What makes a walk on these walls so wondrous?

Like every other place, Dubrovnik needs to be felt, not just seen…

Like all travellers compulsively well-informed about the destination they are headed to, my list of essential experiences was ready before we booked our tickets to Croatia. Apart from Plitvice National Parks, the high point would be walking the walls of Dubrovnik…touted as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’.

I had pinned dozens of pictures, seen a few video clips. Got a general impression. Imagined it in my head. Thought I knew what was in store. But in fact, I was miles away from reality. Classic case of expectations not matching reality…in reverse! Pearl of the Adriatic? Oh, yes, undoubtedly, a giant pearl embedded on the blessed shores where those azure blue waters glisten like sapphires in the Mediterranean sun. And the wall walk? It certainly takes a huge chunk of credit for that name.

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Save the climax for after you have soaked up the inimitable atmosphere of the medieval town with its glossy stone streets, fascinating monuments and dazzling harbour. To walk the wall, you need to take the first flight of nearly 100 steps from Pile Gate. From up there, stop for stunning first views of the entire Stradun below, the broad limestone-paved promenade, heartbeat of the traffic-free Old Town, a shopping street by day and party place after dark. Then on, the spectacle never eases.

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In about two hours, you will trace the contours of the entire fortified Old Town, navigating roughly 6,360 feet and 1080 steps in all. No plain old walk through a regular fortified wall…this. At every few hundred meters, dramatic transitions unfold, till you stop trying to predict the scenes you will encounter next. Sometimes, the wall rises to even 80 feet high, sometimes it drops into a low balustrade. Sometimes it shrinks into a narrow corridor enough for one person to pass, sometimes it expands wide enough go fit even a bus!

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Endless electric blue till the horizon. Put away those sunglasses now. Drop that jaw. And just stare. Don’t care about how long you stare. Drink in the sight and trap it in your mind forever. Stop at the wide patio with a canyon and turret and peep out from the little lookouts into the sea below. Is that a pirate ship in the distance, smoke bellowing from its ancient engines, sails blowing its massive wooden structure into the direction of the angry winds? Fantasy is fun…indulge!

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The Church of St.Blaise and the statues of the patron saint peek from every corner…there are hundreds of statues in Dubrovnik. Count as many as possible, take as many pictures as you can. And then pick the winner. Here’s my favorite, a solemn silhouette against the silver sea.

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You will walk past little balconies, windows, rooms, backyards and roofs of the living quarters of locals. In the private sanctuary of their red roofs, they are strangely immune to the magnetic beauty of their immediate neighbourhood. The vision that millions travel from across the world to see, is just a blink away for them…just another boring day at home. And here you are…hoping to etch every memory indelibly in your heart. Children play in the backyards, neighbors chat from across balconies, pots clank in the kitchens, a kettle whistles away. Charms of the everyday exotic.

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A guide walked past with her group, her soft carefully modulated voice explaining first in English, then Spanish and German. Finish your photo session leisurely and wait for the crowd to pass. Take all the time in the world. You have to move forward, in one direction…unless you buy the tickets a second time. In the distance, a church bell tolls. Find it!

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You are puzzled by a clothes line that extends from a window of a house to nearly 100 feet away, where it was nailed to the opposite wall. How does one hang the clothes all along the clothes line? Soon, the mystery is unearthed…it’s just an ingenious pulley system…clothes can be pulled back so conveniently.

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Lean over the wall, see the little people below. The genius of the architect who visualized this construction and the grandeur, the scale of construction! The entire area is crammed with medieval houses, adorned with red Roman rooftops and complemented perfectly by the brilliant blue of the Adriatic sea on three sides. It is heart-wrenching…how this grand fortified structure has endured ravages of intruders, survived a massive earthquake, and risen from the destruction of bombardment during the civil war of 1991, when people hid in underground safe-houses without power and water supply for months. Everything has been rebuilt with so much love.

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The brick roofs are close now…reach out and touch them…they are squeaky clean…no dirt or dust on them…yet decades are etched in every crack. New houses clone the ancient ones, the same red roofed tiles, the same shapes and sizes, but look closely and you can spot the older constructions. Heritage lives on, even as many residents move to more modern neighbourhoods outside the walls…leaving a population of merely 1000 residents within.

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The old harbour bears testimony to Dubrovnik’s prestigious past…the wealth and prominence from maritime trade, and heights of commercial and naval glory, as the only city-state on the eastern side of the Adriatic to rival Venice. Beyond, Lokrum Island beckons… the lush green treasure is a mere fifteen minutes away by ferry, and a hot favourite with tourists seeking an idyllic afternoon soaking up the sun in quiet coves, and long walks among rich pines and other subtropical vegetation.

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Move on to higher heights, you can clearly see the maze of narrow lanes criss-crossing the Stradun…some of the lanes are less like lanes and more like hundreds of uphill steps…windows looking out into the lanes…old fashioned clotheslines… centuries old limestone floors with the stubborn grime adding a strange touch of glamour. The last stretch of the walk is undoubtedly the most impressive…see the whole city, each house, each monument on the Stradun and beyond, the dazzling blue sea surrounding the Stari Grad.

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And before reaching full circle, stop at the the tallest point, the Minceta tower in the North….its Gothic crown shape, a symbol of unconquerable power, today a living reminder of its undying magnetic attraction. If you are still hungry for more…take the cable car to Mount Srd, looming at 450 meters above sea level for a breathtaking panorama…home to a dense oak forest called Dubrava, which gave the town its name.

It’s one thing to compile a list of essentials and another to derive a soul-stirring experience out of it. Dubrovnik’s wall walk lifted me to another level, in more ways than one…because I looked with ‘my’ eyes! Did you?

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103 thoughts on “What makes a walk on these walls so wondrous?

  1. You write with such detail. I love how you described the roof tiles and that you could reach out and touch them! This looks like a beautiful experience and that I’d love if I ever make it to Dubrovnik

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dubrovnik through your eyes and **lens** is incredible! Croatia in general is visited a lot by my friends and people living in Slovakia, Czech Republic, yet we often forget to appreciate how beautiful this country actually is. I have never been to Dubrovnik yet, but now I feel like traveling there as soon as I could 🙂 Great post, Punita!

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  3. Dubrovnik is a place that is really blowing up as a tourist destination and, being as photogenic as it is, it isn’t difficult to see why Game of Thrones has filmed so much there. I must say though, as I have mentioned before, I really enjoy your style of writing which is the perfect accompaniment for those photos. Really stunning stuff and such a beautiful part of the world

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  4. I tried to answer at the title with “Game of thrones!” but, even if it’s not mentioned in your article, I do clearly see what you mean. Probably I’m a little biased since I live in Italy and I literally adore all this kind of European cities, full of history and traditions. Plus if you put some sea in it, that’s the top I can aspire to!

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  5. Wow! What a beautiful place! I have never heard of Dubrovnik’s wall so I am so happy I read your post. Your pictures and description did a lovely job making me feel like I was a part of the experience. Like you said thought, it meant to be felt not just seen so now you have inspired me to add this wonderful walk on my bucket list!

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  6. I love the detail and the visual tour you offer in your writing. What an amazing city and incredible views. Your pictures are simply gorgeous. Agree, no matter how many pictures we see, or videos we watch, there is nothing like seeing such spectacular beauty with you own eyes!

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  7. You can only walk in one direction? How strange–I hope you got all the photos you needed from each vantage point before moving on. It might be worth a second ticket–did you (can you) go at night?

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  8. Honestly, I had never really considered Dubrovnik in the past, I just assumed it was full of NZ + Aussie tourists, but looking at these photos and reading this post really makes me want to explore this city + the incredible history. The architecture looks so fascinating & almost magical. Did you feel like you were in another era?

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  9. Love your description of your walk around the walls, and great photos, too! Dubrovnik has been high on my list of places to visit for quite some time. It looks so gorgeous there! It’s always great when a spot is better than you could have imagined!

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  10. Thank you for sharing these travel info about Dubrovnik. Through you, I could feel its deeper story, and while staring at the horizon, somehow it gives me that feeling that therr’s always hope on everything (sorry being emotional lately, lol).

    Overall I enjoyed your travel adventures!

    -blairvillanueva

    Like

  11. The way you write makes me feel as if I were there, thank you so much for this feeling of holiday 🙂 And your pictures are so beautiful, the sea and sky both so blue! Really looks like a fantastic destination!

    Like

  12. You described your journey on the walls of Dubrovnik so well. I actually remembered my walk there and seen again all the corners and the views and the laundry… I really liked Dubrovnik early morning, when the sun was rising and covering the marbles with its warm light. It all changed unfortunately when the cruisers came in and the town couldn’t breath anymore because of the amounts of people.

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  13. I had no idea what to expect for reaching Dubrovnik (it wasn’t a city I knew much about) but that made exploring it for the first time all the more amazing! Gorgeous views from the city walls.

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  14. i was very curious about Dubrovnik after watching SRK movie Fan. It was like a glimpse only in the movie but here you have described the place very well and it is making me more eager to visit the place. i wish i can make it asap.

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  15. Dubrovnik looks absolutely splendid and while reading your post, I felt like I’m actually on a virtual tour with you. Have saved this one more beautiful destination on my wishlist!

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  16. My one and only trip to Dubrovnik was very rushed as I tried to squeeze in too much into a single day-trip. It looks like you went about it the right way though by taking your time to slowly wander in order to fully experience its beauty.

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  17. Croatia has been on my bucket list for so long, your pictures and descriptions are making my fingers itch towards booking tickets myself! Love the architecture of the wall, can imagine the lovely view while walking across it. thanks for sharing 🙂

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  18. Now that is a unique thing to do and a different way to see the place. I sure would love to do that…walk along the walls and drink in all those sights that you are describing. Hope that some day and soon I get to Dubrovnik. Seems like a fabulous place to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Everytime I see those enticing pictures red tiled roofs sweeping the skyline of Croatia I regret for not making it to the wonderful country during our Europe visit. Reading through your post I felt I was actually there staring at the perpetual seas and immersed in reverie 🙂

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  20. Imaginatively narrative! I Can completely relate with this post! I always take a walk by the walls, on every travel I take. Recently, I walked on the walls of Galle fort, both on the sea side and on the land side 🙂

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  21. “It’s one thing to compile a list of essentials and another to derive a soul-stirring experience out of it.” So well-articulated! Me myself has a certain affinity with walking especially in places I haven’t trodden before. It seems like walking make the whole experience more intimate and memorable. Thank you for this!

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  22. Amazing views. I havn’t been there but I feel that I have seen it before. (Then I saw some other comments… yes have seen them in Game of Thrones too!).

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  23. Superbly written, really immersive writing!

    I’ve always been skeptical of going to Dubrovnik, as I imagined throngs of people there, however I guess it might be much better outside of the main tourist season of August and July?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Aw man, Dubrovnik is so high on my bucket list. I wanted to go here for a really long time, and those walls are part of the reason! Such a gorgeous way to see the city and the sea. Also maybe I want to go there because of Game of Thrones too <__<

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A perfect walk through Dubrovnik. You have touched the essence of the place in your words and pictures. I’d love to go here and just stare at that ocean looking for Pirate ships like you did. Fantasy! No wonder Game of Thrones is all about fantasy. Did you get to mingle with the locals here? Do they speak English? Would love to know.

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  26. You’ve made the best description ever! I loved reading every single word about your experience, and I must say, you have the gift of writing. I’ve always wanted to visit Dubrovnik, and I was about to do it this year, but unfortunately, my travel plans suffered a big change! However, I’m hoping for a trip to Croatia for next year. Fingers crossed! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Love your writing and the emotion you put in every word. I felt like you take me by the hand, walking with you on the wall and that you showed me where to look. Great post, with amazing photos. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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