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Rub the Nose of Dubrovnik’s Shakespeare for Good Luck! Really?

My writing includes my personal travel experiences, destination, history, and cultural information.

I suppose it might be cliche to say the Mediterranean pulls at my heart strings. But, friends, it does. I even found myself living in the region for 2 years. And, I've been on several Mediterranean cruises, but one particular destination sticks out in my mind as I think back on my travels. And that spot is Dubrovnik, Croatia! I can't wait to tell you about my experiences there. But, first, let's take a look from a historical point of view. Let's see what has taken place to make the Dubrovnik of today such an incredible place.

A Bit About Dubrovnik

Not unlike other European cities on the sea, Dubrovnik made its way by maritime trade. It is thought to have been founded in the 7th century and originally settled by an Illyrian tribe. And again, not unlike other cities with their roots in ancient history, Dubrovnik was not the original name.

Excavations have uncovered several possible names of the original settlement: Rausia, Lavusa, Labusa, Raugia, Rachusa. Based on what is known of ancient languages, the possible roots of those names translate to rocky, jagged, and even narrow passages. This is just one of the theories related to the original name, there are also many others.

The name Dubrovnik shows up for the first time around 1189. With Slavic origins, it is thought that this new name is taken from the words "oak wood" or "oak forests".

Brief History of Dubrovnik

The history of this Croatian republic is long and complicated. Very similar to other European cities or regions, there is a history of invasion, new regimes, destruction, and then finally peace and development.

The original Illyrian inhabits remained autonomous until the 12th century. At that time, the area came under the control of the Byzantine Empire. During this period, the area was thriving. Their location gave them a strategic advantage in maritime trade. Run by aristocrats, there were notable improvements in government, the availability of medical care, resources for the needy, and the abolition of the slave trade.

By 1806, the French occupied the territory for a few years, and then in 1815 Dubrovnik was placed under the control of the Hapsburg Monarchy of Germany.

From 1918 to 1991, The territory came under the control of the then country, Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia fought for and won their independence from the Yugoslav nation.

The Devastation of 1991

Old Town Dubrovnik, including the old port, is surrounded by fortification walls. Over a while from the 9th century through at least the 13th century, these fortifications walls were built, enlarged, etc. In 1979, the walls surrounding the old town were placed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. (more on the walls later in this article.)

During the fight for independence, 56% of the buildings in Dubrovnik were damaged to some degree. The walls took 656 hits of artillery shelling. Because of its standing as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the walls were supposed to have been off limits, even in wartime. General Pavle Strugar, was sentenced to a 7 1/2 year prison sentence for coordinating the attack. He was prosecuted as a war criminal.

Dubrovnik Has Starred in Several Movies and TV Shows

Dubrovnik is referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", so it's no wonder it has become a favorite for film producers.

The following list represents the film/TV shows in which Dubrovnik has had a major role:

  • The Secret Invasion filmed on location in Dubrovnik in 1964
  • The HBO series Game of Thrones used the city as a representation of the cities of King's Landing and Qarth
  • Star Wars, The Last Jedi used Dubrovnik for the casino city of Canto Bight in 2016
  • Robin Hood used various locations throughout Dubrovnik for the 2017 release of the movie

Other Entertainment Credits

  • Quarantine Circular, a video game, is set off the coast of Dubrovnik. The city is mentioned several times in the game
  • The song "Ring Them Bells" tells us that Shirley Devore goes to Dubrovnik to find a husband.
  • An Australian rock band formed in 1987, named themselves "The Dubrovniks". The name was chosen because two of the band members were born in Dubrovnik.

Things to Do and See

The climate of Dubrovnik is beautiful; not quite tropical, not quite Mediterranean. It's really lovely all year round. So, whatever time of year you visit, chances are you will have beautiful weather. Just like it never rains in Southern California, it rarely snows in Dubrovnik!

  • Dubrovnik Cable Car: The original cable car was destroyed in the destruction of 1991. It has been rebuilt and offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and the sea!
  • Dubrovnik Summer Festival: The festival runs every year from 10th July to 25th August. Since 1949, it has been known throughout Europe and offers a wide array of performances ranging from plays and concerts.
  • Boat Tours: From the old port within the city walls, you will find loads of boat tours ranging from one-hour tours to half and all-day tours. Visitors also have the opportunity to rent sailing boats or yachts and take off on their own.
  • Relax at the Beach: Dubrovnik has sandy and pebble beaches. Lapad Beach is one of the most popular with a pedestrian-only street leading to it. All the beaches have restaurants or at a minimum, concessions available. Most offer water sports activities such as water polo, parasailing, beach volleyball, and mini football.
  • Museums: Within Dubrovnik, you will find approximately 12 museums. Whether your interests lie in history, the arts, the maritime industry, religion, or natural sciences, the museums of Dubrovnik have you covered.
  • Churches: It's Europe, folks! There are monasteries, Catholic and Orthodox churches, and cathedrals. Each has its inherent beauty, style of architecture, and historical significance rooted in Dubrovnik.

My Two Favorites:

  • The Statute of Marin Držić: Marin Držić was a playwright hailing from Dubrovnik. He was famous for his comedic tragedies and is often referred to as "Dubrovnik's Shakespeare". The statue is located outside the current theater although that is not its original location. When the statue of Držić was moved to its current location, seemingly out of nowhere, a legend came about. The people of Dubrovnik are perplexed at the origin of this legend which says " That is if you rub the nose of Držić, not only will you have good luck, but you will return to Dubrovnik". The locals get a kick out of tourists running to rub the nose of the statue. It's a
  • Walking the Fortification Walls: The old walls surround the old city. They are about 6365 feet of uninterrupted wall and at some points are 83 feet high. They are 5-6 feet thick! Once again, in 1979, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Parts of the wall can be traced back to the 9th century. By the end of the 15th century, the entire city was encircled and fortified against attacks. Within the walls are forts, towers, and bastions. There are four original gates to enter the old city: the Pile Gate, Ploce Gate (the main entrance into the old city), the Peskarija Gate, and the Ponta Gate. Buža Gate was installed in 1908 when the territory was under Austrian control. Each one of the gates has a drawbridge.

Why Walk the Walls? And Tips to Do So!

Walking the walls is kind of a must-do in Dubrovnik. The walls are what have made the city a standout in the Mediterranean. Taking over 500 years to build, the walls are massive, giving you amazing views not only of the city but the beautiful Adriatic Sea.

There are open and closing hours to walk the walls and this varies by day of the week and season. An entrance fee is also charged. A normal stroll around the city atop the walls should take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Restaurants and public bathrooms are available throughout your walk. Bear in mind that at times, you are 83 feet off the ground; there are no trees for shade, so I suggest a hat, cool, comfortable clothes, and good walking shoes as the pavement is a bit uneven in some spots. Aside from the restaurants, there are no benches to sit and take a break.

Pro Travel Tip:

As you walk the walls, look down at the rooftops. The roofs are made of slate tiles. You will notice many are lighter in color. These light-colored tiles are replacement tiles due to the damage done during the conflict of 1991. It's amazing to see just how much damage was done to the structures. There are about 1575 people who live within the walls of the old city. The repaired roofs you see are the homes of civilians who suffered immensely during the conflict. If you look closely, you can still see bullet holes as well.

I Loved Dubrovnik and Here's Why!

Every time I Have been to Dubrovnik has been as a port stop on a cruise. I have had the pleasure of visiting in the spring, summer, and fall. The weather was lovely with beautiful blue sunny skies.

Entering the city gates the first time, I remember thinking how clean it was. The walkways are marble and it appeared as if you could eat off the stones themselves! The seawater is so clear you can see the bottom when boating. It's just spectacular!

I have taken boat tours, rubbed the nose of Marin Držić, visited Lapada beach, and strolled the city. Of course, I shopped and had delicious coffee too. For some strange reason, I remember the first time I tasted Lipton Peach tea was walking the walls of Dubrovnik. The first time I visited, we did the Evelyn Woods speed walk and made it around the walls in 45 minutes! Why? To see how fast we could walk the 2.2 km, of course! As I have said in previous articles, I'm not a museum kind of gal, so honestly, other than from research I can't tell you much about the museums.

A Funny Thing Happened on a Visit!

We were on the shuttle bus waiting to be taken back to the ship embarkation point. We were waiting, waiting, waiting. What in the world was the hold-up? The bus was full, we were past the departure time and the driver was outside of the bus talking in a very animated fashion! It seems that the bus was wedged in and couldn't depart. A Smart Car had parked sideways right against the bus.

The driver and then the men he was speaking with each went to a corner of the Smart Car and hoisted it up and moved the entire car to the sidewalk! Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it! It was hilarious! The driver got on the bus but before we left he said " We leave now, all taken care of!" as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened! It's moments like that which make travel fun and spontaneous; memorable.

In Conclusion, Why Travel?

Everyone has a different reason for traveling. Some vacation travel for fun; beaches and other activities, etc. While others travel for cultural enrichment. I'm sure there is a myriad of reasons why people hit the road or the skies.

Travel gives us memories. Some good, some maybe not so good. I'm told a person should invest in those memories, in themselves. Memories stay with us for a lifetime. Material goods deteriorate and become useless. After all, there are no luggage racks on a hearse.

I have been traveling since I was six years old. Over the last 15 years, my travel activity has increased exponentially. In fact, for the last 2 years, I have lived abroad as an American ex-pat. Living in Europe, gave me an opportunity for more frequent travel, shorter, less expensive flights, etc.

The Next Chapter

As I prepare to return to the States, making it my new home base, I have done much contemplation; self-examination. What have I learned or gained from my travel experiences? I've had the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world and making lifelong friends; hearing their stories, and their opinions. In this digital world, we live in, we can visit virtually, any time we want. My Social Media Director, Elisona is in Albania and we video chat once a week!

This, in turn, has helped me to broaden my opinions and look at many things from a different perspective. I have experienced different cultures, different cuisine, religions, and a different way of life. I truly believe that I have become a better, different version of "Me". i am so grateful for the ability to travel!

Without Meaning to be Political

Without meaning to be political, I've even begun to look at the United States differently. I left the States in 2019. This was right at the time when politics were front and center. It seemed to have brought out the ugly in so many people; no acceptance of differing opinions, violence, and anger. What I have come to realize is that the United States, in comparison to other countries, is still in the toddler stage of life, as it is only 246 years old. As I research for articles or as I have traveled and explored, the countries I have visited are ancient in many cases, with some established in the early years of AD.

These ancient countries have seen a past of violence, invasions, famines, cultural changes, and ultimately, growth and prosperity. They have come to terms with their history. For example, Dubrovnik has the city walls that were built for fortification, to protect the citizens from attacks. The "crisis" we see today in the United States is not unlike the history of every other country. One could look at this current "crisis" as growing pains. I'm sure in 1991 when Dubrovnik, was fighting for their freedom, the people were angry and their ugly came out. Or the same with Greece, Italy, France, etc.

This is What Travel has Given Me

Travel has given me the ability to separate myself from the everyday trials and tribulations and look at life as a journey. A journey to be experienced and embraced; To Live!

Until Next time, friends, remember, "To Travel is to Live!!"

© 2022 Dee Serkin

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