Do you recognize this view? No? It’s Dubrovnik, but in snow, which is a big rarity for this southern city. Usually, Dubrovnik is full of sun and heat. This is perhaps the most beautiful city of Croatia and certainly one of the most handsome in Europe. Below, you will see its photographs with and without snow.
After a two-week Christmas holiday and greeting the New Year in Montenegro, we decided to visit Dubrovnik. Why not? It is only 30 km from Herceg Novi. January was chosen not accidentally. While it’s cold, snowing, or raining in most parts of Europe, the sun shines and, what is most important, warms in Croatia and Montenegro, and you can enjoy seclusion that European seaside resorts never have in summer.
In addition, there is the letter R in the name of this month, which means that we could get excellent oysters from the Croatian town of Ston for lunch. We already visited Dubrovnik in summer about eight years ago. Believe me, it was not worth it. Maybe for the sake of Croatian beaches, you will say? What beaches? Like this?
Can you imagine the degree of your pleasure, when you sit on this tiny piece of land among thousands of Chinese, Germans, and Russians? Moreover, some of Dubrovniks more than forty thousand citizens also go to the beach in July and August. No, it’s better to choose a low season to get acquainted with the pearl of the Adriatic.
A historical note
Dubrovnik started its history on a small island near the shore in the 7th century, but in the 12th century, the island was connected to the land, and Stradun, the famous central street of Dubrovnik, was constructed on the place of the former channel.
Already in the Middle Ages, the city-fortress on the sea flourished, thanks to the sea trade and smart diplomacy, and it was the only city on the Adriatic that could compete with the mighty Venetian Republic. The management system of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) was very sensible. It prevented the concentration of power in one hand.
In 1806, Napoleon occupied Dubrovnik and, in 1808, abolished the republic and annexed it to France. But the Croats did not want to be the French. The ancient motto of the city-republic was “Freedom or death!” Today, this land doesn’t belong to France. It is the most southern part of Croatia.
The typical tourist goals, or what to see in Dubrovnik:
- the historic center of Dubrovnik and a walk along its walls;
- the island of Lokrum (in front of the old town) with its peacocks, ruins, and cactus garden;
- Mljet—island-reserve with a unique inner lake;
- the town of Ston with fortress wall, ancient salt pans (the oldest active salt pans in the world), and fish restaurants (with oysters).
If time and money allow, you can go to the island of Korcula, the Boka Kotorska fjord (the Bay of Kotor), and the city of Kotor (Montenegro) protected by UNESCO, or Bosnian Mostar.
But we had different plans
Our plans during that visit to Dubrovnik were much more modest—we just wanted to walk, explore the city, sit in its cafés, enter temples and churches, and take some pictures. We decided to stay not in the historical center, but a half-hour walk from it, among the Croats. Firstly, it is useful for improving the language, and secondly, long walks, especially in mountainous terrain, are good for health and overall fitness.
After covering the distance between Herceg Novi, Montenegro, and Dubrovnik (taxi—40 Euro), we found ourselves in Kate’s Place. We were lucky with this apartment. It was a wonderful place with a completely amazing hostess. Mrs. Kate is an embodiment of Irina’s dream. She speaks fluent English, travels a lot, and keeps a mini-hotel with three rooms. I am sure that most of you never had such a view from a balcony. This is not just the first line of the sea. A real precipice starts right below you. Standing on the balcony, you feel as if you are on the bow of a cruise liner. Remember the famous scene from the Titanic with Kate Winslet? The same picture: only the sea, you, and very well-fed gulls.
Leaving our suitcases, we went to greet Dubrovnik and its main street, Stradun and its white stones polished with the passage of millions of soles. We entered the city through the Pile Gate (vrata od Pile). The Large Onofrio’s fountain (Velika Onofrijeva fontana) built in 1438 is still in its place. Local residents take water from it to this day. The entrance to the city walls and St. Saviour Church (crkva sv. Spasa) are on the left, the Sponza Palace is at the end of the street. It is one of few buildings that survived the earthquake of 1667.
By the way, Dubrovnik got its modern look after the quake. The end of the 20th century and separation of Croatia from Yugoslavia brought some destruction to the city, albeit small. Now, everything is in order, but in my opinion, Dubrovnik lost something authentically medieval.
The next day, we climbed the hill to visit Fort Lovrijenac (or St. Lawrence Fortress) and to take photos of Dubrovnik and its magnificent walls from above. Neither earthquake, nor the sieges could destroy these walls. On the side by the Adriatic Sea, their thickness is three meters, and on the landward side—4-6 meters. The city walls are fortified with 15 towers, 5 bastions, St. John’s Fortress, and two forts built outside the old city: Lovrijenac and Revelin.
I don’t know why, but an usher in the Fort Lovrijenac asked if we planned to visit the walls of Dubrovnik today. We responded in Croatian, and he sold us tickets for the fort+city walls for 50 HRK, although only to visit the walls is three times more expensive in the cash boxes of the city. Then he phoned somewhere and advised someone that we would come today. The ability to speak the local language is not only convenient, but also profitable.
Besides Dubrovnik, we wanted to visit a small nearby town, Ston. There are famous oyster plantations in the bay near Mali Ston (which means Little Ston), where one of the highest-quality oysters in the world is grown. While for my wife the main attraction of Ston is oyster plantations, for most tourists it is a fortress wall. This is the longest defensive complex in Europe and the second longest in the world after the Great Wall of China, although, Ston’s walls are only partially preserved. In the evening, we found a bus station, checked the timetable, and decided to go in the morning.
But that January prepared a great surprise for the inhabitants of Dubrovnik and its few tourists. In the evening, a strong wind brought snow, and a real snowstorm began. For the first time in nine years, as Kate told us, the snow did not melt immediately. Next morning, the snow was 15-20 cm deep. It was dangerous to drive by a mountain road to Ston in such weather, so we were destined not to taste Croatian oysters this time.
It was chaos on the city streets. Buses attached chains on the tires, but drivers with summer tires on their “iron horses” collided with walls, trees, and pillars. Local people are not used to the snowdrifts and ice, and few know how to drive in such conditions, but what an interesting topic for discussion in bars and cafes. Nevertheless, the snow caused general enthusiasm. Lessons in schools were canceled. Many children saw snow for the first time in their life, and together with their parents, they made snowmen between palm and mandarin trees. But we hurried up to the old city to take photographs of Dubrovnik again, this time in snow.
Due to icing, the fortress walls of Dubrovnik were closed for visitors, and we were able to climb only to the St. Lawrence Fortress that also met us with closed doors. In the morning, we returned to Montenegro.
That is how we visited snowy Dubrovnik. If you also want to experience Dubrovnik in snow, wait for 9 or 10 years.