification complex consists of 2km long main wall and more than 20 forts, bastions and towers.
The Minceta
The Minceta Tower is the highest point on the walls and offers the most unforgettable views. The Old cannons can still be seen here,.In the medieval past, these walls served to protect the city from aggression and shot into the fame of a very popular TV series called the Game of Thrones. Tripadvisor has listed the walls among the 10 things to visit in a lifetime.
St Lawrence Fortress
The majestic views of the distant hill dotted with houses, huge expanse of the blue sea take the breath away. Besides these fortifications, there are more such walls and fortresses that surround Dubrovnik. Of these the Walls of Ston, Falcon and Imperial Fortresses are prominent.

The interesting fable around the Wall of Ston that I had the good fortune to see is that the 5.5 km long wall was built to protect the precious salt pans that were a source of immense wealth for Dubrovnik. It was completed in the 15th century and has 40 towers besides 5 fortresses. To date, it is the second-longest wall after the Hadrian Wall that separates England from Scotland
The Cathedral
Every stone in the Old Town is waiting to tell its tale as you go past marvelling its beauty. Among the many places, one can explore is the Rector.s Palace( The Cultural History Museum) with over 10000 relics and artefacts,
The war-scarred structures within the Old Town
The scars of the last war of 1992 when Yougoslavia split into many states, can be seen in the form of bullet marks on the walls and the blown off rooftops of some old buildings. Much of the city has been restored to its glorious past.

The best part of the trip was to mingle with the crowds at the Chrismas Market at Stradun( The Main Street), where literally hundreds of small vendors were lined up selling local food, drinks, balloons and the festive spirit was multiplied several-fold with beautifully illuminated buildings. The chimes of bells from the Cathedral could be heard in any part of the town. The music event on a huge stage in the midst of the Old Town was melodious and colourful. On the New Year day, a treat of sparkling wine, oysters and lime and bread awaited everyone. Where else could you be treated so royally except at Dubrovnik?

PS-  1. More Stories from the region will feature on this blog in ensuing weeks
        2. All pictures are mine

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