ALIVE! AROUND THE WORLD: Dubrovnik, Croatia, The Middle East, and Galway, Ireland


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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Intrepid and colorful traveler Capt. Michael Barnes, Retired, Harbor, writes from Dubrovnik.

Entrance to the Old City of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik: ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’

This beautiful medieval walled city is a pleasure to explore, especially when the cruise ship season is over and the city is free of the daily thousands of passengers crowding its narrow streets.

There are two entrances to Old Town Dubrovnik: Pile gate and Ploce gate. The Pile gate and its steps take you into the city via the lovely highly polished limestone central Placa (Stradun) walkway.

If you look closely on either side of the walkway you will see a slight indentation in the surface to carry away the rainwater. Local folklore says that if you deliberately walk in this gutter you will never get married.

Just inside the gateway to the right is the large Onofrio’s Fountain, built to supply the city with fresh drinking water. On the left is the 1317 Franciscan Church and Monastery complex, which consists of a monastery, church, library, pharmacy and museum. To the left of the church entrance steps you will see, just above the ground, a small stone owl head worn very smooth along its outboard side. Again, local folklore has it that if you can stand on this stone owl head and remove your shirt without falling off, you will be lucky in love!

As you walk its narrow limestone streets and pass its baroque buildings, mighty walls and stone towers, it is easy to see why Dubrovnik is a popular location for so many historical films. The Minceta dominates the entire fortification system, while the Bakar fortress gives splendid views of Pile Gate, the old harbor and Lovrijenic Island.

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you may already have seen come of these landmarks: Kings Landing, Red Keep, and Iron Throne, to name but a few, that were filmed here.
Our apartment was high up overlooking Gundulic Square and the Jesuit stairs, made famous as the ones used in Cersei’s Walk of Shame in Game of Thrones. This has now become a big embarrassment for the Jesuit community at the top of the stairs, as many hardcore Game of Thrones fans try to reenact the Walk of Shame, often beating loud gongs.

Vehicles are not allowed in the city, except very early in the morning to bring in goods and farm produce to the Green Market, which just happened to be right underneath our bedroom window!

So getting up early was not a problem.

We spent hours climbing up and down the maze of small side streets off the main central Placa (Stradun), exploring the beautiful medieval architecture, and discovering small local bars and wine shops.

Although Croatia is not internationally famous for its wines (due to the city’s great tourist popularity), we did find quite a few remarkable Italian vintages.

 If you buy a city pass it gives you a discount on the various museums and exhibits that are on display within the city walls, but you do need lots of time; we did not buy one.
If you are visiting Dubrovnik and have only a short time, do visit the Rectors former residence and Palace near Orlando’s Column and the tall clock tower, and check out the Cultural-Historical Museum. This building has three floors of exhibits, starting with a dungeon and a courtroom on the ground floor. Then the upper floors have well-informed displays of weapons, uniforms, period furniture and painted icons.

 For those of you who find climbing steps difficult, this could be a challenge.

 Just around the corner is the harbor where you can purchase a full-day excursion to distant islands, or bypass these hawkers and walk down the pier and purchase a reasonably inexpensive return ferry ticket to Lovrijenac Island just 20 minutes away, and enjoy the peace and quiet with the peacocks, tame bunny rabbits, and free Game of Thrones photo opportunity, sitting on the Iron Throne in the monastery.

Or sipping an icy cold adult beverage while soaking your feet in the warm Adriatic sea with friends … what better way could you spend a hour or two?

Tip: Dubrovnik is a walking town with no wheelchair ramps or lifts, so wear sensible walking shoes. If you intend to visit a church, dress respectably. And if you have a problem walking or climbing stairs, stay on your cruise ship and write postcards.

Michael, I loved my visit to Dubrovnik – one of the most pleasant surprises of all my travels. What an awesome city! – John Hawkins, Club CEO

The Middle East

Alfredo Fajardo, Library, recently visited Egypt and the Holy Land.

“A Sphinx is a mythological creature with the body of a lion and the head of a person. The Egyptians built sphinx statues to guard important areas such as tombs and temples.” (Egypt.)

Galway, Ireland

Here’s Alive! editor John Burnes at the Christmas market in Eyre Square in Galway, Ireland in December.