Scenes from Dubrovnik, Croatia

“If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik.”

George Bernard Shaw

Dubrovnik. The Croatian city’s name conjures images of forbidding city walls, fire-red rooftops, buildings crafted out of white stone, and a graceful city perched above the vast Adriatic.

For the past days, we’ve zigzagged through Dubrovnik, hunting out the city’s maskerons, picnicking on backstreets with laundry lines overhead, riding the city’s cable car to Mount Srdj, and strolling the city’s famous walls. We’ve also enjoyed learning more about Dubrovnik’s history.

When it was a powerful city-state that rivaled Venice, Dubrovnik was called Ragusa. Thanks to the maritime trade that thrived in Ragusa for nearly 500 years, the city grew into a formidable power, studded with magnificent cathedrals and palaces that were protected by imposing walls that still wrap around the city for about 2 km. (1.2 miles). Ragusa suffered some decline following a destructive earthquake in 1667.

To get to Dubrovnik, we embarked on a seaside journey that took us from Trogir, to a lunchtime stop part-way to meet friends in Makarska, and then southeast.

We had to pass through a snippet of land belonging to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has a fascinating history. During a 1699 treaty, Ragusa gave the Ottoman Empire this finger of land, which now gives neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina sea access. This move was beneficial for both the Ottomans and Ragusa: the Ottomans gained access to the sea and Ragusa gained a buffer zone from the Venetian Republic, which kept swallowing up territory north of Ragusa. Today, however, Croatia is now effectively cut into two parts, necessitating passage through an international border crossing for motorists traveling to and from the southern part of the country.

Historians debate when Dubrovnik was officially founded – some believe it was in the seventh or eighth centuries, whereas others think it was even earlier. After the fall of the Ragusa city-state, Dubrovnik came under Napoleonic occupation. It was later annexed by the Habsburgs during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then Croatia and the Republic of Yugoslavia. In late 1991, Dubrovnik was attacked by components of the Yugoslavian Army. This siege lasted for approximately seven months. Artillery attacks damaged about half of the old town. Today, most of the city has been restored to perfection, though artillery and bullet damage are still visible on some buildings’ facades. Croatia gained its independence in 1991.

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The city’s western walls. We heard that the Game of Thrones’ preview was filmed in this part of Dubrovnik.
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Dubrovnik’s main street, Stradun.
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Picnic time.
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Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and a co-founder of Eloquence. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta, as well as Heidelberg, Germany. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Though they are currently nomadic, they look forward to establishing a European home someday. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

54 thoughts on “Scenes from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    1. We would love that; hvala for the offer. :) (We might be back sooner than you think!)

      On a side note, I must confess that you inspired me to try and balance atop the maskeron near the fountain before we left Dubrovnik. I did so in tights, making it even more of a challenge since they are slippery. Finally, Shawn gave me a boost and held me there as the photo was snapped. I’ll have to share the images in a post. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

      1. Remember you were supposed to remove your shirt while standing on the Maskeron. Most ladies do not, however during high season it is amusing to notice that a few beers can make some more adventurous.

    1. It really is, Gracie – a perfect blend of remarkable architecture and nature. In the summer months, pedestrian traffic can get a bit overwhelming, so we lucked out being here during a less busy season.

  1. Marvelous. I am sendind this post to my son for their next Summer vacation. It certainly beats the Caribbeans. Grazie. Vera

    1. Vera, I haven’t yet been to the Caribbean, but my husband raves about his family’s trip there. I must confess that I’ve really fallen for Croatia though, and we haven’t even yet made it to the islands. So in short, I think your recommendation to your son is a good one. :)

      We are now in Kotor, Montenegro, which like parts of Dalmatia, was once part of the Republic of Venice. We saw the winged lion at the old town’s entrance today. Such a fascinating history.

  2. He wasn’t wrong, Shaw, was he? So many great shots here, Tricia. Love that simple boat, the lady looking out of the window, the student sprawling… so many more!

      1. This trip down memory lane could last and last Trish! I’ve been around a while. I don’t recollect much commerciality but it was a busy place, even in September. (and hot!)

    1. Thanks, Bashar. That street scene was snapped from the walls that wrap around the city. They run for about 2 km. and offer views like this at almost every turn. Of course, I’ll be posting on that soon. :)

    1. Jenna, I wasn’t sure how it’d be returning to Dubrovnik (I was last there in 2007) after spending time in some sleepier Croatian cities. It does, of course, have massive groups of tourists, but for a reason. Its architecture is remarkable and the walls are particularly fun to walk. (I suspect your little guys would enjoy all the lookout posts and other nooks and crannies too.)

  3. As always, very, very nicely done, Tricia! And, now I know where you are (Kotor, Montenegro). Keep in touch. Love, Dad

    1. Terri, what a kind comment; thank you. Photography is one of my great interests/passions, so that means a lot. Actually, we’re in Montenegro now, in a city called Kotor. It’s encircled by fortifications from the 9th-19th centuries. We’ve been doing hiking, fresh market shopping (the strawberries are almost the size of the palm of a hand) and homemade cheese eating. More to come on all those experiences! :)

  4. This wonderful variety of photos presents a good picture of life in Dubrovnik. After seeing these, anyone would want to visit! My favorite is the bell tower with the people walking and the red roofs.

    1. Marilyn, thank you! That picture was taken from the walls that wrap around Dubrovnik. The street is called Stradun, and is lined with souvenir and ice cream shops. During the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991, they protected several of the monuments around there to protect them from the shelling.

  5. Love your writing and photos! My mom visited Croatia two years ago to meet her distant cousins and came back with wonderful stories and photos. I also love that you say you’re “equal parts nomadic and nesting”–exactly how I would describe myself! Looking forward to reading more:)

    1. Glad to be following you along on your journeys too! In what part of Croatia are your mother’s cousins? We found the people to be very friendly, with warm hospitality. (You’ll really see that coming through in my post about the wild asparagus hunting weekend.)

      I see you’ve lived in 3 very beautiful B-cities. :) And next Bali? Which city? We spent three weeks in Ubud and Jimbaran in late 2011 and loved it. How long do you think you’ll be there?

    1. Dear Sharon, glad to hear it! The whole region is quite special. We spent several weeks in Croatia, this past in Montenegro, and we’re now headed to Albania. Croatia touts itself as the ‘Mediterranean as it once was’ and there certainly are many small towns in this region with that Mediterranean loveliness just waiting to be explored. The people have extended us warm hospitality, the food is great (love all the peppers and feta) and as you mentioned, the scenery and architecture are gorgeous.

      We’re now in a seaside spot called Ulcinj, in Montenegro. Our ‘backyard’ is a view of the Adriatic as far as your eye can see. Because it’s the high season, there aren’t many tourists here either. Really a perfect time to visit.

      Has spring sprung in your part of Europe?

      1. Wow Tricia,
        Your personal stamp of approval and more than that – your personal observations and thoughts of a place opened up a whole new territory of our world that I had not considered visiting. But that has now certainly changed.
        You know what I find especially precious about your travels? It’s not just about seeing a place – but about opening up your heart to its spirit, it’s people and it’s richness. It is about opening up the mind to embrace a world bigger than the one which exists in our minds.
        I so much thank you for that. I really do.
        Thank you for showing me a whole new world. With much love and thinking of you, Sharon

      2. Sharon, I’m humbled by your eloquent words. Thank you.

        Each time we immerse ourselves in a new place – its stunning natural or manmade wonders – we mention how lucky we are to be doing this. I know that short-term travel sometimes necessitates a rush through a city to make it to all its main sites and attractions, but to risk sounding cliché, it’s all about the people, exploring a place slowly, or at least the little details that make it tick.

        Just the other day, we started talking to a team of laborers/archaeologists in Kotor, Montenegro. They invited us to take a peek of the site they were working on – a 1,000 year-old church’s shell. We were as curious to learn about the church’s history as we were about their backgrounds. They’d come from all corners of the former Yugoslavia, and they were excellent citizen diplomats. We were so lucky to have them as ‘neighbors’ for a few days.

        This region has a complex history, and we’re hungry to better understand it. I hope you and your family will visit someday, and when you do, I’ll be happy to share the places/experiences that were special to us. Have a lovely day, Sharon!

    1. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, but our visit has had the reverse impact on me… Now I’d like to see what was filmed in Dubrovnik. :)

      I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Dubrovnik twice, and was as wowed by the city’s beauty the second time around as I was in 2007.

    1. What a lovely place to celebrate your marriage, Frizztext! Have you thought about returning to celebrate an anniversary or two?

      I saw some images recently of a bridal couple riding in the Dubrovnik cable car after their wedding ceremony. Made for gorgeous pictures with a splendid backdrop. Did you ride the cable car in 1970?

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