Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Searching for accommodation

Pictures of Dubrovnik in the internet are so alluring and choosing Dubrovnik as a vacation destination could not be easier. However, to choose the accommodation in this city could be confusing especially if you do not do your homework thoroughly.  Initially I was having such a headache as to which area I should choose and by looking at the map of Dubrovnik did not help me much. Then naturally I turned to my friends who have been to the city and asked them for advise. I was told that the old town of Dubrovnik is where all restaurants and all happenings are and I do not want to stay far from it. With this information in mind, I started looking for hotels in the old city.

 

Old Town Dubrovnik

As I searched over various websites for hotels, I found out that the 5 stars hotels were not only expensive ( over €350 per night) , they were all outside the old city. The Hilton hotel was the closest to the old city , 5 mins walk outside the pile gate. The other 5 stars hotels are all 15 mins to 20 mins car ride from the old city. Unwilling to pay €3,000 euro only for hotel accommodation, I started looking for B&B or apartment rentals. Apparently accommodations inside old town are all private apartments. I read comments on tripadvisor.com like I always do and found out that the old city of Dubrovnik is quite hilly. There are stairs everywhere and in order to avoid climbing like hundred steps to get to the apartment, I need to be cautious in selecting the location. ( Later I found out these are very true! )

steps steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, most of the apartments that were being reviewed on tripadvisor had no contact emails nor their own websites. So I have sent out a few emails asking for the information of these apartments from tripadvisor reviewers. As I was going to Dubrovnik in August which was during the high season, all the apartments that I inquired were all fully booked. ( this was one month before my vacation)

I found a few websites when I was googling Dubrovnik apartments such as housetrip.com, dubrovnik-online.com, dubrovnikapartments-online.com, ownersdirect.co.uk and airbnb.com (please DO NOT use this website and I will explain why) and have had sent out numerous emails asking for availability and price. The one bedroom or studio apartment all cost around €80 to €150 per night.

When I asked for the room availability through the airbnb, they were asking for my credit card details. Thinking that this was a standard procedure as in other well established sites like booking.com or hotels.com, I put down my card details. Little did I know, once the owner confirmed the availability, your reservation will be immediately confirmed and you will be charged. (This is ridiculous as I was only asking for availability). One of the owners confirmed my reservation even though the same room was not available for the week and I needed to move to three different rooms in a week. I immediately cancelled the reservation but this site sent me an email saying that 15% of the total rent would be charged as a service charge. I was furious as this was 1 month before my travel date and I did not see how the owner could confirm my reservation even when the same room was not available. I immediately contacted this website and the answer they gave me was ‘company policy’ and with a ‘tough luck , sucker’ attitude.  To make the long story short, I had to call up American Express and asked them to stop payment. Being an experienced traveler for so many years, this is the first time that I have encountered this kind of problem.

message with the owner in airbnb.com

In the end I booked a split level apartment right off the main street Stradun in Dubrovnik old city centre from ownersdirect.com.

 

History of Dubrovnik

As much as I do not have the interest to study the long history of Croatia, I do think it is important to know a brief background of the city of Dubrovnik to help me fully appreciate the city.

Dubrovnik’s history originates in the 7th century. It was named after a particular type of oak in the region. Its historic Italian name (which you may see or hear while in Dubrovnik) was Ragusa. Dubrovnik was briefly under Venetian rule and later it was officially under the regime of the king of Croatia and Hungary.
Dubrovnik flourished during Europe’s medieval period but was rocked by the famous earthquake in 1667 that killed thousands of its residents and leveled most of its buildings. This earthquake changed the shape of Dubrovnik forever, and the result of the city’s reconstruction can be seen today.

Napoleon successfully entered Dubrovnik in the 19th century, after which the city became a part of the Austrian Empire. The most recent tragedy to befall Dubrovnik was in 1991, when, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik’s buildings were damaged by bombshells.

With all reconstructions and reparations done , the old city regained its former beauty and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists all over the world.

 

view of the old city of Dubrovnik from the bus

 

Arriving Dubrovnik airport

Arriving at the airport of Dubrovnik, you can easily take the coach/ bus right outside the airport terminal into the city which cost 35 kunas / 5 euro.( in the year 2013, Croatia will be officially a EU country and euro will be used) The buses are very frequent and tickets could be purchased on board.  Since all of the old city is ‘pedestrian only’, all cars and taxis must stop outside the city main entrance, the Pile gate.

 

Pile Gate

St Blaise statue above Pile Gate drawbridge

walk after the drawbridge before the second gate

Pile Gate

The Pile gate was constructed in in 1537. The drawbridge fronting the Pile Gate was once lifted each evening, with the gate being locked and the key held by no one other than the prince.

As you walk through the gate, look out for the statue of St. Blaise – the city’s patron saint, and the inner gate, which is even older and was built in 1460.

 

 

Entering the old city – Stradun / Placa

Upon entering the city, first thing you will see is the big Onofrio’s fountain. It was built by Onofrio in 1438 with the original pipelines 12 km long from the water source. Unfortunately, the pipeline was ruined in the earthquake of 1667, even though one part of it just above the fountain is still visible within city walls.  The domed top fountain is decorated by 16 sculptured masks diving out of the mouth gushing into a drainage pool. Even today, thousands of tourists and locals, often drink from the cold water of Onofrio’s fountain in the summer heat.

Onofrio fountain

People using the big Onofrio founain

tap from sculpted mask of Onofrio fountain

The big Onofrio fountain is the start of Stradun, the famous main shopping street in the old town of Dubrovnik.

Stradun is also known as Placa is the main street of Dubrovnik which leads straight from Pile Gate to the old port. This 300 meter limestone and marble paved pedestrian street was built in the 13th century and was rebuilt after the devastating earthquake and fire in 1667.

 

Stradun

Stradun

These 17th-century houses lining the Stradun share the same pattern – the ground level always housed a shop with a street entrance featuring a door and a window in a single frame under a semicircular arch (during the day the door would be kept closed and goods would be handed to customers over the sill, thereby serving as a counter) and a storage room in the back with a separate alley entrance. The first floor was reserved for the living area and the second floor had various rooms, while the kitchen was located in the loft on the highest floor to prevent the spread of fire should it accidentally occurred.

Stradun shops front

From October 1991 to mid 1992, during the siege of Dubrovnik, the town was bombarded and there were damages in Stradun as well as in the old port area but all damages had been repaired since.

There are numerous narrow streets branching out the side of Stradun. These small streets are filled with restaurants, shops and private homes. Aside from names of streets, there are large cloth banners in the beginning of these side streets, listing names of restaurants, cafes, shops and landmarks that can be found in these streets which make it so much easier for tourists.

So by using the Stradun as the base, one can easily find the bearings.

The other end of Stradun leads straight to the old port and you can find the Luza square and the city bell tower before exiting to the old port area.

This 31 meters tall bell tower was originally built in 1444. It was badly damaged by the 1667 earthquake and tilting to one side. To prevent it from collapsing, it was rebuilt in 1929. On the top you can see the original 2 tons /4409 pounds bells with 2 green bronze bell strikers figures Maro and Baro. The original bell strikers were made of wood and was destroyed during the earthquake and later were replaced by 2 bronze ones which are displayed in the Sponza Palace. The 2 on top of the bell tower are reproductions.

Bell Tower

In the Luza square, once the bustling market place , is the favorite meeting place for locals and tourists. There you will find the Sponza Palace, the Bell Tower, St Blaise Church, Orlando Column and the Rector’s Palace.

The Luza square, once a bustling market place, is the favourite meeting place for locals and tourists. There on the left is the Sponza Palace which was once the customs house and mint, a State treasury, then th Bell Tower, St Blaize Church, Orlando Column and the Rector’s Palace.

In the middle of the square is the Orlando’s Column. It was erected in 1419 and was designed by the Milan sculptor Bonino and done by the local artisans.

According to legend, Orlando helped the people of Ragusa fight off a Saracen attack in the 9th century and people had erected the column in his honour. It is the most significant symbol of Dubrovnik’s independence and freedom. Government ordinances were promulgated and punishments executed in front of this column years ago.

The elbow length of Orlando’s right forearm was called the Dubovnik Elbow and was 51.2 cm long. It was used as the standard measure for Dubrovnik cloth trading. Orlando column collapsed due to strong wind in 1825 and was put in storage for over 50 years. It was set up again in 1878.

Today, a ceremony before Orlando and the raising of the “Libertas” flag on the column marks the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival every year.

Sponza Palace and the Bell Tower

The Sponza Palace on the left of the Luza square was constructed in 1516 and as mentioned earlier was basically intended for a custom-house, a place where the goods brought by merchants from all over the world would be conveyed and custom fees collected. One wing of the Sponza palace used to house the state mint in the time of the Dubrovnik republic. By the end of the 16th century Sponza became the central cultural centre.

Sponza Palace

Undamaged in The Great Earthquake of 1667 the Sponza palace now is an art gallery always exhibiting some interesting works from Dubrovnik present or past.

 

Rector’s Palace

On the right of the Luza square is the Rector Palace. The Rector’s palace was built in mid 15th century by the famous Neapolitan architect Onofrio di Giordano de la Cava who also constructed the Dubrovnik’s waterworks (water supply system) and the famous fountains, Big and Small Onofrio’s fountains. It was the administrative centre of the Dubrovnik Republic and was the home of Rector who was elected by the Great council to represent the Republic for a month. During those time he was not allowed to leave the palace at anytime except on government business.

Bronze sculpture of Rector

Over the years , Rector’s Palace suffered extensive damages from gunpowder explosion as well as earthquakes and reconstructions were done resulting in the addition of Renaissance and Baroque style to its original Gothic style.

Interior courtyard of Rector’s Palace

Today the Rector’s palace is the home to the history department to museum of Dubrovnik. The majority of the halls have original antique furnitures as well as paintings of old masters, coins minted by the Republic, the original keys of the city gates, and the antique safes. A number of important state documents are also on permanent exhibit in the palace.

Nearby is the ornate St Blaise’s church, at the end of Stradun, dedicated to Dubrovnik’s patron saint. Inside the lavish 18th-century church is a charming 15th-century statue of St Blaise who holds a scale model of Dubrovnik in his hand in the main altar.

 

It was constructed in 1715 by the Venetian master Marino Gropelli. It was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1667 and the whole church was destroyed in flames by a devastated fire in 1706. However the statue of St Blaise miraculously survived without any damage. The church was rebuilt in its present baroque stylebetween 1706 and 1714.

When you pass the Bell tower and end of the Stradun, you will arrive at the old port which is the eastern part of the old city. There are many companies operating various tours to different islands in the old port area. You can also get boat tickets to Mlini, Cavtat and to Lokrum island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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