Things Lost Lost Things

Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia

Dubrovnik’s Old Town Placa, or ‘Sradun’, in the evening

The old town of Dubrovnik is like being in a film set, and it was for Game of Thrones, but never having seen it meant that wasn’t why it felt that way. Maybe it’s just the sheer magnificence and elegance of the city from the drawbridge entrance at Pile Gate to the marbled main Placa with the numerous narrow passages and stairwells, all encircled by the famous medieval fortified walls. It’s the stuff of fairytales.

Inside the City

 Large Onofrio’s Fountain

The large Onofrio’s Fountain is the first thing you see as you enter from the main Pile Gate and it’s a great first impression. Designed in 1438 by the Italian architect Onofrio di Giordano della Cava each of the sixteen sides has a unique stone-carved masked face with the tap and running water projecting out of the mouth. The fountain was badly damaged in the 17th century earthquake, which destroyed much of the city but its incredible it has survived at all through the centuries of natural and man-made disasters, including the heavy shelling of the city in the 1990s Homeland War.

Stairs in the city
Fortified walls from inside the city, with a man taking in his washing

Dubrovnik old town is a delight to wander around, with lovely squares and elegant steps leading to churches small and large. The city, itself a work of art, contains an array of beautiful details in its buildings, its window frames and external paintings. Anyone who says they have ‘done’ the city in a few hours is a philistine. You could spend a decade looking.

Dubrovnik Cathedral
Dubrovnik Cathedral

Views from the Walls

View of the walls, wonderfully empty in low season (March)

The walls of Dubrovnik are probably the most expensive tourist experience I’ve paid for. Ever. It works out to be nearly £28 for the one-day Dubrovnik Card, which you may as well get as it’s almost the same price as the ticket for the walls alone, except you get to visit a bunch of museums for ‘free’ as well (although it’s debateable whether you’d want to visit some of them) plus a ticket for ‘free’ public transport. That said, the view of the city is breath-taking and you can take as long as you like wandering. If you don’t go on a Wednesday as I did (when many of the museums are closed) you can call into the Maritime Museum, included with the Dubrovnik card, positioned part-way along the walk of the walls. But even if you plan it badly the ticket lasts 24 hours so you can get to see the museums the following day.

View from the Pile Gate entrance
Afternoon view from the walls
Harbour View
Looking out to Fort Lovrijenac

Museums

Outside the Rector’s Palace

The Rector’s Palace was one of the few buildings to survive the devastating 1667 earthquake, which destroyed many of the medieval structures in the city leading to its reconstruction in the very elegant, Baroque style. The palace is home to the Cultural-Historical Museum, an eclectic mix of paintings, furniture and items, such as a number of sedan chairs, belonging to the Dubrovnik aristocracy, largely 18th century. Old prison cells and a room which served as a court house are also in the building

Rector’s Palace, site of the Cultural – Historical Museum
Sedan Chair from the 18th century in the Cultural-Historical Museum

The Museum of Modern Art is just outside the old city walls and was almost deserted when I visited. It is the previous home of a shipping owner, Božo Banac,so has a grand setting for the showcasing of Croatian artworks since the 19th century. My favourites were the photographs by Mladen Tudor with his keen eye and obvious sense of humour.

One of the exhibition rooms in the Museum of Modern Art gallery

I also visited the ethnographic museum, the maritime museum and the Franciscan Friars ‘old pharmacy’ museum among a couple of others. I really enjoyed the ethnographic museum, itself a great space, originally a grain storage built in 1590 but taking decades to complete. It has some fascinating early photos of the people of Dubrovnik as well as historic clothing, household items and past ways of life.

Ships prow, Maritime Museum
Goatskin sacks for carrying liquids, mounted on a donkey saddle
War and peace in the Franciscan Monastery, shells from the Homeland War

Views around Dubrovnik

Walking into the old town, coastal views
On the way to the Museum of Modern Art
Sunset view of the Islands near Dubrovnik