One word for Croatia – WOW. This country is stunning. We had heard about it’s beauty but on arriving into Dubrovnik our eyes couldn’t believe the stunning blue colour of the Adriatic sea. We chose to stay at the Villa Dubrovnik, the perfect spot for us to take in a bit of luxury. Upon driving down a very narrow road along a cliff we arrive to an opening with a metal, wooden and glass box structure hanging precariously on the edge of the mountain. This was to be our transport, an elevator taking us down along the side of the cliff into the hotel.
Every room in this hotel has an amazing view of the ocean and Old town of Dubrovnik. A 15 minute walk and you are in town or alternatively you can catch the hotel’s own Venetian vaporetto and be dropped off at the marina right in the heart of the Dubrovnik.
As we arrived quite late the kids were itching for a dip in the ocean after a hot day. We quickly checked in and headed down to the bowels of the hotel where the rock cliff has been turned into a private beach. We spent our first night swimming, cooling off in the Adriatic while watching the sunset over the Old Town.
Old Dubrovnik town is a walled city. Governed by many a country over the centuries, it has seen it’s fare share of war. Ruled by the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, and Serbia.Dubrovnik was a rival to the trading routes of the Venetians which made it a very wealthy town but a town constantly under siege.
In 1806 it surrendered to Napoleon as that was the only way to end a month-long siege by the Russian-Montenegrin fleets who bombarded the city with 3,000 cannonballs. At first Napoleon only demanded free passage promising not to occupy Dubrovnik, but not long after French forces blockaded the harbours, forcing the government to give in and let French troops enter the city. On this day, all flags and coats of arms above the city walls were painted black as a sign of mourning.
Fast forward to 1991 and the people of Dubrovnik people were to thank Napoleon for this time of occupation. On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was attacked by JNA with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack was on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. Total casualties in the conflict according to Croatian Red Cross were 114 killed civilians.
Our local tour guide from Dubrovnik Shore Tours http://www.dubrovnikshoretours.net shared a few of his own personal stories. Only 9 years old when the war started in 1991 he believed that if it wasn’t for Napoleon’s fort at the top of the mountain overlooking Dubrovnik the whole town would not exist today. The Serbian army tried to flatten the town with army tanks coming in from the top of the mountain but couldn’t get past the Napoleonic fort built for protection all those years ago. Dubrovnik is surrounded by mountains on one side and the Adriatic Sea all around.
A personal story of his was the day he first tried lobster. When the city of Dubrovnik was attacked the Serbians cut off all power. Being a tourist town all the restaurants were unable to keep all their seafood and supplies so they were handing out all their lobster, oysters, and other perishables to all the locals. As a 9 year old boy he remembers devouring lobster for a few consecutive days until all supplies had been depleted. It was a positive memory during a time of great hardship for many locals for a few years to come.
The sights of Dubrovnik are many, from the city walls, the Franciscan monastery to meandering along the narrow streets of the old town. During the day it is buzzing with tourists but linger after all the cruise ships have gone and the experience is enhanced.
We enjoyed one of our most memorable meals here at Gils Little Bistro ( gils.hr ) Situated down an atmospheric little side street run by a Frenchman and his Australian/Croatian wife. The food is a bit pricey but well worth it for the quality compared the many tourist trap restaurants to be found here.
We spent a few glorious days and nights here and were only able to take in a small slice of the region. We didn’t even manage to visit any of the amazing islands we had heard about. Looks like Croatia will be on the list for the future. Our next stop Split!