Sometimes I think that John and I are the only people left on the planet who have not watched a single episode of the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik, of course, is now known for being the filming location for quite a bit of the series and there’s nowhere in town that we could go without seeing references to Game of Thrones tours, merchandise, you name it.
The game we were playing, though, was tourist dodging. There are so many people in Dubrovnik, especially during the day when the many cruise ships dock in the city, disembark, and clog the cobblestone streets of the Old Town with people. The crowds that Dubrovnik draws are the happy type of tourist, not stressed, just enjoying the experience of this lovely little medieval town. In this way, it feels a little like Venice: a small city center with no cars and lots of people milling around, taking selfies, pictures of each other, pictures of the many cats that wander the town, winding their way around the city wall like so many ants – you get the idea. It’s also an attractive venue for weddings, as well as the growing practice of pre-wedding photo shoots, something very popular with Asians at the moment. The actual wedding parties, not the photo shoots, are the most fun to watch. The entire group, complete with bride and groom, attendants, and guests hobble through town in dress shoes and clothes en route to the harbor to catch a boat to nearby Lokrum island for the perfect sunset ceremony, or just on their way to one of the many churches in town. One wedding party we saw was followed by a group of singers, serenading their way through the streets, a little like something we call a second line in Louisiana.
The City Wall
The top attraction in Dubrovnik is the 2-kilometer city walk that snakes its way around the edges of town. At nearly $30 per person admission, it feels more like being taken for a ride on the town’s cash cow than anything else. Yes, there are magnificent views, but $30 per person? Seems a bit much. The average number of visitors per day on the walls is 7,000, generating an average of over $200K a day and making this a huge moneymaker for the city.
Rear Window, Dubrovnik style
Our Dubrovnik Airbnb apartment is on the harbor located about ten feet above the city wall with windows looking out on the harbor and the wall. We both found the view out the window entertaining, but John was enjoying it so much that he reminded me of the Jimmy Stewart character in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In the movie, of course, Stewart witnesses a murder while watching the neighborhood through the rear window of the apartment. No murders here in Dubrovnik, just plenty of selfies and impromptu photo shoot sessions with lots of coy poses and primping.
Rising above it all on the Dubrovnik Cable Car
As if the city needed to generate more income than the wall already provides, there is also a cable car, charging around $22 round trip, to take visitors to Mount Srđ (pronounced Mount Surge) high above the city. There is a fortress on the mountain, constructed in the early 19th century by Napoleon during his short reign over Dubrovnik. During the Croatian homeland war, Dubrovnik was bombed and the cable car was destroyed, but it has since been rebuilt, reopening in 2010. The views at the top are beautiful, so, of course, we joined throngs of others to ride to the top to catch the sunset over the Adriatic. You can forget about getting a table at the terrace restaurant at this time of day, so we joined many others in scrambling around on the rocks to catch a glimpse of the sun setting into the sea.
As you might expect, the restaurants in Dubrovnik are, for the most part, expensive places with nothing special to offer in the way of food. We heard about a Konoba Dubrava in the hamlet of Bosanka and had to go there. In addition to being away from the hubbub of the Old Town, Konoba Dubrava is known for a traditional preparation of food in the area called “under the bell.” This is a little like the Girl Scout cooking we used to do, putting hot coals both underneath and on the lid of a Dutch oven to cook. The specialty dish at Konoba Dubrava is octopus and potatoes cooked under the bell, with additional choices of lamb, beef, or pork.
We caught a number 17 bus near the main gate of the Old Town for the 30-minute ride to Bosanka and enjoyed spectacular views, rivaling those from Mount Srđ, as we got to the restaurant near sunset. Konoba Dubrava was open-air and lovely. We both went with the octopus and the food was plentiful and delicious. We washed it down with Plavac Mali, a local Croatian wine of small, blue grapes grown in volcanic soil. My only regret is that, since we needed to catch our return bus home after our meal, we missed the folk singers who came later in the evening to entertain. Ah, well – next time.