Stradun is the main street that runs through Old Town in Dubrovnik and is packed with people and sights, shopping and eating places. Its official name is the Placa but it’s more commonly called Stratun. It starts at Pile Gate and ends at the Old Port.
A bit of history: around the 7th century, Dubrovnik was just beginning to develop. At that time, this street was a canal. Romans, who were fleeing the invading Slavs, lived on the island of Ragusa, which was on the right as you stand with your back to the gate. The Slavs settled on the shore, to your left. Around the 11th century the canal was filled in and the towns merged and a unique Roman-Slavic culture emerged. The street was much more crooked then but was rebuilt in a straight way after the 1667 earthquake.
Any visitor will definitely walk on Stradun many times during a visit to Dubrovnik, so here are just some of the main sights. Strolling along here gives a good introduction to the city, and it’s a lot of fun, even if it is very crowded (and hot in summer).
Start at the Pile Gate into Old Town, an impressive entrance. Note the statue of St Blaise above the entrance, cradling Dubrovnik in his arm. St Blaise is the patron saint of the city. Legend has it that a thousand years ago St Blaise appeared to a local priest in a dream and told him that the up-and-coming Venetians would attack the city soon. The priest warned the authorities, who could then prepare for war. This prediction did in fact come true. St Blaise became the symbol of the city and the locals have resented Venetians since then!
Just inside the gate is a small square, always busy. To the left is one of the stairways that give entrance to the walk around the old city walls. Next to the stairs is the Church of St Savior (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/dubrovnik-the-little-church-that-could/ ) and then the Franciscan Monastery (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/dubrovniks-franciscan-monastery/ ). In the square is Onofrio’s Big Fountain, a large rounded structure. During the Middle Ages the city had an aqueduct system that brought water from the mountains many miles away. The water ended up here as it was the biggest fountain and then was routed through the rest of the city. This water supply was one of the reasons that Dubrovnik could resist sieges a number of times through history.
On the edge of this square you’ll see many buskers, and there’s also a fun activity that visitors like to try: On the outside wall of the Monastery is a protruding stone face with a flat head. People try to climb onto it and stay balanced, a feat harder than it looks! Sonya tried and succeeded, with a bit of help from Rod! (see next post).
Towards the end of Stradun you get to Luza Square. Straight ahead is the town’s Bell Tower, originally built in 1444, but rebuilt in the 1920s when it started to lean. It has a very fancy clock, somewhat similar to that in St Mark’s Square in Venice, but this clock predates the Venice one.
To the right is St Blaise’s Church and in the square in front of the church is the famous Orlando’s Column. The city built this column in 1417, after it changed allegiance to the Hungarians from the Venetians. Columns like this were quite typical in northern European towns, so erecting this column was a symbol of Dubrovnik distancing itself from Venice. The column is important in other ways too. The town crier would come to the column to announce any important news and decisions, and which step he stood on was an indication of how important the news was—the higher the step, the more important the news. The column was also used as a pillory, where people were publicly punished. And the column had the city’s standard measurement: the thin line on the top step is exactly as long as the statue’s forearm, so the standard measurement was not a foot, but an “elbow”.
Not strictly on Stradun but kind-of linked is the Cathedral on the wide street called Pred Dvorom to the right off Luza Square. What we see today is an 18th century Baroque church, but the original was a 12th century Romanesque building, which was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake.
Nearby in front of the Rector’s Palace is a statue of Marin Drzic, whose nose, hands and knees are much rubbed for good luck. Marin Drzic (born 1508 in Dubrovnik, died 1567 in Venice) is considered the best Croatian Renaissance playwright, especially for comedies, and prose writer. He was ordained as a priest but was often a bit of a rebel, very extroverted and popular. An annual drama prize is named after him.
At night, Stradun is all lit up and there are many places to eat and drink and relax—which we certainly did!