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Dubrovnik and the Elaphite Islands - Andrew - 2001

Map of Croatia showing Dubrovnik  Map of Croatia with flag


Before the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia the resorts of its Adriatic coast attracted as many visitors as Greece or Spain. When Yugoslavia splintered the vast majority of the coastline, including the historic cities of Split and Dubrovnik, fell into the new Republic of Croatia (Hrvatska).  Included with this coastline were the Dalmatian Islands - all 1185 of them (66 inhabited).

Croatia has one of the oddest shapes of all countries with the long thin coastal strip and a wider inland chunk, giving it an overall angular sickle shape. In this inland section sits the under-rated capital city, Zagreb.

As the shadow of war leaves the Balkans and the EU beckons Croatia is regaining its position as one of Europe's premier destinations.


I had had my eye on Croatia as a holiday destination for some time, so I was quite excited when I finally boarded the Croatia Airlines flight to Dubrovnik. The flight was one of those delightful ones when you get to see the places you are travelling over, including some beautiful views of the Alps. As we started to fly down the Dalmatian coast the sun began to disappear and the many islands of the Croatian coast slowly vanished into the darkness. When we touched down in Dubrovnik Airport the mountains to the north of the runway were haloed by a dramatic purple and red sky.

As I was travelling, for a change, as a packaged customer I climbed aboard a bus to take me to my hotel, which was probably no bad thing as Dubrovnik Airport is some long way from Dubrovnik town (22 kms in fact) and my accommodation was not in central Dubrovnik anyhow, but in the suburb of Lapad Bay (where most of the reasonably priced hotels are). The road from the Airport approaches Dubrovnik via the road which runs high above the town and gives some wonderful views of the Old Town and it's famous walls which I saw for the first time glimmeringly floodlit against the black waters of the Adriatic.

The coach wound around the roads of Dubrovnik dropping off the people at the poshest hotels first before heading out to the Port where a number of people climbed aboard the ferry to the island of Koločep where they were staying. Eventually it was my time and I was dropped off at the top of the pedestrian road leading down to my hotel, the Zagreb. I was hungry and absolutely dying of thirst, but had no Croatian money, so I had to make do with some lukewarm tap water. I hoped this wasn't going to be a bad sign.

The next day I woke to a not very special breakfast and decided to head straight into Dubrovnik town. The bus stop it turned out was at the end of the street, but I misunderstood what my Rep. had said and went off looking for the bus station - which wasn't quite so close by. I had already booked with him my trips to Mostar and Međugorje in Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro for later in the week.

The Pile Gate, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The bus journey wasn't very long and it drew up outside the Pile Gate (pronounced "Peelay" rather than "Pile"). I had been impressed by the views I had had of the town walls from the coach last night, but now I could look at them more closely and at leisure I began to realise that this was nothing like the town walls of York or Chester in England, these were massive, towering, chunky and quite quite astonishing. You expect the "fortresses" set into the walls to be bastions or small towers, but they are huge great things in their own right. The other thing which comes as a shock is how steep the walls are. Part of Dubrovnik was once an island, so the central section of the walls is considerably lower than the seaward and landward sides.

I had been advised to avoid the walk around the walls at midday (and it was now 11:00), so I headed instead for the town inside the walls.

Stradun - the main street of Dubrovnik, CroatiaAlmost everyone arriving in the old town will start at the Pile Gate, this is where all the buses stop. Inevitably then it is always crowded and bustling with a jumble of souvenir stalls just outside it. Once inside the small outer gate you come into a barbican-like area before walking down some steps and underneath the walls proper. Through another gate and you're into the old town. You are immediately presented with one of the classic views of the City, straight down Stradun - the main thoroughfare which was once a water channel separating the island part of the City (known as Ragusa) from the other part. Stradun runs right through the centre of Dubrovnik from the Pile Gate directly to the Luža Square at the other end of town. Stradun positively glows in the sunlight of the middle of the day, the white limestone surface polished from centuries of feet. There is a symmetry to Stradun, at the Pile end is the tower of the Franciscan Monastery, at the other the Bell Tower, the buildings on either side of Stradun were built simultaneously after a disastrous earthquake in 1667.

At the Pile Gate end is a small square which is dominated by the massive domed bulk of Onofrio's Large Fountain. Onofrio was Italian architect Onofrio de la Cava who built this fountain in 1444, his Little Fountain is on Luža Square at the other end of Stradun and is an altogether subtler more fountain-like edifice than this massive object. In the heat of the midday sun, however, Onofrio's Large Fountain was a wonderful thing, aside from generally splashing the cool water on my face I soaked my baseball cap (an addition to my travel kit due to my vanishing hair) and placed it's moist cloth onto my head. By the time I was halfway down Stradun the water had all evaporated.

Onofrio's Large Fountain, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Stradun is lined with shops and restaurants selling tourist stuff and cheap meals, but not in a tacky way as could be, no displays of junk cluttered the street to spoil the look of this most elegant of thoroughfares. At the far end of Stradun is what the guidebooks call Dubrovnik's "main square", Luža Square, which is actually rather small and hemmed in on three sides by some of Dubrovnik's heftier buildings, the Sponza Palace, the Bell Tower entrance to the Old Port and the glorious baroque St. Blaise's Church. The Church was completed in 1714 and it's elegant frontage is one of the great images of this town of wonderful vistas, particularly when lit from inside at night.

Luza Square with St. Blaise's Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Sponza Palace dates to 1522 and today houses temporary exhibitions throughout the year, it's arcaded front is typical of the quasi-Venetian style that is prevalent throughout Dubrovnik, ironically considering the Dubrovnik Republic (known as the Ragusan State after the island part of the town) was for centuries the chief rival to the Venetians in the area. Around the corner of St. Blaise's Church at the end of Luža Square is Dubrovnik's Cathedral, a far less spectacular baroque structure than St. Blaise's, which was completed in 1731.

Andrew with beautiful Croatian woman and man in Luza Square, Dubrovnik - selling him seed for the pigeons!In the centre of Luža Square is a tiny column known as Orlando's Column, which was once a focal point for local ceremonies despite it's distinctly unimpressive appearance. Standing by the Column were a man and a beautiful woman dressed in medieval clothes selling seed for the pigeons, rolled up in the text of "Roland's Last Message". Always a mug for a beautiful woman selling me stuff I bought some seed, but was rewarded by a photograph with the colourfully dressed pair and a bunch of grateful pigeons.

I didn't walk straight up to the Cathedral, but rather ducked into one of the maze of side alleys leading towards the sea from Stradun. Accidentally I happened upon the flight of steps modelled, apparently, on the Spanish Steps in Rome which lead up to Pustijerna, the oldest part of Dubrovnik situated on what was once Ragusa Island. Most of the buildings here pre-date the 1667 earthquake and are a serious of winding, twisting tiny alleyways full of ancient tumbledown buildings and skinny cats.

"Spanish Steps" in Dubrovnik, Croatia

At the top of the steps is the Jesuit Church, also based on a Roman template (the Church of Gesù). From here pathways lead into the oldest part of Dubrovnik and you are confronted with arched alleyways and flights of steps disappearing off into all directions. If the area was larger it might be intimidating and hard to navigate, but as it is really quite a small area and has occasional views down into the centre of town never allows you to become truly lost. Eventually you will stumble back onto a landmark, the Pile Gate or Stradun, or in my case the Cathedral, this time from the opposite end.

Dubrovnik's Cathedral is rather enclosed and the best views of it can be had from the town walls rather than at ground level. Architecturally speaking it isn't a patch on St. Blaise's Church, but inside is an elegant structure of white plaster work and hefty carvings.

I stopped to eat around the back of the Cathedral, a reasonably priced fish meal made up of "grilled fish" of a kind I didn't recognise and never did find out the species of, plus the usual collection of vegetables, including something green that vaguely resembled a bulky spinach but didn't have that familiar battery taste so could have been anything.

Suitably fed and watered my next step had to be upwards. It was time to do the town walls.

I started my tour of the walls at St. John's Fortress - almost directly opposite the Pile Gate. You are charged to walk around the town walls which initially seems a bit of a cheek, but once you start the long walk around (2 kms approximately) you realise that the asking price (9 kuna) is not much at all.

St. John's Fortress operates as the Naval Museum and houses a rather drab aquarium, but offers some beautiful views across the Old Port to the Revelin Fortress, a much bulkier and more impressive stronghold, but one which isn't open to the public.

The Old Harbour from St. John's Fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Rather than walk towards the town, so to speak, I decided to head around the seaward side of the walls first, this provided some superb views of the little island of Lokrum off shore which is a nature reserve and I would visit a few days later.

Town Walls of Dubrovnik, plus Lokrum (extreme right) and pretty girl

From St. John's Fortress, a relative low point, the walls climb  across the rocky foreshore and reach a high point on this side directly opposite the towering Minčeta Fortress which is the highest point of the whole walls and dominates from almost anywhere you care to stand.

Excellent views can be had from the seaward side of the walls across the scattered terracotta roofs of the Old Town and over to Lovrijenac Fortress on it's rock separate from the rest of the fortifications. Some of those terracotta roofs were blown out during the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991/1992, but the only obvious indication of this is that some look much darker and cleaner than others. Considering that over 2000 shells fell on Dubrovnik it is virtually impossible to find any war damage today.

Terracotta roofs of Dubrovnik, Croatia

As you turn the corner in the seaward side of the walls you are suddenly looking down a steep slope towards the circular Bokar Fortress which sits across a small bay from Lovrijenac. You watch the people slogging up from the Pile Gate far below and think "Thank God I came around this way" (anti-clockwise). Then you look up at Minčeta and realise that it's steeper and that is the direction you are now headed.

As you pass over the Pile Gate you get wonderful views of the Big Onofrio's Fountain and Stradun below you, not to mention a dizzying view up towards Minčeta.

Andrew above the Pile Gate with Minceta behind, Dubrovnik, Croatia

It was indeed a hard slog up to the Minčeta Fortress, the last part of which was the climb up the inside of the Tower itself, but it was certainly worth it for the magnificent view out across the town. From here you can see all the landmarks of Dubrovnik, Lokrum behind and up and down the mountainous coast.

View from the Minceta Fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia

It was here that I met an Australian couple who had worked their way down through Eastern Europe starting in Berlin, through Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary and were heading for Greece. We sat around for a while getting our collective breaths before heading down the other side of the Minčeta towards the Old Port and Revelin Fortress where I had started my journey. The picture below was taken by the Australian girl of the couple.

Andrew at the top of Minceta Fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia

As you head down towards the Old Port you pass the Dominican Monastery, nestling up against the walls. We crossed the Old Port and walked back up to St. John's Fortress and I bade my new Australian friends farewell and wished them on their way down to Greece. We met again two days later on my trip to Montenegro.

By the Ploce Gate, Dubrovnik, Croatia

To read more about the Fortresses of the Dubrovnik Town Walls, see Castles of Europe pages.

Once back down at ground level I wandered along to the Ploče Gate, the opposite equivalent to the Pile Gate at the other end of town. By this time the sun was starting to get quite low and big, dramatic shadows were being cast around the chasm-like alleys.

I took the picture to the left just inside the Ploče Gate between the town walls and the Dominican Monastery and later entered it into a photographic competition (to win a weekend in Zagreb), don't know yet whether it got anywhere or not.

I briefly wandered down to the Old Port to check out times for ferries across to Lokrum and saw they went every half hour or so, so that wasn't going to cause any problems later in the week.

I had to head back to base early today as my holiday rep. was going to be bringing me my excursion tickets, so I only had an hour or two more in Dubrovnik that day. I wandered back onto Luža Square and up to the Cathedral from that direction. As you approach the Cathedral on the left there is Dubrovnik's other "palace"; the Rector's Palace with a stunning arcaded front with intricate and unique carving at the top of each column. Inside is the only statue in Dubrovnik to a hero of the Ragusan Republic - they didn't believe in statues of dignitaries so this one was erected indoors to avoid public outcry. The statue is of Miho Pracat a merchant from the island of Lopud. The Rector's Palace was the seat of the Ragusan government dates to the 1460s and is elegant and surprisingly unshowy.

The Ploce Gate, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The tower of the Franciscan Monastery, Dubrovnik, CroatiaI turned around and put my back to the Cathedral and had a great view down past the Rector's Palace to the Sponza Palace beyond and the Bell Tower at the end of Stradun.

I headed back onto Stradun for a bit of souvenir shopping and also to get some Deutschmarks for my trips to Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro where apparently they are the favoured form of currency (although both countrys have their own currencies and I came back from Bosnia with a handful of their Convertible Marks, such an ironic name for a currency that isn't convertible into anything much at all!).

I arrived back at Big Onofrio's Fountain and rested a little while, treating myself to a full-fat coca-cola and a spot of people watching. Whilst I sat here I noticed small children standing on a small square protruberance sticking out of the wall of the Franciscan Monastery's wall about a foot up. This, it turned out, was a local test of manhood, to be able to balance on this and face the wall with your arms outstretched for as long as possible.

Well, I could hardly not could I. What the locals thought of a fully grown man struggling to keep his balance on what essentially it seems is a test for children I don't know. After falling off for the second time I sheepishly returned to the fountain feeling a little foolish and sat down again. A little while later I had to head back to my hotel to pick up my tickets, after which I had an extremely uninspiring omlette and wandered down to Lapad Bay where I watched a glorious sunset and for once in my life didn't have a camera with me to catch it on film. After about 30 minutes sitting there I retired to watch Italian TV in the hope that some kind of gameshow would be on which might involve women taking off their clothes.  Needless to say there wasn't so I just opted for sleep instead.

To read about my trip to Mostar, see Travel Pages: Bosnia and Hercegovina
To read about my trip to Montenegro, see Travel Pages: Yugoslavia
To read about my trip to Međugorje, see Travel Pages: Bosnia and Hercegovina.

After my trips to Mostar and Montenegro I had popped into Dubrovnik town for my evening meal having vowed not to go near the hotel's food ever again (it wasn't even in my hotel, I had to go to another to eat!). However, my next full day in Dubrovnik wasn't until four days after my first and, if anything, it had got even hotter.

As I had been around the rest of the fortifications of the town before I headed first of all for the Fortress of Lovrijenac, which stands just outside the Pile Gate and is the only part of the fortifications separated from the town walls. It pre-dates the walls, but was rebuilt in it's present form after they were, in the sixteenth century. It is in pristine condition today, perhaps too much so, but is certainly worth a look, if nothing else for the wonderous views back to the old town from it's ramparts which are the best that can be had, at least until the cable car up the hill behind the town is repaired (it was destroyed in the 1991/92 shelling).

To read more about the Lovrijenac Fortress, see Castles of Europe.

The Old Town of Dubrovnik from Lovrijenac Fortress, Croatia

After this I went back through the Pile Gate and into the Franciscan Monastery which stands just inside. To enter the Monastery you don't go through the church, as you might expect, but through a tiny alleyway between the Monastery church and St. Saviour's Church. Once inside you are greeted by a covered cloister (which was apparently very badly hit in the war). Also in the Monastery is Europe's Oldest Working Pharmacy (so the publicity runs), it dates to 1307 so it's probably not an unreasonable boast. Apart from this, and the rather grizzly reliquary for St. Ursula's head, there isn't much to keep you interested inside the Monastery and the Church, as it is still functional, is out of bounds.

A typical Dubrovnik "little charming nook"So I went back outside and wandered a little, back through the maze of back streets and alleyways, continually finding new things to photograph and little charming nooks until you eventually become immune to such things and have to think about moving on. I had a rather disappointing cake and decided to head to the Old Port to catch the ferry over to Lokrum, the little island which sits off Dubrovnik.

The little boat was packed to the gunnels and I ended up rather disappointingly not above decks but in a little hole of a cabin which smelt of petrol and had a cockroach wandering happily about the wall. Fortunately the journey to Lokrum is only about 10 minutes so I didn't have to suffer the smell and company of the Dictyopteral variety for very long.

The boat fetches up at the very small harbour by the first building I'd seen in Croatia that was still ruined after the shelling in 1991/92 (which rather ambitiously declared it was the Museum of Lokrum).

The island, considering it is so small, has a remarkable history. Richard the Lionheart was allegedly shipwrecked here. A Benedictine Monastery was built here 1023 and was badly damaged in the 1667 earthquake and then again in the 91/92 shelling. Today only the cloister is occupied (by a restaurant) and it is in a state of wanting some repair. It is best viewed from afar, more of which is a while.

View towards Dubrovnik from Lokrum Island, Croatia

In 1859 the island was bought by Archduke Maximilian von Habsburg who constructed botanical gardens outside the Monastery which he turned into a summer palace. Incredibly the gardens were a target for the shelling in the recent war and were very badly damaged and are only now beginning to regain a certain amount of form.

Just onto the island from the jetty there is apparently a salty lake known as the "Dead Sea", which I never managed to find. So instead I decided to hike up to the 91 metre summit of the island which is crowned by Port Royal Castle (also known as Fort Royal) a small fortification built by the French during Napoleonic times. The path up to the Castle was not exactly well signposted and, although I couldn't really get lost, I did find myself wandering right to the other end of the island before I realised I needed to head away from the shore and up into the thick stands of olives, magnolias and palms which cover the island and harbour a million trillion billion (or so) of the noisiest cicadas I have yet to hear. Perhaps they had evolved such high decibels so they could be heard on the mainland.

Eventually I struggled up to the Castle and was rewarded with wonderful views back to Dubrovnik and down across the rest of Lokrum with the Monastery, looking to all intents and purposes intact from up here, nestling amongst the trees below. Surprisingly the central tower of the Castle (which is in truth a fortress rather than Castle) was open and I climbed it for even more panoramic views. After a while soaking in the views and tranquility up here my reverie was broken by the arrival of a rather loud German family and so I turned around and headed back down towards the Monastery to have a look around the botanical gardens.

Lokrum Island including the Monastery viewed from Port Royal Castle

To read more about the Castle, see Castles of Europe pages.

The gardens were mostly remarkable for the massive cacti which sit at one end and, like all cacti, look like they've been dropped there from another planet altogether.

I still couldn't find the "Dead Sea" but I did happen upon the nudist beach (signed posted as PKK Beach). However, there wasn't much to make me linger there. There is something about naturism that attracts pink, fat and horrendously wrinkly people whose bits and pieces dangle in a disturbingly mesmeric way; there never seem to be lithe and handsome people on nudist beaches - unless it is just my bad luck.

So I went to find a shady café, and there is only one on the island, and had a nice refreshing and longed for coke, looking at a huddle of bikini clad young ladies nearby and wondering what on earth they were doing here when there was a perfectly servicable nudist beach only a few metres away.

That was about it really for the island of Lokrum, save for the "Dead Sea" which would have to remain undiscovered, I wanted to head back to the mainland for something to eat. The ferry arrived and this time I managed to stay above deck to get some superb views of St. John's Fortress and Revelin facing each other across the Old Port as the boat bobbed and swayed its way back to Dubrovnik.

The Franciscan Monastery silhouetted against the fading Croatian sunI got back to the town at that magical time when the sun is getting low and everything is cast in bright light and dark shadow. Swifts darted between the buildings and up and down Stradun as if it were still a waterway and I caught a wonderful photograph of the tower of the church of the Franciscan Monastery silhouetted by the fading sun despite it not being quite that late yet.

On my previous trip to town I had found a nice little pasta and pizza restaurant and wanted to go there again, but I thought I would try the little street which runs parallel to Stradun called Prijeko which all the guidebooks say is where all the restaurants congregate.

Well, that was true in as much as every tiny space in the already cramped street was full of tables and chairs and people begging you to eat at their restaurant. All the menus were depressingly similar though and I began to think that I would have to suddenly abandon vegetarianism and have a steak with fries. I struggled my way up Prijeko looking at menus trying to ignore the elderly men or beautiful young women bombarding me with promises of gastonomic delights. I had walked almost all the way along it trying to find something decent to eat but gave up and with a sigh of relief headed back down to Stradun where there was space to breath. Prijeko was the only place I found in Croatia that could be described as "spoilt by tourism" and I urge anyone who goes to Dubrovnik to eat anywhere but here.

I arrived back at the pasta restaurant had a reasonable penne pesto and then decided to call it a night. I had had three long days of excursions before today and had been very ill the previous night so I was basically pretty knackered. I had another day in Croatia, I could see Dubrovnik by night then.

On my first day in Croatia I had wandered down to the harbour at Lapad Bay where my hotel was situated. Here I had been assailed by men trying to persuade me to take a trip to the three Elaphite Islands in their boat. I had declined at the time, but seeing as their trips were half the price of those offered by the Atlas Agency I had filed this away in my head for "if I get time". On this last day I decided that I did have time and so I wandered down to the Bay once more.

I bought a 100 kuna ticket on a boat named something like the "Not Seaworthy Just Above the Surface" and eventually climbed aboard with two drivers and an English couple who both suffered with sea-sickness but were regular scuba divers. Hmm, thought I, this could be less than a good idea. The boat chugged out of Lapad Bay and turned to cut across the tide bobbing up and down like a yo-yo as it did so. The two English people went pale and then green, but fortunately we turned more and started to travel with the tide and the boat evened out a little.

Just around the corner from Lapad Bay is a truly awful concrete monstrosity of a hotel called the "Hotel President" which was built like a huge squat pyramid with a lift that went up the centre of the outside like something from a Fritz Laing movie. Here the boat was docked very very bumpily against a rather too solid looking concrete jetty and some more people were picked up, some Germans and another English couple. At this point the man who had told us he would be our guide disappeared and never returned. We were left with a man with virtually no English who piloted us back out in the swell in the manner of a one who had never driven a boat before. Once right out in the rockiest bits of sea he uncovered some biscuits and wine and an unmarked bottle of some kind of spirit and gestured to us to tuck in. It was about 9:30 in the morning and a little early for almost any of us. Our captain shrugged and turned back to his controls looking worryingly mystified.

The Island of Kolocep, CroatiaIt was with relief and a little surprise (possibly from our captain too) that we arrived at the first of the three inhabited Elaphite Islands, Koločep. The islands were named "Elaphite" by the Greeks who for some reason thought of deer when they arrived here. The islands seem a bit small to support deer and certainly don't look like any kind of animal, still the name stuck.

Koločep doesn't really have very much to offer. It has a small sweep of a bay which is quite pretty but uses up all it's angles fairly quickly. Oddly enough it is the most touristed of the islands and the only one with a hotel, inventively named the "Hotel Koločep". It was also the only island which I saw anyone trying to sell tourist tat, in this case dead sea urchins and (more worryingly) sea-horses.

I walked up the bay to the far end. I paused. I walked back down the bay again to the boat. I sat on a bench in the sun, then changed my mind and sat on one in the shade instead. Apparently if you have longer on the island there is not only another village but also a beautiful olive grove and some ancient ruins. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) we didn't have time and before we knew it we were back on the "That'll Never Float in a Million Years" and bobbing across to the next island in the group.

The next island is, in fact, Lopud (renowned as the prettiest of the three) but to the consternation of the sea-sick couple we went straight past it and headed instead for the most distant and largest of the islands, Šipan.

Andrew in Sudurad Harbour, Sipan, Croatia

In broken, no let us say shattered, English our captain told us that Šipan was where he lived, and that was probably why he took us not to the main harbour Luka Šipanska  (literally Šipan's Port) but rather to the small settlement at the other end of the island where he lived, which is called Suđurađ. I was really pleased he did so as the village is really very beautiful, clustered around a tiny harbour full of bobbing fishing boats it tumbles down to the sea in the manner of the best Mediterranean seafront villages everywhere. At the very centre, facing the port, is a Castle built by the Skočibuha family around 1539 with two fortified towers and a central range.

After an almost pantomime like struggle with ropes we managed to dock and our captain took us ashore. There he offered us some food at his house. To be honest I wasn't hungry and didn't want to waste my time on Šipan eating, so whilst everyone else disappeared off to his house for food I walked up through the village to a viewpoint. This was up a rocky, parched little footpath. Trying not to think about snakes I made my way up to the high point and looked down across the village and out to sea and the mainland beyond it and felt pleased with myself. At this point my video camera decided it was too bloody hot and stopped functioning. Try as I might I couldn't persuade it to work so I put it in my bag hoping the shade would revitalise it in time for Lopud.

My still camera was still working perfectly well and I got some nice shots as I wandered back down into Suđurađ, then up the other side of the village past what turned out to be another nudist beach, albeit an empty one. I was treated to some even more pretty views of the habour from the island's only road which eventually leads to Luka Šipanska.

View of Sudurad Harbour, Sipan, Croatia

I then wandered back down into the village to have a closer look at the Castle and watched a fisherman arrive with his small catch of odd looking fish. After a while the others arrived again and we headed back for the boat. All in all I was quite taken with Šipan and Suđurađ which turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

To read more about Suđurađ Castle, see Castles of Europe pages.

And so the "Not Much More Than A Bathtub Really" struggled through the waves to reach Lopud the last of the Elaphite Islands. Our captain presented us with a carrier bag full of small sticky sugar-covered pastries of a doughnut-like consistency. These were spiced with what tasted like cinnamon and after one or two became quite addictive (so perhaps they were spiced with cocaine instead). He seemed quite pleased that he had finally presented us with something we liked to eat. Bolstered one of the Germans tried the spirit from the unmarked bottle and went purple before surrepticiously letting the rest of the glassful slip out into the sea.

Lopud is dominated by the very attractive Franciscan Monastery which is heavily fortified and stands above the entrace to Lopud Bay. Another pantomime awaiting our docking here. There were no places left to dock and so we pulled up alongside a larger vessel (which had sails no less) and tied up against that instead. So we had to clamber up a rope ladder onto the big boat before we could go ashore. It was, admittedly, a very nautical way to arrive.

Andrew in Lopud Bay, Island of Lopud, CroatiaLopud Bay is wide and very attractive, although to my eyes not as much as Suđurađ  Bay had been. The first port of call had to be the Monastery which was quite plain on the inside. Some superb views could be had from the overgrown meadow behind it, particularly of the plant-encrusted fort that protected it from the land and very nearly qualified it for a place on the Castles of Europe pages. With some relief I tried my video camera again and it decided it had cooled down enough to start working.

Up on the hill behind the town was a genuine Castle which you could walk up to if you were clinically insane, in this heat and with only an hour or so on the island I settled for taking a photograph of it from here, which if nothing else gives a good idea of it's dramatic setting.

To read more about the Castle, see Castles of Europe pages.

Back down into town I stopped for a really good milkshake and then wandered along the Bay. Halfway along I came across the botanical gardens, thinking it probably a good idea to get some shade I went inside and was deafened by cicadas and attacked by midges. Persevering I walked all the way around the gardens but soon had had enough and exited again into the sunshine which was by now very strong indeed.

Lopud Bay, Island of Lopud, Croatia

Further along the Bay there are two ancient churches, one of which is Pre-Romanesque and apparently architecturally very important, although the other was more attractive to look at. Eventually I reached the end of the Bay and looked at my watch. I still had plenty of time, so I decided to go and find something to eat. This proved to be quite difficult, apparently it was too late for lunch but too early for dinner and subsequently nowhere much was currently doing food. A little miffed at this I went to find somewhere to sit and read some of my book, Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui which had been banned in China and publicly burnt so had to be pretty good. About ten pages in and we were already dealing with lesbianism and masturbation so I could see why the Chinese had brought out the torches. It was compulsive reading and the half hour that I sat reading it passed quickly and eventually the rest of the people from the boat came back and we piled once more onto the good ship "Please God let us Get Back Alive" and headed away from Lopud and out to sea once more.

Having mastered the controls of the boat our captain now managed to steer unerringly into the roughest bits of sea he could possibly find, much to the consternation of the sea-sick couple who were getting more and more aggitated as the journey progressed. Eventually the sci-fi monstrosity of the Hotel President appeared and the Germans and other English couple departed. I had suggested to my green-gilled friends they get off here and walk, but they decided to brave the rest of the journey. This they regretted almost immediately when our captain turned up directly into the waves and the "This is It We're All Going To Die" jerked and jumped around like an epileptic fitting very badly indeed.

Heading Back to DubrovnikIt was only briefly and we turned back into Lapad Bay. There then followed one last pantomime mooring with the anchor - a real anchor too, just like the one of the packet of butter - dragging along the seafloor as the boat attempted to connect with the jetty. Eventually it succeeded and we all got off, thanked our captain and left the "Never Again Even if You Paid Me" to await the next day's victims.

All in all, despite the almost comedic antics of our captain, it had been an excellent and relaxing day and I would recommend anyone to visit the islands - as long as they have a strong stomach and good sense of humour. It was worth it.

I said goodbye to the sea-sick couple who it turned out would be picked up by my coach back to the Airport the next day and went back to my hotel for a shower and a rest before I tackled my floodlit walk into Dubrovnik Town.

Dubrovnik is really very well floodlit, as I had seen from the coach when I had arrived, and it was good to be walking around it now. As usual the bus pulled up at the Pile Gate which is lit so brightly it might as well be daylight. Once inside the walls you are abruptly reminded that Croatia has strong Meditteranean influences, Stradun was filled with throngs of people doing the evening stroll common to all Meditteranean countries, called "korzo" here.

Stradun, Dubrovnik during the evening 'korzo'

St. Blaise's Church is dramatically lit from inside making the stained glass glow with colour in the manner it does from inside during the day. Subtle but dramatic lighting picks out the arcades and features of the Sponza and Rector's Palaces. Surprisingly the Cathedral was lit rather uninventively.

The Rector's Palace, Dubrovnik lit at night

I progressed down to the Old Port where I had hoped for dramatic reflections of St. John's Fortress glimmering in the black waters. I was disappointed to see that St. John's wasn't floodlit at all, although the Revelin Fortress on the other side of the harbour was. It seemed an oversight to not light St. John's, but I suppose one cannot whinge too much when you think about how well lit the rest of the town was. I contented myself to taking pictures across the harbour of the lights of the suburb of Ploče glimmering in the night, interestingly you could see the main road (on which the coach had arrived days before) where it travelled halfway up the hillside above town which wasn't visible at all during the day.

The Lights of Ploce, Dubrovnik, Croatia

From here I passed by the Dominican Monastery and through the Ploče Gate to walk up the landward side of the walls toward the Minčeta Fortress where you are treated to one of the most impressive views of the town walls looking up from the side of the Revelin Fortress past the six bastions climbing the hill (for those fortification-philes out there they are named (starting at Revelin): St James, Drezvenik, St Katherine, St Lucy, St Barbara and then the Minčeta and all date from the 14th Century). Between St James and Drezvenik is another smaller entrance into the old town called the Buža Gate.

The landward side of the Old Town Walls, Dubrovnik by night

This leads down a particularly steep set of steps past Prijeko (which I hastened by) and back onto Stradun where I would inevitably spend my last time in Dubrovnik soaking in the atmosphere of this most remarkable and achingly beautiful little town.

I was certainly sad to be getting up the following day and packing. The coach did the usual round of hotel pick-ups, including the sea-sick couple from the Elaphite Islands trip and then treated us all to one last astounding aerial view of the old town before taking us to the airport. The flight home was excellent, somewhere over France the clouds dissipated and I began to spot landmarks; what I took to be the Loire, the mouth of the Seine with it's huge bridge near Le Havre, then along the Channel coast before crossing to fly over Essex. Then to my delight I spotted something very familiar indeed, the Isle of Sheppey and the meeting of the Thames and Medway. I was flying directly over my home! For years I had watched jets wheeling in the sky above Walderslade and finally after many many flights I was actually looking down upon the place I live. All too soon the flight touched down at Gatwick and a very successful holiday had come to an end.

Go to Croatia before the hoardes remember it is there and turn it into the next Corfu or Ibiza. You won't regret it.

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