Sunday, 1 November 2015

Dubrovnik: You Know Nothing, Dave Bro

Dubrovnik, Croatia (Dubrovnik, Hrvatska)
On the drive down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik we saw an area that had been ravaged by forest fires. We had seen countless road signs showing a tree being set alight by a match, but hadn't actually seen the effects up close. 
Here, the trunks were blackened and the leaves turned to ash on the wind. After this, we noticed many patches of charcoaled foliage on the hillsides during our drives. The most interesting trees weren't the ones that were entirely consumed by fire, but the ones that were blackened at the bottom but still clung to green leaves at the top! Though it was summer, these trees made you think it was autumn because the leaves underneath the vibrant alive ones had turned yellow and red. 
We dropped in to a wine shop for a nice mid-afternoon tipple and ended up buying a nice rosé and an affordable white table wine which came to us in a plastic bottle after being filled up from a giant metal drum on tap!
That night we matched the rosé with an antipasti of Dalmatian smoked ham with our special Lumbarda olive oil, cheese, and bread dipped in more seasoned olive oil. The apartment we had selected was very close to the bus route and after dinner it wasn't very late so we took a bus into Dubrovnik to see it all lit up at night. 
The city was bustling, but not overly crowded. The high walls and turrets everywhere made Dubrovnik feel like a proper fortress, and in a way it was what I had in mind when I pictured Diocletian's Palace in Split before we visited. Our first glimpse of the medieval walled old town was the illuminated Minčeta Tower. 
Everything was covered in white stone that glistened under the lightbulbs, and narrow staired paths led up from the main street to the towering walls. We stopped for a spell to listen to a talented Louis Armstrong impersonator and his band, but walked quickly by a busker who had aquired a lifesized cardboard cut-out of Brad and Angelina (we couldn't work out why he had it). 
At one point we heard a load of fireworks being set off and were at an elevated spot where we could see the very tops of the colourful starbursts just over the tops of the tall buildings surrounding us. We had no idea why there was a firework display, as it wasn't a holiday as far as we knew. Quickly tiring of the show, we looked down from our lofty vantage point to see the streets laid out below and the rest of the city twinkling up on the hill behind. 
The last performer we saw that night (apart from the Brangelina man again) was a struggling artist type who enjoyed smoking endless cigarettes and being praised by a groupie more than actually playing. When he did strike up a tune on his guitar, it wasn't exactly inspired serenading as much as limp strumming. 
The waterfront looked absolutely magical with bright reflections on the calm water. Several eateries must have charged a fortune for dining beside this view, but we just walked out into a pier and gazed for free. It did smell sulfurous, concordant with much of the Croatian coastline, so perhaps eating in the vicinity may not have been a good idea at all. 
The next morning we took a much busier bus into the city. I managed to find a seat, but Yannick said he felt like a sardine marinated in armpit sweat by the time we disembarked. Overhearing an Australian couple, they pretty much summed up what was on my mind: "Too many tourists for my liking. Dave said it wouldn't be busy. Prick."
Aside from being all round awesome, Dubrovnik attracts fans of the Game of Thrones series, as the city is used as the setting for King's Landing in the show. 
Now that the sun had risen, locals aired their laundry in the narrow streets up to the walls and kittens ran and played. 
We took in a war photography exhibition that displayed images from the breakup of Yugoslavia and in particular the siege of Dubrovnik. In 1991 Serb and Montenegrin forces began the onslaught as they thought that Dubrovnik should not be part of the recently independent Croatia, despite the fact that the vast majority of the population were Croats. 
The siege lasted seven months and the walls withstood 650 artillery shots. Repairs were not made until the end of the war, as although Dubrovnik was not under siege after May 1992, it was feared that the Serb army would return suddenly. The city was already a UNESCO world heritage site, and sadly over half of all its buildings were damaged. Even in war scenes there was some humour to be found, as those portrayed often wore embarrassingly 90's clothes and in the midst of seige conditions you could see 'souvenir' signs in the background as Dubrovnik was at the time already a well-established tourist destination.  
After a lunch of sir and pršut (cheese and ham) sandwiches, we visited Sponza Palace where portraits of the 114 casualties of the siege were displayed. Apparently foreign newspapers at the time were criticised for focusing on the damage to the city rather than the wounded and dead. 
The palace itself was incredibly grand. Built in the sixteenth century, it remained undamaged in the  devastating earthquake of 1667 which razed most public buildings to the ground and killed over five thousand citizens. It had several uses over the years (including the customs office) but now holds the city archives, and some replicas of important documents were on display for the public. There was also a super weird temporary photography exhibition involving a disturbed woman and her decapitation fetish. 
We wandered around a bit more, but the hordes of tour groups became overwhelming and we snapped some photos and left. It's obvious that people rub this monk statue's nose for luck. He doesn't look like he minds. 

Today's post was almost called: Brangelina is Watching You