Dubrovnik From The Walls

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Map of Old Town Dubrovnik

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View of Old Town layout from Mt Srd

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View of Stradun from the walls

Dubrovnik’s nickname is the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, an apt and justified name. The Old Town, with thick medieval walls, juts into the sea. Inside the ramparts the pedestrian-only Old Town is a jumble of narrow, steep alleys leading up from the seafront, and quiet cobbled lanes. The main promenade (the Stradun) runs through it, roughly west to east from the Pile Gate to the Old Port, and the steepest lanes lead north off it, to the top walls and the Buza Gate. A third gate, the Ploce Gate, is roughly on the NE corner of the city.

On the ground it’s hard to realize that there is actually a street plan—especially as you toil up a really steep, stepped lane—but when you take the cable car to the top of Mount Srd behind the city and look down, the almost-grid layout is very obvious.

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Pile Gate into the Old Town

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Franciscan Monastery from the walls

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Bright orange roof tiles—with a few older ones here and there

In the 15th and 16th centuries Dubrovnik was a major maritime power that rivaled Venice and had the third-biggest navy in the Mediterranean—the time of its Golden Age. Busy merchants, the salt trade, and shipbuilding made the city rich and many of the buildings we see today still hint at this wealth. In 1667 an earthquake destroyed much of the city, but a few convents, monasteries and palaces survived. The rest of the city was rebuilt in Baroque style, and wandering around the Old Town feels like being in living history.

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Selfie of us 4 on the walls

The city was badly damaged again in the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991-1992 as Croatia separated from Yugoslavia, but again the citizens rebuilt and repaired their city in its original form as much as possible. The biggest reminder of this war is all the new, bright-orange roof tiles.

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End of Stratun and Onofrio Big Fountain

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Nath, Viv, Sonya on the walls

Today, Dubrovnik is definitely a tourist mecca and can often feel over-run with visitors, especially when multiple cruise ships dock. But, it is still a gorgeous city and well worth a visit. In fact, staying for a few (or more) days and wandering in the evenings when the cruise ships have left gives a chance to get a better feeling for the charm of the city.

One of the best attractions in Dubrovnik, and definitely the best way to get your bearings, is walking along the City Walls (Gradske Zidine). There will be crowds of people and it will be horribly hot in summer season, but it’s still worth doing.

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Nath with Old Port behind

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Old Port and St John’s Fortress

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Sonya coming up the steps at the Pile Gate entrance

Pick up a map at the Tourist Office first, and arm yourself with a hat, good walking shoes and plenty of water. There are three entry points for the walls: one at the Ploce Gate near the Dominican Monastery; one just inside the Pile Gate; and the third near St John’s Fort, which overlooks the Old Port (near the Maritime Museum). Whichever one you use, all people must walk the walls in a counter-clockwise direction. Once on the wall, you cannot leave and come back, so plan to do the whole loop, which is roughly a mile and a quarter.

We started early one morning at 8am to try and beat the heat, and entered at the Pile Gate, which was close to our hotel rooms. The Pile Gate entrance has a ticket office just inside the walls before you climb the steep steps. It cost us 100 kuna (about $15) each, which also gave us entrance to the Fort of St Lawrence on the other side of the small bay beyond Pile Gate (which is valid for the same day only). We ambled slowly, stopped frequently to take photos and to marvel at the view, and also stopped twice at a couple of the cafes/rest areas for a long cool fruit juice (can also use the bathrooms), so it took us until about 11am to finish the circuit.

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Rod walking on the walls

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Looking across the small bay to Fort of St Lawrence

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Another selfie on the walls

Strolling along the top of the walls gives amazing views of the whole city from different angles. For a lot of the time, you have steep cliffs and the sea on one side and a maze of orange roofs on the other. As mentioned earlier, many buildings were badly damaged during the 1991-1992 siege and the rooftops had to be replaced. The bright orange tiles are the newer ones, but some buildings salvaged the old tiles. In some parts of the city there are still ruined houses. Use the map to pick out different landmarks, which are like a guide to the city’s history.

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From the highest point of the walls, looking to the Fort of St Lawrence

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One of the fortresses in the walls

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Viv and Nath on the walls

The walk on the walls is quite wide and is very steep in places, requiring climbing up and down many steps. There have been walls here basically since the city was founded. Like so many other fortifications on the Croatian Coast, these walls were strengthened in the 15th century when the Ottoman navy started threatening. Several substantial forts with guard towers are dotted around the perimeter, with rounded walls so that canon balls would glance off them without causing too much damage. These forts also kept out potential invaders during the Republic of Dubrovnik’s Golden Age, and also protected the residents during the horrific 1991-1992 siege by Yugoslav forces.

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Rod, Sonya and Nath–what a view!

The selection of photos show a few of the main sights and some of the stunning views.

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Eating in Dubrovnik: Lady Pi-Pi

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Sonya and Lady Pi-Pi!

Lady Pi-Pi: Named after a voluptuous, very graphic statue at the entrance.

Rod and I had been to Lady Pi-Pi on our last visit to Dubrovnik, on the recommendation of our apartment landlady. We loved it, for many reasons, and wanted to take Nath and Sonya here this time.

The weather was extremely hot and this restaurant is right at the top end of a very steep lane—Nath was rather uncomfortable in the heat so we almost didn’t go there. But, what a great thing that we did make the trek up there.

Pi-Pi is situated right next to part of the old city walls on the top end of the city, making for an atmospheric setting.

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Rod

Our table was perfect

stairstrellisLuckily we just got a table, at about 6:30pm, as soon after that there were lines of people waiting. Our table was perfect, just in a corner at the entrance, next to a low wall topped with potted plants, fresh air blowing through. The restaurant doesn’t accept groups or reservations, and it’s easy to see why: there’s limited seating, and often you have to share a table with others (as Rod and I did the first time). Seating is on 2 levels, all covered with a leafy vine trellis, festooned with huge bunches of grapes when we were there.

Some of the tables upstairs have a lovely view out over the city, but it can be very hot up there as some of the tables are next to the large bricked grill fire, where all the meat and seafood are cooked—apparently the only restaurant in Dubrovnik to cook that way.

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Where all the food is cooked

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Quite a view from the top level

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Sonya and Nath with their seafood platter

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Rod and Viv and our seafood platter

The food is fabulous, but this place is also well-known because of its statue, the very graphic Lady Pi-Pi (which may have been a fountain once). Prices are reasonable and the service was good, with friendly wait staff.

We chose the seafood platters—2 people share a wonderful mix of seafood, beautifully presented and truly delicious.

One of our favorite places to eat overseas.

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The name says it all!

 

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One of the best seafood platters ever!

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Staying in Dubrovnik

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That’s quite a view from our window!

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VroomIn Dubrovnik we stayed at Eddie’s Sea View Rooms, Old Town. The rooms are in an old house, just outside the main city walls, by the Pile Gate (main entrance into the old walled city). On a previous visit we had stayed at a place in the old town, but decided against that as the streets in the old town are very steep, very narrow, and cobbled, and the cobbles can get very slippery—we didn’t want to risk any of us falling, least of all Nath.

This turned out to be a good choice, as it’s easy to find and get to, just off the big square outside Pile Gate with a Tourist Information Office and close to a bus station. But, it’s not facing the street, so there’s very little night noise. The rooms are in the house that Edi Macinko grew up in, and his parents and grandparents. He now runs this with his brother, who lives on the ground floor, while Edi lives on the top floor. Edi gives out maps and information, and dispenses advice and personal information—quite a character.

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View up to the old fort

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Lunch at Restaurant Orhan

The rooms were pretty reasonable with good beds and bathrooms, a fridge and kettle so we could do our own breakfasts, and a/c, which was essential, as the weather was extremely hot. Our room had a nice view out to the small cove below where kayak ‘tours’ started, many brightly-colored kayaks bobbing on the water. On the far side of the cove the Fort of St Lawrence rises steeply and on the other we could easily see parts of the Old City walls. But the other room had no view to speak of.

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Restaurant Orhan is a great lunch place

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Sonya enjoys a crepe for dessert

Restaurant Orhan is also on the cove, and a great place for lunch, which is where we went our first day. Tables have real cloths and flowers and it’s great to sit and watch the activity on the water below. We all had various salads, all of which were excellent.

Note, that you have to pay Edi on arrival and preferably in euros.

Email: edimacinko@yahoo.com

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Just For Fun—-Signs

Just For Fun

We found these signs on the toilets at Matusko Winery on the Peljesac Peninsula (see previous post). Interesting that the winery has chosen a nautical theme!

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loofemale

 

 

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Wine in Other Places: Croatia

 

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Sonya and Viv at entrance

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Rod on ferry—view back to Korcula

Matuško Winery

We’re on the way from Korcula to Dubrovnik

Pero of Apartments Lenni arranged for a driver to transfer us from Korcula to Dubrovnik, with stops at a winery, and the town of Ston on the Pelješac Peninsula on the way. It was a great way for us to do this, as without our own car it would not be possible.

Our driver was a pleasant young man named Tommy, who arrived in a comfortable van. After a short drive we got on a car ferry, which takes vehicles across to the Pelješac Peninsula. The views from the ferry of Korcula Old Town are impressive and the panoramic views from the hills of the Pelješac Peninsula are stunning—back onto Korcula, many other small islands, parts of the peninsula and the blue Adriatic Sea.

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Korcula Old Town from ferry

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view from Peljesac Peninsula

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Huge tanks at Matusko Winery

Ston is an interesting old fort town with really long defensive medieval walls up and down the hills around it (more on that later). And we wanted to visit a winery, as we are always interested in wine in other places, how and where they make it, what types of grapes grow in that region etc.

Croatia’s wine industry has a long history, winemaking having started around 2200 BC when Illyrian tribes made wine in this area now known as Dalmatia. Greek colonization in 390 BC helped spread the craft and the rise of Christianity under the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD allowed production of wine for sacramental purposes.

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Vines at Matusko

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Nath walks in Matusko cellars

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Crest on Matusko barrel

Winemaking flourished for centuries, but many events began to limit the industry: Ottoman invasions, phylloxera, world wars, the rise of communism, and most recently, the terrible conflicts between the former Yugoslav republics. To help winemaking grow again, a Winemakers and Winegrowers Association was formed in 1995, and in 2010 the Croatian Chamber of Economy established the Association of Croatian Wineries. Their efforts have been very successful and Croatian wines are improving all the time and becoming well known in various parts of the world.

Many traditional grape varieties still survive in Croatia, perfectly suited to the local wine hills. We’d tasted a number in Zagreb, Split and Korcula and were eager now to visit a winery and see some of the vineyards. The Pelješac is one of the famous regions, especially for red wine, so it was a perfect stop for us.

If anyone is interested, Wikipedia has an extensive entry on Croatian wines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_wine )

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Rod in Matusko cellars

cellartableMatuško Winery has huge cellars that we could walk around at will to look at. They’re obviously a big organized place as there are multiple rooms and little alcoves in the cellars that can host functions. We found out that Matuško started out as a small wine-tasting cellar, seldom visited by tourists, but has become one of Croatia’s largest wine-tasting destinations. The volume of wine must be pretty large, as there are huge steel tanks next to the cellar, as well as hundreds of casks in the cellars.

Besides producing wine, they also have an olive oil refinery on site. Both wines and oils can be tasted. There’s also a Tavern/restaurant but we didn’t have time to stop for a meal there.

The lady who led the tasting was pretty good, and explained about cultivars and climate here. Their best wines are Dingač (red) and these vary depending on the slope and orientation; some vineyards are mostly warm and sunny, some are exposed to quite cold winters.

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They do Pošip wines (white) here too, but get all the grapes from Korcula.

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Another well-known wine (red) from the Pelješac is Plavac, from Plavac mali grapes, which many people believe is the for-runner of Zinfandel.

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Matusko crest

Sonya bought a bottle of Pošip and one of Dingač, both of which we really enjoyed later in our evenings in Dubrovnik.

On the Matuško crest, which is on all the wine bottles and stamped onto many of the casks, are a crown, a big bunch of grapes and 2 donkey heads.

We wondered why donkeys? We discovered that vignerons (and other agricultural folks) in Croatia really appreciated the donkeys that helped cart and carry stuff up and down hills. So, they wanted to honor these animals, and some winemaker chose to put a donkey on their label. Soon, others followed suit. Nice.

donkeyflowers

donkeycafeOn Korcula and around the Pelješac we also came across cafes with donkey themes and/or decorations and many cute donkey flower containers.

This winery is open for tasting all year.

http://www.matusko-vina.hr/en_intro.html

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Korcula’s St Mark’s Cathedral

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Regal lions at main doorway

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Intricate decorations

St Mark’s Cathedral (Katedrala Sv. Marka) on Korcula

As I mentioned in the previous post about sights in Korcula Old Town, the cathedral has some interesting points. It’s on the top main street of Old Town roughly in the middle on St. Mark’s Square.

It’s not actually a cathedral any more as in the 19th century the Hapsburgs decided to decentralize ecclesiastical power in their empire and so they removed Korcula’s bishop. It’s a pity, as Korcula became a bishopric in the 14th century and had a series of 36 bishops—that’s quite a history!

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Adam

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Eve

figureThe main door has an elaborately decorated tympanum, on which is a Venetian statue of St. Mark, flanked by Adam and Eve—in rather suggestive poses, which are funny, but don’t seem particularly “religious” to us! (see pics above).

Inside is quiet and peaceful. Above the main altar is an original painting by Tintoretto—quite a scoop for a small island I’d say!

Entrance is free, except in August (then it’s 4 kuna).

Open daily at different hours, depending on season, so check first.

But, even just looking from the outside is worth it. inside

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Main Official Sights in Korcula

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Lovely architectural details in Korcula Town

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Special crest in Great Land Gate (see description below)

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Main entrance gate into Old Town Korcula

(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.

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Looking back on the gate from inside

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Church to St Michael

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Narrow street in Old Town, heading straight down

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.

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Narrow street that zig-zags, cutting off some breezes

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St Mark’s Cathedral

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Town Museum

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).

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Another lion crest

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Sonya and Viv find an art gallery in a gorgeous old building

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.

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Church of St Pierre next to Marco Polo’s House

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.

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One of the old towers is now a bar/restaurant

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.

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Part of old fortification walls and newer buildings

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All Saints Church

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

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Connecting bridge near All Saints

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!

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Carving at All Saints

 

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Dinners in Old Town Korcula

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Waterfront walkway at night

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View out from waterside table

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Eating in Korcula’s Old Town

I wrote about lunches before so, now, dinner time:

Note: I have a lot of pictures for this, so please be patient and scroll through.

 

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fortecawineTwo places along the waterfront walkway that we really enjoyed were Cupido, and Komin. Both offer meals with an amazing view and a romantic setting. We all love seafood and were so happy to take advantage of the wonderful fresh offerings. In fact, on Korcula I don’t think any of us had meat as a main course. And on Korcula we certainly never had a meal we were disappointed in.

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Sonya and Nath enjoy their scallops

 

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Fish soup

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Prosciutto for starters

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Viv and Rod enjoy their mussels

One evening we picked Cupido for dinner. We got a table right up against the seawall and could watch various boats go by, including the tourist red semi-submarine, which seemed popular with visitors. We also watched the sunset, changing the sea from bright blue to silver, and the hills on the nearby islands from green to gold.

Starters were fish soup, Dalmatian prosciut (Croatian for prosciutto) and 2 salads. To drink, a bottle of water, a Croatian Toveno beer, and a bottle of Forteca wine (dry white from Croatia). The main plates were two scallops dishes and two bowls of mussels. All delicious. Total for all that for 4 people was 615 kuna, about US$89.

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Komin: sunset view

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Rfish

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Selfie of us 4 at Komin

NSAnother evening we ate at Komin, also along the seawall, and luckily we got a “ringside” table again. Talk about eating with a view! We started with octopus salad, and moved on to shrimp and fish dishes. Our wine that night was Rukatac, a white from Korcula.

 

 

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Delicious octopus salad

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Another great local white wine

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The red sub floats by

 

 

 

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Eating in Korcula Old Town: Lunch

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Seawall walk lined with places to eat

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How’s that for lunch with a view?!

Old Town Korcula has a large number of cafes and restaurants, especially along the waterfront and at the point of the peninsula. So, making a choice of where to eat is quite difficult as most of them look attractive and the food we saw being served looked great.

So, for us it was pretty random really: if the menu looked good with reasonable prices, and if they had a table for us (preferably on the edge of the waterfront), then we went there.

We were not disappointed in any of the choices and were delighted with the view out over the sea. I’ll spotlight just a few of these great places. I’m feeling hungry just looking at these pictures again!

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Marco Polo restaurant (konoba) is up a narrow alley

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Selfie of the 4 of us at Marco Polo

First, lunch time:

We went for lunch on our first day in Korcula at Marco Polo, partly because our apartment host recommended it and partly because it was just two buildings further up the stepped lane from our apartment. For wine, we had a glass of Stolno. Sonya and I tried the mushroom soup, and Rod and Nath had the fish broth, then we all had the Marco Polo salad (lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, anchovies). Everything was fresh and very good.

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Marco Polo salad

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Marco Polo

SNviewAnother lunch was at Račiška on the seawall walkway, where we had various salads, bread, a Račiška plate, mineral water, Croatian Ozujsko beer, a chocolate drink and coffees, for a total of 418 kuna, about US$ 61.

 

 

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Views and food

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Quite an appetizer

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Sonya and Nath discuss the menu

redsub2Besides the good food, the view out was great—across the bay to the mountains, with the odd boat passing by, or the tourist red submarine.

 

 

 

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Importance of Language

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Sign introducing Korcula

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Just outside the lower entrance gate to Old Town Korcula are a cluster of shops, including a grocery store

Sometimes you do need to know the written language

Most often when we travel to foreign countries we do not know the language. We try to learn a few basic words, which always helps to smooth the way, and our guide books have some menu translations, so you know what you’re eating. Maybe the menu has pictures of the dishes and you can just point or, like in Japan, almost all restaurants have plastic models of the dishes they offer and you just point. And, more and more, service people in tourist places speak at least some English.

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Konzum is a well-known grocery store chain in Croatia

Grocery shopping can be a different experience though. We’ve lived in France before and speak reasonable French, so going to the shops there is not a problem. When we lived in Japan, our host took us to the supermarket the first few times and showed us where everything was. Then I would remember the position of the butter, for example, or other packaged items. Bread, fruits and vegetables, and meats were easy as you can see them.

While on Korcula Island in Croatia we stayed in a small apartment and decided we could easily do our own breakfasts. So, off to the local Konzum supermarket we went. Bread and bananas, no problem. Juice, fairly easy as there was a small fruit picture on each bottle. Then to the dairy section, all nicely grouped together. Yoghurt we eventually worked out, and then we looked for butter. There were tubs of what must have been spreads, as they had a long list of ingredients (which we couldn’t read). Next to those were small slabs

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That is definitely not butter!

wrapped in gold-colored foil, similar to butter we can buy at home. Plus, there was a a picture of a pastry on it. So, we grabbed a couple of those. Big mistake, as we discovered the first breakfast. It was hard, had a strange consistency and taste, so definitely not butter.

We asked Pero, who rents out the apartments, and it turns out that was a cake of yeast! We had a good laugh about that, realizing the importance of language.

If only we could have read Croatian!

 

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