Entering the walled city of Old Town Dubrovnik at night is an overwhelming experience. Romantic light ricochets off walls and walkways leaving the moon lonely and ignored amidst curvaceous clouds of purple gray. Melissa and I both gushed “Wow!” as we ducked through the archway of Pile Gate during our initial evening stroll. In thirteen months on the road, this was the only time we have been simultaneously awestruck. Enjoying our first night in Croatia, we dined over views of stone ramparts cooled by an invigorating Adriatic breeze.
An introduction to Dubrovnik
Our first morning in Dubrovnik was not so tranquil. We couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the commotion of the town. The historic section of Dubrovnik is extremely popular on cruise ship itineraries. Swarms of momentary visitors flock to the Old Town wielding cameras and time constraints. Street musicians and market workers compete for space and attention and it is difficult to distinguish between the many concentrated sights. For a moment, we were tempted to retreat from the chaos and risk losing sunlight and a favorable morning temperature.
Luckily for us we spotted a sign for Dubrovnik Walking Tours before reaching our guest house. After briefly speaking with a representative for the company we decided to join this informative tour. We were dispatched to the meeting point for all of their tours, the big Onofrio Fountain just passed the entrance to the Pile Gate (note there is a smaller Onofrio Fountain as well so make sure to locate the correct one).
Our guide with Dubrovnik Walking Tours
Our guide was Ana and her English was fluent. She also possessed great intonation, a neutral accent, and weaved humor into her presentation. Ana’s presentation spanned nearly a millennium of historical information but also included a modern context. We never went into any sights, but she provided information for highlights including opening hours, price points, and tips for best times to visit.
Ana is a local and included anecdotes about counting flags as a child while celebrating a holiday held for Dubrovnik’s patron saint. She educated our group on the origins of Croatia’s Slavic language and joked about vowel-less words that are difficult to pronounce for foreigners. She spoke respectfully about the destruction and anguish caused by the recent war in the early 1990s as well as damage from an earthquake in 1667. Ana spoke with distinction about the various facts and urban legends that make true history hard to decipher within Dubrovnik. After the one hour tour our guide stuck around to answer follow up questions alongside the shimmering port.
Dubrovnik Walking Tours
Whether limited by time or desperate for an informative introduction to this UNESCO site start with Dubrovnik Walking Tours. Tours run between May 1st and October 31st. Our tour was called The Discover Dubrovnik Walk and provided a general history of the city. During the 2012 season this tour is provided everyday at 10am and 6:30pm (18:30).
The Story About The War is a tour devoted to the history of the recent war which raged on the Balkan Peninsula. Eighty Percent of the buildings in the Old Town sustained damage during this conflict. The worst day for the city came on December 6, 1991 when 2000 bombs were dropped. During the 2012 season this tour is given on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 11am as well as at 8pm (20:00) everyday.
The Old Jewish Quarter tour is delivered every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 11:30am during the 2012 season. The tour includes admission into a synagogue which is one of the oldest in Europe. Jews came to Dubrovnik in the 1400s. They were probably fleeing persecution in other regions of Europe. Ana explained that the synagogue is a normal looking house and easy to miss. It is an active house of worship for 45 local Jews; the rabbi comes all the way from Zagreb for services.
If you’re running late and didn’t book ahead, just show up at the big Onofrio Fountain about ten minutes prior. Large groups can contact the company for a private tour. Check out www.dubrovnik-walking-tours.com for more information.