On a refreshing morning we entered the port of Cavtat, the first official port of entry at eastern Croatia. We raised the Croatian courtesy flag and the yellow quarantine flag, and were waved to set aside at the Q town dock for yachts checking in. The check in process was efficiently done. The fees, even though we knew it would be high, were still a shock – about 360 Euros for a cruising permit and taxes. Afterwards, we intended to stay at Cavtat and check out the town, as it seems to be a nice historical city. But we were told that it would cost 35 Euros just for docking for a few hours. We left in a hurry.
Yes, Croatia is expensive, as we had been told. It seems the high price is not hurting the market demand; the area is packed with tourists even though this is not high season yet. We checked into the ACI Dubrovnik Marina, which charges 90 Euro/day for docking for the size of 3 Rivers. It is expensive, but we liked the convenience of a short bus hop into town for sightseeing.
From a distance, the old town of Dubrovnik is striking. Protected by an impressive fortress wall, and gradually rises up on a hill, the town is dotted by houses with uniform red tile roofs. The same uniformity continues in the city outside the castle walls; although on closer inspection some newer houses, especially those built in the communist era, are of lesser quality. The redeeming feature of the city, we find, is the trees: everywhere there are graceful, old growth trees, pines and cypress, their large, weathered trunks holding tall and straight, soaring above human dwellings and reaching into the sky. Somehow these trees manage to survive the eons of human development, and wars.
War as recent as two decades ago, resulting from the breakdown of Yugoslavia caused massive toll in lives and property damage, and even today the scars of war seem still much in the physic of Croatians. To get an understanding of the Croatian’s perspective of the war, we joined a tour in the old city that focused on the siege of Dubrovnik. The tour guide, who was sixteen when the war started, spoke of the age-old cycles of peaceful coexistence and conflict between ethnicities and religions. The old town was shelled during the siege, and pock marks are still everywhere, on century-old walls and stone pavements. At the centre of the town square stands Orlando’s Column, a carved armored knight who according to legend is the savior of Dubrovnik. If history repeats itself, as it often does, Orlando’s vigilance will be much needed indeed.
To appreciate what this medieval city has to offer, we walked the city walls, which’s 25 meters high and completely surrounding the old town. The walls are encrusted with towers and bastions, some parts date back to the tenth century, but most of the original construction was undertaken in the 12th and 13th centuries, with rebuildings and reinforcements carried out in the mid-fifteenth century when fear of Ottoman expansion was at its height. From the top, a sea of terracotta tiles is the predominant view, with domes and towers of the Franciscan Monastery, the St. Saviour’s Church, the Rupe Museum, the Jesuit Church, the stately Cathedral, the Rector’s Palace, the St. Blaise’s Church, the Dominican Monastery and the bell tower within. At the old port, yachts are not allowed to dock there. It’s busy with fishing boats. taxi-boats and tripping boats taking riders to Lokrum and Cavtat. And to relax, there’s no better place than to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of icy beer at the pavement cafés at the Luza Square.
Dubrovnik is rich with cultural activities and we attended a violin/piano and classical guitar concert at the St. Saviour Church. Afterward, the four of us slowly strolled along the limestone streets, enjoyed our last evening at this vibrant, magnificent city.