(My apologies for a gap in posting here: I’ve been away and I’ve been sick)
For us, the main pleasure in Old Korcula Town is just wandering around the Old Town, absorbing the atmospheric old narrow lanes and old buildings with beautiful stonework and amazing carvings. But, there are a couple of sights that are worth stopping for a visit too.
We started by climbing the staircase up to the Great Land Gate, the main entrance to the Old Town. Its tower is adorned with the Venetian winged lion and the coats-of-arms of the Doge of Venice (left) and the Rector of Korcula (right). We saw the coats-of-arms and winged lion at other places in Old Town too.
Inside the gate to the left is the Town Hall and Rector’s Palace. The seal on the center arch symbolizes the town’s importance as the southernmost bastion of the Venetian Republic—it’s St Mark below 3 defensive towers.
On the right is a small church to St Michael. Many towns in Croatia have a church to St Michael just inside the city gates, as they believed he gave protection against enemies.
The street ahead is Street of the Korculan Statute of 1214, the backbone of Old Town. The long street name honors a 1214 statute (the oldest known written law in Central Europe), with regulations about all facets of everyday life. The urban planners of Old Town were very smart, I think. All the small streets leading down to the water on the left of the main street (facing the point) are straight, allowing refreshing NW winds to blow into town. Those on the right are curved (so from here you can’t see the sea), to keep out the bad SE winds.
Continue along the main street to St Mark’s Square, roughly in the center of the peninsula.
On the right is St Mark’s Cathedral, cool and lovely inside. Korcula became a bishopric in the 14th century, but no longer has a bishop as the Hapsburgs removed the bishop in the 19th century, as part of their move to de-centralize ecclesiastical power. Next door is the small Church Museum and opposite is the Town Museum, neither of which we visited as they were closed that day.
The Cathedral has some very interesting carvings on the facade and above the main door. Some don’t seem terribly religious to us! (see photos of these details in the next post).
A bit further on, down to the right is Marco Polo’s House, next to a small church. It’s thought that the remains of the present building are on the site of what was probably the property of Marco Polo’s family. There’s not much to see really, but in the future the town hopes to create a proper Marco Polo museum.
People believe Marco Polo was born here in Korcula and, even though he sailed under the auspices of the Venetian Republic when he was doing his famous exploring in the East, the Korculans still claim him as their own.
On the street nearby are a couple of Marco Polo gift shops, selling all kinds of items relating to the explorer, each with a tag explaining something about Marco Polo. On another street, further down closer to the waterfront, we found a huge Marco Polo chair—supposedly it’s good luck if you sit in it and you’ll return to Korcula. So, of course we did!
The tiny church next door to Marco Polo’s House is the Church of St Pierre. It’s reputed to be the oldest church on Korcula, from the 11-12th centuries. It’s tiny and plain inside but has a very nice atmosphere.
At the peninsula point is one of the old towers of the old fortifications. It’s now a bar/restaurant, but has an interesting story associated with it. In the 16th century the Ottomans attacked Korcula. The Rector of Korcula and other important people escaped to the mainland. One brave priest remained and he hatched an ingenious plan: all the women of Korcula dressed up as men and they, plus the men, looked over the wall at the Ottomans. The Ottomans thought they were up against a huge army and they decided to sail away rather than confront this army.
I love it that even a relatively small island like this is so full of history and stories.
From the point, you can walk along the east side of the peninsula past the big Korcula Hotel and the Tourist Information Office, walking next to huge city walls bedecked with bougainvillea and oleander bushes and palm trees, and passing a couple of towers. This is the side where the big ferry boats and cruise ships come in, so much more touristy and resort-y and not to our taste.
Walk along the west side with its many houses, small shops and restaurants and you’ll get to the All Saints Church, built in Venetian style and with interesting carvings. It’s connected by a second-story walkway to another building, which is part-meeting hall for the Brotherhood of All Saints and part-museum of Icons. Korcula is famous for
brotherhoods (fraternal organizations around churches) and this one has been meeting every Sunday since the 14th century! So much history is a bit mind-boggling!