Korcula (pronounced Kor-choo-la) is a town on an island of the same name, just off mainland Croatia. It is the most charming old town on a narrow peninsula, a fairy-tale little medieval town dripping with character. We charged off with our red group first thing (meaning no sleeping in!) and had our guided walking tour through Korcula. As usual, the guides add a lot of local colour and history that you couldn’t easily get from a guide book. Our group was a bit smaller than usual, so promotion to the red team has been a success so far!
Korcula was initially settled by the ancient Greeks, and their street plan still exists, unlike most medieval villages which have no plan at all. The design is based on a fishbone, with one central main street the length of the peninsula, and tiny lanes branching off like ribs on either side. The ribs on the west side are straight, allowing the refreshing sea breezes to enter. The ribs on the east side are slightly curved, to keep out the cold winter storms. Clever! The whole old town is less than a kilometre circumference, so walking everywhere is very easy. The Aegean sea that surrounds the peninsula was at its aqua-blue sparkling best, the sky was cloudless and there was a delightful relaxed atmosphere about the town which I really enjoyed.
Our guide took us to some lovely old churches, and a couple of museums, and possibly the most famous sight – Marco Polo’s house. Marco Polo was born in Korcula (it is believed – Polo is still a common name in Korcula), but he certainly never lived in that house. It may or may not be built on property once possibly owned by the Polo family. The house is a tiny tower one small room wide and around 4 stories high. You can climb to the top for a reasonable view (which I did – half way up the very narrow staircase I remembered I am afraid of heights!), and there is a small Marco Polo display. There are plans to develop a Marco Polo museum on the site – the gift shop is there already!
After the official tour we had time to wander, which is always my favourite thing. Dad returned to the ship, which was parked right alongside the town, and my camera and I went for a stroll. I explored the little alleyways, the walls of the city (which are half as high as they used to be – the top half was ‘quarried’ for the stone) and climbed the tower over the main city gate for a much better view than the one from MP’s house. The water looked so crystal clear and so pretty I was tempted to go for a swim, until I found out it was full of jellyfish!
The afternoon was spent sailing to Dubrovnik. We hugged the coast quite closely, so there’s always scenery to watch as we pass by, and I relaxed on the deck. This is the life! There was a lecture after lunch on the meeting of East (i.e. Byzantium) and West (i.e. Renaissance) in art. Interesting, if a little dry, and frankly, straight after lunch is not the best time for a lecture if you want your audience to stay awake!
We arrived in Dubrovnik at around 5pm. There was a shuttle bus from the ship into the old down (the dock is a few kms away), so we thought we would go in and have a look around. On a bit of a whim we saw a sign for the cable car and asked the bus driver to let us off. We had read about the cable car, but thought it might be too hard to get to. After we got off the bus, it occurred to us that we would not know what the pick up point to return to the ship would be! Oops! We didn’t quite think that one through. The cable car was well worth the detour however. It took us straight up the side of the very steep mountain behind Dubrovnik, and afforded a spectacular view of the town and surrounds. The hill was so steep it was like an aerial view, and the old city looked like a perfectly formed model. If you look carefully at the photo, you can pick out a few slightly browner roofs amongst the red tiles – those are the ones that survived the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991 – all the nice red roofs are replacements for ones that were destroyed in that war.
From the cable car we walked across the old moat and entered one of the gates of the old walled city. The extensive walls date from the 15th century and are completely intact. An impressive sight. We walked down the very steep, narrow street (more like several flights of stairs than you would usually think of when you say ‘street’) and followed the town’s wide main street, the Stradun (in ancient times it was a canal) to the ‘Pile’ gate (pronounced pill-ay) , where we hoped we would find our shuttle bus. It was a lovely evening, the sun was starting to set, bathing the old buildings in a lovely golden glow, locals and tourists strolled along the Stradun, and many small cafes, restaurants and bars were looking very inviting. No wonder it is a popular destination! I can’t wait to come back one day with a lot more time.