Rector’s Palace, Dubrovnik

Rain and thunder indoors?!

It was tipping it down and, as beautiful as Dubrovnik old town is, we were a bit sick of being so wet! We went looking for somewhere to dry off and found two beautiful places. The first was a wine bar, tiny in size and decorated with hundreds of used corks. It was elegant enough to feel special, but not too upmarket that we felt out of place in our rain gear. The atmosphere was really friendly and after a couple of glasses, we felt brave enough to head back out into the rain.

Running across to the Rector’s Palace, we didn’t know quite what to expect, but the beautiful building was a gem, with lots of rooms filled with old furniture, paintings and trinkets. It gave us a real sense of Dubrovnik’s history and it was fascinating to read about the uses for the building and it’s customs (for example, the Rector couldn’t leave the building without permission of the Senate – as big as the building was, I’d have gone a little stir-crazy!). The building even had a dungeon, which was suitably dark and claustrophobic- an interesting contrast to the fancy rooms above.

The main hall’s ornate twisting staircase boasted an open roof over the centre of the square, which meant that the rain poured down through the middle of the building, leaving dry pathways around the edges of the walls. As we started up the stairs, thunder rolled out and we stopped on the landings to take in the scene. It may have been the wine from earlier, but there was something so powerful about the rain cascading down over the edge of the staircase as the lightning flashed above us. It may not have been the most picturesque place we visited on the trip, but it certainly created a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

Diocletian’s Palace and the Basements Below

Diocletian’s Palace is a sprawling network of twisting, turning streets, ruins and basements. Whilst the palace walls house the marbled streets above, below street level are a warren of passages more fitting for a horror set than a palace of wealth.

Most famous for their use in Game of Thrones, as a place to keep dragons, the basements have an interesting history.

They have only recently been cleared out and made accessible (some parts are still closed off) following a clean up operation spanning the last 50 years.

Filled with debris, rubbish and rubble over the years from the development works above, the basements had become an inaccessible time capsule, the hallways blocked with remnants of the changes taking place.

Slowly, the basements have been cleared, opening up section by section to the public. We overheard this story from one of the tour guides, her disembodied voice echoing through the underground rooms to where we stood, looking up at one of the huge piles of remaining rubble. It was amazing to think that the high ceilings and pillars had recently been hidden by the things discarded by the people in the city.

Walking through the basements, dimly lit with the sound of water dripping down the walls was a haunting experience, contrasting with the bustle from the markets in the halls above. The only noise echoing though the corridors was the rustle of birds and the slight echoing of other tourist’s footsteps. At least I hope that’s what it was……

Lokrum Island and the Iron Throne

Peacocks and the Iron Throne – all in one location!

During our stay in Dubrovnik, our bedroom window looked out across the sea towards Lokrum Island. Every morning we would wake to the ships passing by, taking visitors to and from the island. Although the island looked fairly small, our Croatian host had told us tales of peacock inhabitants and Game of Thrones scenery, making us curious and eager to explore.

Lokrum is an island nature reserve, around 15 minutes away from the Dubrovnik coast. Boat rides run regularly throughout the day and cost around 35HRK, which also includes entrance to the island.

As we were visiting in Autumn, the weather was a little hit and miss, so we waited for a sunny day and headed off to the boat. Visiting in Autumn did us a huge favour, as the boat was only about three quarters full, giving us room to spread out. The motion of the boat and the sun reflecting off the deep blue waters made for a stunning ride.

There are no overnight stays allowed on Lokrum and cars are also banned, so the first thing that struck us when we got off the boat was just how quiet it is! The second thing we noticed was the abundance of the island’s only inhabitants – the peacocks! Introduced to the island around 150 years ago, these stunning birds now rule the roost. There is something quite majestic about them and the colours they display are captivating. Just be sure to follow the usual rules of photographing / observing wildlife – don’t get too close or you might find that they take a snap at you!

Exploring, we stuck to the coastal path, which took us most of the way round the island. The views were stunning, made even more impressive by the sparkling sea surrounding us. Having this nature reserve on your door step must be amazing for people living in Dubrovnik – no wonder people were really proud of it. It was immaculate and felt just the right mix of natural and well maintained.

Nearer to the centre of the island sat the Monastery, with elements remaining from a number of eras, it was fitting to its surroundings, tucked away in exotic gardens and plants. Inside the monastery, more information on the island’s history was available, including the telling of the curse on the island, placed by the Benedictine Monks who were forced to leave by the French army. Legend says that on their last night, they walked single file around the island three times, dripping wax from their up-turned candles, placing a curse on anyone who tried to seek the island for their own in the future.

A more modern exhibit in the monastery focused on Game of Thrones. The botanical gardens on Lokrum and parts of the monastery were used for the city of Qarth in the show. A full sized Iron Chair stood in the corner of the exhibit for visitors to sit in and take pictures. Given that Wandering Beeb is a big fan of the show, we took some time there for him to play at being Ned Stark (at least it wasn’t Geoffrey!!).

Although it was used as a set for one of the most famous shows of this decade, it was still the beauty of the island itself that stole my attention. Without a doubt, it’s a stunning place to visit. I’d love to go back in the summer and try out the Red Sea pool – it was a little too cold for this when we went!

Have you visited Lokrum? What was your favourite part of the island?

Walking The Walls: Dubrovnik Old Town

The walls around Dubrovnik old town are a World Heritage Site and are excellently preserved examples of fortification – making them a ‘must do’ if you are visiting the city. For the cheap price of  around 100 Kuna (about £11, although it seems to have risen to 150 Kuna or £18 for 2017), we spent a chunk of the morning wandering around the walls, taking pictures and trying to work out what CGI had been added for their numerous appearances in Game of Thrones. enlight34Being up high, we were able to look out over the city, getting a sense of the gloriously polished stone floors through to the terricotta rooftops of people’s homes. It was raining on and off as we made our way round the walls and we quickly realised that all of that stone flooring, whilst pretty, was incredibly slippy in Converse!  If you plan to walk the walls, make sure you bring some grippy shoes incase of rain – nobody wants to slide down the walkway on their bum in front of lots of other tourists (we saw at least two people do this and I was a close third, only saved by my death-grip on the wall).

enlight33Walking around the walls along the coastline, the scenery was stunning, made all the more beautiful when it was framed by the small square portholes built into brick. Luckily the rain stopped as we headed round to Fort Lovrijenac and we stopped to take some pictures of the cove. The waves were crashing over the rocks and with the rain clouds starting to drift away, the scenery was incredibly powerful. enlight32

To get to the next part of the wall, we had to time our run across the path, with the advancing sea crashing over the concrete. Other people were also trying to avoid the waves as they hit the rocks and it became entertainment for us, laughing and gasping as small groups either made it across successfully, or as people were drenched mid-run. As for us, after a couple of false starts (the waves were much bigger when you were face to face on a narrow path!), we made it across fairly unscathed.   enlight30