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Why Croatia...

Updated: Apr 25

First Stop #Dubrovnik

Today, in the day of Covid19, many have been forced to learn about videoconferencing to connect with others. This technology has been used in the public schools since the 1990’s. In its infancy, schools shared resources and teachers within counties. In 2009, I coordinated the participation of Technology High School in Mega Conference Jr. One of the connections made during this event was with Secondary Medical School Ante Kuzmanic in Zadar, Croatia. Our students learned about programs and education offered this far-off land. Photographs and videos of the area highlighted the beautiful, Adriatic coast as well as damage that was done during the Croatian war of Independence. For me, that exposure lit a spark of curiosity.

Three years later, my daughter went to #Croatia for a few weeks. Her photos fueled that desire to visit this place. Having now retired and accumulated enough air miles to make my recurring pilgrimage to Greece, my husband and I purchased round trip tickets from Athens. On September 26, .2019, our 10 day Croatian adventure began. We took an early evening flight, rented a car, and using a combination of WAZE and google maps (yes they work on American phones in Europe) arrived at our Dubrovnik apartment. Early the next morning as we walked into the Old Town,

This thoroughfare has seen residents and travelers for centuries. Their uncounted footsteps have made the marble and limestone paving stones display an arresting luster. Medieval archways characterize the architecture and places to stop for a coffee or meal are to either side. Near the entrance is a ticket agent for the “Wall Walk”. This is very popular, “must do” activity, for good reason. As you amble along the defensive wall encircling this historic area, your bird’s eye view allows for a greater appreciation of the resilience of the people living here over the centuries. Below are some photos of what you can see.

Like Canal Street in Manhattan this main avenue of Dubrovnik’s old city was once a channel where small boats moved goods from one side of the old city to the other, until converted to a roadway in the 13th century. It now runs East-West connecting the main city gates of the old city and displays a wondrous mix of gothic, renaissance and #baroque #architecture. The landmark bell and clock towers add to the magic.

The distinctive terra cotta, red, and gray-green ceramic roofs of Dubrovnik’s Old City are counterpoised with its limestone and marble streets. Narrow alleys meet open avenues, and a beautiful synthesis of medieval to baroque architecture is on full display.

Towering over the commanding heights of a 120 feet massive and sheer rock face, #Fortress #Lovrijenac has deterred attackers since the 11th Century. Its cannons and those across the small inlet to the western bay greeted the unwelcome for centuries. Many scenes from Game of Thrones were shot here. Today it is a serene and idyllic setting for kayakers and hikers.

Medieval architectural elements often mix with modern necessities in the narrow lanes and passageways of Dubrovnik’s Old City. The passageways ascend and descend, turn, and then one may spy a flood of sunlight that indicates an open plaza or esplanade ahead. In the early morning fluttering sheets are drying and there is a magic stillness in the Old City.

There are a few taverns one will encounter walking along the wall of the Old City. Necessity being the mother of invention most likely prompted this beer (pivo) delivery system.

Beautiful facade and bells Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Dubrovnik. This of 17th Century stone church is nestled in the heart of the city quarter which bears the church’s name. It is early Baroque Period and was built over the ruins of the early medieval church of St John.

Notice the different shades of the tiled roofs. The brighter, newer ones are those replaced as a result of the artillery siege when the former Yugoslavia splintered. Civil wars find mixed allegiances within families and heartbreak all around. As the years have passed, Croatia has become ever more popular as a beautiful destination but reminders of the strife remain.

Goods to and from Europe, Africa and Asia passed though Dubrovnik’s old port. This included silk and spices from the Silk Road, every manner of product from Anatolia and the Middle East, even slaves from the Balkans to the Ottoman Empire and North Africa. In the late middle ages and early renaissance, the Mediterranean was the engine of commerce and trade, and cities such as Dubrovnik flourished on that trade system.

The green mountains of the Dalmatian Coast and the azure Adriatic to your right; the beige buildings and terracotta roofs of homes, workshops, churches, convents, monasteries and schools of Dubrovnik’s Old City to your left. The four-hour walk around the city walls offers innumerable unique and dramatic panoramas. You will find arriving at the opening or in the evening before closing much less crowded owing to the tour bus schedules. Midday could be quite warm so think: water, sunscreen, hat.

Imposing entrance to one of the many monumental fortified towers on Dubrovnik’s old city. The medieval defensive system along the Dubrovnik city walls runs almost two kilometre in length. Today a peaceful café can be seen atop a tower, where, long ago, stalwart watchmen and soldiers scanned the horizon for sea born threats.

Minceta Tower was first built in 1319, at a time of increasing corsair activity as well as warfare between nearby Genoa and Venice, both of whom sometimes allied with, and sometimes cast a jealous eye on, the great Adriatic trading city of Dubrovnik. It was massively re-fortified 145 years later after the fall of Constantinople and the loss of much of the Balkans to the Ottomans. This massive tower protecting the northwest corner of the Dubrovnik walls is the highest point of the city fortifications, and an imposing deterrent to any land attack. The curved base of Minceta Tower was used as the exterior of "House of Undying" in the city of "Qarth" in Game of Thrones.

Archers, crossbowmen and later, gunners, manned these embrasures, or openings in fortifications. These types of openings are flared inward. This one faces another fortification to create crossfire with a nearby tower making attacks on the city very difficult. Today one does not have to worry about attackers and instead enjoy the view of the Saint Dominic Church Tower and the Adriatic Sea.

A photograph of Maria Savidis Markatos by Stephan Skettini
A rare photograph of the camera-shy me.

It has been said that while you are in Dubrovnik that you should rub the nose of the statue of the “Shakespeare of Dubrovnik” for good luck. It is why his nose is so shiny. One wonders if nose rubbing will go the way of the handshake following the pandemic.

Early the next morning as the sun was rising…

Wide awake a few minutes after sunrise, this beautiful independent creature is in control. Look at the look... This photograph was taken in the Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia during October 2019.

On a thousand-year-old route to the open market, a modern Dubrovnik fruit peddler, hurrying on his way, passes by the striking Saint Blaise (St. Vlaho) church. The marble and limestone street paving in this area are worn to a shine by a millennium of pedestrians. The 300-year-old church is a quintessential example of Baroque Period architecture in Europe. With its ornate features it displays all the elements of European Baroque style, which celebrates wealth, power and aesthetics with intricate detail, complexity, interplay of light and shadow, and drama. St. Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik.

Next Stop Split, Croatia

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