Dubrovnik, Croatia: wall to wall history-and people
Dubrovnik graces the covers of Croatian guidebooks, travel magazines, and thousands of postcards. We were hoping to see the blue skies, white marble, and oceanside restaurants the postcards promised. We got all of those things—plus tens of thousands of other people.
In addition to the tourists and day-trippers, there were two cruise shipsdocked in port on our first day there. The crowds were impressive, even in the off-season. We obviously weren’t the only people who heard it was a beautiful city. After some people-watching at a sidewalk café, we bought tickets to walk along the wall of the city.
Dubrovnik offers unique sights, and the wall is the best way to see them. The wall was built in stages as a defense strategy. Some parts of the wall were built as early as the Middle Ages, and the whole city was enclosed by the 13th Century. The wall emphasizes Dubrovnik’s interesting mix of old and new: upscale bars tucked behind medieval walls, smoothie stands by ancient towers, and clotheslines bearing the latest fashions in old courtyards. You can even get a sense of recent history: the newer terracotta tiles indicate which buildings were renovated after the 1991-1992 shelling by the Jugoslav People’s Army.
When the cruise ships departed, the city seemed to take a sigh of relief. (Or maybe that was just me.) I pretended to get lost in narrow, steep streets that were almost empty after nightfall.
It was indeed a gorgeous city. Despite that, I didn’t love Dubrovnik. It was too crowded, too pricey, and tried to offer something for every tourist. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t exactly a Dalmatian experience. In becoming an international destination, the city has seems to have lost some of its local flavor. I’m spoiled by our Balkan travels, I know. We’re able to visit smaller places by car, we’re forced to speak the local language, and we’re used to a more local atmosphere—both good and bad—on our travels. I’m glad we were able to see Dubrovnik, but next time, I think I’ll visit a smaller island with grilled sardines, travarica, and a bartender who refuses to make an apple martini.