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Cruising the Mediterranean, Day 4: Dubrovnik

October 13th, 2019 · No Comments · tourism, Tourists

Dubrovnik has had an interesting century or so. During most of that 100 years it was known for plenty of sun, steep geography, charm and low cost.

Then came a war, in the early 1990s, and a generation later something far less serious, but perhaps more thoroughly advertised, the ultra-popular cable-TV series “Game of Thrones”, much of which featured scenes filmed in and around Dubrovnik — mostly because it has buildings that look medieval.

The Dubrovnik global tourists knew, for years and years, was a sort of semi-secret that author George Bernard Shaw exposed in the 19th century when he described it as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” — for its fine climate, excellent cuisine and friendly people.

The pebble Shaw threw in the sea made some ripples, and travelers in the know all made their way to the walled Croatian city, eventually.

But then came a very big stone thrown into the pond, as the former Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s.

Dubrovnik, which is of largely Croatian ethnicity, was attacked by Serbia and Montenegro, Serb-dominated regions of the former Yugoslavia who insisted Dubrovnik should be their territory, and not part of Croatia.

Hostilities commenced, and 114 people in the city were killed, according to the Red Cross, and 55 percent of the buildings damaged. The siege finally was lifted, after a year, in 1992.

Dubrovnik then rebuilt itself, and today we could not find a single example of war-related damage.

The most exciting stuff here now is the arrival of thousands of fans of Game of Thrones — which ended earlier this year after eight seasons of medieval-themed mayhem, along with a dragon or two. Many of our shipmates seemed intent on reveling in GOT as much as possible

Walking past nearly any tour guide, you could hear him declaiming about how this tower or that hall or this cobbled street or that stretch of forest could be seen on Thrones footage.

“To think of it, GOT celebrities stood on this very ground!”

None of the four of us who entered the sunny town at about noon were fans of the show. I saw maybe five minutes of it in Season 1, and there was so much darkness and leather and violence, that I switched it off and never went back.

Not so for lovers of fantasy worlds.

We did our best to stay out of the way of the moving mobs of Thrones fans and tried to ignore the stores on the town’s main street that seemed to specialize in selling Thrones T-shirts, coffee cups, shoes and medieval underwear to fans who just can’t get enough.

We could hardly get in the front door of a shop that informed us it was a purveyor of “official licensed merchandise” from the Thrones collection. A lot of it having to do with someone named Jon Snow.

We took a leisurely walk down the main street of the old town, which might have been charming not long ago but now seemed a bit jaded, presumably because of the Hollywood attention.

When we reached the sea at the north end of town, we gave in to the impulse to take a little sail around the clear, blue waters, and went around a nearby island in a pleasant breeze and lots of sun.

We could make out numerous grottoes on the island, as well as at least one hotel, and a silly moment came when a nude sunbather jumped up, at the sight of the 10 or so people in the boat, and seemed to be pulling up his Speedo when he turned away from us and bent over.

Instead, it looked more like he was “mooning” the whole of us, perhaps as punishment for disturbing his nakedness. No one much cared, and in this part of Europe nudity probably is perfectly legal in some places.

Upon return to the dock, we had a leisurely lunch in a sprawling restaurant that took up both sides of the street and must do fabulous business. A quartet of musicians kept up a steady background noise as we ate — squid-ink risotto, a charcuterie plate and fried calamari. And drank — hard cider, some on-tap local beer …

It was a perfectly fine lunch, but not charmed, as some meals on the Euro-travel circuit can be.

We then ambled back out of the town as the shadows lengthened, and caught a cab back to the ship.

So, Dubrovnik. It must have been something before it was “discovered”. And it must have been something harrowing during the post-breakup siege.

But now it is in that third life, where everyone goes there, and everything costs more and people accidentally bump each other in the street throng and pay about twice as much for everything as they would have, in the middle of the last century.

No matter. As long as peace is the norm, fans can celebrate Dubrovnik in any way they like.


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