Walking Around Dubrovnik’s Old Town, Croatia
Almost all tourists enter Dubrovnik through the Pile Gate. This is where tour buses and public buses circle the busy street outside disgorging what appears to be gazillions of people who will stand outside listening to an introductory lecture by guides before entering.
Saint Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik whose image appears over the Pile Gate. A physician and bishop of Armenia, he was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs, and beheaded. His feast is celebrated yearly in February when relics of the saint (his head, bone from his throat, and hands) are paraded in reliquaries. Chroniclers attribute his veneration in Dubrovnik to a vision in 971 to warn inhabitants of an impending attack by the Venetians. There is also a Baroque Church of Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik but I don’t remember it all.
Dubrovnik Walks offers three separate daily walks from May to October. Choose from: Discover the Old Town; Dubrovnik Walls & Wars; and The Best of Dubrovnik.
The Romanesque Cloister of the Franciscan Monastery is decorated with remnants of old frescoes and surrounds a garden with lemon trees. However, the monastery is most famous for not only having one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe but the oldest one that still dispenses medication! To see original items from the pharmacy, you pay an admission fee to enter the museum that also contains artwork, manuscripts, etc.
Head up one of the steep streets leading off the Stradun to find restaurant row (runs parallel to the Stradun). You’ll see one restaurant after another (how they do any business is beyond me), and I must say the restauranteurs were very nice about letting tourists use their toilets (unlike other countries we’ve visited).
The absolute highlight for physically able visitors to Dubrovnik is taking a walk on the walls surrounding the old town. The City Walls stretch for 2 kilometers/1.2 miles with many ups and downs. There are three entrances to the City Walls: on Stradun by the Pile gate; by fort Saint John’s; and at the Custom’s House gate. Throughout Dubrovnik’s history, the City Walls functioned as protection from enemies.
A last meander before heading back to Cavtat. The City Belltower has figures of two men poised to strike with hammers. Made of copper, they are affectionately known as Zelenci (green ones) and strike the gigantic bell every hour. These are copies. The originals are in the atrium of the Sponza Palace. We must have just missed seeing them in action and were too tired to stick around another hour.
Pooped, map and directions to the public bus stop from the Information Office in sweaty hands, we climbed a steep flight of stairs and exited outside the city walls. More stops to ask directions from strangers until we found the bus stop in front of the cable car. (The Dubrovnik Cable Car will speed you to an upper station with, supposedly, spectacular views of Dubrovnik.)
After a long wait in the hot sun, we jammed ourselves into the very crowded #10 bus (standing room only) that terminated in Cavtat. Sheer luck led me to press the “stop” button exactly in front of the little street leading to Hotel Castelleto. The Explore “Balkans” tour would begin in two days and we’d re-enter Dubrovnik on a guided tour; hopefully, with interesting explanations of the many sights we bypassed today.