The further adventures of Stan -14
On Friday, we caught the bus, which was very crowded with locals as well as tourists, no doubt from many people going into Dubrovnik for work. It only took about half an hour, so we were early for our meeting with Sven, at the Plas Gate outside the wall and near the old city. His hotel, he
said, was very near, and if we wanted to bring other clothing to change for dinner, he would be happy for us to keep that in his room at the Pucic Palace Hotel, so we had brought a change of shoes and
smarter tops. Secretly I think he really wanted an excuse for us to see the luxury he had chosen – a very deluxe 5 star hotel, with only 17 luxury rooms, each of them almost an apartment in its own
When he arrived, he took us to his hotel, and it certainly was remarkable. It had magnificent olive wood parquet floors and stone walls. His room was huge and well equiped in every way with priceless (probably) pictures on the walls and ornaments on the table tops. Sven told us the building was a former nobleman's home. The walls
were painted a honey-colour and it had been restored with wooden-beamed ceilings, wrought-iron balustrades and lustrous green marble. Corridors were lined with glass cases displaying antiquities, walls are hung with valuable artworks on loan from city museums.
We didn't spend long there, as we wanted to make a start on our walk on the wall. After paying the entry fee (100 Kuna each - the equivalent of £10) we walked up the 10 steps or so, and took our first look out over the city. There were towers on each of the corners, and various other places, and you could see that the wall went up and down as it circled the old city. Sven told us the walls measure 2 km around but the thickness varies from 6 metres on the landward side and only one and a half to three on the seaward side – showing, I suppose, that they felt the greater threat was from the land. The height also varies, but Sven said that in some places it went up as much as 25 metres.
Apparently the wall that we were walking on was already built in the 12th century but there were probably wooden palisades protecting the city before that. But most of the construction was done in the 14th and 15th centuries and they were extended and strengthened up until the 17th century.
As we walked along, the first tower we saw is called Minceta Tower, which looks just like a chess piece – a castle, I thought, but maybe a pawn in some sets. Sven told us that this was the setting for some of the action in the Games of Thrones shows. I hadn't seen them, but Stan had, and was very impressed by this.
Below this, we were directed towards another tower, which is now a museum, and in the original excavations they found a 16th century cannon foundry there.
At the foot of the western and northern walls there were a moats and to reinforce the defenses there were turrets and towers. As we looked down at the town, we saw a mixture of terra cotta red-roofs. Some looked brand-new and others, centuries-old. Sven explained that the shelling in the 1991 war left gaping holes in many roofs. During the shelling, the walls suffered some direct hits but protected the city exactly as they were meant to.
From there, the walls sloped gently downwards, and we had a very good view of the site of the very first Slavic settlement. Another piece of walking and we came to Ploce Gate – a place we could get off and explore in the old town if we chose. This was where the main defense was against the Turks,
Revelin fortress. It was from here that Sven decided we should get off the wall, and take the cable car up the mountain to get an even better view.
After leaving Ploce Gate, we turned left and followed the road till we got to a parking lot where we were lost, so Sven asked a passerby. We were told, “Walk to the North until you reach the stairs (close to the Pizzeria). This stairs leads you to the Cable car lower station.”
We had a choice to make. We could buy a one way ticket (60 kuna) or a return (105 kuna). I decided that walking down a mountain might be fun for some, but my feet were already hurting, and I made the decision for us, much to Stan's annoyance. “Aw,” he said, “that would have been so special.”
“I suppose you can do it on your own, and we can meet you somewhere later,” I suggested, but he decided to stick with us.
We got the most beautiful view of Dubrovnik and surrounding islands on the way up to Mount Srdu. The trip only took three minutes, and we were told we had climbed 405 metres above sea level. “On a clear day, you can see up to 60 km (37 miles),” our guide said. “For this reason the neighbouring Imperial Fortress was strategically built on this privileged spot, back in the early 19th century. “
“The cable car was not quite built when I was last here, “ said Sven, “but was ready in 1969, and then was completely destroyed during the Croatian War which went on between 1991-95. It took till 2010 for it to be restored “
To make the most of our time on the top of the mountain, we decided to visit the Imperial Fortress which houses the Museum of the Croatian War of Independence. I won't detail what we saw, except that it was very moving, and as I remembered the nightly television footage about the war, it all made so much more sense now that we were seeing where it had all happened.
After our quick descent, we resumed our tour of the wall. Our view from the next piece of wall
was over the old port. Sven pointed out a breakwater composed of 180 tree trunks joined together with chains. This also was an added protection against attack from the sea.
After spending some time exploring in the port area, we got back on the wall and
continued our route. The next fortress is call Sv Ivan's and is the main protection on the southeastern side. It had a maritime museum as part of its attractions, but we didn't stop to go in.
From the Sv Ivan fortress we continued walking along the southern walls which stretch for 800 metres in a gentle curve along steep cliffs to the southwest corner bastion. Then the walk becomes steeper and steeper, and I needed to stop occasionally to catch my breath. I think Sven needed it too, but he was happy for me to take the responsibility of making the decision to walk more slowly.
At the top there was a place to rest and get a drink, which we took full advantage of – buying a few
postcards at the local shop.
Then the walk started to descend to Fort Boker which was used as a prison. From the walls of Bokar, you get the best view of the outer western fortress of Lovrijenac looming on a rock 45 metres high.
Sven, quoting from the guide book said, “Attesting to the importance of Fort Lovrijenac, its commander was the highest paid official of the Ragusan Republic. Interestingly, the walls of the fortress that were four to twelve metres thick in most places, were only 60 centimeters thick from the side visible to the old town. The "weakness" was deliberate and was intended to discourage any commander who might be inclined to take control of the Old Town by force.”
Continuing a short distance from Fort Bokar takes you back to the place we started, so we went back down to street level, and did some sightseeing on our short way back to Sven's hotel.
He had booked our restaurant for an early meal, as we didn't want to be too late getting the bus back to our apartment.
His choice was a place called Kamnice – which apparently means oysters. That didn't thrill me, as I am not always happy with seafood, but I was sure there would be something that would suit me. It was set in a square only a short distance from Sven's hotel, and as the late afternoon sun was still warm, we chose to eat outside which wasn't too noisy, but we could indulge in people watching while we ate.
Stan wasn't hard to please. For the first course, he chose a plateful of calamari and a cold beer. I chose a creamy shrimp Tagliatelle and Sven had garlicky mussels fried with parsley and bread crumbs and we shared a bottle of the house white wine. Even the bread basket was lovely.
For his main course, Sven chose the oysters – as he felt that if they were good enough to name the
restaurant after, there were good enough for him. Stan chose a deer roast, (I wonder why they didn't called it venison) and I had salmon.
During the meal I had to tell Sven about my one and only trip to Texas. “I went to visit my cousin,
Georgia, who lived in Houston. She had been married to a very rich man – and thus enjoyed a fine life. She wanted to take me to the best restaurant in the city, and it specialised in sea food."
“Do you remember its name?” he asked
“No, but I remember there were Amercan flags all over the inside, and it was very patriotic, so maybe that was reflected in its name.”
“Was it Eddie V's?”
“No that sounds too common. It impressed me as being posh sounding.”
“Was it the Blue Bijou?”
“Yes, I'll bet it was, or something very like that.”
“And you had what to eat?”
“They made me try oysters, and I knew that the thing I was eating was still alive, so I didn't want to eat it in the worst way. But I somehow got it into my mouth and swallowed it. Why they should think it was so special I have no idea. I didn't even taste anything.”
“Did you feel it wiggling inside your stomach?” asked Stan.
“No, but I expected to. I guess I was lucky on this occasion to have an over abundance of hydrochloric acid that did it in before it could make its presence known.”
“And you've never tried them cooked either?”
“My parents always had oyster stew on Christmas eve, so I knew what they smelled like, and I really didn't find them at all tempting. My sister would have tuna salad sandwiches instead.”
“You don't know what you are missing.”
“They are supposed to be aphrodisiacs,” put in Stan.
“Did you find the climate of Texas very boring – without the seasonal changes of Sweden?”
“We had snow once. Although I must admit, it was only the once that I remember. I think maybe two or three inches fell, but there was no such thing as a snow plow or any provision for clearing roads, so the surfaces quickly became very slick and icy. But I decided to brave it and go to work. My university was about 20 miles from where we lived, and normally the trip wouldn't take much over half an hour, but on this day, with skidding all over the road, it took almost two hours to get there. I remember getting to the top of a hill, and completely losing control of the car as I slid down, and was very lucky indeed that it didn't end in a crash.”
“Was there lots of traffic on the road?”
“Hardly any – which again was because most people were sensible and stayed at home. When I got to work, there were only two of us there, and guess where the other guy was from.”
After coffee we said our goodbyes until Monday when Sven would come to spend the day with us.