Dubrovnik Days and Nights
When picking last year’s holiday, I wrote off Croatia, thinking it would be too dull for a whole week, and booked Rhodes instead. After hearing at least 100 positive reviews from friends, I decided to take a step away from a classic, booze fuelled location like Faliraki, Playas De Las Americas and Magaluf, and have a real summer adventure.
Of the 1000 miles of Croatian mainland coastline, Dan and I selected Dubrovnik. We are intense Game of Thrones fans, and like thousands of others, we wanted to see where the critically acclaimed TV show is filmed.
Walking through the Pile Gate into the old city is breath-taking. At the end of the main street is an arch and tower and the paved streets are like giant, square pearls: smooth, shiny and particularly slippery from hundreds of years of wear. Bells announce the arrival of each hour, and on Sundays, their chimes seem endless. Buildings maintain their ancient facades – shutters show obvious signs of wear and tear and the walls are marked with grime in places, but by the afternoon, they provide much needed shade and protection from the glare of a July sun. At the other end of the city, the Old Port acts as a cobalt display case for the multitude of local boats. Every once in a while, a pirate ship appears. It’s easy to see why it was chosen as the setting for King’s Landing. There is undoubtedly a regal atmosphere here.
At night, the Old City is even more magnificent. People flock to the lantern lit streets to eat local fish and drink Ozujsko, the most popular Croatian beer. The once blinding stones now glow in a delicate orange light; navigating tiny cobbled streets to find a good place to drink is reminiscent of renaissance and pirates. Although it is 2017, I felt like we could be in 1617. From our Saturday night explorations, we settled on Buzz Bar, which boasts live music events (where I also discovered that you can smoke indoors in Croatia), and Katie O’Connor’s Irish Pub, which is probably the coolest pub I have ever been to, hidden in a stone basement. In the main square, you’ll be paying extortionate prices, but you will get to listen to the infinite number of sounds played by live jazz musicians.
It’s at night that you get some relief from the sheer hordes of tourists who stop in the middle of the road to take photos, or barge you out the way for a better viewpoint. According to local taxi drivers’ echoes of Croatian news, 600,000 more people have visited Dubrovnik than expected by August. UNESCO, concerned by the increasing numbers of tourists that visit the world heritage site of Dubrovnik, are considering implementing caps on tourist numbers. And although it is essential for the city’s economics, the locals are becoming increasingly frustrated by the constant crowds.
Walking the city walls made me realise that Dubrovnik’s Old City isn’t a city built to exist as a fictional setting, a simulation of a city, or a Game of Thrones Disneyland. It’s a fully functional living space for Croats, sporting tennis courts, basketball courts, banks, places of worship and homes. Walking the city walls allows you to see the most spectacular sights of the island of Lokrum and the famous red, ceramic roofs, but it also allows you to see what you miss in the streets, washing left to dry on the line, half-finished books resting on garden tables and real people’s real lives.
It’s a bitter sweet situation for tourists and locals. If we as tourists imagine the Old City as an endangered animal, or a wonder of the natural world, and treat it with respect, we might improve the balance of consumption and preservation in such a striking city.
For more information on the impact of tourism on Croatia, read this: http://www.total-croatia-news.com/editorial/20425-record-numbers-infrastructure-and-quality-2017-a-defining-year-for-croatian-tourism
Categories: Euro Tripper