Bosnia and Herzegovina – Počitelj, Medjugorje, Mostar

Stari Most Mostar Bosnia – Travel Is Beautiful

The day tour to Bosnia was interesting, and since my time in Dubrovnik is over soon, I decided to go rain or shine. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible putting a damper on photos and exploring. Our guide shared history and entertained us with folktales and side stories about his life in Bosnia and Croatia.

Pocitelj Bosnia – cherylhoward.com

I’m still confused about Balkan history and rivalry between Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. I think others find it confusing too. The expression “forgive but never forget” is used often in Croatia. Like Germany, the longer I stay in Croatia, the clearer it becomes there’s more to learn about the country…

Franjo Tudjman Bridge Dubrovnik – Croatia Week

There were two others in the group, a couple who had sailed to Dubrovnik. Their sailboat was undergoing maintenance. Sadly, they were the worst tour companions imaginable. Details are inappropriate for a blog but included mean and nasty fights followed by making up – insane, disturbing behavior. The uncomfortable scenes could have been from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf :o( and they didn’t seem concerned that two other people were captive to their bickering – what a pair! Luckily, we split several times for exploring.

Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque Mostar – karim74.wordpress.com

Mostar Old City – Vera Kailova

Twelve Croatia, Bosnia Border Crossings

On the way from Dubrovnik to Mostar and back we crossed a total of 12 borders. Thankfully the crossings were quick and painless and didn’t require stamping 12 separate passport pages!

Počitelj Old Town Wall – Hit Booker

The borders are a “legacy of the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart two decades ago”. You pass a six-mile stretch of Bosnia-Herzegovina near the resort town of Neum. Then the road circles back to Croatia through the Neretva Valley before you enter Bosnia again. In the past, the road was all in one country without borders.

Franciscan Monastery Mostar

Neum Agreement Croatia and Bosnia

Croatia and Bosnia signed the “Neum Agreement” in 1998 guaranteeing free passage from Croatia’s northern Port of Ploče through Bosnia-Herzegovina. Neum is close to Dubrovnik International Airport. Non-EU/EFTA citizens passing through Neum who plan to stay in Bosnia a while need Croatian exit and Bosnian entry stamps in their passports. Not obtaining them is “illegal and causes issues when exiting”.

Počitelj Bosnia and Herzegovina – commons.wikimedia.org

Dubrovnik’s Daksa Island and Arboretum Trsteno

We departed via Dubrovnik Bridge heading north along the coast passing Daksa Island. The island was the “site of a brutal massacre in 1944 by Yugoslav partisans“. The Yugoslavs arrested hundreds of Dubrovnik citizens from the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska – NDH). They accused some of being Nazi sympathizers and executed them without a trial. Today Daksa Island is abandoned. Locals claim the “ghosts of those executed” haunt the island. With minimal research, it seems the NDH era is its own chapter in Croatian history.

Metković – Stjepan Jozepovic

We passed Arboretum Trsteno in the small Croatian village of the same name. The beautiful gardens have an interesting story. Dubrovnik’s Gozze family started them in the 15th century by “asking the city’s sailing community to bring back seeds and plants from their travels around the globe”. The gardens include an aqueduct and 18th century fountain with a statue of Neptune and two nymphs. The arboretum is home to some of the oldest trees in Croatia.

Neptune Fountain Trsteno Gardens – The Dubrovnik Times

Croatian Villages – Zaton, Slano, Zavala, and Ston

Wild boars inhabit the low, bushy terrain around the Croatian villages of Zaton, Slano, Zavala, and Ston. Boar hunting is popular and locals consider the meat a delicacy. Slano and Ston are famous for their salt pans and valuable salt sea factories along the Duboka River. The Duboka is a tributary of Bosnia’s Vrbanja River running near Međugorje Mountain and Bojići Village.

Eurasian Wild Boar – IUCN Red List

Yugoslavia

Bosnia – Neum and Počitelj

As we turned northeast and headed inland through Bosnia, Neum was our first stop. We sat inside enjoying coffee and escaping another torrential downpour. On the way to Počitelj, we passed more villages along the blue-greenish Neretva River.

Adriatic Terrain Neretva Valley

Hutovo Blato Nature Park is in the Neretva Valley near Capljina. Capljina has interesting archaeology and “untouched wilderness”. It’s a “unique Mediterranean swamp and wintering place for birds in Europe”.

Hutovo Blato Nature Park Bosnia – Parks Dinarides

Our Lady of Peace Medjugorje

Neum

Neum is the only seaside resort in Bosnia but the population is primarily Croatian. Motor traffic between the northern Croatian town of Ploče and southern Dubrovnik passes through the “Neum Corridor”. At the border, there are two lines – “one for travelers into Bosnia and another for those in transit to other parts of Croatia. At this border sometimes they check passports, sometimes not. Ours weren’t checked.

Medujugorje Pilgrimage – Anna Nuzzo

Počitelj

Built on a hillside near the banks of the Neretva River, Počitelj (stone town) has the longest operating international art colony in southeast Europe. The remains of Počitelj’s medieval wall surround 15th century Turkish houses, mosques, and a tower and citadel. Architecture reflects a strong Ottoman influence.

Mostar Bridge

Počitelj “fell into neglect in 1878” when Bosnia-Herzegovina was taken over by Austro-Hungarian rule. In 1992 during the Bosnian War Počitelj was bombed and most of its population displaced. In 1996, World Monuments Watch added Počitelj to a list of the world’s 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites. In 2000, the government started reconstruction encouraging Počitelj refugees to return home.

Tito’s Palace Neretva River – cherylhoward.com

Croatian Metković and Bosnian Medjugorje

Continuing through Metković and Opuzen on the way to Medjugorje, we stopped to visit the celebrated Catholic church. It’s a major spiritual site and one of the “most famous pilgrimage destinations in the Catholic world”. Since the Our Lady of Peace Apparition occurred in 1981 it’s visited by pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. I sat for a while inside the church with two other people who were praying.

Abandoned Building Mostar

Relentless rain showed no sign of letting up and made exploring uncomfortable. It’s off-season, so except for a few tourist shops selling religious statues, most businesses were closed.

Mostar Street Art – TakeUsAywhere

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“In Medjugorje six trustworthy witnesses testified under oath that since the 24th of June 1981, the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Gospa has appeared to them every day up to the present.”

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Mostar Vista

Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina

We continued to Mostar, the focal point of the tour, and spent three hours walking around the city. A local guide led us through Old Town in the rain. Afterwards I found a restaurant – Hindin Han – on the riverside with views of the Neretva River and enjoyed a Bosnian lunch with interesting locals.The restaurant building is a refurbished historical home, with wooden balconies and white-wash walls.

Stari Most Mostar – cherylhoward.com

Mostar looks depressed and parts of the city are full of trash and rubble. During summer tourists bring needed income. Off season it almost seemed deserted.

Blagaj Tekke Blagaj Buna River – turizam.mostar

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Mostar holds a Street Art Festival in spring, when artists from all over the world come to create new murals and works of art.

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Mostar Old-Town – intheknowdventures.jpg

Through the centuries Mostar became the meeting point of various cultures and religions. The old city is divided by east and west. The east is mostly Muslim and the west Catholic. I detected some tension in the air even between our tour leader and the local Mostar guide who was clearly Muslim.

Abandoned Building Mostar

Minarets in mosques on the east side sang out the Islamic Call to Prayer – something I hadn’t heard since a trip to Istanbul in 2017. Church bells tolled in Catholic monasteries and cathedrals on the west side. Our Muslim guide told us that many Catholics converted to Islam after the Bosnian War.

Stari Most Mostar

Stari Most and Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque

Mostar’s symbol is its beautiful Stari Most, a 16th century Ottoman-style bridge that connects east and west. The bridge has rich history and it’s been bombed and damaged many times. Stari Most stood for 427 years until it was destroyed completely in 1993 during the Bosnian War and then rebuilt in 2004.

Mostar Street Art – TakeUsAywhere

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Bosnia and Herzegovina has three Presidents – Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian.

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House Mostar

Locals dive off the Old Bridge plunging 20 metres (65 ft.) into the river. The “practice of Bridge diving started in 1664” and became a tradition for the young men of Mostar. In 1968, the city held a formal diving competition, which continues today.

Restoran Hindin Han Mostar – Moj Restoran

Old Bridge is breathtaking and the color of the Neretva River is such a vivid bluish-green it’s almost surreal. Slowly the city is becoming a popular destination with its varied architecture, art, forests, mountains, holy sites, waterfalls, bridges, and street art. I would love to do some hiking and explore the area further during better weather.

Mostar Street Art – cherylhoward.com

Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque is another Mostar icon. You can climb the stairs following a narrow tower to the minaret where panoramic views are amazing!

Sniper Tower Mostar – Picgra

Like Istanbul, Mostar has small cafés serving Turkish tea and coffee. I had a piece of baklava – the best I’ve ever tasted!

Pocitelj Bosnia – cherylhoward.com

Abandoned Buildings and Street Art

Mostar is known for its interesting street art and abandoned buildings, many riddled with bullet holes from the Bosnian War. “Today, young artists use the buildings as canvases to protest oppression and express themselves creatively.” It reminded me of artists in Maputo Mozambique who make creative art using civil war remnants.

Neum Seaside Resort Herzegovina-Neretva Canton

Sniper Tower

Some of the abandoned buildings include a sniper tower, Neretva Hotel, and an old airport hangar. At one time the sniper tower was a bank. It’s positioned along the city’s front border. During the Bosnian War it became a “base for snipers who hid in the tower to take aim at targets”.

Interior Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque Mostar – cherylhoward.com

Today, the tower is decorated with street art and homeless people sleep there at night. You can jump over the back wall (near the Nelson Mandela quote) to explore the street art and enjoy a great view of Mostar from the top.

Počitelj Old Town Wall, Citadel, and Tower – Hit Booker

Neretva Hotel

Hotel Neretva was a grand hotel nicknamed “Tito’s Palace” after Yugoslav communist revolutionary Josip Broz Tito. It’s now a ruin. “After years of deadlock,” restoration continues at a cost of 9 million Euros.

Stormy Day Neretva River Mostar

Mostar Secret Aircraft Hangar – The Minimalist Ninja

Abandoned Airport Hangar

I didn’t see Mostar’s former top-secret underground airport hangar. It’s disguised in the mountains near the airport. Tito stationed fighter planes there to hide them from the Soviets. You can tour the hangar on your own or book a “Death of Yugoslavia Tour“. It wouldn’t have been much fun in the heavy rain.

Zrinjevac Park Mostar – Hit Booker

Bruce Lee Statue

A “weird, offbeat” sculpting of Bruce Lee is in Zrinjevac Park. Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolic created the statue in 2005. At the time it was in Spanish Square and the artist intended it to be a “fun, lighthearted symbol of peace”. Some locals took a dislike to the statue and vandalized it. Replaced in 2013, it’s still there.

Međugorje St. James Church – commons.wikipedia.org

We didn’t visit Kravice Waterfalls outside Mostar – probably best on a hot summer day. People swim in the lake and under the waterfalls.

Rakija

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“Rakija – the local moonshine – destroys bacteria, relieves stomach and muscle pain, annihilates viruses, and disinfects wounds instantly.”

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Mostar War Ruin – Mostar Travel

Blagaj Tekke – The Dervish Monastery

Blagaj Tekke is another interesting place near Mostar. It’s “one of Bosnia’s most holy and ancient sites.” Built around 1520 it’s known as the Dervish Monastery and was built for Sufi gatherings. It “rests beside the fast-flowing blue-green Buna River, which spills out of a darkened cliff-cave”. Miraculously, the Monastery wasn’t damaged during the Bosnian War.

Mostar Street Art

Rakija – Local Moonshine

Our guide told us about Rakija, a homemade brandy that’s said to be “the secret weapon against all that’s enemy to man”. On the way back to Dubrovnik we stopped at a roadside café where they make and sell Rakija. Conversation was fun and lively. :)

Destruction of Stari Most Bosnian War – subir.pw

Three Presidents of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia has three presidents! Not sure why?

  1. Milorad Dodik Serbia
  2. Šefik Džaferović Bosnia-Herzegovina
  3. Željko Komšić Croatia

400 Year Old Plane Tree (Sycamore) Trsteno Arboretum – Panadea

All in all it turned out to be an amazing, educational day in Bosnia!

Opera Divas at The Church of Saint Blaise Dubrovnik

Opera Divas Church of St. Blaise

Four Opera Divas performed at the Church of Saint Blaise last night. They were fantastic!! The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra String Quintet and pianist Alberto Frka accompanied them in a concert to honor St. Blaise. They sang songs by Croatian composers Pejačević and Jusić as well as Saint-Saëns, Rossini, Bellini, Gounod, Bach, and Mozart! The String Quintet played Haydn’s “Serenada” and it was lovely!

Alberto Frka Pianist – evarasdin.hr

Tanja Ruzdjak Soprano – kiklop portfolio

The church is small and I had no idea what to expect but arrived about 30 minutes before the performance. There were maybe 300 people and few if any tourists except me. It was a very special experience! The concert ended with the “Himna Sv Vlaha” – Hymn of St. Blaise – and everyone stood to sing it.

Altar St. Blaise Church

Jelena Stefanic Soprano – truelinked

The four divas had stunning voices:

Đelo Jusić Composer, Conductor, Guitarist – dubrovačke ljetne igre

Dora  Pejačević Composer, Pianist, and Violinist – croatia.org

I’m sad to have missed the Klapa Vocal Group Festival in Marin Drzic Theater the day before. Popular klapa groups like Maestral, Folklore Ensemble Lindo, Kumpanji, and Osjak performed. Klapa singing is a “multi part cappella homophonic singing tradition of the southern Croatian regions of Dalmatia”.

St. Blaise Festival concerts are minimally advertised by flyers posted throughout Dubrovnik. There was confusion about some of the dates and times. Luckily, I double checked on the Opera Divas concert and found out it was not on the day shown in the flyer. The charitable aspect of the festival is for the Anti-Cancer League and renovation of the Church of Saint Blaise

Terezija Kusanović Mezzo-Soprano – bbimagehandler

It was a memorable evening in Dubrovnik!

St. Blaise – Total Croatia News

Festival of St. Blaise Dubrovnik Croatia

St. Blaise saved Dubrovnik by warning the people of impending Venetian invaders. Statues of the Saint (Croatian Sveti Vlaho or Sveti Blaž) holding Dubrovnik on his palm are everywhere. Since 972 Dubrovnik has celebrated their patron and protector with a “series of concerts, exhibitions, book presentations, and theatre performances”.

Festival of St. Blaise – Total Croatia News

The Festival of St. Blaise is from February 2 through 10, but festivities begin this weekend with concerts and activities. The festival is a “celebration of Croatia’s past and a spiritual and religious unification of the city and surrounding countryside.” It’s part of Dubrovnik’s spirit and love of LIBERTAS.

Roman Goddess of Liberty – Mythology Matters

St. Blaise Festival – Croatia

Kandelora Candle Mass February 2

The actual date of the St. Blaise celebration is February 3 preceded by several days of prayer and a solemn opening Candle Mass ceremony – Kandelora – on February 2. Tolling church bells rally parishes to gather.

Festival of St. Blaise – Total Croatia News

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“Kandelora begins with the release of white doves in front of the Church of St. Blaise followed by raising the Saint’s flag on Orlando Column.”

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Children Kandelora Mass – Just Dubrovnik

A “laus” (well-wishing prayer) is said and girls in traditional costumes offer fruits of the land symbolizing twelve months of abundance. It’s a beautiful celebration with the flight of doves of peace, music, and the scent of laurel and candles in the air.

Kandelora in Dubrovnik – Just Dubrovnik

Meal for Reflection

Customs linked to Kandelora add to the festive atmosphere. As recommended by Saint Blaise, people share a modest lunch reflecting the tradition of charity and giving bread to the poor.  Most restaurants offer a special St. Blaise menu featuring local specialties.

St. Blaise – fresheireadventures.com

St. Blaise was imprisoned in Sebasta for years under the Roman Governor of Agricolas. During his imprisonment “an impoverished widow for whom the Saint saved a pig by miracle, visited him in prison and brought a modest meal and a candle to light his cell”. The Saint thanked the widow and asked her to “keep giving to the poor for as long as she lived, promising her God’s blessing”.

Church of St. Blaise Dubrovnik – h-r-z-hr

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“Kandelora is an introduction to the Holiday of St. Blaise when majestic processions, church bells, shots from fusiliers, and hymns permeate Old Town!”

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Kandelora Candlemas Dubrovnik – Just Dubrovnik

Saint Blaise Day February 3

On St Blaise’s Day people of faith from Dubrovnik and surrounding areas form a procession through Old Town. They carry banners and relics of their patron and wave church flags.

Dubrovnik Musketeers – Total Croatia News

The day begins at 6:00 am at the pier in Old City harbour with a patriotic hymn, ringing of the city bells, music, and muskets fired by a platoon of Dubrovnik musketeers. This celebration is followed by mass in the Church of St. Blaise, a parade of Grand Masters, musketeers, city band, and standard bearers throughout Old City, and a banquet in honor of St. Blaise.

I’m staying in Dubrovnik for a few extra days just to experience the St. Blaise Festival. In addition to the actual ceremony on February 3rd I’ll attend two concerts and other activities. Most festivities are free and open to the public. I’m especially looking forward to these concerts:

Pier Dubrovnik Old Town – flickr

More later…

Walking The Walls of Dubrovnik

Yesterday was perfect for Walking Dubrovnik’s Walls – crisp temperature, sunny sky, wisps of clouds, slight wind, and only a few selfie-taking tourists. Walking the walls is a “must” for visitors, but I waited a few days and learned the city’s layout first.

The fee for the walk is 200 HRK ($30), good for one day only. Walking the wall takes 1.5 – 3 hours depending on how often you stop to take photos and admire the spectacular 360 degree views.

Glad I waited, as recognizing the fortresses and other major buildings made the walk more rewarding. The beautiful architecture reflects Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque influences, and the seascapes take your breath away. In the distance, you could see a snow-topped Balkan mountain peak in Montenegro.

My next project is researching the City’s beautiful churches and monasteries. Their crosses, bells, and cathedral domes are prominent from the walls.

I recommend the walk! No words can describe the magnificent views. Photos are good for sharing but the experience will remain with you forever!

Later, I decided to visit unexplored suburban areas nearby. Old Town is its own unique, fascinating world but there’s more to Dubrovnik. Of course I got lost and contemplated calling Uber but toughed it out and dealt with my dilemma.

I shopped at the Tommy Market and it was difficult walking back lugging my bags up a series of steep steps. Locals provided different opinions on the right bus to take and where to catch it. One elderly lady was so sweet. She didn’t speak English but understood what was going on and motioned to show her the bus number with my fingers. At that point I had heard, 3, 5, 7, 8, 1a, and 1b. I held up 8 fingers and she smiled and nodded her head – yeah, at last the right bus stop!

Dubrovnik City Walls – Ideoz Voyages

Finally caught the right bus but not without angst. I knew which direction, because my flat is on a hill below the cable car – a reference point that’s hard to miss. Dubrovnik’s bus routes don’t show up on Google Maps, and pointing at my destination wasn’t an effective way to get directions. Most buses make a loop from Old Town but none of the routes seem straight forward, and stops aren’t always marked. Later I learned that the 3 and 5 will get me to the same place :o( …

The area where I got lost is Luka Gruž on the west side near the Port of Dubrovnik. There are interesting ships in the harbor. I walked there previously with my head in the clouds. Now I know how to get there and will return to continue exploring.

Port of Dubrovnik – Dubrovnik Cable Car

Luka Gruž – dubrovnikdigest.com

More later…

Dubrovnik’s Fortresses

Fortress of St. John – Dubrovnik Guide

Dubrovnik’s Old City has endless treasures and yesterday I took a guided tour of the five major fortresses around its walls. I’ve been waiting for the right time to take the two-hour “wall walk” and wanted to learn more about the medieval city first.

With various changes throughout their history, Dubrovnik’s forts are some of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages. Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant Near Fortress of St. John – Nautika Restaurants

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“Dubrovnik’s spectacular fortresses were never breached by a hostile army.”

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There are four defensive stone fortresses around the wall – north tower, east side harbor, southeast side, and at the western entrance. The fifth fort – Lovrijenac – is outside the wall.

  1. Minčeta
  2. Revelin
  3. St. John
  4. Bokar
  5. Lovrijenac

Minčeta Fortress – Dubrovnik Jetliner Games

Minčeta Fortress

Minčeta was built in 1319 along the north wall facing land. It’s the highest point in the city wall and is a large round tower topped with a Gothic crown. The Menčetić family owned the land where the tower was built. Croatian builder and architect Ničifor Ranjina designed Minčeta.

In 1461, Italian architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi enhanced the round tower making it “adapt to new techniques of warfare”. The walls of the new tower were 6 meters (20 feet) thick with a series of protected gun ports.

Minčeta Fortress – The Dubrovnik Times

Croatian builder Juraj of Dalmatia designed the bottom portion of the fortress and created the fort’s recognizable Gothic crown. When active, Minčeta had 9 guns including a cannon designed by Ivan Rabljanin, Croatian Renaissance master of bronze bells and cannons. Rabljanin also designed the bell in Dubrovnik’s Bell Tower.

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“Minčeta Fortress stands high above the rest of Dubrovnik as a symbol of the unconquerable City. It tells the story of Dubrovnik’s love for its precious, sweet liberty.”

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Revelin Fortress – dubrovnikdigest.com

Revelin Fortress

Revelin is a massive irregular quadrilateral fortress outside Pile Gate in the eastern part of the City. The fortress was built for protection in 1463 after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople and began occupying nearby Bosnia.

Revelin was built as a “detached fortress to provide more protection for the eastern land approach to the City Gate”. The name comes from the word ravelin, a “term in fortification architecture referring to forts built opposite the weakest points in a city’s defense system to reinforce a defensive position”.

Revelin Fortress – dubrovnik-travel.net

Revelin protected the City from Venetian attackers. Dubrovnik hired Antonio Ferramolino, an expert Spanish fortress builder, to strengthen this eastern point in the fortification complex. In 1549, after 11 years of construction, an enhanced Revelin became Dubrovnik’s strongest fortress for safeguarding the eastern land approach. “Perfectly constructed,” Revelin wasn’t harmed during the 1667 earthquake.

Culture Club Revelin – dubroivniktoday.net

The top of Revelin features a huge stone-paved terrace sometimes used as a stage for Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival events. The inside of the fortress has a popular nightclub – Culture Club Revelin. Different night life “happenings” take place there, including rock concerts and techno displays.

Fortress of St. John – ExPoAus Planner

Fortress of St. John

The Fortress of St. John was a key defense complex on the south-eastern side of the old city. It controlled and protected the port entrance.

Aquarium and Maritime Museum Fortress of St. John – Go Dubrovnik

Initial construction began in 1346, when Dubrovnik connected an existing defensive wall and its gates – Dock Gates – with an old quadrilateral fort called Fort Gundulić, named for Croatian poet Ivan Gundulić. In 1500, the city decided to upgrade the old fort and build one with a semicircular form and a pentagonal bastion in front.

Statue of Croatian Poet Ivan Gundulić at Green Market – tzdubrovnik.hr

Master Croatian builder and architect Paskoje Miličević designed the improved fortress merging existing forts into a single building named The Fortress of St John at the Dock. Construction completed in 1557. Today the large interior of St. John fortress houses Dubrovnik’s Maritime Museum and Aquarium.

Bokar Fortress – MyTravelAffairs

Bokar Fortress

Bokar Fortress is at the top of a steep cliff on the south-western corner of Dubrovnik’s city walls. Bokar and Minčeta were the key points in the defense of the city’s western land approach.

Bokar Fortress – theimmagine.eu

Built in the 1500s as a “two-story casemate fortress”, Bokar’s purpose was defending the town’s main western entrance – Pile Gate and its bridge and moat. One part of the fort is on a detached rock. Arched supports were built to bridge the gap. The sea still passes beneath the fort as it did when it was first built.

Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo designed Bokar fortress. Construction began in 1461 but wasn’t completed for a long time. Upgrades occurred in 1555 and 1570. Bokar is a popular Game of Thrones filming location.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr

Lovrijenac Fortress

Lovrijenac Fortress is built on a 37 meter (121 ft.) high sheer rock overlooking the Adriatic Sea! It’s the most dramatic fortresses in Dubrovnik. Lovrijenac was important for defending both land and sea attacks. The fortress has a triangular plan that follows the contour of the rock where it was built. It faces the western suburbs and opens toward Bokar Tower and the western wall, protecting Kolorina Bay. Today Kolorina Bay is a clam location for launching kayak tours. It was the location for filming the “bloody Battle of Blackwater scene in season two of Game of Thrones.

Kolorina Port

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During its service Lovrijenac Fortress was a 25 man garrison with 10 cannons and a fort Commander appointed by the government.

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Bell Tower Old Town Dubrovnik – Wikimedia Commons

Chronologists date the fort to 1018 or 1038 but first records are from 1301 when the city council voted on Commander of the Fort. According to legend, in the 11th century Venice planned to conquer Dubrovnik by building a fortress on the rock. When Dubrovnik learned of the plan, its citizens rushed to build their own fortress, thwarting the Venetians before they arrived with ships carrying troops and supplies.

The fortress received upgrades during the 15th and 16th centuries and after the 1667 earthquake when builder I. K. Zanchi repaired parapets and buildings throughout the city. The fortress has a quadrilateral court with mighty arches and three terraces looking south towards the Adriatic Sea.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr

Lovrijenac had 10 large cannons designed and cast in 1537 by Renaissance bronze master Ivan Rabljanin. Rabljanin also designed the cannons at Minčeta Fortress. One cannon, known as “Lizard” (Gušter in Croatianwas “marvelously carved and decorated”. Lizard never fired a single shot and is now sadly lost at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea below Lovrijenac .

Ivan Gundulić Croatian Poet

Austrian troops disarmed Lovrijenac in the 19th century. While hoisting and transporting the cannon, a rope broke and it fell into the Adriatic and was never recovered.

Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Florentine Architect and Sculptor – intranet.pogmacva.com –

Lovrijenac was a “dominant fortress'”. Its capture would threaten Dubrovnik’s defensive position, so a “fail-safe mechanism was designed into the fortress”. The walls exposed to the sea and possible enemy fire are almost 12 meters thick (40 feet). However, the large wall facing the City doesn’t exceed 60 centimeters (2 feet).

This was because the Republic was not only cautious about attacks from foreign enemies but also a potential rebellion of the Commander in charge of the fort. Nobility replaced the Commander each month. In case of trouble, the thin wall facing the city could never hold against the firepower of mighty Bokar Fortress facing Lovrijenac.

Cannon Lovrijenac Fortress

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An ancient inscription at the entrance to Lovrijenac Fortress reads – NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO – Freedom is Not Sold for All the Gold in the World.

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Lovrijenac was the stage for a memorable production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and it’s a popular Game of Thrones filming location. I explored this fortress during a Game of Thrones Walking Tour. It’s magnificent!

Bathed in light at night, this massive fortress is visible for miles. My apartment looks down on Old City and massive Lovrijenac is the most prominent building from that vantage point. It’s known as the “Gibraltar of Dubrovnik”.

Rector’s Palace – Cultural Historical Museum of Dubrovnik’s Past

Miho Pracat Statue Rector’s Palace

The Rector’s Palace is a historic monument in “one of the most impressive buildings in Dubrovnik”. The museum’s breathtaking environment is perfect for displaying the Republic of Ragusa’s artistic and historical heritage.

Diana Roman Goddess of the Hunt, Moon, and Nature

Since there are few tourists this time of year, I almost had the museum to myself. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen – inside and out! As usual the massive amount of information displayed seemed slightly overwhelming. I need a second visit to caption photographs of the paintings.

Entrance Rector’s Palace Old Town

Architecture

Originally constructed during the 12th century, the Palace was rebuilt twice. It was the seat of the Republic’s Rector and included an armory, watch house, and prison.

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The architecture represents Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles with details from Greek Mythology.

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In 1435, a gunpowder explosion from the armory destroyed the original building. Croatian sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac and Italian Masters Onofrio della Cava and Michelozzo Michelozzi rebuilt the Palace. The original Venetian-Gothic architecture was designed by Onofrio della Cava with sculptor Michelozzo Michelozzi creating the Museum’s magnificent loggia façade.

Mihailo Hamzić – Dubrovački Muzeji

Greek Mythology

Capitals of the stone pillars around the Palace entrance exhibit flowers, animals, and Greek mythological motifs. Other than a fascination for Greece, it’s unknown why the artists carved Greek myths onto the pillars.

Stone Capitals Rector’s Palace Entrance – Travels and Treats

Rococo Bedroom Rector’s Palace – Dubrovnik Tourist Board

Layout

The museum has three levels. The ground floor includes archives, a courtyard, prison dungeon, courtrooms, ammunition stores, medieval church art, and a small chapel. The mezzanine has a collection of coins, seals, weights, and watches.

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Italian master builder Onofrio della Cava designed the Palace’s Venetian-Gothic architecture. 

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The rectors lived upstairs where there’s a permanent exhibition of beautiful paintings by Italian masters and a portrait of Croatian artist Mihailo Hamzić. Hamzić was a member of the Dubrovnik Painters School from the 16th century. Dubrovnik was a center for art in the Mediterranean, and the government invited foreign masters to move there to enhance their churches and monuments.

Mihailo Hamzić

Rector’s Palace

Interesting furniture displayed includes a writing desk by Italian Baroque painter and printmaker Luko Giordan. There are displays of everyday items dating between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Rector’s Rococo bedroom is on the south side.

Rector’s Palace at Dusk

Notable items include sedan chairs, carriages, magistrates’ robes and wigs, and a beautifully carved bookcase by prominent, respected resident Ivo Rudenjak. Some of the clocks displayed are “set at quarter to six, the time in the evening 1806 when Napoleon’s troops entered Dubrovnik”.

Rector’s Palace

Baroque Staircase and Miho Pracat

The baroque staircase in the courtyard was built after the 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake when “the entire city was almost destroyed and around 5,000 people killed”. A stone version of the Republic’s coat of arms is visible at the base of the staircase.

The center of the staircase features a statue of Miho Pracat, a Dubrovnik shipowner from the 16th century revered for his bravery and generosity. It’s the “only statute dedicated to a common citizen built during the Republic”.

Rector’s Palace

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After his death, Croatian shipowner Miho Pracat left all his wealth to charity.

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Miho Pracat – najboljeuhrvatskoj.info

During one of his voyages, Pracat broke a pirate siege. This brave act “caught the attention of Charles the Fifth” – ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, Spanish Empire, and the former Duchy of Burgundy. This connection enabled Pracat to “bring back ships loaded with corn to hungry citizens. Allegedly he spent a portion of his wealth to free Christians captured by the Ottoman empire”.

 

Dubrovnik Reflections

Stradun Old Town in Winter – Culture Trip

It’s an understatement that Dubrovnik is a vast change from Berlin! With the 90/180 visa rule, I had to exit EU Schengen countries and there weren’t many options. Croatia was the right choice.

Dubrovački Zimski Festival 2019 – tzdubrovnik.hr

Dubrovnik in Winter

Some say visiting Dubrovnik in winter is crazy, but I love the time here, even though it can get windy and cold. Locals clearly prefer warm Mediterranean weather and grumble when it gets below 50. Winter temperatures are steady in the 40s – 50s with chilly nights in the 30s. Most days are crisp and clear emphasizing a backdrop of sea and mountains! I met a tourist from Chicago who said Dubrovnik’s winter weather seemed almost like spring. It’s ideal for hiking and winter festivals are fun. 

Festival of St. Blaise Dubrovnik – Total Croatia News

Long-Term Travel

Long-term travel is a much different experience than short-term group or family trips. The goal is staying a while and being low-key, forgetting yourself, getting comfortable mingling, and learning to understand a country’s culture, people, and day-to-day life. I no longer try to explain the value of this to those who don’t understand and are even critical. However, as a solo traveler you must be self-reliant and cautious. I’ve made and survived many mistakes. Imperfection and the unknown are part of the adventure.

Stradun Old Town During Winter Festival

Getting Around

Getting around Dubrovnik requires effort but you grow accustomed to climbing and descending a series of steep stone steps. I started a morning yoga routine that seems to keep me limber. I enjoy daily walks, short hikes, and climbing the stairs on the way to and from my apartment – especially at dusk and sunset when the sky and sea are vivid and dramatic. With a car, good luck finding parking near Old Town.

Winter View of Old Town and Lokrum Island from Mt. Srd

Internet is fast and unlike Berlin, you don’t get slammed with excessive advertisements. Almost everything closes on Sunday which reminds me of South Africa years ago.

Dubrovnik’s Islands in Winter – Total Croatia News

People, Cats, Food

I’ve met some lovely locals and learned about Dubrovnik’s history. Most people speak English fairly well. During business hours they move quickly, but after hours it’s a different scene.

Winter Sunset Dubrovnik

People in Dubrovnik are down-to-earth and don’t make life complicated. Some men are flirtatious :o)… It’s fun to be noticed, but even at my age, flirting back isn’t always a good idea for solo women travelers.

Old Town Cat

Winter Adriatic Sea

I don’t know but think locals are slightly overwhelmed by the ever-increasing hordes of tourists. Of course they’re a great source of income, but the summer invasion makes a huge impact. I imagine they must grow weary of the onslaught when Old Town is literally teeming with bodies.

Dubrovački Zimski Festival 2019 – tzdubrovnik.hr

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Winter is the time when locals “take back Dubrovnik”!

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Mt. Srd January 2019

I’ve noticed many stray cats – nothing like Istanbul. Most of them look healthy and like to be petted, but some are skittish and clearly feral. They’re clever and streetwise knowing when to run, which people to trust, and who in the crowd is likely to feed them at outdoor restaurants.

Statue of St Blaise Old Town Stari Grad Dubrovnik

Only a handful of restaurants are open during the winter – some better than others. Usually you can’t go wrong with seafood. So far, my favorite treat is olives! Green or black they’re absolutely divine – BIG smile. Croatian honey, dates, and oranges are also delicious. Markets around my apartment are small locally owned places with fantastic fresh produce and cheeses.

Mini Market Prima Dubrovnik

Winter Dusk before Sunset Dubrovnik

Politics, History, Money

Understanding politics in any country is a challenge, and I’m learning about Croatia through on-line newspapers and conversations with locals. What little I know about the complicated history of conflict between Dubrovnik and its Serbian neighbors is interesting, as is the Bosnian War from 20 years ago, and the Venetian, Napoleonic, and Ottoman invasions.

Church of St. Blaise and Orlando’s Column Old Town Dubrovnik

Croatia hasn’t adopted the Euro yet, but talks are in process for entering the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Some services quote rates in both Croatian Kuna and Euro – it’s confusing and there’s a big difference between the two! Taxi drivers give a price that sounds reasonable in Kuna and then when it’s time to pay, they say the price quoted was in Euro – usually an outrageous amount… My experiences with taxis in foreign countries haven’t been positive.

Portion of Steps Leading to Old Town

More Steps

Winter Limitations

It’s disappointing that during winter there are no swimming, kayaking, or boat excursions to Dubrovnik’s fabulous islands – that is unless you’re a polar bear swimmer. I’ve seen several brave souls venture out in the cold Adriatic Sea for brief early morning swims. It’s a daily ritual like with San Francisco’s Dolphin Club members who swim near Alcatraz in the cold Bay.

St. Blaise Holding Croatia in His Hand

In winter many Dubrovnik businesses close and locals take a break for a few months. It’s more difficult finding services like tours of Montenegro and Bosnia, but I’m considering the options. Of course you can rent a car and drive yourself. My last visit to Croatia was over five years ago in the summer, when I passed through Dubrovnik on the way to Split and Zagreb.

Festival of St. Blaise Dubrovnik

Festival of St. Blaise

The Festival of St. Blaise of Sebaste, Dubrovnik’s patron saint, is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. It began as far back as 971 AD. This year, Dubrovnik celebrates St. Blaise from January 24 through February 3.  On Candlemas Day they release white doves (called The Blessing of the Throats) in front of the Church of St. Blaise and then raise St Blaise’s flag at Orlando’s Column. The ritual is dramatic and colorful. Activities include “concerts, exhibitions, and theater performances dedicated to the patron saint”.

Feast Day of Saint Blaise Dubrovnik – Dubrovnik Coast

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“Statues representing St. Blaise holding Dubrovnik in his hand are the most common sight alongside Dubrovnik’s City Walls.”

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Old Town Dubrovnik in Winter – Total Croatia News

Croatia & Surrounding Countries – infohost.nmt.edu

Next Stop?

I’m working my way south and considered Malta as the next stop, but it’s part of the Schengen visa block, so it won’t work. Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Albania are of interest with Cyprus being the warmest climate. Since my last stop will be Cape Town, traveling via Cyprus is a good route but I’m doing research… Hopping over to Montenegro and spending a few weeks is an option. I’m enjoying the quiet, peaceful environment and of course Croatia’s people and incredible natural beauty!

More later…