We stayed overnight in port in Dubrovnik, so were able to go back into town for a proper visit this morning. While we slept two enormous cruise ships pulled up near us at the dock, so I was hoping we would be able to stay ahead of the crowd! Our red group headed out at 8am, so our chances were pretty good! The bus took us to the Pile Gate, which seems to be the standard starting point. The road was crowded with cars, buses and taxis, tour groups, hopeful guides, hawkers and tourists.
We headed into the old city with our guide. On the wall just inside the gate is a striking map showing the extent of the destruction during the 1991 siege – very few houses were spared! That war is still very fresh in everyone’s memory, but we detected a determination to put it behind them and a great optimism for the future. The city was destroyed by earthquake in 1667 and like the rest of the Dalmatia has come under many different rulers over the centuries. The main industry now is tourism, but I am worried that the masses of tourists might achieve what the Ottomans and Venetians and Serbians couldn’t manage. By the time we left at midday it was so crowded you could hardly move, and I couldn’t get away fast enough. Most of the shops are now souvenir shops, and it seems to me that the tourists are killing the thing that they love – the old world charm of this delightful town disappearing under the weight of its own popularity.
Despite that we had an enjoyable morning in Dubrovnik. We walked the length of the Stradun, visited a Dominican Monastery (nice cloisters) and a couple of churches. After a little while I decided to break away from the tour group and wander off on my own. I walked around the old harbour, and found a little street market selling everything from lavender products to fruit and veg to dried figs to local liqueurs. I watched a lace-maker at work, creating very fine beautiful pieces, her fingers moving so fast it seemed impossible to achieve such perfect results. There’s a lovely old fountain which still provides fresh drinking water, and in the past enabled the town to survive sieges for a long time.
We departed Dubrovnik before lunch, and spent the afternoon cruising around the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro. A very pretty area with steep-sided mountains, little coastal villages and beaches. We cruised around a little church built on a pile of rocks. Apparently the locals have been collecting rocks there for centuries and still have an annual festival where they add to the pile. We stayed up on the deck enjoying the scenery, and then cooled off with a dip in the pool. They are having a bit of a heat wave over here, with temperatures in the mid-30s most days. The pool is small and has no shallow end, which is unusual. It is very salty, so I just float for a while, cool off, and then I’m happy.
I forgot to tell you about our evening entertainment last night. We had a group of Croatian Klapa singers come on board to perform. They were a group of 8 men, some played various stringed instruments (double bass, guitar, and a couple of balalaikas (or something similar)). Klapa is traditional Croatian singing, and I loved it. Beautiful harmonies, and despite the instruments most of the singing was a cappella. When I get some decent internet I will post a video. I am not usually a big fan of “world music” but this really appealed to me.