10/10/2014 - 10/12/2014
By the time we reached Korcula, we had already seen an amazing number of beautiful and unique cities from the Umbrian hills to the Veneto to Slovenia to Dalmatia. Nevertheless, Korcula was unlike anything we had seen before. The old town resembled a giant trilobite fossil projecting into the bay, with a long central street bisecting the city and several evenly spaced transverse streets running from the center to the perimeter on either side. I've borrowed an aerial photo from the web that captures how truly amazing this city looks.
By the time we found our way to the town from the ferry port, it was already almost 10PM. We parked in a small dirt lot above the old city and I set forth down a stone staircase to find our Airbnb. I went up and down the stairs a few times but between the lack of street names and house numbers I wasn't getting anywhere. Fortunately on my third pass down the stairs I encountered an elderly couple who turned out to be our hosts. As usual, the Airbnb accommodation turned out to be roomy and comfortable and our Croatian hosts were friendly and helpful despite the lateness of our arrival. We weren't inside the trilobite so to speak but on the hill directly behind the town. However, it was only a short trip down the stairs to arrive at the town gate. The location of our Airbnb can be seen by clicking the link below, since only one map is permitted per blog post.
Due to the lateness of our arrival, we only had time to explore around the town gate and get some ice cream for Cleo at the one shop that was still open. The next morning, however, we had time to explore every street of the old town. There were wide promenades around much of the peninsula that gave great views of Peljesac and the small islands in the bay.
Our next stop was the town gate and the small square immediately behind it. The white paving stones were somewhat reminiscent of Zadar but Korcula had much more character even though most of the pedestrians seemed to be part of tour groups.
We explored a few of the narrow sidestreets before heading to the perimeter to enjoy smoother strolling and water views.
The old town didn't have continuous walls but it was well-defended with forts and cannon. Cleo took aim at a city across the bay, but fortunately for them the cannon wasn't loaded.
We found a restaurant whose menu we liked and sat outside until they opened, upon which we devoured generous portions of fresh seafood. Ian seems to have inherited his mother's fondness for squid ink risotto. Dessert was sour oranges from a tree in the old town.
On the way back to the car we took in one last view of the tiled roofs of Korcula against the mountainous backdrop of the island.
From Korcula there was only one last place to go on the Dalmatian Coast - Dubrovnik, the undisputed champion of the Mediterranean walled cities. After the short ferry hop back to Orebic, we drove straight down the Peljesac peninsula and connected with the coastal highway to Dubrovnik. We didn't stop along the way because we'd only given ourselves one day in Dubrovnik and it didn't seem to be enough given the reputation of the city. Our main trouble when we reached Dubrovnik wasn't so much finding our Airbnb but parking. The streets were jammed and even the parking lots seemed to all be full. We managed to find an illegal spot that wasn't obstructing traffic too badly and located our host, who was able to guide me to a parking area about a mile away and give me a lift back to the apartment. Our location was very good, just outside the northern city wall, and we got settled and headed for the old town as quickly as we could. A map of Dubrovnik showing our Airbnb can be seen by clicking the link below.
We had seen other walled cities, but the walls of Dubrovnik are by far the most formidable. They are so tall, thick, and solid-appearing that the only word that can properly describe their appearance is impregnable.
We entered the pedestrian zone of the old town through the northern Buza Gate and were immediately grateful we had chosen the carriers instead of the gondola. The only way forward was a steep and seemingly endless stone staircase that descended into the heart of the old town. Halfway down we encountered a transverse street that seemed to be entirely lined with busy, touristy cafes and restaurants.
At the bottom of the staircase was the wide main street of old Dubrovnik, the Stradun. The Stradun is always filled with people on their way from one part of the old town to another, and is also a showcase for some of Dubrovnik's most famous landmarks.
We saw there was a lot of activity at the western end of the Stradun close to the Pile Gate and walked in that direction. We soon realized we were in the midst of a wedding celebration.
After the wedding party passed we walked out the Pile Gate, the most famous and ornate entrance to the old town.
We returned through the Pile Gate to the eastern end of the Stradun and made a right turn at the Palaca Sponza. This took us to the Dubrovnik Cathedral.
We ate at Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota in the shadow of the cathedral. Unfortunately, the quality of the food paled in comparison to seafood we had elsewhere on the coast. We then climbed a wide staircase to a courtyard in front of another ancient church close to the southern city wall. From a balcony we could see the busy square below and the lights of the restaurants on the northern side of town.
Around this time we realized that we were running out of diapers and hadn't taken any from the car when we parked. We embarked on a mad search for an open supermarket at 9 PM on a Saturday night which predictably ended in me taking a one mile uphill walk to the car for diapers. Fortunately we got a good night's sleep after a very exhausting day.
We began the next day with a cable car trip up the mountain behind the town. Once we got to the observation deck we realized there wasn't anything at the top except for the view and a crappy looking cafe. The top of the mountain was as barren as a desert, a stark contrast to the thriving city below.
We went back down and re-entered the old town to find a place to have lunch. The city looked very different by the light of day.
Cleo got some exercise running up and down the stone staircases.
After giving away a substantial sum for the cable car, we didn't feel much inclination to double down for the cost of walking the ramparts. Instead we wandered through the maze of streets and squares at the southern end of town until we found the entrance to Buza, a multilevel cafe that spills down the cliff at the edge of the sea. From the cafe we could look out across the deep blue water to forested Lokrum Island. Canoes and replicas of 16th century galleons plied the waters just offshore. Buza is a unique spot in Dubrovnik that is definitely worth searching for.
Our next stop was the harbor with its pretty backdrop of white houses with orange roofs creeping up the hillside to the tree line. Near the harbor, Cleo got to enjoy another street band. She was having so much dancing I eventually had to cart her off screaming.
We clambered up old Dubrovnik's steep staircases one last time to the Buza Gate and returned to our apartment to collect our laundry from the clothesline and pack our bags. We were surprised to find another family in the apartment patiently awaiting our return. Even though we had informed our Airbnb hosts that we would be departing late, they hadn't mentioned to us that other guests would be arriving. We apologized and recommended that they skip the cable car and walk the ramparts instead. Then I made the long walk to retrieve the car and we were on our way to Montenegro, the last country of our journey.