On October 1st in Dubrovnik, the tourist switch is flipped to slow. The last cruise ship pulls out of harbor and a great inhale is almost palpable from the travel industry providers in town. For their financial better or worse, Dubrovnik begins to shed its summer hysteria and settle into an autumn calm. Day tours to Korcula become less frequent. For Neil and I, this meant that we could finally head up to the walls around Old Town without jostling with a million other people peeking over the ledge.
Walking the Defense Walls of Old Town Dubrovnik
The walkway atop the wall can only be accessed at two places, either by the Pile Gate (pronounced Pee-la) or by the opposite gate at Ploce. It can only be walked counter-clock wise. So when you reach the top of the ramparts, follow the crowd. If you enter on the eastern side, you’ll see the internal streets and the mountainside of the city first. Conversely, we started at the Pile Gate and could see the Adriatic Sea right away. The walk without stops takes about an hour and a half. The defense walls in Dubrovnik close at 6:30pm so last admittance is 6 o’clock. Neil and I enjoyed a good stroll with plenty of stops for pictures and video. So we entered at 4:30 and finished just as the town clock rang half past six.
On top of the wall, several artists sell sketches and paintings of Dubrovnik so you can get a nice view and souvenir while you’re walking around the walls. If you’re standing on the Adriatic side, you’ll also be able to snap a nice shot of Fort Lawrence which is where the HBO filming crew was working during the week of our visit. They were filming the new season of Game of Thrones. And while I tried to figure out a way to crash the star-filled set, it seemed that the crew had done a good job of sequestering all actors and stealthy moving about the Dubrovnik area. I never got to see Peter Dinklage and had to resign myself to viewing their work via Twitter feed. Boo!
But life goes on and the walk around the walls continues past cafes and souvenir shops where just beside a replica cannon, I spotted over two dozen Croatians lazing in the sun, the Adriatic lapping at their feet and massive stone walls at their backs. Children ran around and adults washed the sea salt off their tan skin under modern outdoor shower heads. I turned to Neil and pointed. “That’s what we’re doing tomorrow!”
Swimming the Wall is Better
Growing up on Long Island in New York State, I know about shorelines and beaches. My house was two blocks away from the canals and at any point I could have jumped right into the water and splashed about. But I hardly ever did. Maybe because the water was murky black and slimy seaweed tangled around my ankles. I didn’t like it. But at the base of the defense walls around Old Town Dubrovnik, the water is blue-green and clear. Boulders and pebbles slope out to open waters and a line of buoys mark the safe swimming lanes around the walls. It’s a giant swimming pool with ladders , stairs and rocks leading into the green-blue tide.
The walls reach to the cerulean sky and clean rock/cement patios wrap around the area. With my towel and book, I climbed to the highest point of the rock outlet which gave me a clear view over the Adriatic and a cross breeze from around one corner of the fortifications. Our sunbathing spot claimed, we scurried back down to the water to choose our entry point into the water.
Choose carefully. Steps and simple rocks into the water can be slippery. Even if a bannister lends some support, they are often loose and don’t really help you as a wave scuttles to shore. So take the traditional poolside ladder. I know it seems anticlimactic but they are the most stable and often drop you into a pretty deep part of the water so that you can start swimming away, and not hit a rock.
As I cut across the wake, I heard a loud “Woohoo!” A man dove headlong into the water, his form confident as he cut into the sea. Immediately, I thought: going to crack your head open! Going to smack into the rocks! But as he bobbed to surface it was like a scene from a movie. He whipped his head around, sluicing off the salt from his hair and then gracefully freestyled across the little cove joining his girlfriend who was perched on a jagged rock like a mermaid. Neil caught the dive and the couples silhouette on his Sony underwater camera.
I looked at Neil and he nodded in agreement. Swimming along the walls was one of the best days of our trip. Boats cruised past and we bobbed like corks in their wake. The sun was warm and there were hardly any crowds left in town. An older couple played handball in the Adriatic then dried off while playing cards. With such a high salt content, I could float on the surface. Sun in my face, I began to close my eyes as another swimmer jumped out of her jeans and with a scream into the waters below Dubrovnik’s Old Town.