Picture a coastline with mountains. That’s the Dalmation Coast and home to our first stop on the cruise – Dubrovnik.
When I toured it back in 1985, it was part of the now-defunct Yugoslavia. I was so taken with the area that I did a large college project on Yugoslavia in my International Business class. However, the Croatian War of Independence began in the early 1990’s and I feared that Dubrovnik as I knew it was gone forever. Nobody expected this UNESCO World Heritage Site to be shelled — but it was.
My husband took a walking tour of the city walls. They are so thick that for 20 Euros, you can walk all the way around the city on top of them. It took him about 90 minutes and he said it was worth every minute of it! Below are pictures he took on top of the city walls.
We booked a private tour and met our guide, Bojhadar at the Pile Gate. Immediately, we transcended to a different era. The pedestrian-only area reminded me of Venice with nooks, crannies and alleyways. The only difference was everything was white – kind of a marble material. The main street is called the Stradun. It is wide from it streets go uphill on both sides. Bo gave us a history of the country started way back to the time of the Ragusas. He walked us past a church where Game of Thrones had been filmed and then to the other side of the Old Town farthest from the Pile Gate at the waterfront. We could see St. John’s Fortress and the marina.
Bo mentioned that if you ask where locals eat, the answer is nowhere. There are no locals in Old Town anymore. People who lived here have now rented out the bottom floor for restaurants and the top floors for hotels or b&B’s. Tourism is their major industry. As we walked, I saw people rolling suitcases along the limestone streets. If I thought Venice was hard, this would be super hard to navigate a suitcase!
The other thing was that the streets were slick in places. Bo explained that because so many people walk on the streets every day, they get worn down and slick. Every once in a while, I saw a plaque that showed a picture of what the area looked like when shelled. I had to ask Bo about his story. After the tour concluded, he shared with us what happened to him in 1991.
Bo told us he was 10 years old when war broke out. One day, a military aircraft flew overhead. Since they didn’t have any military aircraft, it had to be from the enemy. The next day, school was closed and shortly thereafter the shelling began. They had no power or water. Many would go to the Onofrio fountain to get water. At home, Bo had a 10-month old brother. there were no diapers, no formula. The mom would leave bo at home with the baby brother while she went to get water. Sometimes, the shelling started when she was gone and he was afraid she wouldn’t come home. She did. They finally decided to flee and he said living as a refugee for six months was awful. “I can’t describe it, but it was the worst thing ever.” In fact, things were so bad, they returned to their home in Dubrovnik before the siege was completely over. Everyone from his family was okay, but his grandmother’s house in the country was raided and burned to the ground.
After the tour, we had a quick snack and headed back to our ship.