Posted by: Caroline | May 5, 2010

Dubrovnik: Eastern Europe at a Western Price

Pretty little seaside Dubrovnik was once a wealthy trading capital along current-day Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, so the fortified old town is awash with stately palaces and grand cathedrals. I have to say I was more impressed by the bounty of citrus trees crowding the North Gate drawbridge. Oranges and lemons everywhere!

The gate opens onto the main pedestrian promenade, Stradun.

A cathedral in the main square…

… and the view from the cathedral steps, where we were forced to sit since Dubrovnik suffers from an incomprehensible dearth of benches.

We began to notice the lack of benches a lot more after we enjoyed Dubrovnik’s main “must-do”: walking the 2 kilometer perimeter of the city walls (in fierce Mediterranean sun, no less). You can see from the crowded stairway that we were joined by many other tourists–and this isn’t even “high season” yet!

Once on the walls, though, it’s easy to see the attraction warrants its popularity; it gives you the perfect vantage point for all the terra cotta roofs and seaside cliffs you could care to photograph:

Even among the cathedrals and palaces, there are signs of everyday life inside the stone walls:

But forget a proper market. Although we spotted some fruits and vegetables, most vendors were selling small lavender-scented pillows to the passing tour groups.

For all of Dubrovnik’s sunny charm, it lacks the characteristic we had come to love about Eastern Europe: amazing adventure at a budget price. The kunas just fly out of your pockets here in a way unlike anything I have ever experienced; it’s like living in the Atlanta Braves stadium! Even in some of the world’s finest tourist destinations, you are offered a choice about spending money: go to the Louvre today, or wait for the Friday free night? Escargot and fine wines, or a takeaway kebab in the park? But in Dubrovnik, you have almost no choice; everything is exorbitant.

The taxi fares are a nightmare; I think we lost about three pounds each evening making the long, steep hike back to our “budget” accomodation after spending the day in the Old Town.

Of course we both felt incredibly lucky to be in such a beautiful place; it was just a bit of a shock to have to adjust our travel (and eating) habits so late in the game.

So we made a game of finding all the cheap things to do in Dubrovnik. This Jesuit church was both gorgeous and free! We got such good vibes from the place that we often ate our takeaway pizza on the nearby benches (as I mentioned, an endangered species in this city).

We hoped to find a pleasant swimming beach, but this rocky stretch with ferocious water was only good for dipping our feet in.

The best free thing of all–and not even granted a mention in our guidebook–was a hike up the cross-topped hill.

Another lovely view of the city–and without having to pay the fifteen dollars the city walls require!

The hike is apparently too challenging for some…

… but there was once an easier (and pricier) way to reach the top before the cable car was destroyed during the war. A new one is under construction.

Until that is complete, it is possible to enjoy the views in relative solitude.

We did finally break down and eat a real (pizza-free) dinner: delicious Mediterranean tapas like eggplant mousse and stuffed squid!


  1. What a gorgeous city. I’ve always wanted to go there

  2. Every time I check out your blog I am so mesmerized! The photos are so rich with architecture and natural beauty- and your comments bring added depth to the already overwhelming scenes depicted in the photos. This must be such a transformative experience for the two of you- – and it even looks like you’ve managed to find great weather at each destination! I am so very, very happy to take this little part in your journey.

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